North Macedonia map & highlights

Even the Bible describes (North) Macedonia as an ancient land. And indeed, today, it still feels untouched by time in many places, with medieval villages such as Mavrovo perched on a lake front protected by forested mountains. Ottoman mosques and hammams appear like long lost jewels in the already culturally crammed capital of Skopje. And then Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is simply stuffed to the gills with ancient sacred sites (at one count there were 365 churches here). All perched in landscapes slowly carved by time into canyons and valleys, plateaus and peaks, many of which are protected by three national parks: Pelister, Mavrovo and Galicica.
Lake Prespa

1. Lake Prespa

You get two lakes for the price of one, with Big Prespa and Little Prespa, the latter shimmers its way across both the Greek and Albanian borders. Separated by snow capped Mount Galicica it makes for wonderful cycling, pedalling past ancient churches, traditional fishing huts poised out on the water, a bevy of beautiful birdlife including white pelicans, as well as submerged ruins when the water levels fall.
Matka canyon

2. Matka canyon

Head just 17km from Skopje and you'll discover some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the Balkans. Starting at 2,000m the River Treska cuts a deep, narrow valley through surrounding karst limestone, leaving cliffs for climbing, caves for caving, waterfalls for canyoning, tracks for hiking and white water for kayaking. Hidden ancient monasteries cling to the rock all along the way.
Mavrovo National Park

3. Mavrovo National Park

Mavrovo National Park is not only home to three of the country’s highest peaks (the highest being Great Korab towering 2,764m over the Albanian border), but also one of North Macedonia's largest lakes, featuring the half submerged church of St Nicholas in the middle. Outdoor adventures aplenty, with 52 peaks higher than 2,000m, alpine flora, forested slopes, lakeside beaches and vast pastures.

4. Ohrid

You can see why so many ancient churches cropped up on the shores of Lake Ohrid – it’s a secret heaven on earth. Take a walk around the lake and examine the likes of the 11th-century St Sophia’s cathedral and Byzantine beauty St Bogorodica Perivlepta. Everything exudes antiquity and aesthetic, meriting both its UNESCO status and Galicica National Park protection. It’s full of swimming beaches, too.
Pelister National Park

5. Pelister National Park

Named after its highest peak, at 2,601m, this ancient landscape is still home to bears, wolves, deer, chamois and eagles. Just three hours from Skopje, you find yourself within the Baba Mountain massif, where hiking takes you to exquisite elevations, with two turquoise lakes known as Pelisterski Oci (Pelister Eyes), rock pools, waterfalls and traditional mountain villages, with homestays.

6. Skopje

North Macedonia’s capital boasts a range of ancient and modern influences including the kitsch neoclassical monuments installed by the country's now defunct PM, Nikola Gruevski. From Roman aqueducts and bridges, Ottoman mosques and Turkish bathhouses, to the 16th-century Church of the Ascension and the Byzantine 6th-century Kale Fortress; Skopje is divided and not just by the Vardar River.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about North Macedonia or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Marjan Lazarevski] [Top box: Pero Kvrzica] [Lake Prespa: widjet] [Matka canyon: Onosim] [Mavrovo National Park: Novica Nakov] [Ohrid: xiquinhosilva] [Pelister National Park: Ksenija Putilin] [Skopje: Juan Antonio Segal]