Macedonia is a magical yet mysterious country which allows visitors to see the splendors of the natural realm – postcard-perfect landscapes, spectacular mountain ranges, snowy peaks, numerous castles and cathedrals. Given its stunning backdrop and grand scale wilderness, it’s not surprising that many tourists come back for more. Planning a short trip out of Macedonia, but aren’t sure what to do? To help you decide, we’ve put together an itinerary to help you make the most of your 1-week trip. Remember, this is just one of the few ways to enjoy Macedonia so feel free to fine tune this itinerary based on your interests.
Things to know before traveling to Macedonia:
Language – The official language of Macedonia is Macedonian. Younger Macedonian in the city, especially in Skopje and other main tourists’ spots, speak English so you can absolutely get by without speaking Macedonian. Albanian, Turkish, Romani, Serbian, Bosnian, and Aromanian are are the six officially recognized minority languages in the country. Like in other countries, speaking at least some Macedonian phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals.
Currency exchange – Macedonian denar (MKD) is the official currency of Macedonia. Prior to traveling, you can buy some denar (enough for one day or whatever your preference) and then exchange your money in the banks to get the best rates. You may also transact with foreign exchange bureaus, shopping center, travel agencies, and hotels. It is also good to know that there are plentiful of ATMs available in the cities so you will surely have easy access to cash.
Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Slovenia. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Observe the same precautions with your personal safety and health as you would in any other country. Although most visits are trouble free, remain vigilant because petty crimes like pick pocketing and theft do occur. For medical emergencies, dial 194; and for police services, dial 192.
Transportation – Getting around Skopje and the rest of Macedonia is fairly easy. The city is quite compact so visitors can easily explore its tourist attractions on foot. Biking is also an option as big cities like Skopje and Bitola have dedicated bike lanes. If you are short on time or you prefer less time walking, Skopje has efficient bus transport network and taxis. Renting a car and driving on your own is another great option, which will give you complete control of the trip.
Accommodation – Macedonia has a wide range of accommodation options, with something for every level of comfort and budget. The most frequent question from first time travelers is, “What’s the best area to stay in when visiting Macedonia?” Without a doubt, the best area to stay in is the central city of Skopje to get easy access to most attractions and to get more hotel options. If you will follow our suggested itinerary; you will also need to find hotel options around Lake Ohrid and in Bitola.
Day by day itinerary: Discover Macedonia in 7 days
Day 1: Skopje City Tour
Today starts your adventure in Macedonia! Check into your chosen accommodation where you will be staying for three nights. Get settled and spend the morning in your hotel to rest a little.
Where to stay in Skopje:
Alexandar Square Boutique Hotel
If you get in the city early enough, then you may join the Skopje Free Walking Tour. It is a 3–hour walking tour visiting some of the most popular sights in the city, which include the following:
Old Railway Station
Alexander the Great Monument
Monument Honoring Macedonian Fallen Heroes
Civilizations in Macedonia Bridge
The walking tour starts at exactly 10:00 AM and the meeting point is the entrance of Memorial House of Mother Teresa.
For the second part of the day, visit one or two of Skopje’s well-loved museums like the Archaeological Museum of Macedonia and Museum of Macedonian Struggle. You may spend as much time as possible in these museums if you would like to learn more the country’s rich history. In the evening, do not miss the amateur astronomers in Macedonia Square. If you have enough luck credits, you might see some of the best celestial sights!
Day 2: Skopje City Tour
On day 2, set out this morning to see some of the most beautiful attractions in the Old Bazaar. This cobblestone street has plenty of beautiful Ottoman style structures, traditional restaurants and cafes. After breakfast, head to the Church of St. Panteleimon, a 12th century Byzantine church located in Nerezi Village.
In the afternoon, visit the Millennium Cross on top of Vodno Mountain, which is one of the most photographed attractions in Macedonia. To get there, hop on the Millenium Cross Line which arrives every 30 minutes (between 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM everyday) at the International Bus Station. You can also get to the top by hiking from Macedonia Square, which only takes 1-2 hours.
Day 3: Mavrovo National Park
On your 3rd day, join a group tour and hike to the gorgeous Mavrovo National Park, the most popular and largest national park in Macedonia. It pretty much has everything you would want from a national park – imposing waterfalls, stunning mountain views and impressive rock formations, karst fields. The lake is also famous because it is home to Macedonia’s highest peak, Korab Mountain. Before you hike the national park, assess your physical condition, tell someone your plans, never hike alone, wear safety gears, pack a trail map, whistle and first aid kit and don’t forget food and water. Be a responsible hiker to enjoy this wonder.
Day 4: Lake Ohrid
Today you’re up early to prepare for your next destination. Wake up to a delicious breakfast in your private room or grab a bite in one of the restaurants in the Old Bazaar. Then, check out from your accommodation in Skopje and prepare for your departure to Lake Ohrid. By bus, travel time from the city to Lake Ohrid Old Town is approximately 3-4 hours. Check in at your chosen accommodation before you go on your tour.
Where to stay in Ohrid:
Popular tourist attractions in the old town include:
Ancient Roman Theatre
Tsar Samuel’s Fortress
St. Clement of Ohrid Cathedral
Old Turkish Town
Church of St. John at Kaneo
Day 5: Lake Ohrid
Start your day with a bang by visiting the scenic seaside of Church of St. John at Kaneo while waiting for the sunrise. Wander around the old town, and then prepare for your boat ride around Lake Ohrid. Declared a UNESCO Natural and Cultural heritage site, the lake is home to more than 200 species of flora and fauna unique to the lake. The 3-hour scenic boat ride takes you around the lake on the border with Albania until you reach your destination, St. Naum Monastery.
Day 6: Bitola
On day 6, depart Lake Ohrid and make your way to Bitola, the second largest city in Macedonia. A blend of history, culture and adventures, the city offers endless possibilities for every type of travelers. It boasts a certain charm that transports visitors to a time of the early Romans and Byzantines. Frequent travelers would agree that Bitola is a perfect walking city. Even without a rigid itinerary, you will definitely enjoy strolling in its delightful streets.
After check in at your preferred accommodation, take a stroll around the beautiful Magnolia Square. Some of the attractions you can see on this day are Church St. Dimitrija, the Clock Tower and Yeni Mosque. Then, take a seat at one of the cafes in Sirok Sokak Street for some Turkish Coffee.
Where to stay in Bitola:
Day 7: Bitola
After 6 whole days of adventure in Macedonia, allow yourself a full day to recover and just spend your time wandering through Bitola’s nearby attractions. Hop on a bus back to Skopje for your international flight back home. If you still have time, you can stock up on souvenirs at Bitola’s Old Bazaar.
Have you been to Macedonia? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Statue of Alexander the Great, Macedonia Square, Skopje, Macedonia (John_Walker / Shutterstock)