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North Macedonia

NORTH MACEDONIA TRAVEL GUIDE

North Macedonia gained its independence in 1991 as one of the successor states of Yugoslavia. While easily accessible from all points abroad, and boasting all the amenities of the Western world, North Macedonia remains one of Europe’s last undiscovered countries: a natural paradise of mountains, lakes, and rivers, where life moves to a different rhythm, amidst the sprawling grandeur of rich historical ruins and idyllic villages that have remained practically unchanged for centuries. The country represents the Balkans in the truest sense, consisting of a fascinating mix of Greek, Albanian, Turkish, and Mediterranean influences.

 

The use of the country name "Macedonia" was disputed between Greece and Macedonia (now North Macedonia) between 1991 and 2019. Citing historical and irredentist concerns, Greece opposed the use of the name "Macedonia" without a geographical qualifier such as "Northern Macedonia" for use "by all ... and for all purposes". As over 2 million ethnic Greeks identify themselves as Macedonians, and view themselves as unrelated to ethnic Macedonians, Greece further objected to the use of the term "Macedonian" for the neighbouring country's largest ethnic group and language.

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NORTH MACEDONIA QUICK FACTS

  • Capital: Skopje
  • Currency: Macedonian denar
  • Area: 25 713 sq km
  • Population: 2,077 million
  • Language: Macedonian 66%, Albanian 25%, Turkish 4%, Romani 2%, Greek 2%, Serbian 1%,
  • Religion:Orthodoxy 62%, Islam 37%, other 1%
  • Electricity: 220V/50Hz (European plug)

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NORTH MACEDONIA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

  • 7 January, Orthodox Christmas
  • 1 May, Labor Day
  • 24 May, Saints Cyril and Methodius’ Day
  • 2 August, National Day
  • 8 September, Independence Day
  • 11 October, Uprising Against Fascism Day
  • 23 October, Day of the Macedonian Revolution
  • 8 December, Saint Clement of Ohrid

Also, Orthodox Easter Monday and Eid al-Fitr.

FESTIVALS IN NORTH MACEDONIA

North Macedonia

BEST TIME TO VISIT NORTH MACEDONIA

North Macedonia has a relatively dry Mediterranean climate with a full array of four seasons, although spring can be quite short, and each season is tempered by the altitude.

 

Located so far south in Europe, North Macedonia is great to visit most of the year-round. It is particularly welcoming during spring and autumn, outside the high tourist seasons and when the weather is at its most pleasant. It can be warm and sunny during the day from as early as March until as late as November, while skiing is usually available from December through to early April. July and August can be very hot, sometimes getting up to 40°C during the day in Skopje and along the Vardar Valley. This can be particularly unpleasant if taking lengthy journeys by public transport where there is no air conditioning and the local population fears getting ill from a breeze from an open window. The mountains remain pleasantly cool, however, and even Ohrid is relatively quiet midweek in the summer.

 

  • June to August - Enjoy Ohrid's Summer Festival and dive into its 300m-deep lake.

  • September & October - Partake in Skopje’s Beer Fest, Jazz Festival, and harvest celebrations.

  • December to February - Ski Mavrovo and indulge in North Macedonia’s holiday carnivals.

NORTH MACEDONIA WEATHER SYNOPSIS

Annual mean temperatures in Macedonia range from approximately 8°C in the north-west regions to 15°C in central regions. The coldest month is January, and on average July is the hottest month. Precipitation generally increases from east to west across the country, with annual precipitation ranging from about 400mm in the south-eastern and central regions to over 1,000 mm in the mountain areas in the western and northwestern regions. In the southern regions with a Mediterranean climate, the months of October, November and December have the highest precipitation, while in the central and norther regions, where the climate is more continental, the greatest amounts of rainfall occur in May and June.

North Macedonia

NORTH MACEDONIA TOURIST SEASONS

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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Peak Season

Shoulder Season

Off Peak Season

JANUARY

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FEBRUARY

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MARCH

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APRIL

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MAY

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JUNE

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JULY

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AUGUST

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SEPTEMBER

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OCTOBER

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NOVEMBER

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DECEMBER

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SPORT & ACTIVITIES

SNOW SPORT IN NORTH MACEDONIA

The snow sports season in North Macedonia can be as long as from November to April, making it a wonderful and affordable skiing destination.

HIKING & CYCLING IN NORTH MACEDONIA

The best time for outdoor activities in North Macedonia is from May to September and with three national parks there's plenty of outdoor exploring to be done.

BEACH OPTIONS IN NORTH MACEDONIA

SURFING IN NORTH MACEDONIA

KITESURF IN NORTH MACEDONIA

Kitesurfing spot details and weather

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TRAVEL SAFETY IN NORTH MACEDONIA

Always consider the current safety risk of each destination and do not travel without travel / medical insurance

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HEALTH RISKS IN NORTH MACEDONIA

Be aware of possible health risks in 

North Macedonia

Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.

Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.

Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.

Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.

For the latest travel health notices and recommended precautions click

NORTH MACEDONIA TRAVEL COSTS

North Macedonia is considered one of the cheapest countries in Europe and you can probably last a while here with a tight travel budget.

NORTH MACEDONIA TRAVEL TIPS

An airport shuttle bus, Vardar Express, runs between the airport and the city. Buy tickets (100MKD) from the marked arrivals terminal booth. The bus leaves half-hourly or hourly, depending on passengers, and stops at several places including the bus/train station and central square

 

Within Skopje, the easiest is to get around by taxi but for a longer stay, you should get a bus card and a map of the bus lines. In Ohrid (the most popular tourist destination), you can walk almost everywhere; the exception is that the bus terminal is at the edge of town, and you might have to use a taxi to get to your hotel. Most taxis will charge a flat rate of 30 MKD (in Skopje 50 MKD) with the extra kilometers added on. Be careful when negotiating the price of the fare beforehand. Within city limits, prices over 100 MKD are considered expensive outside of the summer season.

 

Between cities, the most popular public transportation is by bus. Trains are infrequent and will get you to fewer destinations than buses. Renting a car, of course, will give you more freedom to see more.

 

An intercity bus is a normal way for locals to get from city to city. The buses are modern and comfortable. The Skopje bus and train station are in the same building. At present (2018), you cannot buy a bus ticket online; you can only buy it at the bus station.

 

The bus between Skopje and Ohrid takes about three hours by the shortest route and costs about 500MKD one way. There are about 15 buses a day on this route. In high-season, they may be sold out, so it is best to go over to the bus station the day before to get your ticket.

 

Cycling is popular in Skopje. Traffic is light in rural areas, though mountains and reckless drivers are common.


SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF NORTH MACEDONIA

North Macedonia might be a small country but there's no shortage of sight and activities.

 

  • Gaze out over Ohrid from the Church of Sveti Jovan at Kaneo, immaculately set on a bluff above the lake.

  • Dive into historic but fast-changing Skopje, a friendly, quintessentially Balkan capital.

  • Enjoy the old-world ambiance of Bitola and hike nearby Pelister National Park.

  • Soak up the serenity at clifftop Zrze Monastery, with sweeping views of the Pelagonian Plain and priceless Byzantine artworks.

  • Ski Mavrovo, North Macedonia's premier winter resort.

 

NORTH MACEDONIA TRAVEL ITINERARY

ONE WEEK

Spend two nights in Skopje, marveling at its bold new architecture, and visiting its Čaršija (old quarter), with historic churches, mosques, museums, and an Ottoman castle. Next head southwest to Macedonia's most charming and historic town, Ohrid, and enjoy its spectacular lake, calling at the lush forested mountains of Mavrovo on the way. After two days, continue to cultured Bitola, the long-famed 'City of Consuls' known for its vibrant cafes and nearby Pelister National Park.

 

TWO WEEKS

Take your time in and around Skopje, Ohrid, and Bitola, then add on a visit to Macedonia's famous Zrze monastery. Before returning to Skopje, enjoy winery-hopping in the Tikveš wine region.

Skopje is among Europe's most entertaining and eclectic small capital cities. Recent years have seen an abundance of statuary, fountains, bridges, museums, and other structures built to encourage a national identity but luckily plenty survived from earlier times – Skopje's Ottoman- and Byzantine-era wonders include the 15th-century Kameni Most (Stone Bridge), the wonderful Čaršija (old Turkish bazaar), Sveti Spas Church, with its ornate, hand-carved iconostasis, and Tvrdina Kale Fortress, Skopje's guardian since the 5th century.

 

Ohrid is North Macedonia's prime destination, with its atmospheric old quarter with beautiful churches along a graceful hill, topped by a medieval castle overlooking serene, 34km-long Lake Ohrid. It's considered the jewel in North Macedonia's crown and undoubtedly its most alluring attraction, especially when you factor in the nearby Galičica National Park and the further secluded beaches that dot the lake's eastern shore.

 

Mavrovo's ski resort is North Macedonia's biggest, comprising 730 sq km of birch and pine forest, gorges, karst fields, and waterfalls, plus Macedonia's highest peak, Mt Korab (2764m). The rarefied air and stunning vistas are great year-round.

 

Bitola, the second-largest city is also North Macedonia's most "European" town. With elegant buildings and beautiful people, elevated Bitola (660m) has a sophistication inherited from its Ottoman days as the 'City of Consuls'. Its 18th- and 19th-century colorful townhouses, Turkish mosques, and café culture make it North Macedonia's most intriguing and liveable major town.

 

Kruševo, a museum-city nestled high up in the mountains of southwestern North Macedonia. It is one of the most historically significant destinations in the country as it was the site of a revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The town is also home to some great skiing.

 

Just over 20km northwest of Prilep, towards Makedonski Brod, the 14th-century Zrze Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration rises like a revelation from a clifftop. The monastery's tranquil position around a spacious lawn, with views over the outstretched Pelagonian Plain, is stunning. During Ottoman times, Zrze underwent periods of abandonment, rebuilding, and plunder but remained an important spiritual center. Its 17th-century Church of Sts Peter and Paul contains important frescoes and icons.

North Macedonia

WHAT TO EAT IN NORTH MACEDONIA

Macedonian cuisine is typically Balkan, with a combination of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences. You will find lots of meat grills (skara), and plenty of fresh vegetables and herbs used in local dishes.

  • Ajvar - Sweet red-pepper sauce; accompanies meats and cheeses.

  • Šopska salata - Tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers topped with flaky sirenje (white cheese).

  • Uviač - Rolled chicken or pork wrapped in bacon, filled with melted yellow cheese.

  • Tavče gravče - Macedonian specialty of baked beans cooked with spices, onions, and herbs and served in earthenware.

LGBTQ IN NORTH MACEDONIA

North Macedonia

WHERE TO STAY IN NORTH MACEDONIA

For your first visit to North Macedonia, it's essential to choose a base that allows you to explore the country's rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture. Here's a breakdown of top areas and accommodations:


Where to stay in Skopje:

Skopje, the capital city, offers a blend of ancient history and modern amenities, with landmarks like the Skopje Fortress, Old Bazaar, and Alexander the Great Square.

  • Budget: Hotel Russia: Hotel Russia provides affordable accommodations near the city center of Skopje. Guests can stay in comfortable rooms and enjoy amenities such as free Wi-Fi and breakfast. The hotel offers a convenient base for exploring the city's landmarks and attractions.

  • Mid-range: Hotel Leonardo: Hotel Leonardo provides mid-range accommodations near Skopje's Old Bazaar and historic sites. Guests can stay in modern rooms, enjoy amenities such as a fitness center and sauna, and dine at the hotel's restaurant serving traditional Macedonian cuisine.

  • Luxury: Marriott Skopje: Marriott Skopje is a luxury hotel located near the city center and the Vardar River. Guests can stay in elegant rooms and suites, enjoy access to a fitness center and indoor pool, and dine at the hotel's restaurant offering Mediterranean cuisine.


Best Value Tip: Visit during the shoulder seasons (April-May, September-October) for mild weather and better accommodation rates.


Where to stay in Ohrid:

Ohrid is a picturesque town nestled on the shores of Lake Ohrid, known for its UNESCO-listed Old Town, ancient churches, and pristine beaches.

  • Budget: Vila Bisera: Situated near the city center and the lake, Vila Bisera provides affordable accommodations with comfortable rooms and basic amenities. Guests enjoy its convenient location and easy access to attractions and restaurants.

  • Mid-range: Hotel Belvedere: Hotel Belvedere provides mid-range accommodations with panoramic views of Lake Ohrid. Guests appreciate its modern rooms, wellness center with a sauna and massage services, and restaurant serving local and international cuisine.

  • Luxury: Hotel Tino Sveti Stefan: Hotel Tino Sveti Stefan is a luxury hotel located on the shores of Lake Ohrid. Guests can stay in elegant rooms and suites with lake views, enjoy access to a private beach area, outdoor pool, and gourmet

Best Value Tip: Book accommodation in advance for the summer months (June-August) when prices tend to be higher due to tourism.


Where to stay in Bitola:

Bitola is a charming city with a rich Ottoman heritage, featuring attractions like the Heraclea Lyncestis archaeological site and the bustling Shirok Sokak pedestrian street.

  • Budget: Hotel Kapri offers budget-friendly accommodations in the city center of Bitola. Guests appreciate its clean rooms, convenient location, and friendly staff. The hotel provides basic amenities and is a great choice for travelers on a budget.

  • Mid-range: Hotel Sumski Feneri: Hotel Sumski Feneri offers mid-range accommodations in a tranquil setting near the Dragor River. Guests can stay in spacious rooms and suites, enjoy amenities such as a fitness center and sauna, and dine at the hotel's restaurant serving local and international cuisine.

  • Luxury: Hotel Premier Centar: Situated in a historic building in the city center, Hotel Premier Centar offers luxurious accommodations with modern amenities. Guests can stay in stylish rooms and suites, enjoy access to a fitness center and sauna, and relax at the hotel's rooftop terrace with panoramic views of Bitola.

Best Value Tip: Visit during the spring or fall for pleasant weather and fewer tourists, resulting in better accommodation deals.


By choosing a base in Skopje, Ohrid, or Bitola, you'll have access to North Macedonia's diverse attractions while enjoying a range of accommodation options to suit your budget and preferences. Consider visiting during the optimal seasons for each location to maximize your travel experience while getting the best value for your stay.


For hassle-free bookings, use platforms like Booking.com for competitive rates or Holiday Swap for unique homes worldwide. Ensure to book in advance, especially during peak seasons, and align your preferences with nearby activities such as surfing, snorkeling, or cultural exploration.


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