North Macedonia is one of the least visited countries in Europe, meaning this beautiful Balkan nation is a true hidden gem.
This diverse and ancient country is packed with charming old towns, architecture dating back centuries, forests, mountains, and of course the beautiful Lake Ohrid.
The capital Skopje dates back over 4,000 years and is packed full of historical landmarks, things to do and some excellent eateries.
The country is full of interesting geography too including caves, canyons and some of Europe’s most pristine nature.
North Macedonia has three wine-growing regions and produces some excellent wines from its 55,000 acres of vineyards.
The jewel in Macedonia’s crown is Lake Ohrid close to the border with Greece and Albania. This placid lake is perfect for summer swimming, sailing and other watersports.
Why visit North Macedonia you ask? Well, do you honestly need any more reasons?
So, let’s dive in and discover the best things to do in North Macedonia!
Europe’s three major budget airlines (Ryanair, Easyjet and Wizz Air) all fly to North Macedonia with most flights heading to Skopje and less frequently to Ohrid.
If coming from outside of Europe, then you’ll need to fly to a bigger hub airport such as Frankfurt or Amsterdam before finishing your journey.
North Macedonia is easy to get to by bus from neighboring countries.
In addition to local bus companies, Flixbus is one of the most popular carriers in Europe with routes covering North Macedonia.
North Macedonia has rail links to Kosovo, Serbia and Greece. Some of the most popular routes include:
Hiring a car is a great way to get around North Macedonia, and means you’ll have more freedom to explore the country at your own pace. Check out Rental Cars for the best deals!
The best way to get around North Macedonia and the rest of Southeastern Europe is to hire a motorhome/RV.
This is an excellent way to travel the Balkans, and can save money on accommodation and eating out! Visit Motorhome Republic for the best deals!
North Macedonia has a great railway network with cheap fares, so this is a great way to get around the country.
The country is served by local buses and marshrutkas (a minibus with a fixed route) and this is an easy and inexpensive way to get around the country.
Skopje is North Macedonia’s beautiful capital and the largest city in the country. It's been occupied by many different people throughout the ages, each leaving their own unique stamp on the city.
From Roman ruins to Byzantine churches, Ottoman mosques and caravansaries, the city is brimming with archeological sites, different styles of architecture, and lots of wonderful museums.
Skopje is located in a valley of the Vardar River and nearby Mount Vodno offers fantastic views of the city and valley below. Climbing this mountain is one of the best things to do in Skopje, and you can find more details below.
The Old Bazaar marks the center of the city and is one of Skopje’s highlights. There has been a market here since at least the 12th Century and no trip to the city is complete without exploring this charming quarter of the old town.
Another famous symbol of Skopje is Dusan Bridge, otherwise known as Stone Bridge. There has been a bridge crossing the Vardar River since Roman times, however the current bridge dates back to 1469.
Macedonia Square is another important cultural site in the city and was where the first President of Macedonia declared the country’s independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Here you’ll find the imposing Warrior on a Horse statue.
The city has a thriving foodie scene with both local and international restaurants serving mouthwatering dishes using fresh, local ingredients.
Distrikt Bar and Kitchen is located within the Marriott Hotel and offers local specialities such as kraski and korab kaskaval (smoked pork and sheep’s cheese).
This excellent full-day walking tour of Skopje includes pickup from anywhere in the city plus some of Skopje’s most famous attractions including churches, mosques, museums, the Old Bazaar and a trip up Mount Vodno.
Exploring this wonderful city is one of the best things to do in North Macedonia as there is so much to see and do.
Mount Vodno is one of the seven mountains surrounding Skopje and is easily reached from the center of the city.
The summit is at 1,066 meters (3,498 feet) and offers fantastic panorama views of the city and valley.
Atop Mount Vodno is the Millennium Cross, a 66 meter (217 foot) tall cross made of steel with a design similar to the Eiffel Tower. The cross was erected in 2002 to commemorate 2,000 years of Christianity.
The Millennium Cross is the largest such cross in the world, and one of the tallest structures in Macedonia.
In 2011 a cable car was built (called the Millennium Cross Cable Car) to transport visitors and tourists to the site, as well as making it much easier to ascend Mount Vodno. Just be aware that the cable car doesn’t operate on Mondays!
There is a bus from Skopje Bus Station to the bottom of the cable car that takes 30 minutes. The bus is a red double decker, a bit like the London buses, and will have Millennium Cross on the front. It costs around 35 Dinar (0.50 cents).
It’s also possible to hike up to the Millennium Cross from either the bottom of the mountain or from mid Vodno at the visitor car park. There are five specific (and a few unofficial) hiking paths up the mountain varying in levels of difficulty.
From Middle Vodno, it takes around two hours to hike to Millennium Cross.
Another way to get up Mount Vodno is to take a half-day tour such as this one, which includes the cable car, Millennium Cross, and also a trip to Matka Canyon.
Visiting the stunning Matka Canyon is one of the best things to do in North Macedonia thanks to its incredible natural beauty.
Matka Canyon covers an area of over 12,000 acres and is home to the largest man-made lake in Macedonia, and a series of caves and several medieval monasteries. The canyon is just 10 miles west of Skopje so makes an easy day trip from the city.
The area around Matka Canyon has endless possibilities for getting out in nature. From kayaking and boat trips to hiking, picnics and exploring caves (more on that below), the canyon is one of the best North Macedonia attractions.
You can take a boat all the way through the canyon, and there's also a hiking trail that's around 6 miles long. It's pretty strenuous and takes roughly five to six hours to complete.
Smaller hikes include the one to St. Nikola Monastery up high on the banks of the canyon. This hike should take well under one hour, however it's very steep and you’ll need to be in relatively good shape.
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes within the canyon so if you don’t fancy a picnic, there are places to grab a bite and enjoy some refreshment in serene surroundings.
Here's some more information about visiting Matka Canyon...
Vrelo Cave is located at Matka Canyon and is considered one of the deepest in Europe. Divers have explored down to a whopping 212 meters (696 feet) and still not found a bottom.
The cave is thought to be between 2.5 and 4 million years old and was only found in the 1950s during the construction of the Bajer reservoir.
It’s possible to visit the vast and cavernous Vrelo Cave by kayak or boat tour and this is highly recommended!
Inside you’ll get to see a vast array of stalactites and stalagmites, as well as a large population of bats that call the cave home (it wouldn’t be a cave without them)!
If you're looking for spectacular things to see in North Macedonia then don't leave this place off your itinerary.
Just like neighboring Albania, Macedonia is also famed for its exquisite wines which have been made here since Roman times. Sampling the wonderful wines is one of the best things to do in North Macedonia!
Red wine makes up about 80% of the vineyards in North Macedonia. Local grape varieties include Vranec, Procupak and Kratosija and these are mixed with more well known varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Macedonian wines are seriously good and up there with those produced in France and Italy. The Mediterranean climate and location has a lot to do with this!
North Macedonia is on the same longitude as Tuscany in Italy, Bordeaux in France and the Napa valley in the USA, so it’s no wonder the country produces some great wines!
There are lots of wineries and vineyards that can be visited here for tastings and to learn about viticulture. One of the best is Tikves Winery which also lets you stay overnight on the winery in your camper for free.
The wine tastings and food are cheap and delicious and the winery is set over acres of rolling hills under perfect southern European skies. Tikves also produces the best wine in the country, so it's well worth a visit.
Ohrid is an absolutely gorgeous little town on the shores of Lake Ohrid (there’s definitely nothing ‘orrid about it)! The town is perched on the eastern shores of the lake, and directly west lies Albania.
The town’s varied history is on display absolutely everywhere from the Byzantine churches and monasteries to the Roman ruins, an open-air theater, large fortress and quaint, cobbled streets. So, it's no surprise that it's been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Samuel's Fortress is the highest point in Ohrid and has some well-preserved stone walls and battlements. The views are fantastic and you can see right across the small town and lake.
Ohrid is home to a Hellenistic (Greek, pre Roman) theater which is remarkably well preserved and overlooks the terracotta rooftops and lake in the distance. Checking out this cool archaeological site is definitely one of the best things to do in Ohrid!
And let’s not forget the waterfront lined with artisan shops, restaurants and cafes. There's a wooden boardwalk and footpath that goes from the town to the Church of St. John the Theologian and to some secluded beaches a little further on too.
If you haven’t gathered it yet, Ohrid is an absolute gem and is a criminally underrated destination (but hey, fewer tourists and cheap prices means no one is complaining). This little town is one of the best places to visit in North Macedonia (if not, THE best).
You won't run out of things to do in Ohrid, and this half-day tour takes in all the major sites so is definitely worth checking out!
The placid, translucent waters of Lake Ohrid are perfect for swimming from May to September, though those from countries in the north of the northern Hemisphere will be fine swimming until October, when the water temperature is still around 22 Degrees Celsius (71F).
There are a few small beaches close to the town, but these can get very busy in summer.
Many are backed by bars and are a great place to relax and soak up the laid-back atmosphere.
If you follow the boardwalk and path away from the town and past St.John the Theologian, there are some more secluded beaches.
There aren’t any facilities (though the bars have toilets, and there are some taps to rinse off with), so you'll need to come prepared.
If you go further afield you can find much nicer beaches, and you’ll find some of these listed below.
Be aware that most of the beaches around Ohrid are shingle and small stones rather than sand, so bring sandals. It’s perfectly comfortable to sit provided you have a towel to lay down.
This beach in Kaneo is on the outskirts of Ohrid and is less busy than the more central ones. It's just a five minute walk from the old town!
This lively beach has an adjoining campsite and bars so it gets quite busy/noisy and attracts a young crowd. Perfect for partying until dawn, but if you're looking for peace and quiet, this isn’t the beach for you. It's located 9 miles south of Ohrid town.
Ljubanista Beach is one of the only sandy beaches on Ohrid and is one of the most beautiful. This beach is popular with families and a lot more chilled than Gradiste. It's found 20 miles south of Ohrid town.
If you’re looking for a little bit of solitude, then this is the perfect place for you. This shingle beach in the small village of Trpejca is surrounded by stunning scenery and it's just 13 miles south of Ohrid town.
Swimming in Ohrid is absolutely one of the best things to do in North Macedonia, so be sure to pack your swimwear!
The Church of St. John the Theologian (also known as St. John at Kaneo) is a Macedonian Orthodox church located on a small cliff overlooking lake Ohrid (and is one of the most “insta-worthy” spots there).
The church was built before the Ottoman period and dates back to around the 13th Century, although an exact date is not known.
Inside the church you can see ancient frescoes under the domed roof which were only discovered in 1964 during restoration work.
There is a small entrance fee to enter the church of 100 MKD (less than $2). To get here, follow the boardwalk and footpath from the lake in the center of town, and it’s less than a ten-minute walk.
The area around the church is beautiful with a clifftop path that carries on round the headland to some secluded beaches, and there is a beach at Kaneo just below the church.
This place is one of North Macedonia's hidden gems so what are you waiting for? Make sure you visit this awesome church!
The Bay of Bones, also known as the Museum on Water, is a recreation of a prehistoric settlement built above Lake Ohrid (a little like the houses on stilts you can see in the Maldives and other such places).
This incredible archaeological site dates back over 3,000 years to 1200 BC and forms part of the Museum on Water. Learn all about life in a bronze age Macedonian settlement set in the most dramatic scenery possible.
The raised settlement includes replicas of 24 prehistoric houses just above the water that you can explore. It’s even possible to dive around the site and explore from the water as well as on land.
The Bay of Bones is quite off the beaten track, so unless you have your own transport, one of the best ways to get there is to take a tour from Skopje.
Entrance to the Museum on Water costs just 100 MKD ($1.60). The site is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm in July and August, and 9:00 am to 4:00 pm from September to June.
This fantastic place is more like Hawaii or the Maldives than Eastern Europe thanks to its clear, blue waters, and is definitely one of the top things to do in North Macedonia.
The beautiful old Monastery of St Naum is located on the southern tip of Lake Ohrid; just a stone’s throw from the Albanian border and is well worth a visit.
This eastern Orthodox monastery dates back to 905 and was founded by St Naum of Bulgaria, who is also buried here.
St Naum is like a much larger version of the St.John the Theologian church, with stone walls and terracotta red tiles. It also overlooks Ohrid and is surrounded by lush, green forested hills, making it one of the best places to visit in Macedonia.
The Monastery of St. Naum is 20 miles south of Ohrid town and it takes around 45 minutes to get there.
If you're looking to visit some fantastic North Macedonia sights then I'd recommend heading to this incredible monastery!
Spring to autumn (fall) are the best times to visit North Macedonia. The country benefits from long, hot summers and cold winters.
The climate ranges from continental in the north, to Mediterranean in the south.
One week is ample time to explore this small southern Balkan country. Ensure you spend at least a couple of days in the capital, Skopje, and the same in Ohrid.
If you want to dig deeper and explore the wine regions and some truly off the beaten path destinations then 10 days to 2 weeks would be better. This gives you plenty of time to explore the national park on the border with Greece too.
You should be able to exist well on $60 per person per day. Like the rest of the region, North Macedonia is a lot cheaper than northern and western Europe.
In fact, it's one of the cheapest countries in Europe so you've got nothing to worry about!
Hostels cost as little as $10 per night and hotels can be found for less than $50. A meal in a good restaurant should cost under $10.
Transport is also cheap, with bus and train tickets costing from $2 to $5.
North Macedonia is incredibly safe to visit with little violent crime reported. Take usual precautions when traveling on public transport and in busy tourist areas.
Don’t display valuables or flash lots of cash, and ensure you keep an eye on your valuables when swimming at Lake Ohrid.
Temperatures can be high during the summer so always cover up, wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water.
If you want to explore the rest of the Balkans, it’s so easy to get to Serbia, Albania, Kosovo, Bulgaria and beyond from North Macedonia.
Driving distances are relatively short, and most are reachable with public transport by bus or train (though there are no trains to Albania).
Greece is another excellent destination as North Macedonia shares its southern border with this wonderful Mediterranean country!
There are so many fantastic places to visit in Europe if you're looking to head a bit further afar including Romania, Turkey, Montenegro, and Croatia.
If that's the case, we've got plenty of other travel guides that you may find helpful:
Leave a comment
Let us know what you think!