All You Need to Know About North Macedonia: A 4-Step Journey is finally here for travelers!
Do you have an exciting journey on your agenda? Maybe the Balkans are on your radar somewhere?
Say hello to North Macedonia – a country that is still unspoiled and underrated in 2021.
Influences from Romans, Greeks, and Ottomans can still be seen and felt here while nature remains pristine.
The iconic landmarks and preserved natural locations all shine. How come?
This is due to the country‘s hardships – from numerous empires waging wars to its name being disputed to the communist regime that made the country hardly accessible.
But today, all of that culminates in a unique and unspoiled destination – perfect for any type of traveler out there.
Let‘s explore the main things that you need to know about North Macedonia in 4 simple steps. They will surely inspire you!
Step 1: Macedonian History & Heritage
Being landlocked and currently bordered by 4 countries – two words describe North Macedonia‘s history the best – turbulent and rich.
The region of Macedonia was always important for one main reason – it is a major junction for communication routes and east-west trade roads that connect the Black Sea with the Adriatic Sea.
That‘s why North Macedonia saw a lot of different conflicts in its past.
Due to this turbulent past, North Macedonia now forms a complex blend of major cultural traditions of Asia and Europe with many different ethnic groups living in the country.
The most noticeable trace of history is left by the Ottomans as the country was part of the Ottoman Empire for more than 500 years!
This large footprint of history is best visible in locations such as Skopje Old Bazaar.
Step 2: The Hearty Cuisine of North Macedonia
This rich and turbulent past also formed a hearty cuisine composed of different influences from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and other Balkan countries.
North Macedonia has strong organic produce due to its warm climate – from vegetables, fruits, and herbs to dairy products and even wine and quality meats.
This is why Macedonian cuisine is always regarded as one of the most diverse ones.
National Dishes & Drinks
Tavče gravče is widely considered a national dish of Macedonia with some regional variations.
It represents the hearty Macedonian cuisine well – it‘s a pretty simple dish with fresh beans but so tasty and fulfilling! The unique feature is that it is baked and then served in a traditional unglazed earthenware pot.
When it comes to drinks, a few may be considered a national drink – Mastika and Rakija. Both are very popular alcoholic drinks that have a distinct taste by being flavored and sweetened.
Other Popular Traditional Foods
North Macedonia is full of traditional dishes to try and enjoy! Here are our top 5 foods to consider once visiting the country:
- Pastrmajlija (Macedonian Pizza)
- Mekici (Macedonian fried dough)
- Burek (Delicious Puff Pastry)
- Sarma (Cabbage Rolls)
- Polneti Piperki (Stuffed Bell Peppers)
Step 3: Main Cities & Outdoor Recreation in North Macedonia
North Macedonia has 34 cities in total; however, only 5 of them have a population of over 50,000.
When it comes to nature, the country has epic locations that will fulfill even seasoned adventure-seekers.
Let‘s see it!
- Skopje – The country’s capital and the most popular city for travelers. The city is home to around 30% of the country’s total population, with plenty of history, nightlife, and other attractions.
- Bitola – One of the oldest cities in North Macedonia, founded in the 4th century. It is known for its historic architecture and is also recognized as a cultural, educational, industrial, and administrative center.
- Kumanovo – Situated close to the capital Skopje, the city lies 340 meters (1,115 feet) above sea level and is surrounded by different mountains. It also has a variety of archaeological sites, historic landmarks, and monuments.
- Prilep – A former old fortress on a rocky hilltop today is a beautiful green city representing the country well. It has alluring nature, intriguing ruins to explore, and as always, charming historical landmarks and an epic main square.
- Tetovo – Archaeological discoveries near the city date back to the Bronze Age(2200-1200BC). The oldest artifact in the country (Mycenae sword) from the Bronze Age was found outside Tetovo. It has a beautiful ski resort, and sightseeing here is one of the best counties due to its long history.
Outdoor Recreation in North Macedonia
Welcome to the Outdoor Republic of North Macedonia – a true paradise of nature. Due to low tourism and many years of Communism regime, the country and its prettiest locations remained barely touched.
Today, we can use the opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful and pristine nature corners in Europe.
The country has 3 national parks – Pelister, Mavrovo & Galičica. From towering mountain slopes and giant lakes to monasteries in the middle of nowhere and diverse flora and fauna – they have everything you could imagine and a bit more.
Various activities are also available throughout the country – think of scuba diving in lakes, kayaking on rivers, biking or hiking on trails, or seeing everything from above with paragliding.
North Macedonia is one big playground, and it is waiting for you!
Step 4: Best Things To Do in North Macedonia
To give you a taste of North Macedonian adventure, we‘ll give you some of the best things to do and the best places to visit in the country. These will provide you with a great idea of what you can expect!
Become A Timeless Explorer in Skopje
Everything starts in Skopje, the capital city that blends the old and the new elegantly.
Old Bazaar Skopje remains in the past – a medieval labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets smelling of food, Turkish coffee while buzzing with merchants.
There‘s also a modern center that was given a neoclassical touch with an intriguing architectural approach.
How about a mighty fortress on a hill or a mountain where Skopje‘s grandiosity opens up?
You‘ll also be surprised at every corner as there are around 200 statues in the city!
Kayak Through the Stunning Matka Canyon
Matka Canyon is one of those must-visit gems, especially when it‘s less than an hour away from the capital.
Sit down in a kayak and watch how those awe-inspiring rugged cliffs become even more imposing.
Let yourself drift along the river and discover amazing caves and underground lakes. Wow!
See The Ancient World in Heraclea
The stunning history and heritage from different periods of the past shine in North Macedonia in various ways.
Heraclea is one of the best-preserved ruins that will take you on a trip back to the ancient Macedonian Empire.
From ancient amphitheater and bathhouses to stunning mosaics and simply an epic atmosphere.
Stand on the Top of the World at Mount Ljuboten
The adventurous soul can only be calmed with epic voyages – meet the world at the summit of Mount Ljuboten.
This pyramid-shaped peak rises above sea level at 8,196 feet and takes around 5-6 hours to climb.
Your quest for the top will be aided by a guesthouse that can be found at the treeline, making it a good base for the hike.
In winter, the mountain is snow-capped, and in spring, it‘s a painting of flowers – pick your favorite.
Marvel at the Painted Mosque in Tetovo
Don‘t judge a book by its cover – a saying perfectly describing this bright and extraordinary building.
The Painted Mosque in Tetovo city was built in the 15th century, destroyed, and rebuilt again in the 19th century.
It rose from the ashes like a Pheonix and exploded in a variety of colors.
The mosque’s exteriors barely tell a story; you‘ll have to see inside – a rich palette of flamboyant frescoes covering every inch with their geometric arabesque patterns and alluring colors.
Why You Should Visit North Macedonia?
It‘s simple – North Macedonia is still a hidden gem for many but a must-visit destination for all.
It is a generally safe country to visit and enjoys warm summers and autumns and heavy snowfall during the winter season.
It is also a budget-friendly country and among the cheapest in Europe! The country’s compact size allows us to see a lot in a short period – North Macedonia is barely bigger than the smallest US states.
Many exciting discoveries are packed in this small country – are you ready to experience it all?