North Macedonia

Vineyards, Lakes and a Complex History

North Macedonia is a fascinating destination, situated in the heart of the Balkans region. Squeezed between Albania, Greece, Serbia, Kosovo and Bulgaria, it’s history and culture is one that’s closely intertwined with its neighbours. Despite this common ground, you’ll discover a country that is developing at pace and forging it’s own unique identity. For visitors, North Macedonia has a lot to offer within a relatively small area. Increasingly accessible by both land and air, there’s never been a better time to visit.

The UNESCO listed old town of Ohrid, situated on Lake Ohrid is undoubtedly North Macedonia’s star attraction. Here you’ll discover quaint cobbled streets, historic churches and a stunning castle overlooking the town and lake. Elsewhere there’s the capital Skopje, with its array of statues, museums and recently built classical buildings.

The UNESCO town of Ohrid as seen from Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia
The UNESCO listed town of Ohrid as seen from Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia

Outside of North Macedonia’s two major tourist centres, there’s plenty more to discover. There’s excellent hiking in the Pelister National Park. There’s also less vigorous activities available, including visiting vineyards with their distinctive local wines or seeing some of the numerous monasteries. Lastly, there are plenty of ancient ruins to visit from the dynasty’s of the past. 

Central square in Skopje North Macedonia
North Macedonia's capital, Skopje is home to numerous impressive Alexander the Great statutes

Orientation

North Macedonia is a landlocked nation situated in the heart of the Balkans. The country is surrounded by Serbia and Kosovo to the north, Albania to the west, Greece to the south and Bulgaria to the west.  The capital city of Skopje is situated in the north of the country and is the only sizeable city of note. North Macedonia is home to a number of smaller cities including Bitola, Kumanovo, Prilep, Tetovo, Veles, Stip and Ohrid. Outside of these major towns and cities, the country is largely rural and home to some spectacular landscapes, including mountains, plains and forests.

Best Time to Visit North Macedonia

North Macedonia’s range of sights and attractions mean there’s always a great reason to visit the country throughout the year. From skiing and alpine hiking in the winter to lounging on the beaches around Lake Ohrid in the summer, there’s an activity for every season. The countries temperate climate means that winters are generally mild, while summers warm without being overbearing.  Rainfall is interspersed throughout the year, meaning there’s no obvious time to avoid. 

The peak season in North Macedonia is during the summer months, which span from June to September. It’s also the best time to visit to make the most of the countries main attractions, especially the wonderful Lake Ohrid. During the summer months accommodation and sights can be busier and prices rise, however it’s far less noticeable in North Macedonia than other countries. As an off the beaten track destination, you won’t have to try hard to avoid the crowds.

Best Places to Visit in North Macedonia

North Macedonia packs in a surprising amount for a small country and population. Whether it’s wine tasting, hiking, history or relaxing you’re after, there ‘s some great options. We’ve picked our best 5 places to visit in North Macedonia but there’s plenty more to discover. Check out some of our guides and trip ideas to discover more exciting destinations.

Skopje – The capital city and home to 25% of the countries population, it’s a fascinating and quirky place. The city combines some fine historic Ottoman architecture with Soviet era construction and modern classical buildings. The recent building spree has seen a number of notable buildings erected, plus a host of statues. Walking through some areas of central Skopje can feel like being in an open air museum. Most statutes celebrate North Macedonia’s favourite son, Alexander the Great. Just outside of Skopje are Lake Matka and Canyon, which are both well worth a visit.

Ohrid – The historic city of Ohrid is located on Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia’s premier tourist destination and cultural heart. Somewhat uniquely, the city and lake has been classified both a natural and cultural UNESCO world heritage site. The beautiful cobbled streets of the old town and blue deep water lake are a stunning combination. Throw in a castle on the hills and numerous Ottoman monasteries dotting the surrounding hills and countryside and you’re on to a winner.

Tikves – The centre of North Macedonia’s wine growing industry, this sub-region is a great place to visit. Based around the town of Kavadarci, you’ll find some wonderful vineyards offering world class wines. Tasting sessions are increasingly popular and accessible. There’s also a wealth of history in the area with a number of Byzantine churches and monasteries. There’s also the man made Lake Tikves, which is worth a visit during the hotter summer months.

Bitola – Located in southern North Macedonia close to both the Greek border and Lake Ohrid, this city is a great day trip. Despite being the second biggest city in the country it’s surprisingly laid back. The main reason to visit are the ruins on the edge of the city known as  wonderful ruins of Heraclea Lyncestis. The ruins are what remains of the ancient city of Heraclea, which was founded in the 4th century BC. In the town itself, you’ll also find plenty of history and Ottoman architecture. 

Pelister National Park – Situated in the Baba Mountains massif in the south west of the country, Pelister National Park is North Macedonia’s oldest national park. It’s home to two glacial lakes set amongst the surrounding mountains. Known as Pelister’s eyes, these two lakes provide the focal point for treks on the surrounding peaks. The forested hillside provide plenty of unique flora and fauna with the area home to deer, wolves, boar and eagles.

Explore our North Macedonia trip ideas and itineraries

North Macedonia Road Trip

One Day in Skopje

Best Things to do in Lake Ohrid

North Macedonia Guide and Blog Archive

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