Macedonia has a fascinating history that’s inspired by the Ottomans, Romans, and Greeks. You’ll experience the old Turkish bazaars, Roman ruins, and claims of a strong Greek heritage. There’s also a flavor from the old communist days when they were a part of southern Yugoslavia. And, did you know that Mother Theresa was born in Skopje?
Macedonia is full of hidden charms. The old bazaars in Skopje and Bitola are like stepping back to the 17th century. Lake Ohrid in the south is breath-taking with the orange-roofed houses rising up the side of the hill. You’re also surrounded by nature.
This is a great place to visit if you want to escape the hordes of tourists and the scams that follow them. Macedonia gives you an authentic experience and the best part is that it’s super cheap.
This itinerary gives you an idea of how to spend a week in Macedonia. You’ll spend three nights in the capital Skopje, two nights at Lake Ohrid, and a night in Bitola.
You can view the itinerary on Google Maps here .
Day 1: Enjoy the Old Bazaar in Skopje
You’ll arrive at Alexander the Great Airport. Take the airport bus to the city if you arrive early. This costs a few dollars whereas taxi is around €20.
When you get to Skopje, head over to the Old Bazaar. Enjoy the traditional Ottomans style buildings with a pretty cobblestone road that leads right through. Wander around and soak up the ambiance. You can also find a few traditional bars and restaurants here with very reasonable prices.
Old Bazaar Square, Skopje
Image Source: Pixabay
Day 2: Join the Free Skopje Walking Tour
The Free Walking Tour is a great way to learn about the city. This takes you to the attractions in Skopje with an informative and knowledgeable guide. The tour lasts around four hours and I promise you’ll walk away feeling enlightened.
After the tour when you get your bearings, feel free to explore other parts of the city. Enjoy the area along the river or check out the Memorial House of Mother Theresa, the place where she was baptized.
View from Vodno Mountains.
Photo by Alan Grant – http://www.alangrantphoto.com/
Day 3: Mount Vodno and Millennium Cross
The most popular day trip from Skopje is to the Millennium Cross on Mount Vodno. Look up and you’ll see it standing proud during the day and lit up when night falls. The cross was erected in 2002 to mark the 2000th anniversary of Christianity in Macedonia.
To get to the top, you first need to get to Middle Vodno before either hiking or taking the cable car to the top. Bus number 25 takes you to Middle Vodno from the main bus station or you can take a taxi. Some people like to hike from Macedonia Square, which takes up to an hour and a half.
At the top, the views of the surrounding mountains and the city below are breath-taking.
Day 4: Trip to Lake Ohrid
Ohrid is a large lake in southern Macedonia with a charming old town rising up the side of the hill. The old town is full of old buildings with orange roofs, churches, and a fortress marks the top. Both the lake and town were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. The lakeside is pretty and you can walk around the side on a footpath for amazing views.
This is one of the untouched destinations in Europe and you should visit now before the inevitable tourism boom.
To get here from Skopje, take the bus from the main station. Tickets cost just under $9 (520 Denar) and the journey takes around three hours. A bus leaves every hour. You don’t need to buy a ticket in advance, but it’s advisable during the summer months. Enjoy the views of the mountains as your drive through the Macedonian countryside.
Day 5: Sightseeing at Lake Ohrid
Ohrid is a photographer’s paradise. There are opportunities for photographs around almost every corner. The lake is serene at all times of the year and the old town has a special charm. You’re going to see a lot of churches and have the opportunity to take a boat trip.
Walk up to Samuel’s Fortress and get breath-taking views of the lake and the sea of orange below. You can also see the Ancient Theatre, which was built by the Romans more than 2000 years ago. Gladiators once fought here. There are also a few 13th-century monasteries and ancient churches throughout the old town. In the evening, head down to the lake and enjoy the sunset.
You can see all of the sites in Ohrid in a single day. Everything is close to each other and walkable. Expect lots of steps and steep roads.
By Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32688264
Day 6: Take a Trip to Bitola
Bitola is the second city in Macedonia that’s near the border with Greece. Founded by Philip II (the father of Alexandra the Great) in the fourth century BC, this city has a strong historical past. You can walk around and experience several Ottoman style buildings as well as a strong European influence. The latter is because a lot of European consuls opened in the 19th century.
Bitola Clock Tower
By Macedonian Wikipedians:Bitola in January 2006 – Macedonian Wikipedians:Bitola in January 2006, Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3226564
The main attraction is the Old Bazaar. This is smaller than the one in Skopje, but it’s in a much better condition. You’ll also see a lot of mosques and can enjoy walking along the main pedestrian Shirok Sokak Street. Several cafes, restaurants, and the beautiful architecture of the consulates are around here.
Bitola is just over 70 kilometres from Ohrid and getting a bus is quite easy. The journey takes around an hour and a half and you can just turn up at the bus station and buy your tickets.
Day 7: Final Day in Macedonia
This is your final day in Macedonia and you need to think about your departure. From Bitola, you need to return to Skopje if you’re flying out of Alexandra the Great Airport. Expect this journey to take three hours. Other options include taking the bus from Bitola into Greece or Albania.
The Seven Day Macedonia Itinerary
Macedonia gets few tourists making it an unexplored part of Europe. Experience the old, the modern, and the charm that radiates from the country. It’s a great place to visit now before everyone else discovers it.
This article was contributed to TripDukaan by Sam Bedford. Sam recently quit his job to travel the world with his wife. They’re fascinated by the history and culture of the Balkans and decided to spend a month in Macedonia. If you want to learn more about their adventures and get awesome travel tips along the way, check out their blog: Itching For Travel.