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Macedonia is a country of nature, the cradle of culture, home to the greatest commander in human history, Alexander the Great, and birthplace of Mother Teresa. It is a crossroads of civilizations, a unique blend of ancient and modern, offering a rich multicultural experience. The beauty of Macedonia and all it has to offer can be experienced year round.
In less than an hours drive from the capital city of Skopje, one can enjoy medieval monasteries, churches, mosques, vineyards, bazaars, hiking, and skiing.
A major landmark in Macedonia’s capital city Skopje is the medieval fortress overseeing the city center along with the Stone Bridge over the river Vardar, both dating from the time of the Byzantium emperor, Justinian Primus, when Macedonia was the leading province of the Eastern Roman empire. The Stone Bridge was built by the Turks on the site of a Roman bridge. The bridge gives access to the old part of the city where one can find the Turkish Bazaar. It is one of the best preserved examples of urban Ottoman architecture in the Balkans. Once inside the Bazaar, one can visit Daut-Pasha’s Amam (public bath, 15th century, now an art gallery), the Mustafa-Pasha’s Mosque (15th century), the Clock Tower (16th century), and Kurshumli-An (16th century).
Although Macedonia is a landlocked country, the coast of the Aegean Sea is only 250km away from the capital city of Skopje, while the country’s tourist mecca – the UNESCO-protected Lake Ohrid, is only 170km away.
Lake Ohrid is one of the world’s oldest and one of Europe’s deepest lakes. It is over 300 million years old, and has over 200 endemic species not found on any other place on the planet, including the famous delicacy, Ohrid trout. Lake Ohrid is a natural tectonic lake in the south-western part of Macedonia. The town of Ohrid, which rests by the lake, is the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet and Slavic literacy. Ohrid has 365 churches and monasteries – one for each day of the year. Ohrid’s gallery houses icons from the 5th and 6th centuries that have been on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. One of Ohrid’s attractions is the church St. Jovan Bigorski (St. John the Baptist) built in 1020. The iconostasis in the monastery is considered one of the most beautiful and most treasured wood-carved iconostasis in the Orthodox religion. In addition, there is also an icon dating from 1020 with supposed miraculous healing power. Lake Ohrid, with its stunning Byzantine churches, small cobblestoned streets, art galleries, fine accommodations, picturesque pebbly beaches, and lively nightlife, is a breathtaking place to visit.
In addition to its medieval churches, traditional town architecture, and Roman amphitheater, a must-see are the remains of the ancient Samuel’s Fortress that oversees the lake. The Fortress’s origins date from the time of Alexander the Great, and it is one of the largest medieval fortifications to be preserved in the country.
The Republic of Macedonia abounds with unique monuments, and amongst them is the megalithic observatory Kokino that is fourth on the list of oldest observatories in the world, according to NASA. The archeological site Heraclea in the town of Bitola was founded in the 4th century, and is the most well preserved city from the Ancient Macedonian Empire. The ancient city of Stobi, first mentioned in documents from the 2nd century B.C.E., contains a 2nd century amphitheater, the Theodosia palace, and early Christian ruins with ornate mosaic floors. An international drama festival takes place here every August. Scupi is an archeological site of the antique Roman city located several kilometers from the center of Skopje. It was first mentioned in the year 3 B.C. and founded by the Dardanians. A disastrous earthquake in 518 A.D destroyed the city, but a new town was built on top of the rubble, named Justiniana Prima after its founder, the famous Byzantine emperor Justinian. In the village of Kuklica near Kratovo, the Stone Town of Kuklica can be found consisting of over 120 naturally formed stone pillars or “dolls” that are 10 million years old. Legend has it that the stone dolls were guests at a wedding but were turned to stone, cursed by a forsaken bride.
In addition to the ancient and historical attractions, several international cultural events and festivals take place each year in Macedonia. The Ohrid Summer Festival of music and drama attracts artists from around the globe. The Struga Poetry Evenings, in the town of Struga, is a world renowned poetry event that takes place every August, bringing together roughly 200 poets from 50 different countries. The capital city of Skopje is also home to the Skopje Jazz Festival every October and the May Opera Evenings, bringing together musicians from around the world.
During the summer months, roller-skating, jogging, and strolling are quite popular activities alongside the city’s riverbanks and City Park, as well as mountain biking and hiking in the surrounding mountains. Macedonia has four national parks: Galichica, Mavrovo, Pelister, and Jasen. In addition to these outdoor activities, Macedonia has many outdoor cafés, and an exciting nightlife.
Gaining in popularity recently are Macedonia’s wine tours. There are currently 38 wineries in Macedonia. Tours take visitors throughout Macedonia’s famous Tikvesh wine region, recognized as the most important quality wine growing region, visiting local wineries, tasting various wines and local cuisine. Some of Macedonia’s famous wineries include Tikvesh Winery, Stobi Winery, Popova Kula, and the Royal Winery Demir Kapija, which is the oldest in the Balkan region. It once belonged to King Aleksandar Karadjorjevic and the royal family. Guests will not only enjoy the beautiful landscape and award-winning wine, but will also have the opportunity to spend the night at the winery hotel should they choose to.
Visitors to Macedonia during the winter season can enjoy many activities just a short drive from Skopje. Macedonia has 34 mountain peaks exceeding 2,000 meters. The highest is that of Mount Golem Korab which 2,753 meters above sea level is. Several highly developed regional ski centers.such as Ski Center Mavrovo, Popova Shapka, Krushevo, Ski Center Kozuf, and Shar Mountain offer beginner, intermediate, and advanced tracks. Ski Center Kozuf also holds yearly European Snowboarding Championship bringing together visitors from many European countries.
Macedonia can easily be reached by two international airports, Aleksandar the Great airport in Skopje, and St. Paul the Apostle airport in Ohrid. These international airports connect Macedonia with several major European cities.
Macedonia welcomes visitors to experience this timeless land of culture, where the ancient is inextricably blended with the modern, where every city or town echoes the past amidst the sounds of contemporary life.