North Macedonia map & highlights
Even the Bible describes (North) Macedonia as an ancient land. And indeed, today, it still feels untouched by time in many places, with medieval villages such as Mavrovo perched on a lake front protected by forested mountains. Ottoman mosques and hammams appear like long lost jewels in the already culturally crammed capital of Skopje. And then Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is simply stuffed to the gills with ancient sacred sites (at one count there were 365 churches here). All perched in landscapes slowly carved by time into canyons and valleys, plateaus and peaks, many of which are protected by three national parks: Pelister, Mavrovo and Galicica.
1. Lake Prespa
You get two lakes for the price of one, with Big Prespa and Little Prespa, the latter shimmers its way across both the Greek and Albanian borders. Separated by snow capped Mount Galicica it makes for wonderful cycling, pedalling past ancient churches, traditional fishing huts poised out on the water, a bevy of beautiful birdlife including white pelicans, as well as submerged ruins when the water levels fall.
2. Matka canyon
Head just 17km from Skopje and you'll discover some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the Balkans. Starting at 2,000m the River Treska cuts a deep, narrow valley through surrounding karst limestone, leaving cliffs for climbing, caves for caving, waterfalls for canyoning, tracks for hiking and white water for kayaking. Hidden ancient monasteries cling to the rock all along the way.
Mavrovo National Park
3. Mavrovo National Park
Mavrovo National Park is not only home to three of the country’s highest peaks (the highest being Great Korab towering 2,764m over the Albanian border), but also one of North Macedonia's largest lakes, featuring the half submerged church of St Nicholas in the middle. Outdoor adventures aplenty, with 52 peaks higher than 2,000m, alpine flora, forested slopes, lakeside beaches and vast pastures.
You can see why so many ancient churches cropped up on the shores of Lake Ohrid – it’s a secret heaven on earth. Take a walk around the lake and examine the likes of the 11th-century St Sophia’s cathedral and Byzantine beauty St Bogorodica Perivlepta. Everything exudes antiquity and aesthetic, meriting both its UNESCO status and Galicica National Park protection. It’s full of swimming beaches, too.
Pelister National Park
5. Pelister National Park
Named after its highest peak, at 2,601m, this ancient landscape is still home to bears, wolves, deer, chamois and eagles. Just three hours from Skopje, you find yourself within the Baba Mountain massif, where hiking takes you to exquisite elevations, with two turquoise lakes known as Pelisterski Oci (Pelister Eyes), rock pools, waterfalls and traditional mountain villages, with homestays.
North Macedonia’s capital boasts a range of ancient and modern influences including the kitsch neoclassical monuments installed by the country's now defunct PM, Nikola Gruevski. From Roman aqueducts and bridges, Ottoman mosques and Turkish bathhouses, to the 16th-century Church of the Ascension and the Byzantine 6th-century Kale Fortress; Skopje is divided and not just by the Vardar River.
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More about North Macedonia
The best time to visit North Macedonia may well depend on whether you're looking for lakes or mountains with scorching summer temperatures often cooling the higher up you hike.
Find out more about the country and its people as you peruse our North Macedonia travel guide and piece together the former fragments of Yugoslavia that are featured within our interactive North Macedonia map & highlights section.
Make the most of North Macedonia by exploring in out of the way areas and enjoying home cooked meals with welcoming local people.
Tours of Ancient Macedonia uncover one of the world’s great civilisations, the lost empire of Alexander the Great, through visits to historic sites in Greece, Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia.
Ironically, given the name, Lake Ohrid is in fact one of the most beautiful and serene parts of North Macedonia.
It’s always wise to get some advice before traveling which is why our top tips have come from our specialist tour experts who’ve either been to North Macedonia or lived there their whole lives.
Poverty, pollution and plastic are problems in North Macedonia.