Macedonia is one of the most recently formed European countries and it’s tucked away in the south Balkan region.
Because it’s such a new country, you’ll find that many people don’t know much about it, or some may not even know that it’s even a country.
We travelled into Macedonia from Albania and we ended up spending just over a week between Ohrid and Skopje, two of the most visited places in the country.
Brief History of Macedonia
The country gained its independence from Yugoslavia back in 1991 after a barrage of uprisings and peaceful demonstrations. For centuries before that, Macedonia was governed by the Greeks, Romans, the Ottomans and the Byzantines.
It was also the largest Kingdom of Alexander the Great. References to him are obvious everywhere and especially in the Capital, Skopje where there are many statues just like the one below in his honour.
We absolutely loved how hospitable and friendly the Macedonian people were. By nature, they are a very kind, happy and peaceful nation. They will go out of their way to give a helping hand and expect nothing in return. A trait that instantly makes most people relax and feel appreciative.
Orthodox Christianity is the religion that’s practiced most commonly in Macedonia, while there’s also a large population of Muslims.
Money and currency
Macedonia is pretty cheap in comparison to many of the other Balkan countries. It’s not as cheap as the likes of Albania and Bosnia, but it’s still very, very cheap overall.
The official currency is the Macedonian Dinar and €1 = 61 MKD (at the time of writing).
Euros are widely accepted in most shops so don’t worry too much if you don’t have any local currency.
Compared to Albania, Macedonia has an excellent infrastructure when it comes to transport. That’s not to say the Albania is terrible, it just makes things a little more difficult to get from A to B.
All cities and major towns are well connected with bus routes. I don’t know if there’s a train service, as we chose to travel via bus.
There’s a wide variety of food available to sample in Macedonia and local dishes have strong ties to Turkish, Slavic and European flavours.
Locals eat three meals a day and the largest meal is usually lunch. A typical Macedonian meal will contain some form of cheese, tomatoes, bread, potatoes and meat (pork is the popular choice here).
Fish is another staple, and is especially recommended around the likes of Lake Ohrid.
If you want to try a traditional dish from Macedonia then ask for Tavce Gravce. This translates to beans in skillet.
Where to visit in Macedonia?
We can only give you our opinions based on where we actually visited in Macedonia. We got loads of suggestions from other travellers and locals and in the end we visited Ohrid and Skopje.
This is a gorgeous city located next to Lake Ohrid. The major attractions are all within easy walking distances too so it makes the city an ideal spot to chill out for a few days.
The quaint narrow streets of the old town are pebble dashed with cafe bars, restaurants and although we didn’t get our dancing shoes on, we heard that there’s a vibrant party scene in Ohrid. Maybe next time we’ll get to party in some of the local bars and clubs and tell you more on the party scene.
Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest and deepest in Europe and provides a perfect setting for afternoon boat rides. Water sports and fishing excursions are also popular activities for tourists to enjoy.
There’s a fortress and multiple churches along the lakeside that make for good photo opportunities. We were feeling churched-out so we didn’t go inside any of them.
The historical architecture of the city has been awarded UNESCO status as being one of the few locations on the cultural institution’s list under the heading – “World Inheritance”.
This city blew us away right from the moment we arrived. Apart from being a ancient city with about 2000 years of history to its name, it’s also an ultra modernised city with a lively feel to it.
With a population of about 1 million, Skopje represents the economical, educational, cultural and political centre for the entire country.
Most of the city centre was rebuilt in 2013/14 and it has so many statues randomly erected across the city that no one can give an estimation as to how many there are in total.
We called it the City of statues for obvious reasons!
Skopje is one of the quirkiest cities we’ve been to. The city has a lot going for it and more and more flight operators are pointing their planes in its direction. Give it a few years and Skopje will see a huge influx of tourists – more-so than what you see there today.
Random Fact about Skopje – Mother Teresa was born here.
Accommodation in Skopje
We got a nice surprise when we arrived into the city. We had planned to meet the owner of the accommodation that we’d booked online. When we met her (Zhaklina), she recognised us from our blog as she’d been following us throughout the Balkans for the past few months.
Small world, eh!
We booked her beautiful apartment for one night only and once we saw how beautiful and central it was, we asked could we stay another 2 nights. Unfortunately, it was booked up and Zhaklina was so nice to us that she insisted we stay in her house for 3 days afterwards.
We had intended in staying in the city for 2 days but ended up staying 5 and enjoying the wonderful company of Zhaklina.
We learned a lot about her and her country and she speaks Macedonian, English (fluently), Serbian(fluently), Russian(fluently) and is well capable of holding a conversation in French too!
Thanks very much for your kindness Zhaklina and we appreciate everything you did for us!
Zhaklina is a prime example of just kind and generous Macedonians are.
Travel in Macedonia
We enjoyed our week between Ohrid and Skopje. It’s definitely a country we’d recommend to others to go and visit. There’s tons to explore and we only dipped our toes into the water.
Stunning scenery, extremely cheap to travel/live and some of the most hospitable locals you could ever meet.
Put Macedonia on your list and tick it off!