Part Balkan, part Mediterranean and rich in Greek, Roman and Ottoman heritage, Macedonia has a fascinating past and a complex national identity.
Glittering Lake Ohrid and its historic town have etched out a place for Macedonia on the tourist map, but there is a wealth of natural beauty in this small country. Dramatic mountains have blissfully quiet walking trails, lakes and riding opportunities. The national parks of Mavrovo, Galičica and Pelister are cultivating some excellent cultural and culinary tourism initiatives; these gorgeous regions are as yet little explored, so if you want to get off the beaten track in Europe – this is the place. Skopje’s Ottoman old town and buzzing modern areas are charming and authentic.
Food and Drink
Macedonia’s specialties are part Ottoman, part central European. The tomato is king and grows abundantly here: the national salad, šopska salata, features tomatoes, peppers, onions and cucumbers topped with tangy sirenje (white cheese). Tavče gravče (oven-cooked white beans in a tomato sauce) and lukanci (homemade chorizolike pork sausages) are divine. Skara (grilled meat) includes spare ribs, beef kebapci (kebabs) and uviač (rolled chicken or pork stuffed with yellow cheese). Skara in particular in ubiquitous.
The national firewater, raki, is a strong fruit brandy typically made from grapes (recipes vary across the Balkan countries) and most locals have their own homemade stash. Liquors made from cherries and plums are also popular – Macedonians will try to make the most of what they can find locally; cherry trees are everywhere and laden with fruit in summer.
Pelister (near Bitola) and Galičica (between Lakes Ohrid and Prespa) National Parks are in a tri-border protected area involving Albania and Greece. Both are laced with walking trails and Galičica is home to a number of mountain villages. Mavrovo (in Macedonia’s west, between Debar and Tetovo) offers great hiking in summer and skiing in winter. All parks are accessible by road.
Natural and Cultural Heritage Site of the Ohrid Region. The town of Ohrid is located near the shores of Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. It is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Macedonia and one of Europe’s oldest human settlements. Hence, it was listed under the Mixed site category by UNESCO. This town was founded in the 7th century and flourished until the 19th century. This town is also home to the oldest Slav monastery and over 800 iconic Byzantine monuments.
The Lake Ohrid is considered an important natural heritage site in Macedonia. Due to the combined natural value of the lake and the important monuments found within the Ohrid region, it was listed as a mixed site as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Macedonia.