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North Macedonia Travel Guide
“We watched the people and old carriages go past, we gazed at the colours of the great bazaar and the eternal flow of the river.
But no matter where we stood, it was the large square that drew our attention. Here was where history most frequently stopped off or passed by. Here in this square the first occupying forces halted, liberators announced their victory, mighty workers paraded, and important rallies were held.”
– Luan Starova, The Time of the Goats
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The Country Formerly Known As
The Republic of North Macedonia, formerly known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, was tussling for autonomy long before the Balkan Peninsula got carved up into its latest iteration. The history of this tiny nation reaches all the way back to the time of Alexander the Great. Perhaps it’s there you can find the roots of the fiery Macedonian spirit that has bore this country through hard times, from city-shattering earthquakes to political turmoil.
Built on the fault lines of a fragile independence, North Macedonia celebrates its cultural identity and religion with a special kind of ferocity. Still, after spending a couple of weeks in the country, I think I came away with more questions than answers.
It’s worth visiting just to experience Skopje, the kookiest capital in Europe. Split by the Vardar River, one side of the city is a highly stylised outdoor museum of statues, colonnades, manicured gardens and squares. The other bank is the total opposite – a maze of bowed streets and shadowy shops that make up the Skopje Old Bazaar (the second-largest in the region after Istanbul). The Ottoman influence is everywhere, from the food to the hamams that have been turned into contemporary art spaces. Just outside Skopje, the painted mosque in Tetovo is the most beautiful in all of the Balkans.
In the centre of the country, North Macedonia’s jewel, Lake Ohrid, sparkles. Cruise to the St. Naum Monastery near the border with Albania or hire a bicycle and circumnavigate the entire lake in a day, passing through the two border crossings. Soak up the green glory of Mavrovo National Park and Matka Canyon, a popular day trip from the capital, or hike Baba Mountain in the south. Navigate the steep streets of my favourite town in North Macedonia, Krushevo, and in Bitola, see the Roman amphitheatre and incredible mosaics at the Heraklea Lynkestis archaeological complex.
Save room for North Macedonia’s wine scene. Stobi, Tikves and Popova Kula are the country’s most prominent wineries and must-visits for fans of vino.
North Macedonia Travel Essentials
when to go
May (spring) or June-Sep (summer high season).
1 full day for Skopje; 5-7 days for the highlights; 10-14 days to see everything.
Fly into Skopje, train from Belgrade, or bus from neighbouring countries.
N. Macedonia visa
50 USD per person per day (mid-range hotel; restaurant meals; bus fares; museum tickets).
Explore North Macedonia
Markets, mosques & bathhouses.
North Macedonia and Greece share a long land border – but it’s not as easy as you might think to travel between the two countries. This is the definitive guide to travelling from Bitola to
This DIY walking tour of Skopje’s historic marketplace, Stara Čaršija, shows you the best things to do in Old Bazaar Skopje – including what to eat, where to shop, and what to buy. When I
Tetovo Mosque and the Arabati Baba Teke Dervish Monastery are two of North Macedonia’s most celebrated religious sites. Here’s how you can visit both on an easy day trip from Skopje by bus. When choosing
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My North Macedonia Favourites
Mavrovo National Park.
Tavče gravče (baked beans in a clay pot) with a glass of Chateau Sopot on the side.
A pair of handmade leather opanki folk shoes.