An ancient world filled with Greek ruins, antique churches, monasteries, mountain ranges, and Turkish architecture contrasts against the modern, concrete buildings of the capital Skopje, a city rebuilt after a massive earthquake in 1963 destroyed 80 percent of the city’s buildings.Macedonia‘s natural beauty leaves visitors in awe with abundant crystal clear lakes, deep valleys and mountain crests within the country’s three national parks, where spotting roaming wildlife comes as a pleasant surprise.
When to Go
The summers are warm and dry and winters are very snowy, windy and cold, particularly inland, with temperatures averaging at around -5F. May to October is the nicest time of the year to travel to Macedonia as it is when the weather is at its warmest and rainfall is minimal.
The Ohrid Summer Festival is a six week event celebrating classical and jazz music and theatre. Beginning mid July, countless concerts and theatre productions are showcased within the ancient fortress, outdoor theatre and basilica whilst surrounding mountains and the gorgeous Lake Ohrid make for an unforgettable setting.
Macedonia’s population of just over two million people is divided into a vast majority of Macedonian Orthodox (70 percent) and Muslim (29 percent).
Although most of the population speaks Macedonian, which is the official language, Albanian, Turkish, and Serbian are also prevalent. Macedonian is written in the Cyrillic script and is phonetic, making it easy to read and write once the 31 letter Cyrillic alphabet has been mastered. English is not widely spoken, however some young people in the larger cities do speak it.
Getting around Macedonia by train is an option and all domestic journeys are operated by Makedonski Zheleznici, which will take you to many parts of the small country. Internationally, trains connect to Greece and other territories of former-Yugoslavia.
When travelling by bus in Skopje, there are two bus companies which can be utilised and will take you throughout the city and surrounding villages. JSP are the red buses which are owned by the state, while other buses are privately owned. The system in place is quite good and buses are frequent, however it is best to avoid travelling on the roads during peak hours.
The Macedonian Denar is the currency and it is not exchangeable once outside of Macedonia.For up to date currency information, check the Currency Converter. It is recommended that travellers have a range of financial alternatives. Most banks will exchange travellers’ cheques charging no commission and there are several small exchange offices in the larger cities who generally offer a good rate. Generally hotels, shops and restaurants will accept major credit cards, however this is not always the case. Look for signs to confirm this. Macedonia is one of the cheapest countries in Europe to visit. If you can avoid lodging in hotels by staying in private rooms or hostels, $US30 should be adequate to get by on, otherwise spending a minimum of $US50 a day should be expected.
Traditional cuisine has Turkish and Slavic roots, and although meat is apparent throughout Macedonian cooking, many vegetarian dishes are also on offer. Try ajvar, a relish made from paprika and tomatoes which is often served as an appetizer with breads and cold meats.Pindzhur is a traditional dish which uses hearty portions of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, salt and garlic, combined and prepared either by stir frying or baking and is then eaten as a starter. Main courses include sarma vo lozov list – grape leaves stuffed with mixed minced pork and beef, which are often served with sour cream – or alternatively tavche gravche, a tasty vegetarian dish of beans and capsicum, firstly boiled then baked. Sutlijash, or rice pudding, is a popular dessert which is often topped with cinnamon and toasted almonds, and is a fine way to finish any meal.
There are no dress restrictions in Macedonia. Lightweight clothing during the summer is recommended and a light sweater should be on hand during the evenings. Waterproof jackets and heavy layers are a must in the winter.
Travellers from Australia, South Africa and Zimbabwe require a visa for entry into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, whilst most European Union countries, the United States, the United Kindom, and New Zealand do not need one for stays of up to three months.
By Natasha Vuckovic
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