Skopje is the capital and largest city of Republic of Macedonia, but also the most diverse city of the country. The reason for that is the occupation of the city by various different peoples since its foundation, and the evidence for it reflects in the architecture. It still is a home of many different peoples which is why you will find churches, monasteries and mosques intertwined all together. There is so much to see in this magnificent city, but if you are staying in Skopje for more than just a day or two, we suggest an out-of-town gateway to introduce yourself with this beautiful country a bit more.
Check out our ideas for the best day trips from Skopje that every tourist in Republic of Macedonia should explore!
This Macedonian pearl is usually the top recommendation for anyone visiting this country. It is the largest city on Lake Ohrid located approximately 200 km southwest of Skopje. Its picturesque nature and monuments along with other cultural, spiritual and historical features made city a part of UNESCO’s Natural World Heritage Sites. Ohrid is mostly famous for its cleanest lake and for the 365 churches, one for each day of the year which is why it has been referred to as a ‘’Macedonian Jerusalem’’. Today, its number is significantly smaller. While there, take a stroll around the old town ‘’Varos’’ and port for a great delight, visit the colorful market, explore the cobblestone lanes with shops and boutiques, and walk up to the fortress for the incredible panoramic view. If you want to explore the wider area, you can go on a bike ride since the city has a good network of paths and roads that are available for use as walking or cycling trails. Visit the first Pan-Slavic university, one of the world’s first universities and go back to the past of this region which was a setting of a glorious era of artistic, cultural and religious enlightenment.
How to get to Ohrid:
- To get to Ohrid you can take buses from Skopje main bus station which leave multiple times a day starting at 4:30 am. The journey takes approximately three and a half hours, and a price for a return ticket is around 860 MKD (14 €).
2) Kokino ancient observatory
This Bronze Age archaeological site is also known as the ‘’Macedonian Stonehenge’’, the 4th oldest megalithic observatory in the world and sacred site, 1010-1030 meters above the sea level. It was discovered by Jovica Stankovski in 2001. This incredible place is located in the far northeast of Macedonia, around 70 km from Skopje. The observatory includes special markers used for measuring the movements of the Sun and the Moon, they indicate their rising positions on the eastern horizon. In 2009, the Republic of Macedonia suggested the site be inscribed on the World Heritage Site list.
How to get to Kokino observatory:
- There is no direct route from Skopje to Kokino but you will have to take a bus to Kumanovo at the Skopje main station, and then take a minibus (with only 2-3 departures a day) from Kumanovo main station to Kokino. The journey from Skopje to Kumanovo takes around 45 minutes and the ticket costs 100 MKD (~1,5 €) while the journey from Kumanovo to Kokino takes around 40 minutes and the ticket costs 80 MKD (~1 €).
3) National Park Mavrovo
This national park which lays around the lake of the same name is the largest of the three national parks in Macedonia. It is a home of the most popular ski center in Macedonia, and it offers the highest mountain peaks in the country, alpine meadows, extensive beech forests, and pristine rivers. Make sure you visit the half-submerged church of St. Nikola in the middle of the lake which is the highlight of this national park. Mavrovo has a huge number of different animal species and more than 60 endemic plant species, therefore, it allows all the nature lovers to catch a glimpse of these beauties in their natural environment in the Safari Park. Although this place is mostly visited during the winter time when the ski season is open, this area offers a lot more including charming waterfall Duh kod Sela Rastuše (A Ghost by the Village Rastuse), Dešat mountain great for hiking with an incredible ice lake on top, Šarko’s Cave (Šarkova dupka) for all the speleology enthusiasts and many more.
How to get to National Park Mavrovo:
- Mavrovo is located around 100 km away from Skopje and you can get there by taking a bus at the main station in Skopje. There are several departures daily starting from 9:30 am, and the ticket costs around 300 MKD (~5 €). The journey takes approximately an hour.
4) Matka Canyon
The oldest artificial lake in Macedonia, Matka Lake, is located only 16 km from Skopje which makes it easy to reach. It is a very popular destination for both tourists and locals which attracts them with its amazing remains of many ancient settlements, well preserved medieval churches and the deepest underwater cave in the world, Vrelo cave. It is also a natural habitat of various different species, many of them being endangered. Actually, 20% of the plant life is endemic and can be found only in this canyon. Once again, for all the speleology lovers, this place has more than 10 caves which are homes for the large population of bats.
How to get to Matka Canyon:
- Since this place is located only 16 km from Skopje, you can easily reach it by taking a direct city bus no. 60, starting at the main station. The price of the one-way ticket is 35 MKD (~0,5 €), and the journey takes approximately 45 minutes.
5) Stone Dolls of Kuklica
Kuklica is an unbelievable stone town consisting of over 120 stone pillars that look like people who have been turned into a stone. These pillars were naturally formed as a result of the erosion during the past 100 000 years, some of them being tall more than 10 meters. Anyway, this natural phenomena didn’t stop the generations to tell many legends about this interesting place, the most famous one being that of a man who couldn’t decide which of two women he should marry. He wanted to marry each but at a different time, and on of them saw him marrying the other. The woman then cursed everyone at the wedding turning them into a stone.
How to get to Kuklica:
- You can get to Kklica by taking a bus at the main station in Skopje which goes to Kratovo and get off the bus in Ketenovo village. The journey takes around an hour and a half, and the price of the ticket is 150 MKD (~2,5 €).