It’s time to meet one of Europe’s bravest countries with extremely complicated origins and long history. For their dispute with Greeks, the country’s official name is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and you probably wonder what’s up with that country which everyone loves, yet knows so little about? Friendly people, beautiful cities, delicious food, cheap life… there are so many reasons to visit Macedonia and we will show you the right way to do it – with the most fun and the least money spent. Check out our guide, follow our steps and prepare for one of the best journeys in Europe!
Day 1: Tetovo
Your journey can start in Tetovo, a city built on the foothills of Šar mountain and divided by the river of Pena. You can reach Tetovo from many European destinations. Due to its history and Ottoman rule, the city has been an unofficial capital and centre of Albanic community and a home to the two most known Macedonian landmarks of Ottoman period, Šarena Džamija and the Arabati Baba Teḱe.
What to Do: The most important things to see are already mentioned above, Šarena Džamija and the Arabati Baba Teḱe. If you have enough time, check out the City Museum and Leshkok Monastery as well. There is no entrance fee to any of these attractions, so don’t worry about having to spend a dime there.
Where to Eat: Macedonia is known for its low prices when it comes to food and drinks, so make sure to use it. We recommend you to avoid luxurious restaurants and eat at fast food stands or in bakeries, e.g. Arra, Fontana, Votra and many others, where you can try some traditional delicacies for little money.
Accommodation: The cheapest option is, of course, Couchsurfing, but for those of you who are not so brave, we recommend you hotels Lirak and Emka, with excellent locations and the price of 16-17€ per night.
Public transport: The only choice for public transportation in Tetovo is by public buses by the company Polet. Bus tickets never cost more than 0.5 €. Another option are taxis, which are also super cheap, but keep in mind that most of the drivers will refuse to take you to nearby places since there’s no profit for them. The bus station is 20 min by foot from the centre (Marshal Tito square). There you will find connections to the next destination on our route, the city of Ohrid.
Day 2: Ohrid
Ohrid is one of the most popular Macedonian destinations, especially known for its beautiful nature sites. Sometimes referred to as ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans’ for its 365 churches, each for every day of the year, Ohrid also has a spectacular lake, accepted together with the city as both Cultural and Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Public transport: The journey from Tetovo is approximately 4 hours long and costs ~18€. You can reach anything in Ohrid on foot, but if you prefer driving, take the bus, which is the cheapest option to move around the city since the ticket is not more than 0,5€.
What to Do: No one leaves this city without seeing the super-famous Ohrid Lake, one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes. It is free as long as you don’t want to experience the lake cruise (5€ per person). Another attraction to see is St. Jovan of Kaneo Monastery, built in the 13th century in distinctive Byzantine-style and one of the most photographed places in Macedonia. We also recommend you to visit some of the most famous churches in the city, such as St. Clement Church.
Where to Eat: Dr. Falafel is one of the top places to eat falafel and humus when in Ohrid. You should also try Gladiator and Kaj Kanevche with a great offer of traditional food.
Accommodation: We recommend you to stay at Villa Boban or Ikat Hut Hostel for only 10€ per night. Keep in mind that most of the accommodation units are cheap for country’s low standard of life, so if you want a bit fancier place to stay, it will cost you only a few euros more, e.g. Bojadzi Apartment for 16€ per night.
Day 3: Bitola
Surrounded by the Baba, Nidže and Kajmakčalan mountain ranges, the city of Bitola has been known since the Ottoman period as “the city of the consuls“, since many European countries had consulates there. Apart from being the second biggest city, it is also one of the oldest cities in Macedonia, having been founded in the 4th century BC by Philip II of Macedon.
Public transport: You can come to Bitola from Ohrid by bus, the journey is 1h 45min long and costs around 15€. When traveling around the city, the cheapest way to do so is by bus, there are 6 lines (4 urban and 2 suburban lines). One ticket costs 0,3€. Taxi is also very cheap, a few cents more expensive than bus (no luggage fees).
What to Do: Do not miss out on the ancient site of Bitola, Heraclea Lyncestis, which is a perfect place for history enthusiasts among you. Taxi from Bitola costs 1,3€ and make sure to come during opening hours (09:00 a.m. – 06:00 p.m.). The admission fee is 3€. Shirok Sokak Street is also something worth visiting, since it’s the most crowded street in the town full of shops, bars and restaurants. If you have time, check out the Pelister National Park, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Take a taxi to reach it, it costs only 2€.
Where to Eat: Vino Bar Bure located on the main square in the city (Magnolian Square) offers a wide range of cheap meals, from Balkan favorites to oven-baked pizzas. Try Kus-kus in the centre or Treff as well.
Accommodation: PRZO Motel and Hotel Orbis which offer rooms at 15€ per night if you book it in advance. Some cheaper options are Goldy Hostel for 9€ per night and Chola Guest House for 12€ per person.
Day 4: Prilep
Macedonia’s fourth largest city is also often referred to as ‘the city under Marko’s Towers’, for its vicinity to the towers of Prince Marko. It had a major role in the country’s history, since the shortest caravan-trade route passed through the city when people from Venice and Dubrovnik set forth to Thessaloniki. Today, the city is famous for its tobacco production, of the ‘Prilep’ brand, which is in a very high demand on the world market.
Public transport: Prilep is only 50min by bus away from Bitola and the journey costs around 5€, depending on the carrier. Public transport in Prilep is run by buses and one ticket costs 0,3€.
What to Do: One does not leave Prilep without seeing the Marko’s Towers, the former home of Serbian prince Marko. It’s the most recognizable landmark of the city. There are also few monasteries worth seeing in Prilep, such as Zrze and Trskavec. We recommend you to see the beautiful Marble Lake, made out of rain water between marble and Prilep’s Old Bazaar, with various stands offering a wide range of products, from food to clothes and beauty products.
Where to Eat: Check out the Aleks bakery where prices do not exceed 0,80€ and you can eat anything, from burek to pastries with different fillings (plus, it’s open 24/7!). If you want something fancier, try the Makedonska kukja, where you get a portion of meat, french fries and side dish for 2€ or pizza place called La Strada (4€ for a large pizza).
Accommodation: The cheapest place is Breza Boarding House, for 8 – 10€ per night, depending on the date of the reservation.
Day 5: Skopje
Macedonia’s capital is definitely the most exciting place on our tour. It is the city of a 2000-year-long tradition that lies in the heart of the Balkan peninsula. Skopje is a very attractive tourist destination with many fortresses, cultural and historical monuments, archaeological sites, caves in the canyon of the River Treska and Lake Matka and much more.
Public transport: The journey from Prilep to the capital is 2h 30min long and costs around 10€, depending on the carrier. The bus station in Skopje is 15min on foot from the city centre. The city has well-efficient bus network, one ticket costs 0,5€ (35 MKD, or 30MKD if you buy it prior to your trip at the kiosk) and the buses are red in color. There are also private buses in all other colors and their ticket costs 25MKD. Taxi is a bit more expensive in comparison to the buses, so expect to pay around not more than 5€ per drive.
What to Do: The Stone Bridge is one of the city’s most popular landmarks, especially during the night, it’s ideal to take a break and enjoy the romantic atmosphere of Skopje. Old Bazaar in the city is a location to see and to be seen at, it’s an authentic Macedonian area where you can enjoy in local products, bars, restaurants or simply take a walk in one of the most popular areas which unites the city’s old and new tradition. Another must see is Matka Lake, an ideal place to escape the crowds of the capital. If your budget is not big enough, take a long walk instead of renting a boat or taking a paid tour. We will also mention Fortress Hale, Mountain of Vodno (best view of the city!), Macedonia Square… all free of charge.
Where to Eat: Gostilnica Dukat is a cheap place offering a wide range of Macedonian food and it’s a place very popular among both locals and tourists. For meat or sea food lovers, we recommend Kaj Serdarot and Sidro Fish Restaurant. Do not miss out on Sokace, Kosmos or Squeeze Me (with the best breakfast in the city) if you prefer fast food.
Accommodation: To avoid higher prices, hostels are the best option for you. City Hostel and Hostel Valentine offer a place in the dorm for 7€ per person (on a great locations, too!). You can check in at Hostel Infinity, Sirma’s Mount Vodno House or Shanti as well, all for a very little money.
Our tour is done! If you feel like more travelling around Macedonia, check out bus connections from Skopje to the rest of the country (or even to some international destinations).