by Andy Khong
Nestled in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, North Macedonia is a captivating destination that offers a rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty. This Balkan gem, formerly known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), is a land where ancient traditions blend harmoniously with the modern world, making it an intriguing place to explore. From its diverse geography to its fascinating history, thriving economy, and unique blend of religions, North Macedonia is a destination that should be on every traveller’s radar.
North Macedonia is bordered by Kosovo to the northwest, Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, and Albania to the west, is a landlocked country that spans approximately 25,000 square kilometres. Its diverse geography includes lush valleys, picturesque lakes, and towering mountain ranges. Lake Ohrid, one of its most famous natural wonders, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe.
North Macedonia boasts a rich and complex history that spans thousands of years. The region has been inhabited since the Neolithic period and has seen the rise and fall of various empires, including the Roman and Ottoman Empires. It was here that Alexander the Great was born. In the modern era, the country was part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia until it gained independence in 1991.
Over the years, North Macedonia has transformed its economy from a centrally planned system to a market-oriented one. It has become a hub for foreign investment, particularly in sectors like manufacturing and information technology. The country’s strategic location makes it an important trade and transport corridor in the Balkans.
North Macedonia is a diverse country when it comes to religion. The majority of the population practices Eastern Orthodoxy, but there are also significant Muslim and other Christian communities. This religious diversity has contributed to the country’s unique cultural heritage.
North Macedonia operates as a parliamentary democracy with a president as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of government. The country has made significant strides in its efforts to join the European Union and NATO, strengthening its ties with Western institutions and fostering stability in the region.
Some of the popular tourist attractions in North Macedonia are:
- Skopje: The capital city is a blend of ancient and modern architecture, with a lively atmosphere. Don’t miss the grand Alexander the Great Square and the stunning Stone Bridge that crosses the Vardar River.
2. Ohrid: This charming lakeside town is famous for its medieval churches, Byzantine frescoes, and the serene Lake Ohrid, perfect for swimming and boating.
3. Matka Canyon: Just a short drive from Skopje, Matka Canyon offers breathtaking scenery, hiking trails, and the stunning Matka Monastery.
4. Bitola: Known as the “City of Consuls,” Bitola boasts well-preserved Ottoman architecture, the Heraclea Lyncestis archaeological site, and the Bitola National Museum.
5. Mavrovo National Park: Explore pristine nature in this national park, with opportunities for hiking, skiing, and wildlife viewing.
6. Krusevo: A picturesque mountain town famous for its traditional architecture, it’s also home to the Meckin Kamen monument, commemorating the Ilinden Uprising.
7. Struga: Known for its poetry evenings and the Struga Poetry Evenings festival, Struga is another charming lakeside town on Lake Ohrid.
North Macedonia is a country of remarkable beauty, rich history, and warm hospitality. Whether you’re interested in exploring its historical sites, enjoying its natural wonders, or simply savouring its delicious cuisine, North Macedonia has something to offer every traveller. So, pack your bags, and embark on a journey to discover this hidden gem in the heart of the Balkans – you won’t be disappointed.
Read about other Balkan countries:
Ultimate Yugoslavia Tour: Tito’s Winter (2-13 December 2023)
Ultimate Yugoslavia Tour: (17-27 May 2024)