Despite the fact that Macedonia is one of the smallest countries in the Balkans, it is listed as one of the top destinations to visit due to it’s combination of mountains, forests, lakes and history. The marble from the glory of the Greek days, from Alexander the Great, from the invasions and Rome’s settlements, to the early and late Ottoman influence to the Yugoslav period; all of these time periods are now part of the Macedonian gift to the world. Because it is a small country with these many beauties, Macedonia can be fully visited quite easily. There you can find attractions from world class skiing resorts to the mountains, lakes such as Ohrid Lake, a natural reserve and a UNESCCO World Heritage Site, historic tows such as Skopje (the capital) and Bitola, special architecture like the houses in Ohrid, archaeological sites such as Heraclea and Stobi, etc.
With all these, you might think that the tagline of tourism in Macedonia, “Macedonia Timeless” is quite catchy, but believe me, you must try it yourself and eternal memories will be with you.
In Skopje have been found remains that prove that it has been inhabited since Neolithic times but the settlements inside the fortress are from 6st century BC and the previous small inhabitations were turned into a Roman military camp in 1st century AD. Later on became part of Byzantine Empire but was often contested between the Bulgar kingdoms and empires and Byzantium until the late 14th century when it was invaded by the Ottoman Empire. It was part of the Ottoman Empire and it developed as an administrative centre until the beginning of the 20th century when was invaded from Serbia and later on was part of Yugoslavia as the capital of the Republic of Macedonia.
Ohrid, the so called Jerusalem of the Balkans, is a city in the Republic of Macedonia located in the easter shores of Lake Ohrid. It has had a continuous inhabitation since its first settlements in 4th century BC from the Illyrian tribes of Enchelai and Dassaretae, mentioned as the city of Lychnidos. Since the first centuries of Christianity, here the faith set roots so much that once is has been noted that had 365 churches, one of each day of the year. The city and the area were colonized by the Slavs but the city continued its prosper under many Empires. Due to the many cultural inheritance from the centuries and being well preserved, Ohrid and the lake in 1978 were included in UNESCO World Heritage List. Today Ohrid is the jewel of Macedonia and the pearl of Lake Ohrid.
Bitola is the largest economic centre of the Pelagonian Valley. The area it has been inhabited since Bronze Age and in the antiquity is has been part of the lands of the Lyncestis. Close to the modern city was located Heraklea Lynkestis, a city founded in mids 4th century BC by Philip II and was an important town in the area until Middle Ages because of Via Egnatia built by Roman Empire. Because of its rich antiquity there can be found many objects from Greek and Roman influence. During the Byzantine Empire it was an important episcopal centre but was raided by the marches of the Slavic tribes. During the Middle Ages the Slavic tribes settled in the area and in the late 14th century Bitola became part of Ottoman Empire under the name of Manastir and prospered until 1912 when became part of Macedonia.
The ancient town of Paeonia, now called Stobi, is one of the many archaeological sites in Macedonia that have inherited the rich history of this small country. Located in the middle of the routes that lead from Danube to Aegean Sea, the town used to be one of the most important in the road from north Balkans to Thessaloniki and Aegean. The archaeological excavations have discovered that there used to be a settlement before Roman Empire invaded the area and this small town was later developed and grew in importance due to it’s position in middle of trade routes.
Surface area: 25,713 km2
Time zone: GMT + 1, GMT + 2 (during summer)
Population: Over 2.000.000
Coast line: 0 – landlocked country
Climate: Macedonia has a transitional climate from Mediterranean to continental. The summers are hot and dry, and the winters are moderately cold
Religions: Predominantly Eastern Orthodox and Islam.
Official language and alphabet: Macedonian language and Cyrillic alphabet
Political system: Parliamentary Republic
Monetary unit: Macedonian Denar (MKD)
International telephone code: ++389
Pets: Allowed, is better to have a vaccination record and veterinary certificate.
Customs formalities: Expensive professional and technical equipment should be declared at the border crossing.
Traveling documents: To enter Macedonia you need a valid passport depending on international agreement between the countries.
Visa: If required, please check with the nearest Macedonian Consulate or Embassy
Currency: Foreign currency can be changed at Banks, Exchange Offices, Post Offices, Tourist agencies, hotels etc. All major cards (American Express, Visa, Euro/MasterCard, Diners) are accepted for a wide range of services.
Medical services: Medical care for foreigners can be provided at hospitals and clinics in all major cities in Macedonia.
Drivers: Valid documents for themselves and for the vehicle, as well as the green insurance card.
Rent-a-Car & Taxi: Cars and Taxi can be rented at the airport, in towns and in all major tourist centers.
Postal services: Postage stamps are sold at post offices, hotel receptions and newspaper stands. FedEx, EMS and DHL air-express carrier services are also available. For international calls, besides using hotel and post office services, phone cards (for sale in all post offices) are used in all public phone booths.
Top Ten facts about Macedonia
There are (supposed) parts of the cross on which Jesus was crucified in the foundations of the monasteries of St. Bogodorica Prechista in Kichevo, and St. Jovan Bigorski and St. Georgij Pobedonosec in Debar.
According to NASA, Kokino is the fourth oldest astronomic observatory in the world; with the oldest three being Abu Simbel, Egypt; Stonehenge, Great Britain; and Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Kokino is located approximately 30 km from the town of Kumanovo, and about 6 km from the Serbian border.
Ohrid Lake is the oldest and one of the deepest lakes in Europe (max depth 288m or 940ft). It is estimated 4 million years old and has 200 endemic species that haven’t been found at any other place in the world. It was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1979.
The Millennium Cross is a 66 metre-high cross situated on the top of the Vodno Mountain in Skopje, and it is the biggest cross in the world. It was constructed to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world.
Macedonia is the only country that got independence from Yugoslavia without shedding a single drop of blood. It remained entirely at peace at the heat of Yugoslav wars in early 1990s and got independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
Another interesting feature about this country is that it has more number of mountains and mountain peaks than any other country in the world. The country has as many as 34 mountain peaks, each with a height of more than 2,000 meters above the sea-level; with Mount Golem Karb being the highest at 2,753 meters above sea-level. Most peaks in Macedonia have never been visited by people.
The Cyrillic alphabet, official in Macedonia, is based on the alphabet developed in the 9th century by two Macedonian (Region) brothers – St Cyril (thus – Cyrillic) and St Methodius. It was taught by their disciples at a monastery in Ohrid, from whence it spread across the eastern Slavic world.
The cave Peshna in Makedonski Brod was described by New York Times as looking “exactly like Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings”.
Skopje has suffered quite a few devastating earthquakes throughout history, the biggest ones in 518 and in 1963, leveling most of the city. In addition, the Austro-Hungarian General Piccolomini ordered the city burnt down in the 18th Century.
Alexander the Great, who was king of the former Kingdom of Macedonia, was the first world-size conqueror who extended his empire across Greece and Persia to India and Egypt. During his time, the Kingdom of Macedonia was the most powerful state in the world; but after his death, the empire fell apart and it became the first Roman province in 146 B.C.
Top Ten famous Macedonian people
Metod and Cyril