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Matka Canyon Guide

Matka Canyon is one of the most stunning natural spots in North Macedonia. It’s a perfect day trip from Skopje, and locals love to come here to cool off from the heat during the summer months. I was curious if it was worth the hype, so I went to experience it myself. After spending a day at the canyon, I can say – it’s 100% worth visiting.

In this article, I’ll give you all the information you need to visit it with some Matka Canyon photos.

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What Is Matka Canyon Famous For?

It isn’t a natural phenomenon. It was created when locals constructed a dam in 1938 on the River Treska. This shaped the mountains and the river into the canyon you can see nowadays.

Today, it’s the oldest artificial lake in North Macedonia. It attracts 77 different butterflies, so try to find at least half of them during your visit.

You can also do many activities, such as kayaking, visiting Vrelo Cave on a boat trip, climbing, or hiking in nature.

FUN FACT: The Macedonian word ‘Matka’ means ‘Mother’ in English.

Interesting Facts About Matka Canyon

💡 It’s an artificial lake created after dam construction on the River Treska
💡 Has 77 kinds of butterflies in its valley
💡 Hosts 10 caves, and the most impressive one is Vrelo Cave
💡 Vrelo Cave in the Canyon is 8000 years old
💡 Vrelo Cave is the deepest in the Balkans, the second deepest in Europe, and the third deepest in the world

Matka Canyon Guide kayak
Me visiting the Canyon

Where Is Matka Canyon Located & Map

It’s situated 16 km/10 miles from Skopje and takes about 20 minutes to get there by car (and an hour by bus). Below is a map with the roads you must follow to get to the Canyon from Skopje, Ohrid, and Bitola.

How To Get To Matka Canyon

The best way to get to the Canyon is from the capital of North Macedonia, Skopje. The easiest way is to rent a car for your entire North Macedonia road trip or just for the day to visit the canyon.

If you don’t have the chance to rent a car or travel solo and prefer public transport, you have 2 options: take a bus or a taxi.

Getting To Matka Canyon By Car

The easiest and fastest option to get to the Canyon is by car. Follow a road from Skopje to Tetovo, and when the signs suggest, turn left. You’ll then follow a small road that gets narrower the closer you are to the Canyon.

At the end, there is a parking, where you can leave the car for free. From there, walk about 10 minutes to the canyon entrance, following the footpath.

When driving through the narrow street to the parking, there are cars parked on the side of the road, so it gets more difficult to get through sometimes.

That’s why I always recommend getting there early in the morning. This way, the road will be empty, and you’ll easily get a parking spot.

Rent a car for your trip to Matka Canyon here

Getting To Matka Canyon By Bus

Taking a bus is very easy on the way there. Go to the main bus station in Skopje and get on bus number 60, which will drive you to the parking near Canyon.

From there, it’s only a 10-minute walk to the place. However, if you travel there on the weekend or in the middle of the day, the bus might not go directly to the parking and stop somewhere on the way.

north macedonia buses how to get around north macedonia
Me at the bus staion in Skopje

Sometimes, it’s challenging for the bus drivers to get through the last narrow road (especially when too many cars are parked on the side of the road). That’s why they can leave the passengers somewhere in the middle (5 km/3 miles away).

This might happen when you travel after 11:00 a.m. or on the weekends when it’s generally busier. You can keep walking to the canyon or take a taxi if it happens to you.

PRO TIP: Luckily, it didn’t happen to me when I took a bus because I took the first one departing at 7:00 a.m. from Skopje. It drove us directly to the parking, and I was the first at the Canyon. So I highly recommend you do the same. It’s the best.

Bus Information From Skopje To Matka Canyon

Time: 60 to 70 minutes, depending on the traffic situation
Price: 60 dinars (one-way) – I recommend only buying a one-way ticket as you never know if there is one back to Skopje (scroll down for more information)

BUS SCHEDULE TO MATKA CANYON:

Skopje to Matka Canyon on weekdays: 5:50 / 7:45 / 9:40 / 11:20 / 13:05 / 14:55 / 16:25 / 17:45 / 19:20 / 21:00

Skopje to Matka Canyon on a weekend: 7:00 / 8:45 / 10:30 / 12:10 / 13:50 / 15:30 / 17:10 / 18:45 / 20:15 / 22:30

Matka Canyon to Skopje on weekdays: 5:50 / 7:45 / 9:40 / 11:20 / 13:05 / 14:55 / 16:25 / 17:45 / 19:20 / 21:00

Matka Canyon to Skopje on a weekend: 7:45 / 9:40 / 11:20 / 13:00 / 14:40 / 16:20 / 18:00 / 19:30 / 21:00

👉 READ ALSO: North Macedonia Buses: How To Get Around

Take A Taxi Back To Skopje

Even though the bus is scheduled to depart at 1 p.m. back to Skopje, it might not arrive because it leaves 5km from the actual station (due to the tiny road and cars on it).

You can come on time to the bus station (near the Fresh Lounge Bar), and if there is no bus even 20 minutes after 1 p.m., take a taxi instead.

That’s what I did because the bus didn’t come. So I found other travelers and shared a taxi back to Skopje with them.

Getting To Matka Canyon By Taxi

Taxis are pretty cheap in North Macedonia as well. Even better is finding other people who can share the cost with you. A taxi ride only takes 20 to 30 minutes and costs 600 dinars per taxi.

Try to bargain the price; you might get it even cheaper (unless you want to support local taxi drivers). It’ll still be cheap for you, and they’ll be happy they earned more.

How To Get From Ohrid To Matka Canyon

If you’re in Ohrid and want to visit the Canyon, you’ll have to travel via Skopje anyway (if you don’t have a car).

The best way is to take a bus from Ohrid to Skopje. And then take a bus n. 60 from the Central Station in Skopje directly to the place.

If you’re traveling by car, you’ll follow the road to Tetovo first. After Tetovo, drive towards Skopje and turn right on the city’s outskirts. Then, follow the signs to the destination.

👉 READ ALSO: 13 Best Things To Do In Ohrid

Best Things To Do In Matka Canyon

It offers a range of activities, including organized boat tours or kayaking (if you like to enjoy it privately), climbing, walking, and visiting monasteries on the way.

Even if you feel like doing little, it’s still an incredible place worth spending time and soaking up its unique atmosphere.

Below, I am giving you a list of things you can do during your visit.

1. Make Matka Canyon boat trip
2. Visit Vrelo Cave
3. Go kayaking with Vrelo Cave
4. Rock climbing
5. Hike to monasteries
6. Relax and swim

1. Matka Canyon Boat Trip

One of the most popular things is to take a boat or a kayak and cross it towards the Vrelo Cave. A boat tour is a great way to enjoy the canyon. It’s quite big, so there will be other people with you (around 10 to 15 pax per boat).

The journey takes around 20 minutes until you reach the Vrelo Cave. Then, the boatman will stop the boat and show you the way to the cave. After, he leaves some time for the entire group to go inside and see it for yourself. I loved Vrelo Cave – don’t miss it, it’s beautiful.

It isn’t a guided tour, so the boatman will only drive you there, show you the way to the cave, and leave you to explore it alone.

Once the whole group leaves the cave, you’ll hop on the boat again and drive back to where you started.

MATKA CANYON BOAT TRIP PRICE: 400 dinars per person

Matka Canyon Guide boat tour through Matka Canyon and Vrelo Cave visit
Me and my friend on a boat tour and visiting Vrelo Cave

2. Visit Vrelo Cave

Matka Canyon has 10 caves, with Vrelo being the most famous. It’s around 8000 years old. The cave and the passage to the canyon are the deepest in the Balkans, the second deepest in Europe, and the third deepest in the world.

Interestingly, divers were trying to enter the cave from the canyon; however, they weren’t successful.

One reason is a spring that runs from the cave to the canyon. The immense pressure of this spring made it impossible to enter the cave.

Another reason why it’s difficult to dive into the cave is because it’s very deep. They first dived 250m deep and didn’t pass to the cave. After, they tried again, but the water pressure stopped them.

Until now, nobody has managed to dive from the canyon inside the cave. The cave is slightly deeper than 350m.

VRELO CAVE VISIT: Free of Charge

Vrelo Cave
Me exploring Vrelo Cave

3. Go Kayaking With Vrelo Cave Visit

Alternatively, you can rent a kayak and do a self-guided tour. This way, you’ll have more time to enjoy the canyon and the beautiful scenery.

To kayak towards the cave will take around 45 minutes, then you can have 30 minutes to enjoy the cave and go back another 40 minutes.

You don’t necessarily have to go to the cave. You can also kayak further down the canyon.

Rent the kayak near the St. Andrea Monastery, where the boats start their tour.

MATKA CANYON KAYAK:
Single kayak: 150 dinars (30 minutes)
Single kayak: 300 dinars (1 hour)
Double kayak: 250 dinars (30 minutes)
Double kayak: 500 dinars (1 hour)

Matka Canyon Guide kayaking
Kayaking at the Canyon

4. Go Rock Climbing

The Canyon also has a spot for climbing lovers. There is a smaller Ferrata, even suitable for children. Rent all the equipment there and climb up the rock wall. 

You can climb one way up, and if you are successful, you’ll get another climb free of charge.

The starting point is right at the Canyon Matka Hotel & Restaurant.

5. Hike To The Local Monasteries

Another thing you can do is to walk alongside the Canyon and hike to many monasteries. St. Nedela-MatkaSt. Saviour-Matka Monastery, and St. Nikola Šiševsky Monastery are the most famous.

After, have lunch at the Canyon Matka Hotel & Restaurant. They have a huge terrace with views of the Canyon. Or even stay overnight in the hotel and enjoy an evening walk alongside the Canyon.

6. Relax At Matka Canyon & Go Swimming

If you don’t want to hike to one of the monasteries, walk on the edge of the Canyon. You’ll get beautiful boat and kayak views and take nice photos. Or go swimming.

You can go back towards the Fresh Lounge Bar (parking spot), and cross the bridge to the other side of the river for more walking options. Lay down in a shadow, or put a hammock on the trees and enjoy the cool temperature.

Matka Canyon Guide relax and swimming in Treska River
Relax & Swimming in Treska River
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Matka Canyon Tickets

One of the best things about the Canyon is the no entrance fee. Visiting it is free of charge. You only have to pay for extra activities such as kayaking, boat trips, or climbing.

The place is simply nice to be in and explore. So you don’t have to spend an extra penny to see it and enjoy it.

To get the most out of the Canyon, I recommend staying overnight in the hotel and enjoying it in the evening after all the tourists leave.

👉 READ ALSO: 13 Most Beautiful Places In North Macedonia To Visit

Tips For Your Visit To Matka Canyon

To help you plan your visit and get the most out of it, here are the tips based on my experience:

Come to the Canyon around 8 a.m. – you’ll have it for yourself
Rent a car for your visit if you can
Take a taxi back to Skopje if you arrive by bus
Carry a jacket with you – in case it gets colder
Pack a swimming suit
Carry Macedonian dinars with you in cash

Best Time To Visit Matka Canyon

The best time to visit the Canyon is June, September, and October. These months are usually less crowded, and the weather is milder than in the summertime (July and August). Temperatures range between 25°C/77°F and 33°C/91°F.

Organized Tour To Matka Canyon

You can join an organized Matka Canyon tour to avoid any issues with transportation on the way. You’ll learn in-depth about the history of this place and have fun with other travelers.

Book this tour to Matka Canyon from Skopje (incl. Mount Vodno)

FAQs

I’ve also answered some of the most frequently asked questions to help you understand the Canyon and the entire area. Check the answers below.

Is Matka Canyon Worth It?

Yes, it’s 100% worth visiting. I also wasn’t sure before my visit, but now I can tell you it’s one of the most beautiful places in North Macedonia. The entire valley is gorgeous, with stunning hikes and cute butterflies, and a visit to Vrelo Cave is a must.

What Does Matka Mean In Macedonian?

Matka translates to ‘Mother’ in English. It’s a Macedonian word.

How Long Is Matka Canyon?

It covers around 5000 hectares and has 10 caves, which are about 176 meters (577 feet) deep.

Can You Swim In Lake Matka?

Yes, you can swim in the lake. It’s the best way to cool off during hot summer months, and many locals come here to enjoy the breeze and freshness of the water.

WRAP-UP: Matka Canyon

This is Matka Canyon at its full beauty. I loved visiting this place and its untouched nature. It was one of my favorite experiences in North Macedonia. The best way is to rent a car to be flexible and not stress about the buses, as they sometimes are not the most reliable.

If you have any questions or need a customized travel itinerary, contact me at info(at)voicesoftravel.com. I’ll gladly help you.

Happy Travels!

voices of travel about me photo

About the author: Nicoletta is a travel enthusiast and passionate language learner. While traveling, she loves to connect with locals using her language skills to learn about new cultures. Look for her skiing, hiking in the mountains, or exploring new destinations as she designs travel itineraries for her clients.

NORTH MACEDONIA: Interested in more articles for North Macedonia?
Check out my North Macedonia Travel Page:

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Claudio

    Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back!
    LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

    1. Nicoletta

      I am glad you shared your story, Claudio. Sorry to hear that. Hope your daughter comes back to the ocean and will enjoy it one day.

  2. katalog firm

    Hello, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog in Chrome, it looks fine
    but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that,
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    1. Nicoletta

      Thank you very much. I appreciate your feedback and will take care of the overlapping issue :).

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