macedonia tour 8 days road trip itinerary

North Macedonia Road Trip Itinerary For 8 Days

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North Macedonia Road Trip Itinerary For 8 Days

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Welcome to my travel itineraries series. I’ve designed this North Macedonia road trip itinerary for you to explore the country on your own. I suggest you rent a car in Skopje and you can do this itinerary by yourself. Take all my recommendations, visit these places, and have fun. 

 

 

North Macedonia Road Trip Itinerary

  1. DAY: Skopje
  2. DAY: Skopje
  3. DAY: Day trip to Matka Canyon
  4. DAY: Skopje ⇒ Bitola
  5. DAY: Bitola & Heraclea Lyncestis
  6. DAY: Bitola ⇒ Ohrid
  7. DAY: Lake Ohrid ⇒ Boat Excursion To St. Naum
  8. DAY: Ohrid ⇒ Galichnik ⇒ Skopje

 

 

Quick Introduction To North Macedonia

Before we jump into our North Macedonia road trip itinerary, let me give you a quick overview of this country.

It wasn’t possible to visit this country until 1991. Back in 2001, an armed conflict harmed tourism again here in North Macedonia. Fortunately, ever since, the country and its tourism have been rising in popularity. It’s now one of the emerging countries for travelers.

That is why I want to introduce its landscape and highlights to you to explore new corners of Europe and the Balkan area.

North Macedonia will surprise you mainly with its stunning nature, lakes, little villages, and national parks. You’ll feel the influence of the Ottoman Empire mixed with some European architecture during your North Macedonia road trip.

North Macedonia is also the birthplace of Cyrillic Alphabeth, but more on that under the Lake Ohrid section.

 

This country used to be part of Yugoslavia, similarly to other neighbouring Balkan countries, also including Croatia. What is interesting is that North Macedonia is the only country that got its independence without shedding any blood. The process was smooth and peaceful, unlike in other countries.

North Macedonia gained its independence back in 1991, and they celebrate it every year on the 8th of September. So if you want to see some unique North Macedonian celebrations and experience their culture more in-depth, this might be the right time to come and explore the country.

Let’s get on to our North Macedonia road trip itinerary, visiting some of the country’s highlights.

Lake Ohrid monastery of Saint John
Monastery of Saint John, Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia

 

 

How To Make Your North Macedonia Road Trip Itinerary

North Macedonia doesn’t have the best infrastructure. Forget about train travel here. Traveling by bus is possible, and buses will get you to the more famous spots.

However, if you want to have the real experience of North Macedonia with everything it offers, I highly recommend you rent a car in Skopje and make a great North Macedonia road trip. It is the most convenient way to travel through North Macedonia.

PRO TIP: It’s enough if you rent the car from day 4 of this itinerary. For the first 3 days, you’ll explore the capital of North Macedonia and make a day trip to Matka Canyon. So rent the car from day 4.

macedonia tour road trip itinerary 8 days map
Macedonia road trip itinerary map, 8 days, Voices of Travel

 

 

North Macedonia Road Trip Itinerary 1.DAY: SKOPJE

Skopje is the capital and largest city of North Macedonia. This is our first stop, which will give us a basic understanding of North Macedonian culture and history.

 

Skopje is around 7000 years old, so you have a lot to explore and learn. It’s known as the city of statues. Right at the beginning, I have a special task for you: try to locate the following statues during your self-guided walking tour:

  • The Equestrian Warrior
  • The Beggar
  • The Two Girls
  • Tree Man
  • Girl with Guitar
  • The Pirate Ships of Skopje

 

It hosts more than 300 statues altogether, so you can try to find other ones if that sounds like fun for you. However, the 6 above are the most popular ones.

The city is located on the River Vardar, which adds a special atmosphere to the place. Walk on the Stone Bridge and take some great photos.

Then, walk towards Porta Macedonia, the main square in Skopje, where locals celebrate their Independence Day from Yugoslavia every September. Skopje has various architecture styles, so don’t get confused.

You’ll experience many mosques, buildings from the communist era, and see many colours. North Macedonia was first ruled by Romans, then Serbians, and after by Ottoman Empire, followed by communists. It went through various stages, so no wonder it has so many different styles.

North Macedonian capital is also the birthplace of Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

Skopje main square North macedonia tour
North Macedonia tour, Skopje Main Square

 

Sightseeing In Skopje

The highlight of Skopje is its Old Bazaar, the Fortress of Skopje, and the statues. Walk around and enjoy the unique atmosphere of this Balkan city.

Skopje is officially the cheapest city in Europe, so you really don’t have excuses when it comes to visiting it. North Macedonian capital is also the best place to try some local specialties and wines. Its cuisine has a mixture of Mediterranean, Baltic, and Middle Eastern influences. Find kafanas, traditional North Macedonian restaurants, and taste local food.

Wine is also part of North Macedonian culture. Locals have been growing wine grapes since the 13th century BC, which indicates that the wine will be delicious.

 

Skopje Visit In A Nutshell:

  • Stone Bridge over the River Vardar
  • Porta Macedonia – main square
  • Old Bazar
  • Fortress in Skopje
  • kafanas
  • Birthplace of Mother Theresa
Skopje old bazaar the most beautiful places in north macedonia
The most beautiful places in North Macedonia, Skopje Old Bazaar

 

Where to stay in Skopje: My TOP TIPS for Accommodation

VIEW IN BOUTIQUE HOTEL

HOTEL SKOPJE

DOUBLE TREE BY HILTON SKOPJE

 

 

North Macedonia Road Trip Itinerary 2.DAY: SKOPJE

Good morning to Skopje. I hope you slept well because we have amazing things planned for today as well. Use this day to see the rest of the places which you missed yesterday. You can also visit the mountain Vodno and get beautiful views of the city. What I highly recommend you do is a food tour here in Skopje and learn more about the gastronomy and history of North Macedonia.

 

Mount Vodno

On the second day in Skopje, you can take a cable car up to Mount Vodno and get stunning views of the city. Alternatively, you can also walk there, a beautiful 3 hours tour passing by some of the monasteries.

 

Skopje Food Tour

You can easily do the walking tour on your own, seeing the sites I’ve recommended you in this article. However, what I would recommend you is to do a food tour in Skopje.

This food tour is amazing. You’ll learn a lot not only about the food, drinks, and traditions but also about the city itself and its history. Go to the best spots with a local and try delicious food.

 

 

Book a Food Tour in Skopje

 

 

North Macedonia Road Trip Itinerary 3.DAY: SKOPJE ⇒ MATKA CANYON

Visiting Matka Canyon is a must on your North Macedonia road trip. Matka Canyon is located 17 kilometres southwest of the capital. It’s part of the Skopje valley, which makes it a perfect day trip from Skopje.

Skopje valley is situated near the seismic vault between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates, which results in regular seismic activity. It was also the cause of the earthquake in Skopje back in 1936, which caused significant damage to the city.

Matka Canyon is not a natural wonder, but it’s one of the country’s highlights, which you shouldn’t miss. It was created after the dam was built on the River Treska back in 1938.

Watch out and see if you can spot all the 77 kinds of butterflies in the area.

The word ‘Matka’ in most Slvaic languages means ‘monther’.

 

Check out my complete Matka Canyon Guide for the full information about Matka Canyon, ways to get there, prices, and top things to do.

Matka canyon guide macedonia tour
Matka Canyon, Nort Macedonia

 

Boat Tour & Visit To Vrelo Cave

Matka Canyon has 10 caves, and the most famous one is Vrelo Cave. It’s also accessible to tourists so you can choose to do a 1 hour boat ride through the canyon inlcuding a visit to the cave. I highly recommend you to do so.

This area is a popular holiday spot for locals and a great day trip from Skopje. Apart from the boat tour, you can also go hiking, cycling, kayaking, and visit old monasteries on the way.

I’ve put together a complete guide for Matka Canyon with all the information, prices, top things to do, and ways to get there, so check it out. 

 

Organized Guided Tour To Matka Canyon

If you prefer to do a guided tour from Skopje to Matka Canyon, I recommend you do it with Get Your Guide. They have an amazing program, pick you up in Skopje, tell you about the capital of North Macedonia and then transfer you to Matka Canyon.

In this tour, also the boat tour is included. So check it out and explore the beautiful Matka Canyon with them.

 

 

Book a guided tour to Matka Canyon

 

 

North Macedonia Road Trip Itinerary 4.DAY: SKOPJE ⇒ BITOLA

Good morning back to Skopje. Today we’ll continue our North Macedonia road trip driving south from Skopje across the country until you reach the second biggest and historical city of Bitola.

This is the day from which you can rent a car in Skopje.

Distance Skopje ⇒ Bitola: 2 hours and 21 minutes (by car)

 

Bitola is located near the Greek border and the famous Lake Ohrid region. It’s the place where European and Ottoman cultures meet.

Bitola is also known as the city of consols. It used to be an important political and economic centre during the Ottoman Empire.

Enjoy the afternoon in Bitola, get to your accommodation and have some great dinner in the center. The next day, we’ll be exploring the city together with a famous North Macedonian landmark.

 

Where to stay in Bitola: My TOP TIPS for Accommodation

SOHO APARTMENTS

GRAND CENTRAL HOTEL

CIFLIK WINERY

 

 

North Macedonia Tour – Road Trip Itinerary 5.DAY: BITOLA

Watch the old houses reflecting the Ottoman style and the modern building bringing a European influence. Sirok Sokak is the main pedestrian street where you will find many cafes, shops, and restaurants.

See the Bitola’s Clock Tower. Interestingly, Ottomans collected over 60,000 eggs from the nearby villages and mixed them into the mortar when building the tower to make it stronger, similar to the Charle’s Bridge in Prague.

The most impressive and one of the oldest buildings in Bitola is the Covered Bazar from the Turkish period. Buy some traditional souvenirs inside and experience the real North Macedonian culture and merchandise. After, visit the Adjar Kadi mosque, representing Islam.

Bitola Macedonia tour
Bitola Clock Tower, North Macedonia

If you are into music, the famous female musician, Karolina Goceva, comes from Bitola. Get her CD in a shop on the famous walking street.

 

Heraclea Lyncestis

If you are in Bitola, you can’t miss visiting the Heraclea Lyncestis, the ancient Greek city. It was founded in the middle of the 4th century BC by Phillip II of Macedon. Heraclea was a Greek colony that used to live in the southern part of North Macedonia.

The Heraclea Lyncestis is placed right where the most important Roman route used to be, connecting Istanbul (Constantinople back in those times) with the Adriatic Sea. You can visit it in the afternoon after seeing Bitola and learn more about the interesting history and importance of this place.

 

How To Get To Heraclea Lyncestis

It’s located only 15 minutes from Bitola (walking distance), and so you can do a nice walk from Bitola and visit it.

Alternatively, you can take a taxi that will take you to Heraclea within 5 minutes. To learn more about taxi travel, bargains, and exact prices in North Macedonia, check out my article about how to get around North Macedonia.

 

 

OPTIONAL: North Macedonia road trip: GALICICA NATIONAL PARK

Galicica National Park is one of the most beautiful parks in North Macedonia. I have included it in our North Macedonia road trip since it offers spectacular views of the two famous North Macedonian lakes – Lake Prespa and Lake Ohrid.

The mountain range Galicica stretches between the two lakes and has mountains over 2000 metres high.

Distance Bitola ⇒ Galicica National Park: 1 hour and 20 minutes (by car)

 

You can do some hiking in the region, see beautiful monasteries on the way, spot Greece from above, and enjoy the stunning views.

Hike up to the highest mountain of Galicica National Park, Magaro Peak, where the views are just breathtaking.

 

You can visit Galicica National Park on day 6 of your North Macedonia road trip, do some hiking there, and then continue to Lake Ohrid.

In this case, your road trip will last 9 days (if you are going back to Skopje). If you are not interested in hiking within Galicica National Park, feel free to skip this day and continue from Bitola right to the Lake Ohrid region.

 

 

North Macedonia Road Trip Itinerary 6.DAY: BITOLA ⇒ LAKE OHRID

Today, we have what many people consider to be the highlights of North Macedonia: Lake Ohrid. a Peaceful place full of history and culture. You’ll learn a lot in the next two days. Have a good breakfast in Bitola, and let the road trip continue.

Distance Bitola ⇒ Ohrid: 1 hour and 15 minutes (by car)

 

Lake Ohrid is genuinely one of the most beautiful places in entire North Macedonia. It’s the oldest Lake in Europe, and the most popular town on its shores is Ohrid.

Lake Ohrid monastery of Saint John
Monastery of Saint John, Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia

Ohrid is a perfect place to stay with all amenities as a larger city. It’s also famous for its original Ohrid pearls. If you want to buy some, be aware that not every shop has original pearls, despite claiming it. One of the best shops to buy them is Mihaljo Filev.

Don’t miss the Monastery of St. Naum and Samuel’s Fortress during your visit to the Ohrid Lake. After, just take your time in Ohrid town, swim in the lake and enjoy the atmosphere.

Cyrillic Alphabet was created here in North Macedonia by two brothers – Cyril and Method. They have contributed a lot to the Catholic Church and were teaching people how to write the Cyrillic Alphabeth right here in the Monastery on the shores of Lake Ohrid.

The Balkan Folkore Festival takes place in Ohrid near the lake every year on the last days of July. So if you want to experience authentic Balkan culture, plan your visit accordingly.

north macedonia
North Macedonia, Lake Ohrid, Ohrid town with Samuel’s Fortress

Sightseeing At Lake Ohrid:

  • Lake Ohrid
  • Ohrid Town
  • Monastery of St. Naum
  • Samuel’s Fortress
  • Mihaljo Filev – jewelery shop to get some original pearls

 

After Lake Ohrid, you’ll slowly be making your way back to Skopje. Depending on your time and plans, you can cross the border from Lake Ohrid directly to Albania and explore another beautiful Balkan country. If you are interested, you can check my Albania itinerary.

Learn more about the top things to do at Lake Ohrid inside my article about Lake Ohrid.

If you want to know how to get around Ohrid, check out my article about North Macedonia buses and taxi drivers. 

 

Where to stay around Lake Ohrid: My TOP TIPS for Accommodation

VILLA PASSAGE

ALEKSANDAR VILLA & SPA

VILA BISERA

 

 

North Macedonia Road Trip Itinerary 7.DAY: LAKE OHRID

Today, take your time to enjoy Lake Ohrid. You can do a boat tour, or just walk around and see the sights you didn’t see yesterday. Soak up the atmosphere of this place and relax. 

 

Boat Excursion To St. Naum Monastery

I recommend you to a boat tour to the St. Naum monastery, which is already close to Albania. For more information about this excurion, check out my article about the best things to do at Lake Ohrid.

Visit St. Naum Monastery

 

things to do at lake ohrid
Lake Ohrid with St. John Monastery, North Macedonia

 

 

North Macedonia Road Trip Itinerary 8.DAY: LAKE OHRID ⇒ GALICHNIK VILLAGE ⇒ SKOPJE

Today marks the last day of our North Macedonia road trip. However, before getting back to Skopje, I have something interesting for you on the way.

In the morning, pack your bags, and hit the road again, driving from Lake Ohrid towards Galichnik village.

Distance Ohrid ⇒ Galichnik village: 2 hours and 20 minutes (by car)

 

I recommend you make an additional stop on the way in the village called as Galichnik. Locals say if the Ohrid is the pearls of North Macedonia, then Galichnik is the diamond of North Macedonia. This little village is located in northwestern North Macedonia.

It’s one of the oldest Mijak villages famous for its well-preserved traditional architecture. Experience how the Mijak people live here and taste local products such as yellow cheese kashkaval produced in this region. Don’t miss salt brine white cheese ‘’belo sirenje’’, a homemade specialty of the region.

If you are here in July, don’t miss the traditional Galichnik Wedding festival and experience the traditional North Macedonian wedding.

 

“If the Ohrid is the pearls of North Macedonia, then Galichnik is the diamond of North Macedonia.”

 

 

After, just continue back to Skopje, where we will end our North Macedonia road trip.

Distance Galichnik village ⇒ Skopje: 2 hours and 5 minutes (by car)

 

From Skopje, you can either travel to Serbia, Albania, or even visit Kosovo and Montenegro. Once you are in the Balkan area, make sure to check out more countries. Each of them has something unique.

It’s great to support locals and their tourism now as emerging destinations after struggling for their independence and in wars for several years.

 

 

More Tips For North Macedonia Travel

This is the perfect North Macedonia road trip for you to experience Macedonian traditions, history, culture, food, wine, and beautiful nature. It has it all, and you will be surprised by the beauty of North Macedonia. If you are looking for an itinerary off the beaten path, Balkan countries and North Macedonia are great choices. 

Learn more about North Macedonia, transportation, the budget you’ll need, and dishes and drinks you have to try in my North Macedonia travel guide with the most beautiful places to visit in North Macedonia.

If you plan to travel by bus and taxi in North Macedonia, learn more about the travel system in the article about North Macedonia buses. It will explain to you what the station fee is, why you need it, and what to do if you already have a prepaid ticket or how to buy tickets on the spot.

You can also check out my Albania road trip itinerary. With this itinerary, you can explore the entire Albania in 10 days, see the highlights, and learn more about its history and culture.

Want more beaches? Travel down to Greece and make one of the best island day trips from Athens by ferry. Or take my Greece road trip itinerary and explore its mainland in 10 days, including another beautiful island.

I am creating more itineraries for Balkan countries, so stay tuned. I love this region and keep going back to these countries to learn more about them on my own. In return, I am excited to share this experience with you guys, so more itineraries and articles about interesting things to do here are coming on your way. If you are interested in more travel itineraries, check them out on my site.