In this post I will share my experience of the trip I did. If you are interested in general tips about Macedonia – you can read them here.
Why did I choose Balkans for my vacation?
Easy answer – cheap tickets 🙂 Kaunas – Copenhagen – 10 Eur. Copenhagen – Skopje – 15 Eur. So why not.
And it was one of the best trip ever. So not only cheap flights encouraged me to go but mountains, good weather, good location, cheap countries in total.
I was dreaming about a road trip so here my dream is coming true.
First stop – Skopje – Disney land for adults
We have rented the car in the airport – interway rental company. They were fast and easy so I am glad. After having so much problems renting a car in other countries this was just great.
Skopje is very interesting city. It is still one big construction area as they are making this huge project. City center is already done and oh wow. It has more than 200 statues. I am telling you – they are everywhere. As there are not enough space on the ground – they put it on the roof. As there are not so many famous people in there – they just put a statue on the roof and no one can recognize people. The huge statue and fountain in the main square – a soldier on the horse. Everyone knows that it is Alexander the great, but they cannot put this name. Why? Because Greece do not let that. Cause actually Alexander was Greek, but he was called Alexander Macedonian. Whatever it is – fountain is beautiful. Sadly it was so expensive. All in all – city is a real Disneyland for adults. Old looking buildings – all from 2008-2010, statues of everyone that might have been famous, bridges every 50 m. They even say – if it is older than yesterday – it is already old. Of course for locals it is really not fun because it is there money to make all the monuments and statues. For example one statue for a shoe-shiners. It costed more than you would need to help actual shoe-shiners (because there are still many of them doing it) to live a good life for many years.
After a long day we were looking for a local restaurant and we found this “etno bar” that was pretty cheap and really good food with a great view of the river. We went there twice during our stay and I can definitely recommend it 😉
Next stop – Canyon Matka
If you are in Skopje it is a sin to skip a Canyon Matka. It is a beautiful nature spot with a nice lake, mountains. It is easy to reach by bus from the city or with a car (as we did it). There is only one hotel and one restaurant in there. Also you can rent a boat and go to see the caves – 400 Den (6,5 Eur), or you can rent a Kayak for 500 Den/hour (2 people – 8 Eur). This is what we did – such a great experience. Also there are trails to walk. In total you would need 2 hours in there to walk around and enjoy the nature. We also stayed in the hotel – pretty good. As it is the only one so not much of the choice 🙂
A day on the road
As the main idea was a road trip with a stopping in the mountains so we decided to go through the Mavrovo national park to Ohrid. It was a great driving experience as it is pretty difficult with so many curves, going up and down. But in total roads were really good. Just on the highway do not be surprised to pay tolls – 40 Den (0,8 Eur) every 10-20 km ;D Macedonia nature is really beautiful, with mountains and lakes.
Ohrid – the ancient lake city
The city itself is very old, that is the reason it is in the UNESCO world heritage list. People were living there since 3 century BC. In the city there are 365 churches (!) – one for each day per year. It is situated on the lake Ohrid that it makes the city even more beautiful. There is a nice promenade with the hotels that you can enjoy. All the historical places are on the hill – so prepare to walk. Must see sights – the fortress with the great view of the city and lake, also the st Jovan church that is almost on the cliff. After a long walk it is nice to take a boat from the church for 300 Den (5 Eur) that will bring you to the city. Also the view from lake it is beautiful, because the boat takes you around the cliff with the church.
For a food – there are many restaurants on the lake with an amazing view. And they are not so much expensive – meal for 2 for 10 Eur.
Albania – Tirana and the beach
If you are thinking where to go from Macedonia – I would say Albania is a good choice. Cause Greece is so big. The closest city is Thessaloniki that is a port and no beach so it is a pity. And in Albanian south there are really good beaches, but sadly we did not have enough time for that. So we just visited Tirana – the capital city. Albania is a Muslim country so you will see many mosques in the cities. You should definitely visit the city center with the main square, statues, mosque, tower clock. Also there is an interesting architectural pyramid that is dedicated to former ruler of Albania. So we don’t stay long in Tirana and keep going to the beach.
We decided Durres – a port close to Tirana. I have heard that water is dirty but actually it is not that bad. Maybe because season is already over. Of course, you can tell that it is a port. So we just drove 15 km south to Golem and it was a great, empty beach that we could enjoy for all day. During the summer there is very busy, with hotels, beach bars, umbrella chairs and so on but for us it was pretty dead. Just water and weather still great.
So you can go for the beach from May to October for sure. I think September is even better time as October might be raining.
Kosovo – a newborn in Europe
Kosovo is a new country that declared there independence from Serbia only in 2008. They have Albanian nationality but different country. Very small but very rich not only with resources but also with nature. We stopped not in the capital but in the second biggest city – Prizren. It is historical city that history starts in 3 AD. Nowadays there are mixed nationalities so languages too. There are 4 official languages – Albanian, Turkish, Serbian and Bosnian. Another thing – they use Euro as a currency so it is very easy to travel from Europe. And also that show that they are strong economical country.
In Prizren the old town is beautiful, with stone streets, many mosques, restaurants. Also it is worth to climb to the fortress that is on the hill. And it is very steep. And when I say it – I mean it. But the view is worth it 🙂
So we saw panorama, walked in the old town, had a nice coffee on the river and continued our trip to Skopje.
One bad thing in Kosovo – Google maps does not work. Maybe they do not want you to be there. So it was not so easy to navigate. Because I was calm – there are road signs. And when we used the one saying – Skopje – that leaded us to the “Shortcut” to Skopje. The road in the mountains. So when we realized that it was already to late. All in all – great challenge and in the end – beautiful road. Just not the fastest one as it is narrow, steep and you do not want to risk to drive too fast.
So all in all – this trip is highly recommended for those who are tired of all the “popular” destinations, miss nature, good food and friendly people.
Best time to go – April – October.
Have fun and comment if you have any questions or ideas.