Organise your first short trip to North Macedonia!

This is an easy-to-follow guide on how to organise your first short trip to North Macedonia! While it has solo budget travellers at heart, the itinerary can also accommodate couples and families. So feel free to use it as an inspiration when planning your trip to North Macedonia.

If you need inspiration for your next epic destination, I recommend looking into North Macedonia. This tiny Balkan country is remarkably tourist and pocket-friendly. North Macedonia is very popular among backpackers and regular tourists alike.

This blog post is about an 18-day trip I undertook in the Balkan region (7 days in North Macedonia, 4 days in Kosovo and 7 days in Montenegro. This also includes the days I travelled between each country).

The countries I visited were North Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro. I prepared a blog post for each one of these countries. Organise your first short trip to North Macedonia is the first blog post dedicated to my tour in the Balkan region. I will present the main tourist attractions, additional day trips I took, foods I tried and places I stayed at. Feel free to get inspired and organise your first short trip to North Macedonia.

What do you know about the Balkan region?

I never realised the Balkan region was such a popular destination among travellers until I travelled there back in 2019. I was born close to the region, so I must confess it never interested me as a tourist destination. That’s simply because it was too close to my home country. I am not sure if this happens to everyone, but for me the further I travel, the more I feel I am actually going on holiday. That’s because I’ve always identified a holiday destination with something very far and foreign to my home country. And the Balkan region did not tick the box for any of these.

For those who don’t know much about it, the Balkan region is geographically in Europe. However, not many countries located in the region are actually part of the European Union. This means that travelling from one country to the other will imply border checks. You will also need to have a valid passport to travel in the region. Nevertheless, the process was smooth as I got my passport stamps immediately. Please note that I can only speak on behalf of EU/Western passport holders. If you have a different passport, make sure you check entry and transit requirements before travelling.

Tips for visiting North Macedonia!

North Macedonia might be a bit of an unknown destination for most of you out there! It definitely was for me when I first started planning my tour of the Balkans. However, having visited this part of the world, I came to discover some interesting things I would like to share with you all. Hopefully, my tips will help you organise your first short trip to North Macedonia quicker!

Roaming charges

Something to be aware of is the roaming charges. Roaming charges do not apply to the European Union space if you have an EU sim card. You will have roaming charges applied to your calls, texts and data if you use an international SIM card within the European Union.

When I travelled to North Macedonia, the country was not part of this deal. So whether I had an EU sim or an international one, I would still be charged if I used it in North Macedonia. I had a regular EU sim card and to avoid getting charged during my stay in North Macedonia, I never used it. I always had an offline map application for directions and topped up my sim with some credit in case I had to make emergency calls. For me, this was the cheapest option to avoid roaming charges while travelling in North Macedonia and the only one I recommend.

The cheapest time of the year to visit North Macedonia

Some say the region is cheaper compared to the rest of Europe. In my experience, this is partially true. Prices are always higher in summer, even in the Balkan region. Therefore, destinations like Croatia for example, get to be as pricey as their Western competitors. If you are interested in my strategy on how to save up money while travelling in high season, I recommend having a look at another post I wrote on the topic:

Why Make Finland Your Next Summer Destination?

As part of my strategy, I travelled to North Macedonia in mid-September and I must say it was perfect. The weather was still lovely with plenty of sunshine and highs of almost 30 degrees Celsius. There weren’t that many tourists anymore which made the places I visited less crowded.

Budget-wise, I am sure I saved quite a bit of money because I decided to skip the summer months and travel in September when the weather was still lovely. Travelling at the end of summer can save you quite a bit of money because the accommodation prices go down as well as plane tickets. This is definitely one of my favourite strategies when planning my travels. And something I always advise everyone to do.

Is North Macedonia safe?

This is definitely a popular question. I know because I wondered the same. Based on my experience, North Macedonia is 100% safe for solo travellers, including female travellers. I travelled by public transport all the time and felt perfectly safe. Most probably I would not venture out at night and walk to places I do not know well, but this is something I would not do no matter where I travel to. And I advise you to do the same.

Do people in North Macedonia speak English?

Yes, most people in North Macedonia speak good English, more so those located in touristy places like Skopje and Ohrid. So do not worry, you won’t have a hard time trying to find your way around North Macedonia. However, it is always nice to learn a few words in the local language. Some basic words like hi and thank you will definitely help with the conversation flow and make someone’s day.

Are North Macedonians friendly?

Yes, North Macedonians are friendly and they will try to help if they can. A really kind memory I have of North Macedonians is this taxi driver trying to be as friendly and helpful as possible. I found this extremely nice of him, especially with all the bad rep taxi drivers have in general.

North Macedonians are tall

This is not a tip, but rather an interesting fact I learned about during my stay in North Macedonia. Apparently, North Macedonians are the tallest people out there. We all know that Dutch people are considered taller than the average person. Well, apparently North Macedonians are even taller. So if you ever make it to North Macedonia and are rather a petit person, you now know that is completely fine to feel like you’ve just entered the giants’ land because you did.

Itinerary suggestion for your first short trip to North Macedonia

Moving away from my tips about North Macedonia, these are the main places I visited during my stay in this country: Ohrid and Skopje (the capital city). I definitely recommend visiting both if you are about to organise your first short trip to North Macedonia. Keep reading if you want to find out what can you visit and how to travel between the 2 locations.

You might find it useful to know that I allocated 7 days to visit everything I presented below.


Ohrid is probably the most popular destination in North Macedonia. I would argue that it is even more popular than Skopje. And even more beautiful in my humble opinion. Ohrid gained popularity among travellers thanks to its beautiful lake and orthodox churches.

Ohrid has its own airport and this is really handy. Please note that in 2019 when I travelled to Ohrid, the airport pick-up service was still quite basic. I am not sure if there were any buses, I could not find any at the time. So I got a taxi instead. You can pick up a taxi once you exit the airport. They only accepted cash back then, so make sure you have enough on you to pay for the ride. I could not tell how accurate the meter was, but the driver was a really nice person. So, I didn’t mind paying a bit extra for his services.

Ohrid is the name the locals use to refer to both the city and the lake. So, I am not sure if they named the city after the lake or vice versa. The point is that Ohrid is an interchangeable term as many use the name to refer to both the lake and the city.

Tourist attractions in Ohrid:

The Ohrid Lake & Old Town

One of the main tourist attractions in Ohrid is the lake. You can have a lovely walk along the lake. Or you can opt for a boat trip. Or even both. There are plenty of boat trips you can purchase on the spot, so I wouldn’t book anything in advance or online.

Once you’ve finished with the tour of the lake, I recommend a stroll in the old town. It’s packed with cafes and restaurants. You will have plenty to choose from. I definitely recommend trying something traditional. However, there is also plenty of Turkish and Greek food too. The architectural style of the old town is specific to the region. In fact, some of the buildings looked Greek to me. It makes sense if you think about the history these 2 countries share. Below are some pictures I took of the old town:

Orthodox Churches & The Fortress

As a predominantly orthodox country (although you will notice quite a few mosques too), there are several orthodox churches to visit in Ohrid. The entrance is most of the time free of charge. The Balkan region is predominantly Orthodox, so the churches’ architecture is different to the catholic churches in Western Europe.

1. The Church of St. John of Kanevo is arguably the most beautiful orthodox church in Ohrid. It is also the church that people visit the most. Because it is built on a hill, if you can make it to the top, you are rewarded with a spectacular view of the lake. The walk up there is quite beautiful too, as you can see in the pictures below.

*Be aware that some churches don’t allow people to take pictures of their interior. Make sure you check the rules before taking out your camera, as you do not want to be disrespectful.

As I was saying, the walk to the Church of St. John of Kanevo and around the lake is spectacular. My pictures below are living proof of that.

2. The Church of Sveti Kliment i Pantelejmon was the second church I visited in Ohrid. I recommend going because you get to discover another part of the city. There are obviously many more churches if you are interested in visiting. Personally, I skipped some of them.

Next, I recommend checking out the old fortress. It’s a good alternative to churches. Plus, you get to see some amazing views of the city and the lake.

Galichica National Park

Because Ohrid is quite small, I had time to go hiking in one of the nearby national parks. I looked it up, and the nearest was Galichica National Park. I recommend it if you have spare time. To reach the park, I took a local bus. You need to find the Sveti Naum bus stop first. Then, every time a bus stopped I asked if it was going to the national park. When the right bus finally arrived, I got on it and got off in the Elshani village. I met travellers who would get off at Peshtani or even further at Trpejca. However, I cannot advise on these places because I did not go there.

What I learnt during my travels in the Balkans is that online bus timetables are usually outdated. So a bit of advice I would give to people planning a trip in the region is to check everything at the train/bus station. Because that’s where the most accurate information is.

Back to my hiking day outside Ohrid, I must say Galichica National Park is a must if you are into nature and hiking. I met quite a few travellers at the bus stop and all of them had different ideas of where to start the hike. However, as I said previously, I got off in a village called Elshani. Below are some of the pictures I took during my hike.

Beware of cattle and dogs. The locals let them roam the park freely.


Skopje is the capital city of North Macedonia, so it felt natural to include it in my itinerary. There aren’t many train links in the Balkans, so the majority of long-distance trips are carried out by bus companies. This is how I travelled all the time. Despite this, I must say I really enjoyed Skopje. It has everything a capital city needs; loads of places to eat out, quite an impressive main square, plenty of shops and supermarkets as well as parks and quite a few museums and interesting buildings to check out. It goes without saying that the most important monument is Alexander the Great’s statue, located in the main square. Keep reading to learn about the main attractions in Skopje.

1. Macedonia Square is probably the most popular square in Skopje. It’s where Alexander the Great’s statue is. The statue is part of the fountain that does water shows throughout the day. Shops and some of the most important tourist attractions are nearby. The main tourist attractions in Skopje are in fact close to this square.

2. There are several bridges built on the Vardar River, which connects Skopje. Some of the most beautiful bridges are The Art Bridge and the Stone Bridge. Both of them are really close to Macedonia Square.

3. The Bazaar is a street market full of souvenir shops and places to eat out. Similar to Ohrid there is a huge variety of foods, including Italian, Turkish and even American fast food. Personally, I opted for local food which I will talk about at the end of this post.

4. Similar to Ohrid, there is a fortress in Skopje too. I recommend it for a panoramic view of the city.

5. Among the many museums you can visit, I would mention the Archeological Museum of Macedonia, Memorial House of Mother Theresa and the National Gallery of Macedonia.

Something worth mentioning about Mother Teresa is that she is originally from Albania. Perhaps due to her international recognition, even Macedonia erected a statue and opened a museum to honour her legacy. A bit like Spain, where you find a statue erected to honour Christopher Columbus in almost every major city.

6. Some other tourist attractions include Porta Macedonia, The Woman Warrior Park and The Sultan Murad Mosque. There are obviously more museums, beautiful buildings, bridges and churches to visit. It all depends on how much time you’re staying in Skopje.

One of the highlights of my stay in Skopje was definitely the accommodation. Although I opted to stay in a hostel as opposed to the private room I had in the Ohrid villa, I must say I was inspired. Hostel Log Inn was one of the best places I stayed at. The place was spotless, they had a very modern, big kitchen and the staff was super friendly. Not to mention that halfway through my stay with them, they asked if I would change my dorm room for an en-suite room because they needed the whole dorm I was staying in at the time.

Matka Canyon

Similar to Ohrid, Skopje is also close to nature. One of the most popular destinations is without a doubt the Matka Canyon. To reach the canyon, you must take bus number 60 and get off at the final stop. It’s a local bus and the route it’s popular among tourists since I had quite a few foreigners travelling with me on the day.

At the canyon I spent my day hiking, visiting the local church and walking along the canyon. There were some places to eat and maybe buy something to drink, but as you can imagine your options are rather limited. So my advice is to bring supplies with you. Below are some of the pictures I took after a full day spent at the canyon.

Macedonian Staple Foods

Finally, let’s talk about food. Food-wise the country has a rich gastronomic heritage. The Macedonian dishes are a mix of meat and vegetables. I tried several types of pastries, pies and some interesting spreads made out of roasted peppers. As I am a big fan of soups, I made sure I did not miss the traditional ciorba.

It was only after this trip that I realised North Macedonia has a significant Muslim population. This is reflected in the Macedonian dishes as there are many Turkish-inspired dishes. I travelled to North Macedonia in September, in full harvest season, so I enjoyed all the seasonal fruits and veggies. Their grapes were particularly tasty. Locals were making traditional aubergine and bell pepper spreads all the time. I remember walking down the street in Ohrid and smelling pepper spread in the air. Locals make the spreads outside, in their backyards, so flavours get taken away by the wind. I also tried some spreads (see picture below). They were super tasty and healthy.

North Macedonia definitely surprised me, thanks to the people’s hospitality and welcoming attitude towards tourists. The country is, by all means, stunning and pocket-friendly. This makes it perfect for a low-budget trip without having to compromise on anything else.

Have you been to North Macedonia yet? What did you like the most?

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