During long weekend of Easter’2019 I traveled to Eastern Europe- 3 countries (Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria) of Balkan peninsula, in 5 days. Each of the former Yugoslavian cities hold such a variety of historical background and vibrant folk culture it's very difficult to acquire the essence of the true delight of the country. But this itinerary is effeminately the best one to cover most of it if you have short time. This is my adventure in Skopje, Macedonia – the full travel story of 24 hours.
Why should you visit Skopje.
Skopje is the capital city of Republic of North Macedonia. Till 20th Century, the region was under Otoman Sultanat rules, post WWI it became the part of former Yugoslavia. The city architecture is highly influenced by Oriental-Byzantine era, the 15th Century’s Stone Bridge on the Vardar river and the 5th Century’s Kale Fortress hold such fascinating appeal to the photographers. The gorgeous Balkan ranges, the breathtaking canyons of Matka river, the city skyline of Skopje and her magnificent architectures were enough to fall in love with this city! The city is fun, people are friendly, the shopping streets are full of charming handmade stuffs as well antiques and the plus point is -The statues everywhere made a statement of its own. Skopje should be in backpackers’ list during early summer.
How to make the most of your one day in Skopje.
This Fantastic Itinerary starts 8'o clock in the morning, to the majestic Matka Canyon (4.5 hours), and continued city sightseeing for the rest of the day. We left Skopje 11:30 PM overnight bus to Belgrade(Serbia). When spending only one day in Skopje I suggest starting as early in the morning so you will have enough time to explore the main sights without rushing too much. It will also be cooler weather and less queue at the boat ride in Matka Canyon.
Things to do.
We started our day at 8 in the morning, to visit Matka Canyon. Taking the public bus(Route 60) from the main bus station of Skopje, it took us roughly 45 minutes to reach, the road was full of natural beauties, cute waterfalls and rivers along the way.
Matka Canyon- Located to the west region of the capital city, Matka Canyon (and the lake) is the most popular outdoor destination in Macedonia. Famous for its jaw dropping natural beauty, cave tours and adventurous river rafting, this region is also home for several medieval monasteries hidden in the mountain away from public eyes for centuries. The protected forest area is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, roughly 20% of the which is endemic and only found here! The canyon is also home to 77 indigenous species of butterfly and the most venomous snake in south Europe the Viper. The 1.5-hour boat ride along the canyon and caves was 15 Euro for 2 person which I would highly recommend doing.
We returned to the city post 12 in the afternoon, Indulged into the juiciest kebabs and fresh breads in a local restaurant, we then started our city tour. The first stop was
Kapan Han - This 15th Century Inn is now turned into a museum keeping the vibes of Ottoman era as intact as possible. Ticket price is €3 per person, children below 8, have free entry.
Skopje Fortress- Near the Old town, located on the highest point of the city, Kale fortress is now ruin of the massive 5th Century’s Byzantine fort which used to be the citadel. The recent excavation discovered clay ornaments and woodwind instruments dated back to 3000 B.C. Entry is free to the sight. The Fortress has the most gorgeous view of Vardar river and the Balkan ranges, Millennium Cross on top of the Vodno hill can be spotted from here.
Mustafa Pasha Mosque- Coming down from Kale fortress the next stop was Mustafa Pasha Mosque, built in 1492 A.D on honor of the one of minister from Ottoman Court. The mosque was built on the site of an old Christian church. Women are not allowed inside the Mosque. Beware of pick pocket in the premises of the mosque, few homeless people are staying here who would ask for money. We have lost our selfie stick and water bottle here.
Old town, Kuršumli An, Old Bazar- Down the road from the Mosque, led to the Old town and Old bazar. Here you can find many shops selling artifacts, old coins, Persian carpets, handmade abayas(burqa), sheesha and what not! Mouthwatering smell of the fresh lamb kebabs will take you back few centuries, to the Ottoman Sultanat period when this Bazar used to be another stop for old silk route. Few notable stops are- Čifte Hamam (Public Bath built in 14th Century) Isa Bey Mosque, Daut Pasha Hamam (another 15th century hamam operated till 1915), Aladža Mosque, Kuršumli Han (caravanserais built in 16th century, still operating).