I always remembered the country Macedonia. It wasn’t a place that I heard newly. I have always been deeply interested in both Geography and History, and no I don’t want to boast here but, I can say I am not bad with places. But, getting to Macedonia – well, atleast in 2017, it wasn’t on my plan at all. I am not even sure why Macedonia sticks out so much in my head. I think it has to do with reading something long back that has to do with King Midas – the king with the gold touch ( whatever he touched would turn to gold) I am not sure if it was this. But, it sure has some connection in my memory. Macedonia came into my calendar when a friend of mine who I made through blogging left back to her country (Macedonia) in July and invited me to visit her there, and in September (this month) we ended up there.
Flying from Doha – Macedonia
But, when a dear friend invited me, I couldn’t say no. More than anything it was an affordable destination. And, Qatar Airways started direct flights to Skopje. This was the perfect time.
Visa Requirements for Macedonia
Passengers with a double or multiple entry C visa issued by a Schengen Member State are exempted from getting a visa beforehand. There is also an exemption if you have a visa issued by Canada, USA or United Kingdom.
However, if you are going to apply for visa through the Macedonian Embassy which is what we did. Be warned that your visa will come to you at a snail’s pace. So, even before you book the ticket or finalize the date, try and apply for the visa. We almost thought we weren’t travelling to Macedonia this time on. We got our visas in-hand August 31st 9:30 pm. Our flight was on 1st September 6:00 am. Yes, it just somehow happened we got the visa in-hand because my friend tried and pulled and pushed a few strings. And, the best part was getting the visa was an adventure of its own as we had the ambassador stamping the visa herself, and handing it to us at 9:30 pm. I am not even sure whether that was a dream or not or what. It was a memory for us.
Where to stay in Macedonia
The best place to stay if you are in Skopje is the Skopje Marriott. You don’t have to think twice about this. Centrally located in the Skopje Square with a walking distance from so many places to see and discover, and very new amenities all around, I can totally tell you that it is a beautiful hotel to be in. See more of the hotel in my post on the hotel itself.
What to see in Macedonia
The Balkan nation of Macedonia is lesser-known than many other countries in the region, but even though it’s small in size, it’s jam-packed with activities, nature, and history. There’s so much to see and learn in Macedonia. We were there for 4 days and 3 nights, and this wasn’t enough at all. Really! We saw a lot, but there’s still lots to see. What I didn’t know about Macedonia at all was how strong the Turkish influence was on their historic sites, as well as cuisines. The Ottomans ruled over the area of Macedonia for over 500 years. Hence, their influence is quite heavy in many aspects of the country
- Old Bazaar, Skopje
The Old Bazaar is arguably the most popular tourist attraction in Skopje, situated in the old part of Skopje and just a short walk from the main square it’s easily reached and explored. The Old Bazaar has characteristics and dynamics of its own kind and it is a survivor of many wars, occupations and cultural and religious changes. It, also remains the oldest living witness of the history of this region as every kingdom and empire, every regime and every rule have let its traces on the rocks of Skopje Old Bazaar.
Every corner here, tells its own story. It represents the old commercial heart of the town and the largest bazaar in the Balkans (besides the one in Istanbul). In the period between the 16-th and 17-th century, the Old Bazaar reached its urban and economic zenith, developing in one of the largest and most significant oriental old bazaars in the Balkans.
- Kale Fortress
Dominating the skyline of Skopje, this Game of Thrones–worthy 6th-century AD Byzantine (and later, Ottoman) fortress is an easy walk up from the Čaršija and its ramparts offer great views over the city and river. It is situated on the highest point in the city overlooking the Vardar River.
- Daut Pasha Hamam
Daut Pasha Hamam is located near the Stone Bridge in Skopje, in the old part of the City. It is one of the most famous monuments of the Islamic profane architecture in Macedonia. Today, Daut Pasha Hamam is used as an art gallery and also houses the headquarters of the National Gallery of Macedonia.
- Warrior on a Horse
Perhaps the main symbol of the Skopje 2014 project is the Warrior on a Horse statue and fountain in the centre of Macedonia Square. It is typically thought to depict Alexander the Great, though it is not officially named for him
- Kapan Han
Kapan Han is a han (caravanserai) in the Old Bazaar of Skopje, Macedonia. It was built in the mid-15th century by Bosnian general Isa-Beg Isaković, ruler of Skopsko Krajište, in order to provide a regular source of income for his endowment.There were 44 rooms for guests and traders with their caravans. There was space for horses on the east side of the han.
- Mustafa Pasha Mosque
The structure stands on a plateau above the old bazaar, built in 1492 by Mustafa Pasha, vizier on the court of Sultan Selim I.The mosque is largely intact from its original state, and no additions have been made through the years.
- Lake Matka
Covering 5000 hectares, Matka Canyon is nothing short of huge and you can hike through it for hours and hours.
- Porta Macedonia aka Gate Macedonia
Porta Macedonia is a triumphal arch located on Pella Square in Skopje, Macedonia.
- Skopje Art Bridge
- Painted Mosque Sarena Dzamija (Tetovo) ((This is another famous town close to Skopje)
Šarena Džamija meaning Decorated Mosque in English, is a mosque located near the Pena River in Tetovo, Macedonia. The Šarena Džamija was originally built in 1438. The architect behind the Šarena Džamija was Isak Bey. Most mosques of the time had sultans, beys or pashas financing their constructions, but the Šarena Džamija, however, was financed by two sisters from Tetovo. More than 30,000 eggs were used to prepare the paint and glaze that went into the elaborate decorations.
- Mavrovo Lake
The largest artificial lake in Macedonia is part of Mavrovo National Park. Due to its elevation (over 1,000 meters, or 3,000 feet), this mountain lake sometimes freezes over in winter.
- Lake Ohrid (This is another famous city close to Skopje)
Although Ohrid town is the beating heart of the lake, the area’s charms extend well beyond its beloved old quarter. At 300m deep, 34km long and three million years old, Lake Ohrid is among Europe’s oldest and deepest lakes.
What to try in Macedonia
- Fresh Apples
- Strumka (Must-Try)
- Kebapi (very similar to Kebab)
- Jufki (Macedonian Pasta)
- Shopska ( A kind of salad)
As there are a lot of Muslims in Macedonia, it is easy to find Halal food. Even the call to Azan was very dominant within the central square where we were staying. There were many mosques at a walking distance from the place we stayed and in and around the country.
A difficulty I faced which I am sure most of you are aware of is the lack of water in toilets. This is something that you will always need to remind yourself when you are travelling outside the Middle East specifically to the West.
I have to specially thank my fried Elena who invited me to visit Macedonia and the hospitality she showed us whilst we were there.