Though known by few, Macedonia is a country worth visiting. Located in the southern part of the Balkan, it boasts a fascinating history and rich cultural background. Part Balkan, part Mediterranean and rich in Greek, Roman and Ottoman history, it offers impressive ancient sites and breathtaking natural beauties scattered around the country, which are great for hiking, mountain biking and climbing. While remote mountains conceal fascinating medieval monasteries, superb alpine trails and traditional Balkan villages, Ohrid, noted for its beaches, summer festival, sublime Byzantine churches and 34km-long lake, is the centre of the country’s tourism industry. In winter, skiing at resorts such as Mavrovo become the main draw.
Kokino Megalithic Observatory is an important archaeological and astronomical site located in northeastern Macedonia, close to the village of Kokino. Although it is more than 3,800 years old, the site was discovered as late as in 2001. The elevation 1,013 m (3,323 ft) and geology of this area made it suitable for observing the movements of the sun and the moon. Prehistoric inhabitants used the naturally formed cubic volcanic rocks to track the movements of the heavenly bodies to produce a lunar calendar on which their society was based. The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration acknowledged Kokino as the fourth most significant astronomical heritage site in their “Timeless Knowledge” project in 2005, following sites like Stonehenge in England, Abu Simbel in Egypt, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
The Galičnik Wedding Festival is an annual festival organized in mid-July in the village of Galičnik. The festival features a traditional-style wedding of a couple, which is selected among a number of couples from all around Macedonia who wish to get married in the traditional “Galička” style. Traditionally, the wedding lasted for 5 days, with the main activities being held on St. Peter’s Day (12 July). Today, the festival takes place for two days on the weekend closest to 12 July and attracts numerous visitors who want to witness this beautiful ceremony and take part in the festivities.
The food in Macedonia is a blend of European, Turkish and Slavic cuisines. Use of herbs and spices add unique flavour, dishes are cooked with care and precision, mostly from scratch in conventional ways. Sheep farms, vineyards and fruit orchards can be found all over the country. Traditional Macedonian dishes include Tavče gravče (beans in skillet), Ajvar (roasted red bell pepper dip), Pinđur (summer pepper dip), Malidzano (eggplant salad), Kebapchinya (mini kebabs of beef), Polneti Piperki (green bell peppers stuffed with rice, meat and cheese), Burek (baked or fried phyllo filled with cheese, meat or vegetables), Pastrmalija (savory pie), and Pleskavica (mixed meat burger patty).
Macedonia has a long wine-producing tradition. Numerous archeological findings, the oldest dating from 13th century B.C., have proven that wine production has formed an important part in the Macedonian history. Today, there are three main winegrowing regions in Macedonia, with the biggest being the Povardarie region (Vardar valley, i.e. Central Region ). 80 officially registered wineries in Macedonia process about 70% of the total harvested grape, while about 30% is being processed directly by grape growers for their own home production and consumption of wine and “rakija” (grape brandy).
Skopje is the capital of Macedonia and the largest city in the country boasting numerous historic sites, ethnically diverse restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. While there, do not miss the Mother Teresa's museum and birthplace, the Stone Bridge in centre of the city, the first railway station in the Balkans, Fortress Kale built in the 6th century AD, Churches of St. Andreja-Matka and St Spas (Holy Salvation) and the Old Skopje Bazaar, the second largest Bazaar outside of Istanbul.
Mavrovo National Park attracts adventure seekers all year round. You can choose from a number of hiking, biking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting or camping tours. Diversity of flora and fauna can be spotted in numerous valleys, rivers, gorges, waterfalls, glaciers and lakes, which are home to a rare species of lynx. Within the park, the village of Galičnik is located, known for annual wedding festival.
The picturesque city of Ohrid, listed as both UNESCO’s World Heritage cultural as well as natural site, boasts narrow cobbled streets, red terracotta roofs, open-air cafes, and a crystal clear lake with a backdrop of mountains, giving the impression of charming lake towns in the Swiss Alps. Notable for once having had 365 churches, one for each day of the year, it is thus often referred to as "Jerusalem of the Balkans." Roman amphitheatre, Church of St Sophia and St Clement, Tsar Samoil's fortress and Ohrid's marketplace are some of the places to visit.
There is nothing that can take the sunshine, the sea, the sandy beaches away, nor the ancient culture, the monuments they have built the warmth of greek people. Not even the financial crisis.
The last comer on the tourism stage Albania is rapidly catching up with its neighbours but still offering a very distinctive look and feel to it with the most preserved mediterranean coastline and a rich cultural heritage of its inlands.