We spent three months exploring one of the most undiscovered corners in Europe: Macedonia. We didn’t know what to expect before arriving, but this small, land-locked country in the southern Balkans never stopped surprising us. Whether hiking through pristine nature, fattening ourselves up on its incredible cuisine, learning about its history, or just meeting some of its famously hospitable people, we enjoyed every minute we spent in Macedonia.
Another 91 days have come to an end, and this time we’re saying farewell to one of the most underrated destinations we’ve ever visited: Macedonia. Our decision to spend three months in this unknown corner of the Balkans was one that elicited confusion from friends and family, but as we packed our bags and prepared for our departure, we knew that the choice had been inspired.
Berovo is the largest town in Eastern Macedonia, a region well-known for its natural beauty, clean air and quiet way of life. We arrived with high expectations, but also with a touch of melancholy. This would be our final excursion in Macedonia.
If you’re looking for an authentic, middle-of-nowhere, back-to-nature, where-the-hell-am-I, give-me-a-break-you-people-don’t-actually-live-like-this, it-must-be-a-movie-set kind of experience, then seek out the Klepalo Sheep Farm near Berovo. I’m still not sure the folks who welcomed us here weren’t actors.
All we’d heard of Kočani was that it has a reputation as the cleanest town in Macedonia; wonderful for residents, but insufficient to spark our curiosity. Instead, we turned our attention to a couple ancient ruins in the neighboring towns of Morodvis and Vinica.
Years from now, when we’re reminiscing on our time in Macedonia, it’s possible that it won’t be the ancient ruins, the nature, nor the villages which we remember most fondly. It will be the food. We enjoyed almost every meal we had in Macedonia. These were our favorite dishes.
As we were leaving the Mavrovo National Park, on the way back to Skopje, we made one last pit stop at Sv Jovan Bigorski, or the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist. Originally constructed in the 11th century, this church set high in the hills is one of the most popular in Macedonia.
After leaving Gari, we didn’t have far to go before the next picturesque Macedonian mountain village: Lazaropole. Although, at 1350 meters above sea level, it’s one of the highest towns in the Balkans, Lazaropole lays in a shallow valley and has a milder climate than one might expect.
After hiking to the Duf Waterfall, we drove along the southern border of the Mavrovo National Park to the tiny village of Gari, pausing along the way at the ancient Deer Leap Bridge. This is deep into Macedonia’s wildest and least-populated region, where nature still rules supreme.
After staying the night at Lake Mavrovo, we got on the road as early as possible, arriving in Janče by 8am. There was a reason for our haste; the weather reports were calling for rain by noon, and we had planned on completing a four-hour hike to Galičnik and back.