On the slopes of Mount Vodno in the village of Gorni Nezeri, is one of the most important monasteries in Macedonia. Pantelejmon was built in the 12th century, and still preserves some of the country’s oldest Byzantine frescoes.
Demir Kapija is a small town in the wine region of central Macedonia. The name is Turkish for “Iron Gate,” referring to a natural gorge in the hills south of town. Besides a couple of great wineries, Demir Kapija is known for its hiking and rock climbing opportunities.
While in Ohrid, an excursion to the southern tip of the lake and the monastery of Sveti Naum should be considered essential. This is where the natural springs which feed Lake Ohrid come bubbling up from the underground, into a lagoon of startling clarity.
The only island in landlocked Macedonia is uninhabited… at least by humans. Located in the south of Lake Prespa, near the Albanian border, Golem Grad is frequently referred to as “Snake Island.”
Found in the hills of Kriva Palanka, Sv Joakim Osogovski is one of the country’s most popular monasteries, and on Sundays is packed with worshipers from both Macedonia and nearby Bulgaria. But we were visiting on a quiet Monday afternoon, when the only other people present were the priest and a few workers cleaning the church’s carpets.
Near Kumanovo, the tiny town of Staro Nagoričane is home to the 14th-century church of St. George, which possesses some of Macedonia’s most important frescoes. We swung by on our way back to Skopje after visiting Kokino.
Bitola may lag behind Skopje in terms of population and influence, but with its turn-of-the-century architecture, compact Turkish quarter, lovely churches and ancient mosques, it competes in terms of style. We spent a few days exploring the city, and enjoyed ourselves immensely.
Over the course of one long day at Matka Canyon, we tackled two hikes. The first, a climb to the church of Sveti Nikola, we can heartily recommend to anyone. But the hike to Sveti Nedela, on the opposite side of the canyon, is an ordeal we’d suggest only to those we most hate. Really, just those few people whom we wouldn’t mind seeing dead.
Strumica is a nice city, but not one with a huge range of touristic sights. We spent our first day scouring the streets for things to do, but everything was closed. Everything except for one lonely church hidden in Strumica’s Turkish quarter: the Sveti Petnaeset Tiveriopolski Sveštenomačnici, or Church of the Fifteen Holy Martyrs.
On our second day in Ohrid, we embarked on an excursion to Sv Stefan, an ancient cave church set within the cliffs south of town. We had prepared for a strenuous hike, so when we arrived at the church after barely ten minutes of walking, it was kind of a disappointment. Luckily, the trail continued, and would lead us to the abandoned village of Šipokno.