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.
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.
While visiting Demir Kapija, we spent two nights in Popova Kula, a small winery that also operates as a hotel. We had a chance to tour the grounds, spread across a vine-blanketed hill outside of town, and try out a few of their best wines.
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.
Just outside downtown Skopje is the municipality of Šuto Orizari, commonly known as Šutka and home to 18,000 of Macedonia’s Roma population. We took a taxi to Šutka’s market, to see what life is like in Europe’s largest Roma settlement.
Along with Titicaca in South America and Baikal in Russia, Lake Ohrid is among the oldest lakes in the world. And it’s become a popular destination with scuba divers thanks to both its history, and the stunning clarity of its water. We ventured underwater with Amfora Diving Center to visit the Bay of Bones: an archaeological site from the Bronze Age.