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.
Lazaropole is within the bounds of the Mavrovo National Park, and reaching it requires a long, uphill drive. The forest scenery and the views are gorgeous, but as we ascended, I was wondering why anyone would decide to live so far out, nearly an hour from the next town of any size. But as Lazaropole came into view atop a curiously flat hilltop plateau, I stopped wondering. Or rather, I began wondering why more people haven’t decided to live here.
Despite its inaccessibility, Lazaropole isn’t an abandoned village lost to time, such as Gari or Malovište, but a lively and prosperous town. There are hardly any destitute houses, and a lot of new ones are going up. A popular hotel, the Kalin Inn, welcomes tourists (Macedonian and foreign alike) who come for the recreational opportunities in the surrounding hills.
This was our last stop in the Mavrovo region before heading back to Skopje and, unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to spend here. We could easily have stayed a few days, hiking, relaxing and breathing the fresh mountain air which — so far away from the nearest city — is claimed by locals as the healthiest in the Balkans. But after a short tour and a climb to the large cross which overlooks town, it was already time for us to hop back in the car and drive away, off to our next destination.