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Europe Travel: Road Trip from Ohrid to Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia

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This post describes a road trip across the western board of the Republic of North Macedonia, from Ohrid to the country’s capital city, Skopje.


The basics

  • Road trip from Ohrid, Macedonia to Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia.
  • This roadtrip can be completed in a single day.
  • Depart early morning so you can enjoy a leisurely journey with plenty of stops.
  • This itinerary spans the western board of the Republic of North Macedonia up through Skopje.

Getting there

  • We recommend hiring a private driver for this stretch. Strike a deal with a local cab driver when in Ohrid.
  • Do not take the Google Maps recommended route. Google will map you to the main highway which bypasses the National Park, a main point of interest in this itinerary. Instead, manually change the map so it goes through the western board National Park in order to see the natural sites. See the below map for guidance.

Connected itineraries

Note that the itineraries that follow are based on an accelerated timeline for those looking to get a first look at the Balkans.

Map of road trip from Ohrid to Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia


Depart Ohrid

Depart early morning for your trip, moving from Ohrid north towards Struga.

Stop One: Struga

Struga is a small town of 17,000 that sits on the Lake Ohrid shore. It is where the river Black Drin flows from the lake through the city. Enjoy a coffee at one of the cafes dotting the shore line and hang out at one of the beaches, including Galeb, Male, and Female beach.

Stop Two: Vevčani

14 kilometers northwest is Vevčani, a small town situated on the foot of the Jablanica Mountain Range. For decades it was believed that the town was settled between the 6th and 8th centuries, but recent archaeological findings suggest that it may have been established much earlier, sometime in the 2nd century. Across its history, the Romans, Ottomans, the Serbians occupied and ruled the area, until 1945 at which point Vevčani became a part of the newly founded People’s Republic of Macedonia.

Grain Mill

This 300 year old grain factory is still operational, using a water-driven mill to grind whole wheat flour.

Springs

The springs come from the Jablanica Mountain Range. Follow the boardwalk path for a scenic walk.

Sveti Nikola

Vevčani has 19 churches, monasteries and chapels. Sveti Nikola dates back to 1876 and is beautifully preserved.

Drive through the Black Drim River Valley

The river flows 149 km (93 miles) from Lake Ohrid and later merges into the White Drin to form the Drin, which flows into the Adriatic Sea.

Cross into the National Park Mavrovo

Renowned for its gorges, pine forests and waterfalls, this National Park is a continuation of the natural beauty evidenced in Ohrid.

Stop Three: Rajchica

Saint George Monastary

Saint George Monastery is a part of the St. John Bigorski Monastery (the next stop on this journey). This female monastery is renowned for the handcrafted work of the monastic sisterhood who make orthodox crowns called mitri. The crowns are sought after by Orthodox churches around the world and are the only place in Macedonia producing them.  

Stop Four: Bigorski Monastary (Saint John the Baptist)

This Byzantine monastery dates to 1020. During Ottoman rule, the monastery was destroyed and a single church remained, until late 18th century when efforts to restore the site to its original plans began.

When you stop through, meet and chat with monks who mill around the grounds, enjoy tea whilst overlooking Mavrovo’s mountains.

Stop Five: Lunch at House of the Mijak

In Rostuša, stop off at the House of the Mijak, a restaurant which only a short distance from the monastery. This Slavic-Macedonian community calls themselves the Mijaks. The Mijak community continues to inhabit their historical community, though the diaspora of Mijaks extends throughout the country, and historically, into places like Thessaloniki, Bitola, and Sofia.

The Mijaks are thought to originate from the ancient royal ancestors. They carry with them the Orthodox Christian faith, and continue traditions of craftsmanship, artistry, and architectural elements from time’s past.

Stop Six: Saint Nicholas Church

Continue on the Road to Galichnik until you reach the abandoned Saint Nicholas Church. Built in 1850, Saint Nicholas Church served as the central village church of Mavrovo. In 1956, when the artificial Lake Mavrovo was built to create the hydro system “Mavrovo”, the construction effort submerged the Saint Nicholas Church. The church still stands today due to its stone materials and its impressive belfry is still largely preserved. During dry season, visitors can pop their heads into the church.

Zare Lazareski Ski Resort

This hugely popular ski resort is the largest in Macedonia and sits on the Bistra Mountain. Open year-round, there are over 25 km of slopes available at altitudes of 1,255 to 1,860 meters.

Route back to the main highway towards Skopje

Stop Seven: Matka Canyon

Before finishing your road trip in Skopje, stop to stretch your legs in Matka Canyon and enjoy early sunset views.

Covering 5,000 hectares, Matka Canyon is one of the most popular outdoor destinations in Macedonia and is home to several medieval monasteries. Activities include hiking, kayaking, fishing, hunting, and swimming.

The canyon merits a return for a proper day in the outdoors. A local bus runs the 15 kilometer journey from Skopje to Matka to return for a lovely day of exercise and adventure.

Arrive to Skopje, the country’s capital city

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