The Republic of Macedonia, (Macedonian: Република Македониjа, Republika Makedonija) is a landlocked country in the Balkans. It is bordered by Serbia and Kosovo to the north, Albania to the west, Bulgaria to the east, and Greece to the south. The constitutional name of the country is the Republic of Macedonia and it is usually called simply Macedonia, despite the disambiguation concerns of the neighboring Greeks in the Greek province Macedonia and the official provisional name the country has under UN.
While easily accessible from all points abroad, and boasting all the amenities of the Western world, the Republic of Macedonia remains one of Europe’s last undiscovered countries: a natural paradise of mountains, lakes and rivers, where life moves to a different rhythm, amidst the sprawling grandeur of rich historical ruins and idyllic villages that have remained practically unchanged for centuries. The majority population is ethnic Macedonian and Orthodox but there is also a significant Albanian Muslim minority. Therefore, one can expect a wonderful mix of architectural and ethnic hertitage. The country represents the Balkans in the truest sense, consisting of a fascinating mix of Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, and Mediterranean influences.
Macedonia has warm, dry summers and autumns, and relatively stable winters with warm temperatures.
Macedonia is covered by mountainous territory marked by deep basins and valleys filled with fruity goodness. There are three large lakes, Ohrid lake, Prespa lake and Dojran lake, each divided by a frontier line, and the country bisected by the Vardar River.
Macedonia is blessed with outstanding natural beauty. Do not miss a trip to one of the large lakes, Pelister Mountains, Shar Planina in the West, and the fascinating rolling hills and mountains of the East with its rice fields.
Macedonia is dotted with beautiful Orthodox churches, monasteries, and Ottoman mosques. The territory of the Republic of Macedonia has a proud history. Being under the Ottomans for 500 years caused legendary Macedonian revolutionaries such as Goce Delcev, Nikola Karev, and Pitu Guli to lead uprisings to free Macedonia. Macedonia has been part of many countries, but until its incorporation into Yugoslavia by Tito in 1945 it was never acknowledged as an administrative “state.” Macedonia prospered under Tito’s rule, especially when the capital Skopje was rebuilt after a severe earthquake in 1963 and the Yugoslav government invested heavily in the subsequent infrastructure rebuilding. This may explain why many Macedonians are somewhat nostalgic for Tito’s Yugoslavia.
International recognition of Macedonia’s independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 was delayed by Greece’s objection to the new state’s use of what Greece considered a “Hellenic name and symbols.” Greece finally lifted its trade blockade in 1995, and the two countries agreed to normalize relations, despite continued disagreement over the use of “Macedonia” in the name. Greece is now the largest investor in the Republic of Macedonia.
Macedonia’s large Albanian minority (about 25%), an ethnic Albanian armed insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia in 2001, and the status of neighboring Kosovo continue to be sources of ethnic tension. There were also tensions during the last parliamentary elections on the 2nd of June 2008, although they happened between supporters of the two biggest rival Albanian political parties.
- Skopje, the nation’s capital. It is home to many historic landmarks and architectural monuments, and a great deal of cultural places of interest.
- Ohrid, a lakeside resort and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is considered the jewel in Macedonia’s crown.
- Bitola, the second largest city. It is Macedonia’s most “European” town. It has it all: an ancient city, Ottoman monuments, a lovely shopping promenade, great nightlife, and more.
- Kruševo, a museum-city nestled high up in the mountains of southwestern Macedonia. It is one the most historically significant destinations in the country as it was the site of a revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The town is also home to great skiing.
- Prilep, tobacco fields, medieval monasteries, and strange rocks.
- Struga, small town on Lake Ohrid. It receives a fraction of the amount of tourists that nearby Ohrid gets, making Struga much more calm and peaceful.
- Štip, a peaceful city in eastern Macedonia. The town has existed for thousands of years, which is evidenced by its many archaeological sites.
- Kumanovo, the third largest city. The area boasts many churches, pre-modern settlements, and more.
- Tetovo, majority of the population is ethnic Albanians. Home to the Painted Mosque and Monastery of Lešok.
- Radoviš, a small city in southeastern Macedonia, famous for the new Holy Trinity Orthodox Church.
- Strumica, a vibrant city in the warm, sunny southeast. Progressive Strumica is home to great shopping, nearby hiking, waterfalls and hot springs, and the legendary Strumica Carnival.