The sun setting over the ancient site of the Kokino Observatory in North Macedonia
Travel Guide

Sustainable travel in North Macedonia

Maysie Dee

Contributing writer

When you visit the small landlocked country of North Macedonia, you can’t help but be amazed at the natural unspoiled beauty that is contained within its borders. In ancient times, the area was under Roman and Ottoman rule, and more recently Macedonia was engulfed by the large communist Yugoslav Republic.

With freedom from Yugoslavia in 1991, and its emergence as a modern sovereign entity, Macedonia has suffered growing pains as it comes into its own. In the ongoing process, the little country endured yet another disappointment in 2014, as it was pressed by its Greek neighbors to accept a name change. 

As it stands, officially the country’s name is accepted internationally as North Macedonia, but the population firmly clings to its identity, referring to itself and its language as, simply, Macedonia(n).

One of the challenges the resultant young (yet old) country faces is the preservation of its natural resources and fundamental beauty. 

As tourism grows in Macedonia, it’s important for all visitors to be aware that Macedonia is dealing with sustainability; it’s taking time, but they’re working on it! Surveys by international organizations show that over 80% of the population is in favor of sustainable practices – the question is simply how to implement them.

There is much that you, as a tourist, can do to help the country preserve the culture and tradition that was formed on this land over the ages.

Protected areas

To protect Macedonia’s bio-diverse ecosystems, the natural areas of the country are divided into two major areas of conservation:

  • Ramsar (wetlands) Sites 

  • Ohrid-Prespa Trans-boundary Biosphere Reserve – vast lake area located in both Macedonia and Albania

For many years, Macedonia has partnered with international organizations to develop programs for sustainable protection of their beloved natural sites. 

Exceptional Lake Ohrid is a protected UNESCO Heritage site, and is managed by Macedonia’s Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Environment. It’s home to an amazing amount of flora and fauna, many of which have existed there since ancient times. 

The diversity of the isolated lake ecosystem is stunning. Additionally, the town of Ohrid is also protected, as one of the earliest European human settlements, with an abundance of churches and monuments from centuries prior. 

With this double-protection, it’s important that visitors help to keep Ohrid and Lake Ohrid preserved sustainably. One of the ways you can help is by combining lake tourism with mountain tourism in the area. Tourists who spend some time in other regions during the warm weather seasons can help the take the visitor load off the lake. As it stands, Lake Ohrid is often overwhelmed by enormous numbers whenever the weather is nice.

The government of North Macedonia also works with the United Nations Sustainable Development Corporation Framework program. Working together helps create a national vision of sustainability for Macedonia that will not only preserve the area’s rich resources, but improve living standards for the local communities throughout the country.

Tour operators

Visitors to Macedonia are obviously interested in the country’s natural attractions and make plans to visit these unique areas. When organizing your tours and trips in Macedonia, you’ll find that there are not a huge amount of tour operators in the country.

What’s fascinating, though, is that Macedonian tour operators are groups of people who deeply love their country and want to introduce you to its wonders. Most of these individuals and teams don’t make a big deal about sustainability on their websites, because they live and breathe sustainability in their love for their country.

These companies bring tourists to remote areas of Macedonia in small groups, and do their part to educate their clients on how to have the least impact on the often pristine environments. They regularly organize clean-up efforts and invite volunteer visitors to participate in trash pick-up and other activities that help sustain the area.

By promoting rural tourism, Macedonian tour companies also ensure that the local populations of remote rural areas benefit from visits to their areas, through organizing homestays, farm-to-table dinners and educational workshops. 

They help support women’s craft and artisanal groups by offering tours that visit local collectives and by introducing tourists to traditionally produced wares.


The rich, fertile soil in Macedonia produces an abundance of amazingly fresh and healthful produce for national consumption, and as a guest, you get to partake! The country has a long tradition of family farms and friendly hospitality, so it may surprise you that agritourism has not overtaken Macedonia yet. 

Although that means you may have to search a bit more to find enjoyable farm and agritourism experiences (see below for our recommendations), it also means that, once you find one, it will be all the more authentic.

There are several vineyards that historically turn out exquisite wines, plus there are also a handful of new up-and-coming trendy wineries. Some of these offer wine tours and tastings, plus home-style or upscale elegant dinners. Others also have accommodations onsite for a full weekend or several-day experience.

Infrastructure in Macedonia

Macedonia has excellent building infrastructure, but some issues when it comes to city services, waste management and upkeep of its natural environmental sites.

One glaring gap is the lack of trash removal… in cities and in wide open spaces, too. The amount of roadside and rural plastic trash is surprising, but there are ways you can offset some of these issues when you travel anywhere in the country:

  • Carry a refillable water bottle to fill up with fresh spring water in mountain areas.

  • Eat in small local restaurants for traditional home-cooked food, instead of take-out fast food that requires the use of plastic utensils, styrofoam, and paper/plastic packaging.

  • Help local waste management by purchasing a reusable shopping bag and avoid taking unnecessary plastic bags at local markets.

  • Refrain from buying souvenirs that are made from archaeological remnants, non-timber forests, or endangered wildlife.


  • Berovo Adventure - Hiking and biking tour company in Berovo, Macedonia, focusing on eco-friendly trips and stays in the mountains. Enthusiastic local guides will help you plan a trek or ride in the area of Berovo Lake and its environs. (They also offer accommodation and restaurant recommendations for the area)

  • Visit Macedonia – This company offers small and solo tours to all areas of Macedonia, including wine tours, adventure tours, ancient sites tours, city tours and more.

  • Balkan Prime Tours – Sustainable tourism operator in Macedonia (provides tours in a total of ten Balkan/surrounding area countries) promoting authentic cultural experiences. They could take you to a small family-owned artisanal factory in the mountains that makes natural soap or to a hand-crafted jewelry workshop that specializes in natural Macedonian pink ruby ornaments. Just ask according to your interests!

  • Komoot Guide to Biking Trails in Maleshevo Mountains(a part of which is protected area near Macedonian/Bulgarian border).Includes fitness levels, reviews and helpful tips.

  • Sezer’s Farm, an organic farmstead near Lake Ohrid has accommodation for 4 and might take volunteers, too! Perfect if you want to spend some time in nature near the lake in a rural setting.

  • The Countryside Retreat in Opilja, Macedonia, is an “outdoor activity organizer” with countryside accommodation for a lovely family-friendly stay in nature. The property has a large swimming pool, horses for riding, farm animals, local cuisine and more.

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Maysie Dee

Author - Maysie Dee

Maysie Dee is a freelance writer, content editor, and recipe creator. She and her husband have travelled across the world for decades as natural product consultants, collecting stories along the way.

Last Updated 31 May 2024

The beautiful turquoise Kozjak Lake in Northern Macedonia

North Macedonia

Situated in the centre of the Balkans, North Macedonia is known for its stunning landscapes and diverse history.