Canyon Matka near Skopje, with people kayaking and magical foggy scenery with calm water
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When to visit North Macedonia: a seasonal guide

Maysie Dee

Contributing writer

Every season in North Macedonia presents a wide range of outdoor activities and traditional experiences that charm visitors from all corners of the earth. The largely mountainous country has breathtaking vistas to behold, and abundant lakes and rivers that compel travelers to return again and again.

Macedonia’s cities are strongholds of culture and history. The past will keep you spellbound as you wander the streets, alley ways and bazaars. You’ll be simply amazed at the sheer number of churches and monasteries that have withstood the ravages of time, and remain as a testament of religious faith that has defined the area over the ages.

Ancient bridges connect old and new, and each season invites you to enjoy Macedonia’s customs, natural wonders and friendly welcoming people.


Summer in Macedonia can get really hot, and that’s when you’ll find its 34+ lakes brimming with activity. The most popular of the lakes are Ohrid, Prespa, and the smaller Lake Dorjan.

Water sports abound, including kayaking, boat/ferry rides, swimming, fishing and more. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a ferry ride on Lake Ohrid to the beautiful cliffside St. Naum Monastery. You’ll also want to sample the unique and delicious Ohrid Koran trout for a lakeside meal in Struga or Ohrid. 

Lake Prespa straddles the borders of Macedonia, Albania and Greece, with the major portion in Macedonia. It’s a wonderland for birders, with hundreds of rare and beautiful varieties to seek out and photograph.

Lovely little Lake Dorjan is less touristic than either Ohrid or Prespa, perfect for a tranquil swim or a bit of fishing with traditional fishermen in the area.

If you decide to take a break from the soaring temps, head for the highlands and the national parks where the air is cooler.

There are dozens of gorgeous mountain hikes at varying skill levels that are great for summer trekking. Some favorites are:

  • Pelister National Park – Hike to Pelister’s Eyes, two alpine lakes; moderate hike, full day to reach the lakes and enjoy the expansive vistas.

  • Vevchani Green - Hike Through the Mystic Valleys – organized hike, 9 km moderate hike on Mt. Jablanica in southwestern Macedonia near the Albanian border, through protected areas, mountain springs, abundant wildlife, hundreds of wildflower varieties; a “Good Practice Green Destination” certified hike.

  • Matka Canyon – best hiked in August, moderate hikes (not recommended for small children, but other activities at the canyon are suitable with kids). There’s gorgeous mountain scenery, plus you can visit the local monastery, nearby caves, or take a boat ride on the river within the canyon gorge.


When autumn arrives and the stifling summer temperatures drop, the weather is just right for enjoying Skopje, the country’s quirky capital city.

Divided by an iconic Stone Bridge constructed during the Ottoman period in 1451, Skopje has two very different districts to explore. The Old Bazaar that has been in existence since Ottoman times is a labyrinth of tiny alleys lined with shops, restaurants and living quarters. Take your time to explore the craft workshops, have a Turkish tea with baklava, and enjoy the atmosphere.

Skopje’s new town, which centers around a main square, received a makeover in 2014. The ambitious project to redefine the city’s identity created quite a stir. Its aim is to remind the world of Skopje’s historical past and prominent figures (think: Alexander the Great, his father, Philip II, and Mother Teresa among others).

Numerous monuments, buildings, fountains, and sculptures were erected in the town square area, with neoclassical and baroque design styles. Some even light up at night!

The result is… overwhelming... and tourists either love it or fail to understand it… but, regardless, you definitely have to see it!

Autumn in Macedonia is also a good time to undertake hikes and tours of the countryside. Some hikes, such as this one, walking the drained floodplain of the Mavrovo Reservoir, must be done between Sept-Dec.

That’s when the reservoir’s water level is low enough for an easy hike to the abandoned church ruins in the drained floodplain. This relatively short and easy hike is great for a family-friendly outing.

Autumn also brings wine tastings and harvest festivals. Join the fun at the Young Wine Festival at Tikveš Winery in Kavadarci, in southern Macedonia. The festival usually takes place in September and is an action-filled weekend of merriment, with plenty of wine tastings, regional cuisine samplings, dancing, music and wine education.

Or, if you’re in the north of the country, take in a day wine tour at the Kartal Winery, (wine tastings and a huge meal) located right in Skopje city.


With so many mountains in Macedonia, it’s no surprise that skiing and other snow sports draw winter enthusiasts from far and near. Not only is the terrain stunning, but the prices are more than reasonable. Mid-December brings the freshest snow powder for skiing, and the season could last until April.

For dramatic slopes (with options for all skier levels), head for Popova Šapka, in the Dharic mountains. Its ski resort is one of the highest in the country, ranging from 1,672 and 2,380 metres in elevation. For those with a sense of adventure, this area has it all! (bringing your own gear is best here)

You’ll also want to check out skiing in Mavrovo National Park (free skiing, alpine long slopes, and cross-country) and snowboarding. The park, which is open year-round, becomes a perfect winter haven for those who love cold-weather sports. Skiing at Mavrovo provides challenging and exciting options for all levels, and the surroundings are spectacular, especially with the beautiful Mavrovo Lake at the center of it all.

You make a day trip of skiing the slopes of the Bistra Mountain area where all the action takes place (located under two hours outside of Skopje), or choose one of several hotels and cottages for overnight accommodation.

A third option for skiing is in Pelister National Park, near Macedonia’s southern border with Greece. Check out the quaint and historical city of Bitola, for museums, mosques, churches, coffee and people-watching, plus great food.

Then head for the mountains 30 minutes outside of town, where free skiing is popular. Ski cat companies will get you high up on Mt. Baba, the immense mountain overlooking Bitola, where you can ski to your heart’s content.

Or, check out this ski tour that hits several big ski areas, and you don’t have to think about the travel details!

If you enjoy snowshoeing your way through fairyland winter-scapes, try this one-day tour (6-hours of hiking) that takes you from the Vevchani Springs (just north of Struga on Lake Ohrid) through the silent snowy landscape. The day ends with a fortifying and delicious locally-sourced meal among villagers of Vevchani village.

For peaceful city walks and contemplation, Lake Ohrid is the place to be in winter. The summer crowds are gone and the lake and town of Ohrid take on a misty, ethereal (often snow-covered) aura in winter – perfect for cozying up with a mulled wine or a hot cocoa. Or, try wandering the alleys of Ohrid’s old town, and popping into churches, museums and historic monuments for a bit of local culture.

If you’re in Ohrid on January 19, don’t miss the Ephiphany Festival, when Orthodox Christian males renew their faith with a dip in the freezing lake, followed by a lakeside festival of food, rakija (fruit brandy) and good cheer.


Macedonia has a fairly limited spring season, when the winter fades back beginning in March, and the weather gradually warms.When the snows have melted, but the summer crowds have not yet arrived, spring is the best time to enjoy hiking, city walks, exploring ruins and visiting the many churches and monasteries in the country.

If you’re into archaeological sites, you’ll want to explore the remains of Heraklea Linkestis, located right beyond Bitola city in the south. The influential ancient Roman town founded in the 4th century BC, has only been partially unearthed. 

Take an easy walk out to the ruins and explore the remains of an amphitheatre, bathhouse, numerous mansions and dwellings, tombs, and a basilica with colorful mosaic floors.

The fresh and crisp springtime air is perfect for exploring Ohrid, and its many, many beautiful churches. Or if you start your trip in Skopje, you can enjoy touring the new city and the Old Ottoman Bazaar on the picturesque Vardar River.

The mountain hikes mentioned above as summer activities can also be trekked in springtime (for those who can’t take the summer heat).

Take advantage of the mild spring weather to visit one of Macedonia’s hot springs for a dip in medicinal waters. The most authentic one (don’t expect super-fancy) is Katlanovska Spa located just outside of Skopje (about 20 minutes), popular since Roman times.

It also serves as a medical spa for those with health issues and offers large communal pools, private-pool soaks and massage.

Another option is Debar, in western Macedonia, near the lovely Debar Lake and the Radika River. The three spa/hotel complex provides access to curative thermal mineral waters at a range of natural varied temperatures. Therapeutic treatments are on offer, such as mud therapy, light, hydro and electric therapies. Visit or stay at one of the spa centers of the Capa group and enjoy a relaxing and rejuvenating time.

Festivals in Macedonia

Every season in Macedonia has its traditional and modern festivities to enjoy. Here are some of the best that Macedonia offers:

Summer Festivals

 Galichnik Wedding Festival – 12 July. The tiny village of Galichnik in western Macedonia has a time-honored tradition of celebrating marriage. Twenty newlywed couples from around the country participate in the weekend festival. Thousands of pilgrims and visitors converge to witness the group wedding preparations, traditional costumes, music (drums and pipes), parties, and the wedding “ceremony” in the local church.

Beer Fest Prilep – July. This 4-day event sees over 300,000 visitors each year and is a fun-filled festival of beer, local Macedonian music and camaraderie that takes place in the lovely centrally-located town of Prilep.

Ohrid Summer Festival – 12 July – 20 August. This summer festival showcases musical performances and poetry readings over the summer. It’s a popular event that attracts thousands to enjoy entertainment in the acoustical wonder of the Church of St. Sofia.

Sturga Poetry Evenings – 21-28 August. Features poetry readings by Macedonian and international poets and presents awards. Activities take place at notable locations in the area, including at Sveti Naum Springs, the church of St. Sofia in Ohrid, and on the historic bridge over the River Drin in Struga.

Autumn Festivals

Skopje Jazz Festival – October. Since 1982, this popular festival has welcomed jazz performers from around the world and offers some of the best jazz music found anywhere, all in one place.

Prespa Apple Harvest Festival – Resen Municipality, September. Celebrating the apple harvest, this local festival includes exhibition stands, apple and apple juice sampling, folk dance, music, and fun.

Skopje Wine Expo – September. Takes place in Mother Teresa Square in Skopje, with samplings of Macedonian wines from local wineries, local food and music.

Winter Festivals

The Vevcani Carnival – Vevcani, January 14. A masked theatrical carnival that began in the 14th century, commemorating Orthodox St. Basil’s day.The entire town center of Vencani, in southern Macedonia, becomes an open-air theatre, with a large parade and street performances. Political satire and social commentary are presented with dramatic effect.

Ohrid Winter Fest – Ohrid, February. This weekend festival celebrates culture and tradition from around the world, with folk dance, choir performances, modern dance, and orchestral performances. A time to make new friends and have fun celebrating with music and dance. 

Springtime Festivals

Springtime in Macedonia is widely appreciated for its Orthodox Easter celebrations. Although there is not an organized “festival” per se, there are many festive local traditions and church services to enjoy.

If your trip to Macedonia falls during the Orthodox Easter time frame (Easter occurs on a different date in March-May each year, according to the Julian calendar) try to stay at a family guesthouse in a smaller town or village. There, you’ll surely be invited to participate in the fascinating local practices, meals, games, and festivities.

May Opera Evenings – Skopje, month of May. For opera enthusiasts, this international opera festival features popular and classical operas and ballet performances, with a new rotating schedule each year in May.

Ohrid Spring Festival – last week of May. Springtime is celebrated with international traditional song and dance, including chorale groups, folk dance performances, parades, great food, drink 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 17 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.