Officially the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), definitely not to be confused with the northern region of Greece also known as Macedonia, this country is certainly in the news a lot at the moment thanks to the refugee crisis hitting Europe.
Many Brits have yet to venture into Eastern Europe, particularly choosing not to visit Albania, Kosovo or Macedonia as these countries are often referred to as the final frontiers of tourism in Europe. However, the Balkan tourism industry is booming with Croatia, Bulgaria and Serbia all reporting incredible rises in visitors, I wonder when will it be Macedonia’s turn?
Exactly where is Macedonia?
FYROM is a landlocked country situated north of Greece, the Republic of Macedonia shares a large part of its population with ethnic Albanians who are also their closest neighbour.
Why don’t more tourists visit?
There’s absolutely huge potential for Macedonia, they could easily rival countries including Switzerland and Germany when it comes to outdoor activities and spectacular scenery. Sadly for them the only problem is funding the projects, being one of the poorest countries in Europe means the infrastructure just isn’t there and is unlikely to be built on a large-scale anytime soon.
Macedonia features within the Top 10 least-visited countries in Europe, find out why.
I guess the general consensus is that it’s still quite “rough around the edges”, however for the adventurous traveller there are so many fantastic places to discover that haven’t yet been touched by the mass tourism curse of the likes of Croatia or Montenegro.
Seven fun facts you might not know about Macedonia
- They produce some of the best quality wine in Europe, however sadly very little is sold outside of the country (I made sure I brought a few bottles back)
- Mother Teresa was born in the Macedonian capital Skopje
- Of all the Yugoslav territories, Macedonia was the only one to gain independence peacefully
- Macedonia is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe (34 at last count)
- The Kingdom of Macedonia was once the most powerful state in the world whilst being ruled by Alexander the Great
- Macedonia was the first country in the world to have full access to wireless broadband (very random!)
- Residents often choose to park their cars on the pavements rather than on the actual road
The capital of the Republic of Macedonia is currently undergoing a facelift, the project dubbed “Skopje 2014” already provides confirmation that they are well-behind schedule as the city is still undergoing an extreme makeover. By trying to compete with some of their neighbouring capital cities, Skopje is potentially losing its rich history.
As one of the cheapest cities to stay at in Europe, Skopje is well-worth visiting for a city break or long weekend, however you won’t discover the real charm of Macedonia until you visit the countryside.
Ohrid is definitely not ‘orrid! Sorry I couldn’t resist adding that, you also pronounce it like oh-kreed.
For a landlocked country Lake Ohrid is simply the jewel in its tourism crown with its full potential thankfully not yet recognised. This will definitely not last long, with new direct flight routes opening up during the summer months this small town will definitely become a Balkan hotspot in the years to come.
I really enjoyed my time in Ohrid, it was clean, friendly and welcoming to tourists. As I don’t drive, thankfully I was able to book on several tour excursions using Ohrid Holidays, many of its customers are Dutch whilst British tourists are currently few and far between.
Other places to see
Sadly as I only had a very short amount of time to visit the country there’s quite a lot I missed, although this gives me a good excuse to go back. Other recommended places to see include Bitola, Mavrovo and Pelister National Parks.
How to visit FYROM from the UK
Direct flights with Wizz Air from the UK leave London Luton airport five times a week to Skopje, currently on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sundays.
Seasonal summer flights were started from London Luton airport direct to Ohrid with Wizz Air, these flights only started in June 2015 and ran for four months.
You may find alternative flying routes via Sofia (Bulgaria), Thessaloniki (Greece), Tirana (Albania) or Pristina (Kosovo) might have more options to fly into. You’ll then need to take a bus which will take you straight to the capital for as little as €10.
Visit Macedonia for yourself
I highly recommend a visit, to book your stay go to Booking.com and search for Macedonia properties.
If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.