Surrounded by Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria and Greece, the Republic of Macedonia is located in Southeast Europe. The country boasts primeval mountains, unspoiled rivers and lakes, as well as ruins of ancient structures, which all offer laid back holidays and exploration of original culture.
Macedonia is a Slavic country with a predominately Orthodox population, as well as a large minority of Muslim Albanians. For centuries, Macedonia has been a significant trade route of the Middle East to Europe. Due to its location at the crossroads of the East and the West, Macedonia has evolved into a mixture of various cultures, including Slavic, Greek, Turkish and Albanian heritage.
The Macedonian capital Skopje was almost utterly destroyed by an earthquake in 1963, which razed some 70 percent of its buildings to the ground. Some of the most impressive edifices have been or are being reconstructed, including the 6th-century Kale Fortress and the historic cathedral. Another historic landmark of the city includes Stone Bridge, which provides the main connection between the town square and main bazaar. The bazaar itself is a popular tourist spot, with small streets lined with shops, kiosks and stalls offering a variety of goods. Ottoman culture is also seen in the city’s Turkish baths Daut Pasha Hamam and Double Hamam, as well as the Mustafa Pasha Mosque. The Museum of Macedonia houses rich collections of icons from historical excavations and ethnologic exhibits. Skopje is divided into many municipalities, which reflect the multi-ethnic nature of the city’s population, including a minority district of gypsies, whose language bears an official status in Macedonia.
The towns of Macedonia are popular tourist destinations, including Bitola, the second largest city in Macedonia, which showcases such unique examples of Ottoman architecture as the Adjar Kadi Mosque. Strumica is an ancient town initially known as Astrayon, a Greek settlement of the 2nd-century BC. Prilep is known as ‘the city under Marko’s Towers’, for its location near the towers of King Marko, and features the Institute of Old Slavic Culture, as well as the 12th- and 14th-century monasteries of Zrze and of the Holy Archangel Michael.
However, the genuine pearl of Macedonia is the city of Ohrid, on the eastern shore of Lake Ohrid, surrounded by mountains. In the early Middle Ages, Ohrid was a significant religious and educational centre, as well as the capital of the Bulgarian Empire, with its own bishopric and school established by the two brothers and Christian missionaries St Cyril and Methodius. The impressive monastery which overlooks Lake Ohrid is a popular attraction, as well as many churches and the fortress of Tsar Samuel, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Other than Ohrid, the landlocked country also offers such resorts as those at Struga, a town alsolocated on the bank of Lake Ohrid; Dojran, a city on the western shore of Dojran Lake; and the two Prespa Lakes, with islands. Macedonia also boasts the picturesque Dinarska and Rhodope Mountains, the latter known for its Alpine character, with sharp 2,700-metre rocky peaks.