North Macedonia

13 Perfect Day Trips from Skopje, North Macedonia

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Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, is one of the quirkiest and most intriguing cities in Europe. You will find there a peculiar mix of architecture, from brutalist to ancient-looking modern buildings, a wonderful bazaar, and countless statues dotted all over the place. But there are so many more amazing things to do in Skopje, and you should definitely give the city a chance.

day trips from skopje

And while you are there, you can use the place as a base for some great day trips from Skopje. You can explore some of the best places to visit in North Macedonia as well as nearby countries on Skopje day trips.

And let me tell you, you are in for a treat as this is one of the most underrated parts of the Balkans, hiding some real gems, with beautiful scenery and significant historical value.

day trips from skopje

The easiest way to go to all the great places you can visit as day trips from Skopje is by car, to have complete freedom and flexibility to plan your itinerary. If you decide to go by car to places outside of North Macedonia, make sure you have all the necessary documents with you. You can rent a car for your day trips from Skopje here.

Many places are also reachable by public transport (buses), but sometimes tours are much more reasonable due to the unfavorable schedules. You can check the bus schedule and prices here, although the website is only in the Macedonian language, so you need to know the Cyrillic alphabet to figure it out.

day trips from skopje

Day trips from Skopje

Without further ado, here are the best day trips from Skopje to include in your North Macedonia itinerary.

Matka Canyon

Matka Canyon is one of the easiest and most popular day trips from Skopje. The beautiful place is located only a short ride away from the capital of North Macedonia and is easily accessible by bus or with a tour.

Even if Matka Canyon was not made by nature, its beauty still takes a breath away. In 1938, the dam was built on river Treska, creating an artificial lake surrounded by high mountains, the oldest lake of that kind in North Macedonia.

The Matka Canyon covers an area of around 5,000 hectares, where you can find numerous unique species, including endemic plants and 77 kinds of butterflies. There are also ten caves in the area, with Vrelo Cave being the most popular one; it was included on the list of the top 77 natural sites of the world in the New 7 Wonders of the World project.

Besides admiring the beauty of the place and enjoying the stunning surroundings, there are some cool activities you can do in Matka Canyon, such as hiking, fishing, or kayaking. In the area, you can also find some old monasteries.

If you want to relax, there is a restaurant where you can get something to eat or drink with a fantastic view. To get here from Skopje, you can take the bus no 60 from the central bus station. There are also numerous tours that go to Matka Canyon; here are the recommended ones:


Read more about Matka Canyon in my article: Matka Canyon – a perfect nature getaway outside Skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Tetovo

One of the most underrated places to visit in North Macedonia, located only 45 km away from the capital and perfect for a day trip from Skopje, is Tetovo. Even if at first it seems like yet another random city, this is where you will find one of the most impressive landmarks in North Macedonia – the Painted Mosque.

Originally from 1438 and rebuilt in 1833, the mosque is rather small but already impresses with the decorations outside. But once you step inside, your jaw will surely drop at the beauty of the interior, with unique paintings covering the place (the dominant motifs here are floral and bright). This is also the only mosque in southeast Europe with the illustration of Mecca – the holy place of the Islamic world.

The Painted Mosque isn’t the only reason to visit Tetovo as the city has more interesting places to see, such as the 16th-century Turkish hammam turned into a gallery, or Arabati Baba Tekḱe – a spiritual complex popular in Sufism religion, founded in the 16th century.

Those who appreciate brutalist architecture (that Skopje is known for) will also find some interesting buildings in this style in Tetovo. From the city, you can also admire some beautiful views of the surrounding Sar Mountains.

There are frequent buses connecting Skopje with Tetovo, departing from the central bus station. The journey time is around one hour. You can also join the tour to visit Tetovo together with Matka Canyon – click here for details.


Read more about Tetovo in my article: Tetovo, North Macedonia – Stunning Painted Mosque and More

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Mavrovo National Park

The largest national park in North Macedonia – Mavrovo National Park – is another one of the popular day trips from Skopje. It is located in the western part of the country, near the border with Albania, and offers beautiful landscapes with lakes, rivers, and caves. This is also where you will find the highest peak of North Macedonia – Mount Korab (2,764 m).

Most tourists who come here for a day from Skopje want to visit the submerged Church of Saint Nicholas from the mid-19th century. Depending on the season and the water level in Lake Mavrovo, the building is either underwater or the area dries up, and you can even visit the church inside (that happens mainly in the summertime).

The submerged Church of Saint Nicholas isn’t the only interesting landmark in the area. You can also visit Saint Jovan Bigorski Monastery, originally from the early 11th century, with the impressive wood-carved iconostasis, or the village of Galičnik, known for its historic architecture (it has the biggest number of buildings under protection in the whole country!)

The best way to visit Mavrovo National Park on a day trip from Skopje is with a tour. Here are the recommended ones:

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Ohrid

Lake Ohrid is one of the most popular and beautiful places to visit in North Macedonia (or even the Balkans). While I would recommend staying a few days in the area to fully enjoy the lake and its surroundings, if you don’t have much time in your Macedonia itinerary, you can visit the place as one of the day trips from Skopje (and return there later for proper holidays, once you get a taste of this remarkable place).

The main town at the lake is Ohrid, where you will find most of the attractions and monuments. There is a charming Old Town with numerous churches (it is said that in the past, there were 365 churches in town), a 10th-century fortress, and an ancient amphitheater. In Ohrid, you will also find the most iconic view in North Macedonia – the 14th-century church dedicated to Saint John at Kaneo, built on a high cliff above the lake.

Once you are done with sightseeing, you can relax in one of the many cafes and restaurants at the lakeside or go for a boat ride on Lake Ohrid to see the place from another perspective. You can also shop for famous Ohrid pearls, a unique souvenir typical for this region.

The city of Ohrid and the lake were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List and are among the few places on both the Cultural and Natural list. To get here from Skopje, take the tour as buses take too long, and the bus station in Ohrid is located a bit away from the Old Town. Here are the recommended tours:


Read more about Ohrid in my article: 17 Best Things to Do in Ohrid, North Macedonia

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Prilep

Prilep is not a popular option for day trips from Skopje, but the city actually offers many monuments from the ancient, Byzantine, Ottoman, neoclassical, communist, and modern times.

You can visit the old bazaar, which is much smaller than the one in Skopje but still pleasant and vibrant. Next to it, you will find the ruins of the Čarši Mosque from 1475 (the oldest mosque in Europe with a double balcony on its minaret). Sadly, it was set on fire during the 2001 protests, but it’s still easy to imagine what a magnificent place this was during its glory days.

Fans of Yugoslav monuments – spomeniks – can see one in Prilep, too – Mound of the Unbeaten – commemorating the Prilep area’s fallen in the Struggle for the Liberation of Macedonia.

The city has a beautiful location, surrounded by mountains and rocky hills. On the edge of the city, you can find remnants of the medieval fortress from times when Prilep was the capital of the medieval kingdom of Kings Vukašin and Marko. It’s worth stopping here both for the historical value of the place and for stunning views of the city and its surroundings.


Read more about Prilep in my article: Visit Prilep – the Underrated City in North Macedonia

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Veles

Veles is another place that is not often considered for a Skopje day trip, but since it’s only 55 km away from the capital, it’s worth visiting.

The main reason to visit Veles is another Yugoslav spomenik – the Kosturnica Memorial. It was built in the late 1970s to commemorate Partisan soldiers from Veles and surrounding areas who were fighting against the fascist German and Bulgarian forces during the National Liberation War from 1941 to 1945. Its unique shape is supposed to look like the open poppy-seed flower, the symbol of life and rebirth. Inside the memorial, you can visit the museum with the largest mosaic in North Macedonia.

Besides the Kosturnica Memorial, Veles has a few other interesting places, such as the historical clock tower from the 18th century and the Church of Saint Pantaleon from the 19th century.

You can easily visit Veles by bus from Skopje; there are frequent connections between the cities with a travel time of around one hour.


Read more about Veles in my article: Veles, North Macedonia – an underrated city in the Balkans

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Kratovo

Kratovo might seem like a sleepy little town, but the place has a long and interesting history dating back to Roman times. For centuries, it has been an important mining center in the region.

The town is picturesquely located in a basin surrounded by green hills at the edge of Osogovo mountains, and its townscape is a mix of red rooftops and medieval stone towers. In the past, there were seventeen stone towers from the 12th to 14th century (the highest number of medieval towers in Macedonia), but only six remain to this day.

Another testimony of the town’s long history is five medieval stone bridges connecting two sides of the small rivers and creeks. Kratovo is one of the most underrated places to visit in North Macedonia and an interesting day trip from Skopje.

On the way here, you can also stop at Stone Dolls of Kuklica, often called “the Macedonian Cappadocia,” with over a hundred stone pillars, and in Kokino megalithic observatory that is believed to be almost four thousand years old.

You can visit Kratovo and nearby sites with a tour, here are the recommended options:


Read more about Kratovo in my article: Kratovo, North Macedonia – the Town of Stone Bridges and Towers

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Bitola

Even if Bitola is located some 170 km south of the capital, it is possible to visit the city as one of Skopje day trips. And what a fascinating city this is! Bitola, known also as the “City of Consuls,” is the second-largest city in North Macedonia.

In the 19th century, this is where many consuls had their seats, and still today, Bitola has a different, more laid-back, and European vibe than other places in Macedonia. The center is lined with beautiful 19th-century buildings, and the pedestrian central street – Shirok Sokak – is packed with cafes inviting visitors to sit down and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the city.

But Bitola has some older monuments and landmarks, too, mainly mosques and the bazaar area. On the outskirts of the city, you can’t miss Heraclea Lyncestis – the ruins of the ancient town founded in the 4th century BC.

While there are buses from Skopje to Bitola, they take too long to visit the city on a day trip, so it’s better to either drive here or join the tour. Here are the recommended ones:

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Krusevo

Krusevo is kind of a hidden gem of North Macedonia. With an elevation of 1,350 m, this is the highest-located town in the country that, in 1903, was the center of the Ilinden Uprising against the Ottoman Empire. Today, this is a much more peaceful place, but the picturesque location and some interesting monuments make Krusevo worth visiting.

The highlight of the town is yet another spomenik – Makedonium – probably the most famous structure of that kind in North Macedonia. It was opened in 1974 on the 30th anniversary of the Second Session of the Anti-fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia and the 71st anniversary of the Ilinden Uprising.

It has a quirky, distinctive design that looks like from outer space (or like a dog’s toy). If you are lucky, the Makedonium might be open. Be sure to visit it inside to see beautiful stained glass windows and basreliefs.

When wandering around Krusevo, you might also notice numerous signs commemorating Tose Proeski, the most famous Macedonian singer who died in a car accident in 2007 at the age of 26. He came from Krusevo, and this is where you can visit his memorial home and his grave in Krusevo, both located not far from Makedonium.

Due to its location, a bit isolated because of the high altitude, Krusevo managed to preserve its traditional look, both in layout and architecture. When wandering around, you will find numerous old, beautiful houses typical for the region.

You can combine visiting Krusevo with nearby Prilep or Bitola for a more efficient day trip from Skopje. There is also a tour covering Bitola and Krusevo in one day – click here for details.


Read more about Krusevo in my article: Visit Krusevo – the Picturesque Town in North Macedonia

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Pristina, Kosovo

The capital of Kosovo is an easy day trip from Skopje. If you want to get a glimpse of the newest country in Europe, you can easily take the bus from the capital of North Macedonia and two hours later enjoy all that Pristina has to offer.

This is probably one of the least beautiful capitals in Europe. Yet, once you dig a bit deeper, it is a very interesting place to visit. The city is vibrant, cool, and kind of cosmopolitan despite its provincial character.

There are not many monuments, but right in the center, you will find one of the greatest masterpieces of brutalist architecture – the National Library of Kosovo, with its funky shape and design. You can’t miss it!

Other attractions of Pristina that are worth checking are the Cathedral of Saint Mother Theresa (take the elevator to the tower for the best view of the city), the Newborn monument that commemorated the independence of Kosovo and changes its look every year on February 17th, and the pedestrian Mother Theresa Boulevard – the real heart of the city. Pristina is also known for its cool and funky cafes with delicious yet affordable coffee, so don’t miss those, too.

The bus station in Pristina is a 15-minute walk from the center of the city. There are frequent minibusses between Skopje and the capital of Kosovo. Usually, you can get the ticket shortly before the departure, but if you want to be on the safe side, you can get the ticket in advance. You can also join the tour, here are the recommended ones:


Read more about Pristina in my article: Reasons to visit Pristina, Kosovo

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Prizren, Kosovo

The second-largest city in the country – Prizren – is also the most beautiful place to visit in Kosovo. You probably have seen it in pictures promoting the country, as the view of the old stone bridge, the mosque, and the lush mountains in the background is very picturesque. In reality, the place is even more beautiful!

While the Old Town of Prizren is vibrant, with numerous cafes and restaurants and cobbled streets filled with tables waiting for customers, the real highlight of the city is Kaljaja – the fortress towering above the town. It’s an easy hike up there from the Old Town, and the views from the top are gratifying, with the city and magnificent Sharr Mountains right in front of you.

Prizren is also home to many monasteries and mosques, some of them dating back to the 14th century. The city is known as the cultural capital of the country, and this is where you will find the best-preserved Old Town in the whole of Kosovo.

While there are buses connecting Skopje with Prizren, their timetable doesn’t work for a day trip, so your best option is to join the tour. Here are the recommended ones:

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Nis, Serbia

Nis might not be the most popular place to visit in Serbia, but the city offers plenty of attractions, enough to spend an interesting day there.

Nis is actually one of the oldest places in the area, the birthplace of Constantine the Great, which already indicates its importance. Over the centuries, Nis often played a significant role in the history of the region, and today, you can find numerous remnants of those times scattered all over the city.

Some of the best Nis attractions you can see during your visit there are the city center with the fortress from the 18th century (one of the most popular recreational areas in the city, still full of historical remnants from the old time), Crveni Krst Concentration Camp (the first Nazi concentration camp in Yugoslavia), and the morbid Skull Tower – the stone tower embedded with human skulls constructed in the early 19th century, after the Battle of Čegar.

Altogether, Nis is a really nice place to explore, one of the most underrated places to visit in Serbia. The best way to visit Nis is by car or with a tour – click here for details.


Read more about Nis in my article: 5 Best Things to Do in Nis, Serbia in One Day

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Sofia, Bulgaria

With a distance of around 250 km, Sofia is not among the popular day trips from Skopje. Still, you can visit the capital of Bulgaria during your trip to North Macedonia, although prepare for a long day. But Sofia is worth it, as it’s one of the coolest cities to visit in this part of Europe, although tourists often overlook it.

Sofia is among the oldest cities in Europe, founded some 2500 years ago. Even if it doesn’t seem at first, you can find some ancient remnants right in the city center. However, most of the city’s highlights are much newer, from the 19th century onwards.

Some of the Sofia highlights you can’t miss include the beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Vitosha Boulevard – the main pedestrian area in the center- and the grand government buildings and historic landmarks hidden among them. But my personal favorite thing about Sofia is its vibrant atmosphere and all the little quirks you can find all over the city.

Even if all the great things to do in Sofia can keep you busy for at least a few days, you can still see a lot during your day trip from Skopje. And who knows, this visit might be the introduction to Bulgaria you might need to explore more of the country in future.

The best way to visit Sofia from Skopje is by car or with a tour like this one.


Read more about Sofia in the article: 19 Amazing Things to Do in Sofia, Bulgaria

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

day trips from skopje

Final thoughts on day trips from Skopje

As you can see above, there are some great places not too far from Skopje, not only within North Macedonia but also in neighboring countries. You can plan your trip to North Macedonia with a base in the capital and still see the country’s highlights and beyond.

With so many diverse options for Skopje day trips, you will surely find places that will be interesting for you to visit. But no matter what you choose, you are in for a treat as this is a wonderful and fascinating part of Europe that is still a bit off the path and not spoiled by mass tourism.

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day trips from skopje


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