With a rich heritage intertwined with ancient Greece, Rome and Ottoman, North Macedonia has plenty to offer.

In February 2019, the Republic of Macedonia changed its name to the Republic of North Macedonia, following an intense 27-year dispute with Greece over its chosen name following its independence from Yugoslavia. The name change might be an important diplomatic step, but it is indifferent to tourists who are after North Macedonia’s rich culture, dramatic scenery and warm hospitality, the constant factors that attract, delight, and enthral visitors.

Skopje, North Macedonia’s capital, features a cityscape of mosque minarets, Orthodox domes, and the unmissable 6th-century Skopje Fortress, known locally as Kale, the Turkish word for fortress.

Around the corner from the fortress is the Old Bazaar. Said to be the largest in the Balkans, the bazaar and its many shops sell everything from sandals to spices. A few minutes south of the market is the 15th-century Stone Bridge, a symbol of Skopje that connects the old and new parts of Skopje.

For rail enthusiasts, the train rides from Skopje to Gostivar and Skopje to Bitola (the second largest city in North Macedonia) are the highlights, so join our guided rail tour of the Balkans to experience this beautiful part of Europe.

Rail & Cultural Journeys In Macedonia

North Macedonia at a glance

Capital: Skopje
Language:  Macedonian, although Albanian, Aromanian, Bosnian, Romani, Serbian and Turkish are also spoken by different groups.
Money: Macedonian denar
Travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/north-macedonia

Tipping isn’t necessary, but most visitors tend to leave the change or give a small tip.

  • New Year’s Day (January 1)
  • Orthodox Christmas Day (January 7),
  • Orthodox Good Friday (date varies)
  • Orthodox Easter Monday (data varies
  • Labour Day (May 1)
  • Eid al-Fitr (date varies)
  • Saints Cyril and Methodius Day (May 24)
  • Republic Day (August 02)
  • Independence Day (September 08)
  • Day of the Macedonian Uprising (October 11)
  • Day of the Macedonian Revolution (October 23)
  • St Clement of Ohrid (December 08)

  • Zdravo (Hello)
  • Kako si (How are you?)
  • Blagodaram (Thank you)
  • Da (Yes)
  • Izvinete (Sorry)
  • Cao (Bye)

Exploring North Macedonia

north macedionian food shutterstock 791974240

A landlocked country, North Macedonia is bordered by Serbia and Kosovo in the north, Bulgaria in the east, Albania in the west and Greece in the south.

The western part of North Macedonia has mountain ranges that rise and fall dramatically, with Šar and Korab being the most notable massifs. Korab, measuring 2,764m, is also the country’s highest peak.

While North Macedonia doesn’t have a navigable route to the sea, it does have a few large lakes; among them Lake Ohrid is the deepest (286m) and probably the most well-known. According to UNESCO, the lake ‘provides a refuge for numerous endemic species of freshwater fauna and flora dating from the Tertiary period’. Scientists believe that the lake has been around continuously for two to three million years; hence it has created a distinctive aquatic ecosystem, boasting over 200 species of plants and animals unique to the lake. If you’re visiting Ohrid, keep a lookout for two endemic species of trout, which the locals like to grill or make a stew of.

North Macedonian cuisine is a fusion of Mediterranean, Balkan and Turkish, with meat (pork and beef) and freshwater fish being the popular main courses. During the summer months, fresh vegetables like pepper and zucchini are abundant and tasty – allowing the locals to pickle and enjoy them during the winter months.

Cheese also plays a vital part in their culinary culture, particularly Bieno and Berovo. The former is from the mountainous region of Mariovo, close to the Greek borders, where farmers have been making indigenous dairy products dating back to the Ottoman Empire.

Given a blend of Continental-Mediterranean climate with long and hot summers in central North Macedonia, it is not surprising that vineyards have flourished here since the Roman times. Popular red wine grape varieties include Vranec, Merlot, Kratošija, and Cabernet Sauvignon, while Chardonnay, Belan, Muscat, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are cultivated for white wines. Among the vineyards here, Tikveš Winery is said to be the largest in the Balkans and is famed for its robust wines.

When you’re there, keep a lookout for Stanušina, a native variety grown only in selected vineyards.

North Macedonia has a mix of two climates, continental and Mediterranean, with a relatively dry climate continental in the north and a warm Mediterranean climate in the south. In the mountainous regions in the northeast, east, and the whole western front, you can expect much cooler temperatures as you gain elevation.

Skopje, North Macedonia’s capital, is surrounded by mountains; hence it tends to be relatively rainy, amounting to 500mm per year on average (in comparison, London gets about 615mm a year). Summers in Skopje are hot with a mean of 24°C in July and August, while winters are cold, with temperatures averaging at 0°C in January.

The best period to visit North Macedonia is between June and September as the weather is warm and sunny. Having said that, for those who don’t like intense heat, it is best to avoid Demir Kapija and Gevgelija, two towns close to the Greek borders in the south as they tend to record record-high temperatures in July and August.

Light clothes for the day but add a warm layer when visiting from June to September. If visiting outside these months, a thick jacket and waterproof will be needed.

The first railway in North Macedonia was opened in 1872/1873 between Skopje and Thessaloniki in Greece, back when both areas (along with a large portion of the southern Balkans) were under the Ottoman Empire. Today, Skopje remains the central transport hub, with trains connecting the capital city with various towns and cities across the nation, including Veles in the centre, Kocani in the east, Gevgelija in the south, and Bitola in the southwest. In addition, there are also frequent train services from Skopje to Belgrade (capital of Serbia) and Pristina (capital of Kosovo). ŽRSM Transport is the primary operator.

At PTG Tours, our escorted rail tours to the Balkans tend to include a train ride from Skopje to Bitola, the second largest city of North Macedonia. Among the must-see sights in Bitola is Širok Sokak, a long pedestrian street lined with neo-classical buildings.

Another train itinerary that we like to include is from Skopje to Gostivar – this was once a narrow 600mm gauge that ran from Skopje to Ohrid, but the section from Skopje to Gostivar was converted to standard gauge in the 1950s, while the line from Gostivar to Ohrid was closed in 1966.

Call us on +44 (0)1235 611558 to find out more.

  • To the Lake: A Balkan Journey of War and Peace by Kapka Kassabova
  • Little Global Cities: Skopje, Macedonia by Maria Barbetta

Why choose PTG Tour’s escorted rail tours through North Macedonia

  • Established in 1998, PTG has evolved into a leading tour agency offering rail-based holidays with a focus on culture and heritage.
  • You can choose from a diverse product range, based on your preference and budget.
  • Your escorted rail tour comes with a professional tour leader who will take great care of you, plus local guides when applicable.
  • All hotels and restaurants included in your package are vetted and approved by the local teams.
  • You can travel in confidence as all of our tours are ATOL and ABTA protected.