Welcoming you at the Skopje airport. Transfer to your hotel and free time. In the relaxed afternoon, our local guide will give you brief explanation of the tour and take you on a walking tour starting from the centuries old Kale – Skopje fortress. We will continue to the Old Turkish Bazaar, mingling with the locals, meeting different cultures and religions, old forgotten crafts. The second part of the afternoon we will visit museums: the Museum of Macedonian struggle, the Archaeological museum of Macedonia with one of the biggest ancient coins collection in the world exclusively from the Macedonian territory. We walk across the Stone Bridge, the landmark of the city, and stop in front of the monument and fountain of Alexander the Great. The next stop will be the Memorial House of Mother Teresa. She was born in Skopje in 1910. Welcoming dinner in a national restaurant.
Day 2 Skopje – Skupi – Aqueduct – Matka – Skopje (39 km) (B, L, D)
After breakfast, we depart to the archaeological site of Skupi, where we will start our day tour. Skupi is one of the largest Roman towns dating from the Late Antiquity. The site contains structures which date from the first to the sixth century, as well as remains of an early Christian church and tombs around it. It is estimated that the territory of Skopje has been inhabited for at least 4000 years with evidence of Neolithic settlements found in the Kale Fortress in the city center. During the era of Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander, Skopje became more important during their expansion of ancient Macedonia. In the first century under Roman rule, it became a legionary camp. After the ninth century, Skopje became a significant Byzantine seat for the Orthodox Church in Macedonia. In 1392, it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks for the next 5 centuries. Next to the center of Skupi, we will visit an ancient well-preserved aqueduct. In the afternoon, we depart to Matka Canyon, a protected nature reserve and home to several medieval monasteries, caves and rich flora and fauna. We will visit the church St. Andrea built in 1389. The frescoes are very realistic and not typical of other frescoes of the same period. We will take a boat trip to visit Vrelo Cave. In the late afternoon, we will enjoy the lunch and the picturesque lake from the restaurant terrace. Back to Skopje, dinner in a national restaurant.
Day 3 Skopje – Staro Nagorichane – Kokino – Skopje (140 km) (B, L)
Breakfast at the hotel. In the morning, we depart to Kumanovo region, to explore the northeast part of the country where various ancient archaeological sites are located. We will visit the cave dwelling of the ascetic St. Joakim, who lived in the 12th century near the village of Staro Nagoricane. Continue to the megalithic observatory of Kokino. The ancient observatory discovered in 2001 was determined to be around 3,800 years old. The oldest archaeological finds from the site date back to the Early Bronze Age. Volcanic activity from the lava at the crater peak created rocks that became major markers for the purpose of following the cycles of the Sun and the Moon and measuring time. It is believed to be the oldest ancient observatory in Europe. It is ranked fourth on the list of old observatories by NASA. We will have lunch in a traditional village restaurant with local dishes. Transfer back to the hotel in Skopje and free evening.
Day 4 Skopje – Tetovo – Mavrovo – Ohrid (204 km) (B, L)
After the breakfast, we check out from the hotel and depart to Tetovo. The town lies at the intersection of several trade routes. Archaeologists have found evidence of human settlement dating back more than six thousand years. In Tetovo there is an old fortress dating back to 1820 and many beautiful churches and mosques. We will visit the Aladza Painted Mosque with its beautifully-decorated exterior located in the old part of Tetovo. The mosque was built in 1495 and is example of early Constantinople style, adorned with a unique elaborate painted facade and interior, making it unique in Macedonia and wider. We continue our drive to the National Park of Mavrovo. On the way to Ohrid we will visit the Monastery of St. John the Baptist – Bigorski, founded in 1020. Inside the church we will see the Miraculous Icon of St. John the Baptist, more than 12 centuries old. The main attraction is the wood-carved iconostasis from 19th century depicting biblical scenes. The monastery is rich in icons painted from the 16th to 20th centuries and is a synthesis of Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque influences. Before we arrive in Ohrid, we make another stop for lunch in a typical Macedonian village of this region – Vevchani. Arrival in Ohrid. Free evening and overnight.
Day 5 Ohrid – Bay of bones – St. Naum – Ohrid (60 km) (B, L, D)
Breakfast at the hotel. Ohrid itself as a jewel of Macedonia, the center of Christianity in Macedonia, in its narrow alleys lies history dating back over 3.000 years. Both the city and the lake are inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage list. In the morning, we walk through the streets of Ohrid to reach the highest point – Samuel’s Fortress, with wonderful landscapes of this area. We will visit the cathedral Church of St. Sofia, the Ancient theatre and from the medieval church St. John the Evangelist, we get back to the center by small boats. In the noon, we drive by bus or sail by boat to the reconstruction of a prehistoric settlement from the Bronze age, called The Bay of bones or Museum on water. Later, we drive to St. Naum monastery and the Lake Springs. In the monastery from the 9th century, we can see the tomb of St. Naum – student of Cyril and Methodius. According to the legends, we can still listen to his heartbeat. Today we have a chance to sail by small boats through the springs of the lake. On the way back, we stop in the picturesque village of Trpejca located in the heart of a national park. Here on the lunch menu we have the famous grilled Ohrid trout. Nice opportunity to mingle with the locals. Back to Ohrid and farewell dinner including Macedonian folklore dancing group. Overnight in Ohrid.
Day 6 Ohrid – Galicica National Park – Kurbinovo and Brajcino – Bitola (128 km) (B, L, D)
After the breakfast, we depart to National park Galichica situated on mountain Galichica. The mountain separates the two lakes of Ohrid and Prespa. We will stop on several view points to relax, enjoy and admire the natural beauty of the natural park, with magnificent panoramic views of both lakes. The park has become a protected breeding ground for many species of birds. We continue to Prespa region, well-known in Macedonia and wider for its apple fields. In the village of Kurbinovo in the northeast part of Prespa Lake we will visit the small church of St. George with the frescoes masterpiece of the Annunciation from the Byzantine era, painted in 1191. In the village of Brajchino, an example of the typical rural architecture of the region, we will take a walk around the village meeting the locals and enjoy a meal in a village-house with real home-made specialties. After lunch, a short nature walk to the Monastery of St. Petka. In the evening, we are in Bitola. Dinner in a national restaurant in the city center. Overnight.
Day 7 Bitola city tour (30 km) (B, L)
Today, the first thing to see is the ancient archaeological site of Heraclea Lyncestis, 2.5 km south of the modern town of Bitola. Heraclea was a strategically important town during the Hellenistic period, and it was founded by King Philip of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great) in the middle of the fourth century B.C. after he had conquered the surrounding region of Lynkestis. In the middle of the second century B.C. the Romans conquered the city. Heraclea retained its importance due to its location on the Via Egnitia, the route that connected two of the most important centers in the world – Rome and Constantinople. The Roman Emperor Hadrian built the impressive ancient theatre which was both a stage for theater and an arena for performing animals. In later centuries the city was important as a Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman center. Bitola is the second largest city in Macedonia. We stroll downtown because Bitola is noted for its unique centuries old preserved architecture with beautiful balconies and the usage of rich ornaments. Until 1912 many European consulates were located in Bitola, and it was once called the City of Consuls. Visit the museum in the Old Barracks Military Academy with the Memorial room dedicated to Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, who studied in Bitola as a young man. Continue on foot in the old town center with the Clock Tower from the 17th century and the Church of St. Dimitri built in 1830 with a lavishly decorated interior. Lunch in a typical restaurant with local specialties. In the afternoon, we drive in the nearby mountain. Walk along the History Trail in the National Park Pelister. Back to the city and free evening.
Day 8 Bitola – Prilep – Styberra – Stobi – Kavadarci – Demir Kapija (134 km) (B, L)
After breakfast, we depart to Prilep, the center of the tobacco-growing region. We stop at the old quarter Varosh and visit the beautifully-frescoed church of St. Nicolas. The town itself was the capital of the last Christian kingdom of Macedonia in the late 14th century, King Marko. Strolling through the central streets of the town, in a distance we will be able to see King Marko’s fortress, the monument of Alexander the Great, the Leaning Tower from 19th century. Coffee break and continue to the archaeological site Styberra, an important urban center that existed from the end of the 4th century B.C to 4th century A.D. The city has collapsed after the raid of the Goths in 267/8 or 268/9 A.D. In the ancient written sources about the Roman–Macedonian wars, it is recorded that during the expedition of the consul Sulpicius against the Macedonian king Philip V (200 B.C), the Roman armada arrived in Styberra, where they renewed their supplies with grain. According to the same records, we also learn that the last king of Ancient Macedonia, Perseus, in the year 169 B.C organized his military command post in the city of Styberra, against the Romans. In the afternoon, we continue to the most important wine region of Tikvesh which is the largest wine region in Macedonia. On the way we will pass through the towns of Negotino and Kavadarci, both known for their vine growing and wine production. Before arrival at Popova Kula winery in the small town of Demir Kapija, we visit the ancient city of Stobi, at the intersection of the Via Militaris and the Via Diagonalis. Located between Veles and Negotino, Stobi is the most important archaeological site in Macedonia, once the biggest Roman city on the Balkans. Archaeologists have discovered traces of the Paeonians, an ancient civilization in Macedonian, as well as traces of the Macedonian-Hellenistic, Roman, and early Christian periods. At the time of Philip II of Macedon, it was already an important strategic military center and also a significant cultural, trade and communication center. Stobi maintained its status under the Roman Empire and experienced major growth. We will walk through the site and view basilicas, palaces, the Forum, the Theatre, an ancient synagogue, casino and a museum. Arrival in the winery, check in and a short tour of the winery premises will be organized together with an oenologist. After lunch, we will have free time. For those willing we can organize a bike tour of the surrounding area. Overnight in the winery hotel.
Day 9 Demir Kapija – Isar Marvinci – Strumica (136 km) (B, L, D)
After the breakfast, check out from the winery hotel and transfer to Strumica. On the way, we make a stop to visit the archaeological site Isar Marvinci. The discovered stadium milestone from the 3rd or the beginning of the 2nd century B.C leads to the conclusion that the name of the ancient city was Idomene, belonged to the southern Macedonian area called Amphacsitida. The archaeological site contains remnants of a temple, dated from 181 B.C and designed according the Roman concept, dedicated to the Roman emperor Comodus. The archaeological findings are dated from the Bronze Age to the late Antiquity, and are especially significant in clarifying the culture of pre-Roman Payonia and Macedonia. We continue to Strumica. First we make check in and then we head to the mountain Belasica, to experience the natural beauty of the area. After a short drive, we continue on foot to visit two local waterfalls, Smolare and Koleshino. On the way back, we will have a chance to mingle with the local peasants from the villages around and take our home-made lunch in some of the guesthouses in the area. Back in town and organized dinner in a national restaurant.
Day 10 Strumica – medieval monasteries – Roman bath – Vinica – Skopje (159 km) (B, L)
After check out, in the morning we go to visit the medieval monasteries in the region St. Leonthius – Vodocha and Holy Mother Merciful – Veljusa, dating back from the 11th century. Next stop will be another ancient attraction, the Roman baths - hot water springs with a temperature of 72°C.
The Roman bath was built in the II century A.D. This area covers more than 1.500 m2 and is one of the largest baths on the Balkans. Most of the 11 rooms have different functions and are mainly built of brick and stone combined with the mortar. Heating inside was designed and constructed with a special system in which hot water was used to heat the floors and walls. On the way to Skopje, we will make a stop at Vinica fortress. Here in 1985 excavations an exceptional discovery from 4th century A.D., was made: 26 whole, 20 fragmentary and more than 100 smaller and larger fragments of terracotta icons, unique in the Christian world, were found. After many efforts, another 14 whole icons were formed from the fragments, so the collection now consists of 40 icons. We continue to Skopje. Accommodation in a hotel and free evening.
Day 11 Skopje – Millennium cross – St. Panteleymon – Skopje (20 km) (B, L, D)
After the breakfast, we head directly to the cable car in the mountain of Vodno to visit the Millennium Cross, a 66 meter-high cross situated on the top of the mountain. It is one of the biggest crosses in the world, constructed to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world. On the way back from the cable car, we will visit the monastery of St. Panteleymon, which contains remarkable frescoes of a great artistic value of a non-static, but more an emotional style of Byzantine Art. Transfer to the hotel. In the evening, we have our farewell dinner. Overnight in Skopje.
Day 12 Departure to Skopje airport (26 km) (B)
After the breakfast, transfer to the Skopje Airport.