Macedonia had never been high on my list of places to see. In fact, it had never even made the list.
But when an American friend visited the country late last year, I couldn’t wait to book my flight to Skopje – and boy did it surprise me.
Skopje city centre has a host of museums of all varieties – archaeological, art and one on the Macedonian struggle, for some reason explained through the medium of waxwork figures.
The Fortress (known as Kale) dominates the city and cuts an impressive figure from below, and although it is a bit of a building site inside, a walk along the ramparts gives you a great view of the city.
Another favourite spot of mine was Macedonia Square, the biggest square in the whole country. Full of statues and beautiful buildings, it’s a great spot for photos, particularly at night.
Casual restaurants line the river and any of them would make the perfect spot for a meal as you watch day turn to night and lanterns on the city’s bridges light up.
Cross over the beautifully photogenic Stone Bridge and you step into a completely different atmosphere. The old city and Turkish bazaar are crammed with tiny shopfronts and sellers displaying their wares – with flamboyant dresses and golden jewellery at every corner.
The place is teeming with people browsing round the rabbit warren of streets, and there are plenty of places to stop off for a bite to eat and indulge some people watching.
The best scenic spot to take in all of Skopje at once is at the top of Mount Vodno. A cable car will take you to the top to admire the 217ft Millennium Cross up close.
You can spot it from almost everywhere in Skopje, and it’s beautifully illuminated at night but it’s well worth the trip to see it up close and personal. When I went up, the stunning view was only improved by a group of paragliders testing their skills over the city.
I was also lucky enough to squeeze in a visit to the spectacular Matka Canyon – which gets only more breathtaking as it unwinds. It’s easily organised as a half day trip and you can hike along if you’re feeling energetic, or rent a boat and guide to take you along in a more leisurely fashion to explore some caves. No prizes for guessing which option I took!
Travellers with a little more time can also hire kayaks to explore the magical ravine on their own terms.
I’ll definitely be returning to Macedonia, and next time I’m looking forward to reaching Lake Ohrid, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site.
So take my advice and ignore Macedonia at your peril. With plenty of cheap accommodation and a choice of low-cost airlines including Wizz to get you there, there’s really no excuse to snub Skopje anymore.