What to Expect Backpacking in Skopje (& Macedonia)

As you set your sights on Skopje, the vibrant heart of Macedonia, prepare to be immersed in a city where history dances with modernity.

Imagine wandering through streets lined with a mix of Ottoman and European architecture, which tell a story of the area’s complex past.

In Skopje, expect a bustling atmosphere with street markets, historic landmarks, and a youthful energy pulsating through its urban core.

Venturing beyond Skopje into the broader Macedonian landscape, you’re greeted with an array of experiences.

From the serene shores of Lake Ohrid to the mountainous terrains perfect for hiking, Macedonia offers a diverse canvas for outdoor enthusiasts and culture seekers alike.

The country boasts a pleasantly moderate climate most of the year, making it suitable for backpacking adventures in spring and autumn.

Embrace the Macedonian way of life by engaging in local traditions and savoring the culinary delights.

You’ll soon discover that this corner of the Balkans is not only rich in history and natural beauty but is also a hospitable and affordable getaway that may just steal a piece of your heart.

what to expect backpacking in macedonia

Planning Your Trip

When backpacking in Skopje and throughout Macedonia, there are some critical logistical factors you’ll need to consider to ensure a smooth adventure.

By focusing on these key details, you’ll be all set to enjoy the beauty and unique experiences that this region has to offer.

Visa and Entry Requirements

Before you jet off, make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from your planned date of return.

Many nationalities can enter Macedonia without a visa for short stays, typically up to 90 days within a six-month period.

However, it’s crucial to check the latest entry requirements based on your specific nationality before your trip.

Best Time to Visit

To catch the best weather for backpacking, aim for the period between May and September.

These months usually offer warm days and cool evenings.

However, if you’re into winter sports or don’t mind a bit of cold, the snowy mountains from December to March are quite the spectacle.

Packing Essentials

Here’s a quick checklist of what you should bring along:

  • Sturdy backpack: Fit for city strolls and mountain hikes.
  • Comfortable shoes: A must for the cobbled streets and rugged trails.
  • Layers: Versatile clothing options to manage the variable weather.
  • Sun protection: Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen for those bright days.

Remember that Skopje can be a mix of urban exploration and nature adventures, so pack both casual and outdoor gear.

Budget Planning

Your budget in Macedonia will stretch further than in many other European destinations.

Accommodations range from hostels to hotels, with prices as low as $10 for a hostel bed.

For meals, set aside around $5-15 per day, including the chance to indulge in local delicacies at a burek shop or traditional kafana.

Entrance fees to most attractions are modest, but always have some cash on hand, as some smaller venues don’t accept cards.

Getting to Skopje

skopje international airport

If you’re heading to Skopje, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the ease of access, whether you’re flying in from overseas or crossing the land borders.

Skopje’s connectivity with major cities in Europe provides a smooth experience for travelers.

Air Travel Tips

Skopje International Airport (SKP) is your gateway to Macedonia if you’re flying.

It’s serviced by multiple airlines, so snagging a flight isn’t usually a hassle.

To score the best deal, book your flights a few months in advance and look for offers from low-cost carriers (WizzAir).

Remember the airport is about 20 kilometers from the city center, so plan your transfer ahead of time.

Overland Options

If you’re already exploring the region, buses and trains are viable options to get to Skopje.

Buses are generally more frequent and quicker than trains, and they offer routes from neighboring countries like Kosovo, Serbia, and Greece.

Check the current schedules as they can change seasonally.

Navigating the Airport

Once you touch down at Skopje Airport, you’ll find it’s small and easy to navigate.

Collect your luggage, and if you need a local SIM card (or better yet, use an eSim) or to withdraw some Denars, services are conveniently available inside the terminal.

For getting into the city, taxis are available but make sure to agree on a fare beforehand to avoid surprises.

Or better yet, use the airport shuttle bus service, which is cost-effective and reliable.

Accommodations and Food

Sunset in Skopje from our Airbnb
Sunset in Skopje from our Airbnb apartment.

Backpacking in Skopje and exploring greater Macedonia can be an exciting adventure.

Finding the right place to stay and sampling the local food are key parts of the experience.

You’ll want to know where to get the best bang for your buck, whether you’re settling down for the night or grabbing a bite to eat.

Where to Stay

In Skopje, you’ve got a spectrum of options ranging from comfy hostels to boutique hotels.

For budget-conscious travelers, check out Shanti Hostel, known for its perfect location and friendly atmosphere.

If hostels aren’t your style, local guesthouses offer an intimate look at Macedonian hospitality.

Eating on a Budget

You don’t have to spend a lot to eat well in Macedonia.

Bakeries offer delicious pastries like burek for just a few denars.

Street vendors sell tasty kebapi (grilled meat skewers) that won’t break the bank. Markets are your friend for fresh produce and picnic supplies.

Local Cuisine Highlights

Taste the flavors of Macedonia with dishes like Tavče gravče, the national dish of beans cooked in a savory sauce.

Don’t miss Ajvar, a versatile red pepper condiment.

For a sweet treat, indulge in baklava, layered with nuts and honey.

Visit traditional restaurants, known as kafanas, to experience authentic Macedonian dining.

Exploring the City

high space coworking office

Embarking on a backpacking journey through Skopje, you’ll encounter a vibrant mix of history and culture.

Here’s what to look out for when you’re navigating the city.

Cultural Landmarks

While wandering through Skopje, you’ll quickly notice the Kale Fortress, towering over the city with centuries-old tales etched into its walls.

Swing by the Old Bazaar to get a sense of the city’s Ottoman past.

Don’t miss the iconic Stone Bridge connecting the old and new parts of the city.

Hidden Gems

Beyond the well-trotted paths, Skopje invites you to discover its quieter corners.

Stroll along the serpentine riverside or seek out Debar Maalo, a neighborhood brimming with local bars and quaint cafes.

Keep an eye out for the unexpected – a tiny gallery or a historic house turned museum might just be around the corner.

Public Transportation

Navigating Skopje on a budget is a breeze with its efficient public transportation.

Utilize the city’s bus network to hop between sites affordably.

For an even more local experience, consider renting a bike from numerous local spots, giving you the flexibility to explore at your own pace.

Beyond Skopje

Venturing outside Skopje, you’ll discover Macedonia’s landscape offers an intriguing mix of cultural excursions and outdoor adventures, appealing to a broad scope of interests.

Day Trips

For a quick escape from the city, consider a day trip to Matka Canyon, only a short drive from Skopje.

Your day can be packed with activities like kayaking, exploring caves, or simply enjoying the lakeside views.

If you’re craving a taste of local culture, the wine region of Tikveš promises an indulgent experience with its renowned wineries and vineyards.

Multi-Day Trekking

If multi-day trekking is more your speed, the Shar Mountains beckon with their rugged peaks and pastoral scenery.

The trails here can lead you through quaint villages and untouched landscapes, often with the option to stay overnight in mountain huts.

National Parks

Macedonia’s national parks are natural gems.

The pristine Pelister National Park is one such example.

Here, you can hike through a landscape dotted with ancient pine forests and glacial lakes.

You can take your experience up a notch by looking for the elusive Balkan lynx or by just basking in the tranquility of the park’s high-altitude ambiance.

what to expect backpacking in Macedonia

This guide was first published on March 12, 2024 and was last updated on March 12, 2024. For more information, please contact us at contact@skopjeguide.com.