Located just outside of Skopje, the capital city of Macedonia, Matka Canyon is a stunning attraction that offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy.
With its towering cliffs, deep caves, and clear lake, it is a popular destination for hikers, climbers, and nature lovers.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the main attractions in Matka Canyon and provide some tips for visiting this beautiful area.
The Beauty of Matka Lake
One of the main attractions in Matka Canyon is Matka Lake, which is the oldest artificial lake in the Balkans, built in 1938.
The lake was created by the construction of a hydroelectric dam along the Treska River, which is a major right tributary of the Vardar River, the longest river in Macedonia.
Today, the lake stretches over an area of about 5,000 hectares, is 6 km long, and is a popular spot for swimming, boating, and fishing.
When visiting Matka Canyon, you can rent a kayak and explore the lake or take a guided tour to see the famous underwater caves, such as the Vrelo Cave, which is considered one of the oldest and deepest underwater caves in Europe.
Of course, it’s also a great spot to take some travel pictures for Instagram.
Hiking in Matka Canyon
Besides boating, hiking is another popular activity for outdoorsy individuals visiting the Matka Canyon.
The canyon offers a variety of hiking trails for all skill levels, ranging from easy, scenic paths to challenging routes that traverse the canyon’s steep cliffs.
One of the most popular trails is the hike to St. Andrew’s Monastery, which offers stunning views of the canyon and the surrounding mountains.
The monastery is a historical site, with frescoes and artifacts dating back to the 14th century.
Another, albeit not so popular, but adventurous activity for experienced hikers is hiking from Matka to Vodno, a 12 km long journey that takes around 4-5 hours to complete and offers a mix of terrain, from forested paths to rocky trails and peaks.
Other Activities in Matka Canyon
In addition to hiking, boating, fishing, cave exploration, and visiting nearby churches, Matka Canyon also offers a range of other activities for visitors to enjoy, including rock climbing and rafting.
There are several tour companies in the area that offer guided trips and equipment rentals, making it easy for visitors to try out these exciting activities.
One of our recommendations is the Cave Vrelo team, which offers exclusive access to Vrelo Cave, as well as short tours of the canyon and a ferry service for those who wish to hike up to the nearby Saint Nikola Monastery.
Why Should You Visit Matka (at Least Once)
Here are some reasons why everyone who visits Skopje should visit Matka Canyon:
4 Tips for Visiting Matka Canyon (for the First Time)
If you’re planning to visit Matka Canyon, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your trip:
Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Matka Canyon
Where is Matka located?
Matka Canyon is located outside of Skopje, at approximately 16 km from the center of the country’s capital city.
What is the main attraction in Matka Canyon?
The main attraction in Matka Canyon is the Matka Lake, which is the deepest artificial lake in the Balkans.
What activities can I do in Matka Canyon?
Visitors to Matka Canyon can enjoy a wide range of activities, including hiking, boating, rock climbing, rafting, and cave exploring.
Is it safe to swim in Matka Lake?
Yes, it is generally safe to swim in Matka Lake. However, once you get there, you will probably notice that not many people swim. This is because there are rules and regulations posted at the lake for safety.
One thing you have to know before swimming in Matka Lake is that the water is very cold, which can make swimming difficult.
Additionally, when the dam is open and releasing water, strong undercurrents can make swimming dangerous, even for experienced swimmers.
Finally, the lake waters, although clear, can be deceptive, so you can never really know how deep some parts are, which can make swimming or diving dangerous.
Therefore, keep these few things in mind before deciding to take a dip in Matka Lake.
Are there any guided tours available in Matka Canyon?
Yes, there are several tour companies that offer guided tours of Matka Canyon and the surrounding area that can provide valuable information and insights about the history and natural beauty of the canyon.
Some of these include:
- Viator: This tour provider lets you experience the beautiful shores of Matka Lake, including a visit to the Vrelo Cave.
- Cave Vrelo: You can rent kayaks from this tour provider and enjoy kayaking through the beautiful lake and exploring the Vrelo Cave.
That being said, be cautious of overpriced half-day trips to Matka Canyon and always check what the tour package includes.
Tours that span around 4 to 5 hours, including a visit to the Vrelo Cave, should not cost more than $50.
Opting to explore the area independently, without a tour guide, and by relying on public transportation or even taxis can be an even more cost-effective choice.
Therefore, if you encounter anyone trying to charge you over $100 for these activities, be aware that it’s likely a scam offering nothing exceptional for the amount.
Is it possible to camp in Matka Canyon?
Yes, there are several campsites in Matka Canyon where visitors can pitch a tent and spend the night.
One of these is the River Camp Matka-Salamander, which is a fantastic spot to camp during months when the water level is low.
However, it is recommended that visitors check with the local authorities and follow the rules and regulations for camping in the area to ensure maximum safety at all times.
How long does it take to hike the trails in Matka Canyon?
The length of time it takes to hike the trails in Matka Canyon will vary depending on the trail and the hiker’s skill level.
Some of the easier trails, such as the Saint Nicholas Monastery – Canyon Matka Restaurant, can be completed in an hour or two, while the more challenging trails, such as the Matka-Vodno one, may take up to 4-5 hours to complete.
It’s a good idea to check with the local authorities or tour companies for more specific information about the trails you are interested in.
What is the cost of visiting Matka Canyon?
The cost of visiting Matka Canyon will vary depending on the activities you plan to do and the facilities you plan to use, however, spending a day in the area shouldn’t cost more than $30-60 per person.
To get to Matka, you can either opt for public transport (bus #60), which costs $0.60 per journey, or a taxi, which costs $15-20 per journey.
On the other hand, some activities, such as hiking, are free, while others, such as boat rentals or guided tours, may have a fee ranging between $3 for a boat ride across the lake or $10-15 for exploring Cave Vrelo.
Finally, a coffee or a refreshing beverage at the Canyon Matka Restaurant will cost you between $2-3, while a meal for one may range between $3-10.
Is there a dress code for visiting Matka Canyon?
There is no formal dress code for visiting Matka Canyon, but it’s important to dress appropriately for the activities you plan to do and the weather conditions.
This generally means wearing comfortable, sturdy shoes and clothing that allows for movement and protects against the elements (such as sun, rain, or wind.)
It’s a good idea to bring layers and a hat and to avoid wearing jewelry or other items that could get lost or damaged.
Are there any restrictions or regulations for visiting Matka Canyon?
There are some restrictions and regulations in place to protect the natural environment and the safety of visitors to Matka Canyon.
These may include rules about camping, fires, litter, fishing, and wildlife. Therefore, while visiting Matka Canyon, it’s crucial to follow these guidelines to ensure the preservation of the area and respect for local wildlife.
Is there a visitor center or information center in Matka Canyon?
Yes, there is a visitor center in Matka Canyon that provides information and assistance to visitors.
The visitor center is located near the entrance to the canyon and is staffed by knowledgeable and friendly personnel who can provide information about the area and its attractions.
The visitor center also has restrooms, a small shop, and a cafe where visitors can rest and refresh themselves.
Overall, Matka Canyon is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Skopje.
With its stunning scenery, range of outdoor activities, and rich history, it offers something for everyone.
Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a nature lover looking to explore the great outdoors, Matka Canyon is the perfect place to spend a day.