Discover Macedonia with a van during a road trip in the Balkans, our 1 week itinerary.
1 week in Macedonia with a campervan
Macedonia is an interesting country with a particular identity. Indeed, independent since only 1991 (before it was part of the Federation of Yugoslavia), it is rich of its different cultures (Yugoslav, Ottoman, Greek, Albanian …) but seems to suffer from a lack of its own history …
Even its name has long been controversial. Called Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) … Greece finally (January 2019) ratify its name “Republic of Northern Macedonia” after years of disagreement related to the region of the same name in the North of Greece.
Despite all this, this country has plenty of assets to be a great vanlife destination in Europe! That’s why you will find in this article from our travel blog:
1/ Road trip’s stages in Macedonia with a van.
2/ Things to know to prepare a travel in Republic of Macedonia.
Macedonia with a van itinerary
(when: end july – beginning august)
1/ Stages of our roadtrip in Macedonia
You’ll find on the map above: where we parked the van, activities, restaurants…
Just for information, the country has no coast, mainly moutains and great lakes (approx. 50). And share its borders with Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece!
1.1/ D1 – Arrival in Macedonia from Albania
Just after crossing the Albanian border by the great Orhid Lake, we make a first stop at Saint Naum (find here our road trip in Albania). There is a very nice monastery of the same name, comparable to the St. John’s one in the city of Orhid (see later).
We stay a bit to admire our 1st Macedonian landscapes. The lake is so big that it looks like the sea.
1st Sleeping place – Macedonia with a van:
Then we go to the Natural Park of Galitchitsa (only 15 min). Climbing up the road, we find a great spot in nature (a viewpoint of the lake) where we park the van for the night. A lot of rubbish, but the view is superb and we are not disturbed. Perfect spot for our 1st night.
1.2/ D2 – Chilling day in the Galitchitsa Park
We wake up and take the breakfast with a great view. After, we continue the road to find an other point of view, this time on both lakes: Orhid and Prespa, shared with Greece. It’s very nice.
Then we decide to go down to Orhid lake. But just 1 or 2 turns under our first spot, we come across a small picnic area very nice.
We decide to spend the day there. There are kiosks, tables, a small children’s playground and a water source that seems to have special virtues. Indeed, many locals stop here just to fill their cans. We take the opportunity to recharge water for the campervan and put our hammocks!
2cd Sleeping place – Macedonia with a van:
As we are really feeling good here, we spend the night in this picnic area that looks a bit alike our Piton Maido in our island, La Reunion.
1.3/ D3 – Beach, museum and Orhid city
After a watermelon breakfast (yes we arrive from Albania, so we have a lot of them), we go down to the lake. We pay at the exit (about 2 € per person, besides it is better to pay in Macedonian Denar, because in Euro it’s almost double). For your info, we didn’t pay the entrance the day before because without knowing it, we entered in the Park too late.
We first make a stop to swim at the beach, a few kilometers further north, very nice. Then another one at the on the water museum: Bay of Bones. About 2€, this is a reconstruction of a village on stilts dating from 1200 to 600 before. J.C makes from research and underwater excavations.
In itself the museum is quite simple, but for the price, it’s worth it. Apparently (we learned it later) it is possible to dive under the site (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
3rd Sleeping Spot – Macedonia with a van:
On monte directement à Orhid ville (15 km plus au Nord) et dormons à l’entrée de la ville dans un grand parking gratuit (calme la nuit) proche de la Porte Supérieure Nord.
We drive directly to Orhid city (15 km further north) and sleep at the entrance of the city in a large free parking (quiet at night) near the Northern Gate.
1.4/ D4 – A day in Orhid, very nice small town
We get up early to visit the city. Orhid is really nice. Touristic but we liked it a lot. The town is not very big but it’s nice to walk around and get lost in its little streets full of flowers. Peppers/paprika are on all terraces… for the traditional “Ajvar” cooking (see the recipe).
So we walk quite a lot:
- In the North: from the Northern Gate, entering in the old town. With its ancient theater, fortress, the “flat place” on the hill with basilica and St. Clement and Pantaleimon church.
- More in the center: the lower gate, the Sainte-Sophie and Nicolas’ churches, the artisanal paper workshop “Saint-Clément d’Orhid”, the bars and shops’ district.
- On the shores of the lake: small beaches and bars, very nice wooden walkway that goes to Saint-John church…
We ended our day at the little restaurant “Gladiator” not far from the ancient theater. A Macedonian cuisine restaurant … with good wifi!
4th Sleeping Spot – Maceonia with a van:
We drive about 1h30 towards the Mavrovo National Park. On the road … we go through neighborhoods where all the houses have the Albanian flag … we will learn later that 1/4 of the population of Macedonia is Albanian. Once arrived, there is a very nice spot on the lake. Perfect to enjoy our arriving in the park.
1.5/ D5 – Hike in Mavrovo Park
Unfortunately, time is not with us. Rain and wind will come next day. So we decide to do one of the shortest walks in the park so we can enjoy it without getting into something we would regret.
You will find on this website the different hikes of the park and here a map (but trails are not well indicated). The tourism office can give you one (but not high quality) but its better than nothing.
Personally, we chose the MK4, certainly not the most impressive, but with this weather, we did well!
5th Sleeping Spot – Macedonia with a van:
Our spot is great so we stay there for our 2cd night in the Mavrovo Park.
1.6/ D6 – Skopje, a disproportinionate capital
Why this title? First, because we read that Skopje was… a bit exuberant. And secondly, because it’s true.
Apparently, to turn it into an attractive city, the state invests in: statues, bridges, STATUES, monuments including the project Skopje 2014, statues… in short you will understand, there is statues everywhere!
A good example is the Arts Bridge and its 29 statues (Macedonian artists, writers and musicians). It’s crazy but very nice to discover them all during your visit. There is even an imitation of the Wall Street Bull, the Arc de Triomphe …
We liked the little church erected in honor of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa, who is; an Albanian, naturalized Indian but born in Uskub (in the Ottoman Empire, now Skopje), no less!
We had a very nice encounter in the Turkish district. Mek, a Turkish who studied and now gives calligraphy classes here in Skopje. We have a good time with him talking about everything and nothing by drinking a cold coffee, fashionable! He advises us Matka Park in the west of the city (and many spots…in Turkey).
We finished our day at the restaurant Gostilnica. Typical cuisine restaurant with great waiters and fiery musicians. The atmosphere is great.
6th Sleeping Spot – Macedonia with a van:
As we drank a bit, we stay in the parking downtown (it’s not glamour, and not free…). We could have just parked at the restaurant’s parking lot and leave the next morning but we did not know it. When we woke up, someone came to sell us perfumes and other things we didn’t need but ok!
1.7 / D7 – Matka, the nature close to Skopje
For our real last day in Macedonia, we decide to follow MEK’s advices. So we go to the Matka National Park, 15 mins more West than Skopje.
From the parking (free, like the Park entrance), there is 10 mins walk to the Matka canyon. The spot is really nice and it’s possible to walk, swim (but water is cold), have a snack…but it’s better to bring your own food/beverage if you have a small budget. There are small snacks and restaurants, but it’s a bit expensive.
In terms of activities, there are many things to do, and prices are ok:
- Have a boat trip: for 1/2h its 200 denars (3.30 €), (also 1h…)
- Rent a small boat.
- Or rent a kayak:
- 1 pers. kayak: 1/2h : 150 denars, 1h : 300 denars
- kayak for 2: 1/2h : 250 denars, 1h : 500 denars
- Hike and visit monasteries: Saint Andrew, Saint-Nikola (30 mins walk) and you have to take a small boat (30 denars) to join the other site of the canyon (then begin to climb)…
- Visit the Vrelo cave (with or without a boat trip): 1h – 400 denars
So… there are many things to do to have a good day close to Skopje.
7th Sleeping Spot – Macedonia with a van:
We drive approx. 45 mins to find the Mladost lake, our last spot for our road trip in Macedonia with a campervan. We’re parked close to the road but it’s really quite by night. The scenery is nice and it’s possible to swim!
Next day… Greece!!!
2/ Useful info: Macedonia with a van
Here we’ll find all the useful info to prepare a road trip in Macedonia with a campervan.
2.1/ Roads in Republic of North Macedonia
To say the truth… arriving from Albania, it’s much better! Ok, it’s not perfect and some roads really need some works. But it was not a problem for us.
There are very few tolls but some roads are not free (ex: big road betweek Skopje and Greece), but the price is not very expensive. There is no highway vignette.
2.2/ Showers and drinking water
It was quite easy to find water in Macedonia. We found it frequently to refill the van. And it’s also ok to find discret places to have your camping shower (with a ecologic soap of course).
2.3/ Be careful with your mobile phone!
Like in the rest of Balkans, our mobile subscription (phone and internet datas) are not working. To be precise, it CAN work, but it’s very expensive!!!
>> So don’t forget to double check your subscription before using it here. Or use bars and restaurants’wifi!
2.4/ Find sleeping spots for your van in Macedonia
With the help of the Park4Night app (during our wifi stops) and the country map, we found great spots with no difficulty (not too much)! Close to lakes, in town, in parks… we enjoyed really nice spots!
And even in high season, we didn’t feel bad welcome from the locals!
2.5/ Currency and budget in Republic of North Macedonia
They don’t use euro in Macedonia. The local curreny is Denar.
In April 2019, 1€ = 61,74 Denars.
Prices are a bit more high than in Albania but are still cheap for us.
Et voilà, on espère que cet article sur la Macédoine en van vous sera utile et qu’il vous donnera envie d’aller le visiter.
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We hope that this article about travelling in Macedonia with a van will be useful for you and that it will make you want to visit this country.
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For other road trips in Balkans – Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Albania…all our itineraries in Balkans.