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Hiking in the steps of the Thracians and Alexander the Great!

You love hiking and have interest in exploring off-the beaten track mountain routes in the heart of the Balkans? You wish to get a closer look at the cultural heritage of Alexander the Great’s motherland?  You want to learn how the local people live in the Macedonian countryside and try some mouth-watering homemade Balkan specialties?  Then this is the trip for you! The hiking and walking routes featured in this itinerary pass through some of the most spectacular parts of the North-western Macedonian Mountains and reveal the enchanting, unspoiled beauty of the Pelister and Galechka Natural Parks. The trails afford breathtaking views over high rocky cliffs, woods, and two of the emblematic Macedonian lakes - Ohrid and Prespa.
While marvelling at Macedonia’s natural treasures we will follow the steps of one of the biggest names in the world’s history – Alexander the Great!  Drifting back in time, we will explore ancient Thracian towns, centuries-old mosaics, and archaic observatory and enjoy informative walks in the capital Sarajevo and the picturesque city of Ohrid! We will also get a taste of Macedonia’s countryside life in the village of Braichino and visit Bulgaria’s wine capital – Melnik !At the end we will spare some time, to breathe Sofia’s air and get to know this vibrant city’s  modern and ancient faces!

Day-by-day itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Sofia, St.Joakim Osogovski Monastery
Our guide will meet you at the Sofia Airport upon your arrival and accompany you throughout the whole trip. On the way to the Bulgarian/Macedonian border we will stop for a refreshing cup of coffee in the town of Kyustendil , where you will be able to get to know your fellow travellers and get your first impressions from the vibrant Bulgarian countryside. Then we will say “Goodbye” to Bulgaria and travel to the charismatic St. Joakim Osogovski Monastery, nested peacefully amongst the verdant green woods of the Osogovo Mountain in North-east Macedonia.  For dinner we will indulge in local specialties nearby the monastery.
Overnight at St. Joakim Osogovski Monastery. (D)

Day 2: St.Joakim Osogovski Monastery, the Stone Dolls of Kuklica, the ancient Kokino Observatory, Skopje
We will start the day with a refreshing walk in the picturesque surroundings of the monastery complex. (Estimated hike time: 45 min, hike level: beginner, altitude: 825m)
Then we will travel westwards towards the village of Kuklica, nearby which an interesting rock formation is to be found, known as the Stone Dolls of Kuklica and The Stone Wedding. We will hike and explore this wrapped in myths and legends rock phenomenon formed as a result of natural erosion processes during the past 100 000 years. Differences in the erodibility of the volcanic rocks of the area are the main factor for the pillars creation.(Estimated hike time: 1,5h, hike level: beginner, altitude: 420m)
Our next stop today will be the Ancient Observatory located nearby the village of Kokino. Perched on top of  the peak of the imposing rocky hill called Tatichev kamen, the  the megalithic observatory features almost ideal cubic rock blocks that were easily shaped and wisely used by the prehistoric dwellers as positions for observing the movement of the Sun and the Moon and for performing religious rites. 
(Estimated hike time: 1,5h, hike level: beginner, altitude: 1013m)
In the late afternoon, we will reach the Macedonian capital Skopje. Here our panoramic sightseeing tour will reveal the numerous traces of the dramatic history of the ancient city settled on the crossroads between Western and Eastern civilizations. Throughout the centuries Skopje was conquered, destroyed by earthquakes, levelled to the ground by invaders but always revived in an even grader splendour. Today numerous monuments remind of its glory and power.where we will spend the night.
Overnight in Skopje. (B, L, D)

Day 3: Skopje, the Matka Canyon, Mavrovo
Today we will take a short scenic drive to the Matka canyon, carved by the Treska River that twists among imposing, immense cliffs. The area is fascinating not only with its extraordinary diverse flora and fauna but also for the numerous opportunities for hiking, climbing and boating! We will hike towards the Saint Nikolas church, situated high above the river Treska, on a rocky peak which encloses the gorge. The church of Saint Nicolas once formed part of the Saint Nikolas Shishevski monastery. The high location is spectacular and gives you a wonderful view of the whole area. We will take time for a healthy picnic lunch in this magical place, after which we will go on a leisurely boat trip within the quiet canyon flanked by dense forest, in order to reach the Vrelo cave – one of the deepest caves explored by humans (192m under the sea level). In the late afternoon, we will  reach the town of Mavrovo.
(Estimated hike time: 3,4 - 4h, hike level: beginner, altitude:300)
Overnight in Mavrovo. (B, L, D)

Day 4: Mavrovo, The villages of Galitchnik and Lazaropole, the Sveti Jovan Bigorski Monastery
Our day will start with a trip to the mountainous village of Galichnik famous for its preserved traditions and annual wedding festival. From here we will hike towards the village of Lazaropole, scenically perched on a plateau at Mount Bistra, 1350 m. As it is one of the highest villages on the Balkans, reaching Lazaropole requires uphill hiking richly rewarded with amazing forest scenery and gorgeous views on the way.
(Estimated hike time: 5-6h, hike level: beginner, altitude: 1350m)
Next we will explore one of the most beautiful Macedonian Orthodox Monasteries – the St. Jovan Bigorski Monastery, situated in the north-west part of Macedonia and built back in 1021.
In the late afternoon we will drive through the spectacular gorge of the Radika River and reach the city of Ohrid.
Overnight in Ohrid. (B, L, D)

Day 5: Ohrid and Ohrid Lake
The morning we will dedicate to the Old Town of Ohrid fascinating with its authentic atmosphere and traditional spirit! Our guided sightseeing tour will take us to all the significant landmarks of the city while we learn about its glorious past and get acquainted with its unique present-day character. Then we will relax on an hour boat cruise in the Ohrid Lake from where the view of the city is just captivating. After lunch in a local tavern, we will visit the imposing St. Naum Monastery Complex, a refuge of tranquillity set amidst lush verdure where the River Crn Drim tumbles into the lake. The rest of our day will be at our disposal to enjoy on our own. We will have dinner in a traditional Macedonian restaurant and try some delicious regional specialties.
Overnight in Ohrid. (B, L, D)

Day 6: Ohrid, the Galichica National Park, the village of Braichino at Lake Prespa
Today we will explore the Galichica National Park, situated in the Galichica Mountain, less than an hour drive away from Ohrid. Due to its exceptional natural beauty and extremely opulent and endemic flora and fauna, the Macedonian section of the mountain was proclaimed a National Park that covers an extensive area between the Lakes of Ohrid and Prespa. Our hike route will take us to a marvelous panoramic point from where we will be able to see both lakes.
(Estimated hike time: 3h, hike level: beginner, altitude: 600m)
Then we will continue our trip along the Prespa Lake. With its amazing coastline, plethora of bays, extraordinary pure water, pristine nature and its setting between three national parks, Prespa is truly a breath-taking  place. We will spend the night at the cosy village of Braichino at the foot of Baba Mount, where will get to try some local dishes and experience the welcoming and hospitable atmosphere of the Macedonian local guest house.
Overnight in Braichino. (B, L, D)

Day 7: The ancient city of Heraclea, the vibrant city of Bitola
Following a mouth-watering homemade breakfast we will leave Braichino and travel to Bitola, the second biggest Macedonian city, which is also one of the oldest cities within the territory of the country. After we check in at our hotel, we will start our hike in the Pelister National park - one of the first national parks established on the Balkans in the late 1940s. Pelister is characterized by lush, well-watered forests and unique geological formations, which include layers of Paleozoic and Mesozoic magma rock and layers of quartz and preserves exquisite flora and fauna. We take some time to enjoy a picnic in the open and take in the spectacular unspoiled nature.
(Estimated hike time: 3 -3,5 h, hike level: beginner, altitude: 1610m)
 In the afternoon, we will return to Bitolia and take a short trip to the ancient town of Heraclea Luncaestis (4th century BC). According to the popular belief King Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, founded the town in the middle of 4th century BC, after he had conquered the surrounding region of Lynkestis and incorporated it into his kingdom of Macedonia. The city was named after the mythological Greek hero Heracles - a legendary hero and father of the Macedonian royal dynasty of Argeadae. Heraclea grew to be an important trading town under the Romans, before being sacked by the northern tribes and eventually falling into decay after an earthquake in 518 A.D. Some of the best preserved mosaics on the Balkans dating back from the late 5th   - early 6th century are part of this historical site.
We will spend tonight in Bitola and before dinner everyone can enjoy some leisure time to stroll down the preserved authentic Boulevards of the Old Town of Bitola, lined with Renaissance and Neo- Barock facade houses and take in the lively atmosphere of the old shopping street known as “charkha”.
Overnight in Bitola. (B, L, D)

Day 8: The ancient city of Heraclea, the vibrant city of Bitola
Today we will have to say our goodbyes with Macedonia. We will go for one last hike up the Kolesino waterfall, near the town of Strumica, situated close to the Bulgarian Border. The waterfall gently falls over the stone cliffs nestled in the forest of the Belasica Mountain at a height of 19 m in multiple watery streams only to reform into the Baba River below. The area is located in the heart of the Belasica Mountain, surrounded by maple trees and stone cliffs.
(Estimated hike time: 1 -1,5 h, hike level: beginner, altitude: 610m)
Then we will have lunch at the village of Kolesino, cross the Macedonia/ Bulgarian border and reach the smallest town of Bulgaria – Melnik, famous for its ancient traditions in winemaking. On the way we will pass by some of the most peculiar rock formations in the country known as the “Sandstone pyramids”, which overlook the town of Melnik and according to the locals they are its mystic guardians. In Melnik we will visit the House of Kordopulov where we will learn about the ancient traditions and wine culture of the region and enjoy a glass of the house wine.  For centuries the classic image of Bulgarian wine has been represented by the old Melnik wine produced from a local broad leaved vine. This wine could have been seen only on the tables of the privileged like Venetian doges, French counts and Spanish dukes.
Overnight in Melnik. (B, L, D)

Day 9: The best of Sofia
Today we will return to the vibrant Bulgarian capital Sofia and spare some time to explore the very cultural heart of the country. We will visit the colourful Women’s market and have some free time to get a taste of the high-paced urban life of the city. Our guide will give you numerous suggestions and insights on the hot events in the cultural calendar of the city, so that you can get the best of your free time after which we will invite you to a Farewell dinner in a traditional tavern and say a proper goodbye the Balkan way.
Overnight in Sofia. (B, L, D)

Day 10: Trip finishes in Sofia
Today after breakfast, it will be time for us to say “goodbye” but promise to keep the memories we created together during our Balkan Adventure! (B)

If you like the suggested program, ideas, services and this is really your kind of holiday please send us your request for further details! We will be happy to answer any questions you may have and give you our professional advice. Thank you!

Highlights

  • Hiking in some of the most beautiful Macedonian Mountains!
  • Visit of two of the most impressive Natural Parks in Macedonia – Pelister and Galechica!
  • Getting a taste of the tranquil countryside life in Alexander the Great’s motherland!
  • The ancient Macedonian capital Skopje
  • The spectacular Canyon “Matka” carved by the Treska River
  • Western Macedonia and the inspiring St. Jovan Bigorski Monastery
  • The Bulgarian capital Sofia - a blend of ancient historical heritage and modern-day landmarks!

Route

Photos


Learn more about the places

What Is Included

  • 10 days / 9 overnights
  • 9 breakfasts (B), 8 Lunches (L), 9 dinners (D)
  • 3 / 4 - star hotel accommodation on a twin-share or double basis
  • Guided sightseeing tours of all visited cities and sights
  • Escorted services of an experienced mountain guide in the requested language for the whole tour
  • Group Size: T/A
  • Transport: Modern air-conditioned coach
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