Dense with old-world culture, rustic gourmet cuisine, mountain chains, remote villages, and some of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe, Macedonia is a synapse connecting traditions on the crossroads between empires — Greek, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman —where the Occident and Orient have long found middle ground. This is a land of with a fascinating mix of architectural and artistic heritage and distinctive cultures that can change from one valley to the next. After year’s of isolation, this wonderful country is just beginning to open its doors.
Macedonia’s mountains run down its western edge and form the border with Albania before reaching Greece. Along the string of peaks, three national parks and the enormous Lake Ohrid dominate the landscape. Here centuries-old Orthodox Christian monasteries perch atop hills overlooking the water, as “one of the oldest human settlements in Europe.” This unique journey takes in some of the cultural treasures of this remote and beautiful land such as beautiful stone monasteries and churches, resplendent with colourful frescoes and icons. Explore Roman ruins, wander along the shores of tranquil mountain lakes and discover remote national parks, where little appears to have changed in the rural mountain villages for hundreds of years.
The journey begins in Skopje capital of Macedonia and in the surrounding region there is an abundance of medieval churches such as the 12th century Monastery of St. Panteleimon in the village of Nerezi, with its famous 14th century frescoes. Drive through the canyon of the Vardar River to reach the ancient city of Stobi. This archaeological site offers sweeping views of the central North Macedonian plain and contains a 2nd century amphitheatre and early Christian ruins with extensive, ornate mosaic floors. Continue to Bitola, North Macedonia’s second largest town, known as the ‘City of the Consuls’ during Ottoman rule. Bitola is an extraordinary mixture of old and new, and a melting pot of cultures and civilisations. Visit the well-preserved Roman site of Heraclea, famous for its mosaics, ancient theatre and Roman baths from the ancient Macedonian Empire. Enjoy an overnight stay at Popova Kula Winery, located in Povardarie region in the Demir Kapija valley is perhaps the perfect way to learn about Macedonia's wine production.
It is a curious incongruity, perhaps typical of the Balkans, that one of the oldest towns in Europe – Ohrid – should be in Macedonia one of the youngest European states, the recently renamed Republic of North Macedonia. ‘It is a spectacularly beautiful part of Europe with its sublime scenery and a Balkan mix of cultures, recognized as both Cultural and Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Here is a chance to learn of Macedonia’s ancient, medieval and Ottoman past; its scholarly legacy (the first Slavic ‘university’ was established here in the 9th century by Sts. Clement and Naum, the disciples of Sts Cyril and Methodius); and the hundreds of other churches, ranging from elegant multi-domed structures to natural caves, that once dotted the hillsides, supposedly one for every day of the year. Several of these churches still treasure some of the finest collections of medieval frescoes and icons in Europe.
In a landlocked country, Macedonians love Ohrid because it is their seaside: the crystal-clear waters beckon in the hot days of summer and traditional restaurants and lakeside cafes liven up the cobblestone streets,. As well as the tranquil lakeshore monastery of St Naum and the mountainous Galičica National Park – bordering the western shore of the equally spectacular Lake Prespa.
This journey is open to the Alumni of Oxford and Cambridge Universities and their family and friends. Please note that Distant Horizons has sole responsibility for the operation of this tour. The participating University has no direct control over the operation of any tours.
Maximum Party Size: 20