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Holiday Guides for Eastern Europe - Macedonia

Macedonia Holiday

Macedonia is another of the former Yugoslav republics which presents a relatively untapped treasure trove of sights and activities for the tourist.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is an undiscovered jewel of eastern Europe, with a vibrant culture, rich history and stunning countryside.

Bordered by Serbia and Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Bulgaria, Macedonia is full of wide green spaces, scenic mountains, picturesque lakes, charming towns and friendly people.

Home to more than 50 lakes, both natural and artificial, and 16 mountain ranges higher than 2,000m (6,550ft) above sea level, the country is a paradise for walkers and nature lovers.

Macedonia is a small independent state on the Balkan Peninsula with a population of around two million and is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The country was the base from which Alexander the Great set out to conquer the ancient world in the fourth century BC, passing into Roman hands until Slav tribes settled in the ninth century AD. Macedonia was conquered by the Bulgarian tsar Simeon and formed part of the Byzantine Empire for years, until the Balkans were seized by the Ottoman Empire.

Ceded to Bulgaria after the Russian defeat of Turkey, Macedonia was handed back following western interference, leading to a bloody uprising in 1903. The Balkan Wars against Turkey followed and struggles continued throughout the World Wars, ending in 1943 when Macedonia became part of Yugoslavia.

As a result of being conquered so many times and altering its borders repeatedly, Macedonia has a unique and mixed ethnic culture, with Turkish bazaars, Macedonian folk traditions and Orthodox churches. Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia in January 1992, leading to a peaceful split from Belgrade.

The Macedonian capital Skopje on the Vardar River is home to more than 600,000 people and is a delightful blend of old and new, with a heady mix of cultural influences and a lively night scene.

The city of Ohrid, on the shores of Lake Ohrid, is small and pretty, with narrow cobbled streets, Byzantine churches, galleries, museums and captains. The lake itself is the deepest in Europe and provides a good summer holiday destination, with beaches around its shores and some good accommodation to choose from.

Lake Matka is the destinations of choice for those seeking an activity-based holiday, with fishing, boating, hiking and rock climbing all available on and around it.

The Macedonian countryside boasts an impressive array of Medieval monasteries and collections of Orthodox icons in the numerous churches, as well as some lovely walks and breathtaking views in the mountains. The nation also has a number of charming smaller cities, including Bitola, Prilep, Tetovo, Veles and Stip.

The country attracts steady numbers of tourists and is welcoming more as its many charms become better known. As a result, accommodation tends to be of a good standard in the most popular areas and there are plenty of restaurants available, serving a variety of dishes that echo Macedonia's many cultural influences.

There are few flights available directly to Skopje from the UK, with most changing in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, but more routes are being opened each year and the price of flights is falling.