Landlocked and encircled by its Balkan neighbours, Macedonia was once part of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991. Geographically the country is defined by its mountains, rivers and flat river valleys, all of which provide excellent settings for some real off-beat adventure. Home to three national parks, two distinct mountain ranges and one of the deepest and oldest lakes in Europe (Lake Ohrid), Macedonia is for the most part an undiscovered gem that provides an authentic insight into a rich European culture that has sadly disappeared from many other parts of the region.
With a history that can trace its origins back to antiquity and the Kingdom of Paeonia, Macedonia has a visible heritage that still recalls the influences of the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and Serbs. These rich traditions can still be found in its architecture and its poetry as well as its food and music. Macedonian cuisine successfully blends a diverse mix of Mediterranean (Greek) and Middle Eastern (Turkish) influences, along with a healthy sprinkling of Italian, German and Hungarian flavours. Meanwhile the country’s forests are abundant with flora and fauna including bears, wild boars, wolves and Eurasian lynx. Little wonder then that its sheep are guarded by the impressive Šarplaninec (Yugoslav Shepherd Dog).
Macedonia may remain one of Europe’s poorest country’s economically, but in terms of its natural and cultural assets it punches well above its weight and, for getting off the beaten track, there are few destinations on the continent that can match it.