Viticulture has been the heart of North Macedonia since Roman times; thanks to an abundance of sunshine as well as Mediterranean and continental breezes, wine grapes thrive in the rich, rocky soil. The country’s wine region centres around the Vardar River which bisects the country north to south.
On this 8-day private tour, explore this stunning area of snow-capped mountains, picturesque lakes and sleepy villages and enjoy wine tasting almost every day. Visits include the prolific Tikves region and Popova Kula Winery, where it’s possible to taste wines produced from many typical North Macedonian grape varieties such as Stanushina, Temjanika, Zilavka, Prokupec and Vranec.
This morning enjoy a short walking tour through the new part of Skopje, including the main square with the grand fountain of Alexander the Great. See Mother Theresa's memorial house (she was born in Skopje in 1910), as well as Skopje City Museum housed in the old railway station which was completed in 1940/41. At that time it was the most beautiful railway station on the Balkans, connecting Skopje with Thessaloniki but it was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1963. Visit the old part of Skopje including the Old Bazaar, Mustafa Pasha Mosque (built in 1495) and the church of the Holy Saviour (from the 19th century) known for its extraordinary wooden iconostas. Continue to Kale Fortress located on the highest point of the city overlooking the River Vardar. Visit Kartal winery—a family owned winery near Skopje. Take a walking tour of the vineyards and meet their enologist for a short presentation of the wines produced in the region of Skopje. They make a delicious Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and a local Vranec, enjoy wine-tasting including some tasty snacks. (B)
This morning take the cable car to Mount Vodno to see the iconic Millennium Cross standing 66 metres tall. At night it lights up like a beacon commemorating 2,000 years of Christianity in North Macedonia. Continue to Matka Canyon and visit the 14th century monastery of St. Andrew. Popular with visitors and locals alike for its rock climbing, hiking, boating, caving, and kayaking opportunities Matka Canyon also offers more leisurely pursuits as you can enjoy the canyon’s stunning natural beauty from the paved walking paths hewn into its steep walls. Enjoy lunch in one of the restaurants/cafes that line the pathway. In the afternoon continue to Ohrid and check in to the Hotel Royal View or similar in Ohrid for 2 nights. Embark on a walking tour of Ohrid including the City Museum, Robevci House and St Sophia Cathedral, built in 1037 named after the great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. See the church of St Bogorodica Perivleptos with its outstanding frescos, before walking to the Upper Gate and Samuil's fortress. Also visit St. Clement – Plaoshnik church and St. John the Theologian. (B,L)
This morning visit Struga, famous for its wall of water, where the Black Drim River flows out of Lake Ohrid on its way to the Adriatic. The town has many wooden framed houses characteristic of 18th and 19th century North Macedonian architecture. Continue to the “Republic of Vevcani” - a village with a sense of humour as it proclaimed itself a republic after a referendum of the 2,500 inhabitants during the break up of the former Yugoslavia. The village has even created its own coat of arms - two harlequins dancing over a magic cauldron. It also issues red Vevcani passports and prints its own currency, the licnik, to hand out as a souvenir. The natural springs that run through the village are a natural draw here. Enjoy wine tasting and lunch at a local restaurant in Vevcani and don’t forget to sample the local grape brandy. Free afternoon back in Ohrid. (B,L)
This morning depart for Bitola, a town known as the city of consuls. In 1851, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire opened the first consulate in Bitola, followed by the British and the French, and afterwards the consuls of Russia, Italy, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania came. Bitola was indeed the city of consuls for almost nine decades until World War II. Continue to Prilep, North Macedonia’s tobacco capital for lunch before driving to the main wine region in North Macedonia. Check in to the Hotel Feni, Kavadarci for 2 nights. This afternoon and early evening enjoy wine tasting and dinner at Tikveš Winery. Kavadarci’s most famous export is its wine and it employs the majority of the towns 38,000 inhabitants. Vineyards in the region cover a total area of 120 square kilometres (46 square miles), producing up to 85,000 tons of grapes annually. The Tikveš winery is one of the oldest wineries in the Republic of North Macedonia producing approximately 35 million litres of wine each year. (B,L,D)
After breakfast, visit Stobi. The ancient city of Stobi lies at the confluence of the Crna and Vardar Rivers, and was an important urban, military, administrative, trade, and religious centre of the Roman and early Byzantine empires. The main site contains 26 exposed buildings, including a theatre, synagogue, palaces, houses, basilicas and baths. Depart for Popova Kula Winery for a wine tasting and lunch. Located on the south slopes of Veliko Brdo, (the Grand Hill) west of the town Demir Kapija, Popova Kula Winery is certainly one of the success stories of North Macedonian viticulture and here it is sometimes possible to taste wine varieties such as Temjanika, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zilavka, Stanushina and Vranac from the fermentation tanks. (B,D,)
After breakfast head to Negotino, another famous wine area and home to many smaller wineries. Enjoy wine-tasting at Povardarie or Bovin Wineries, as well as sightseeing of the town. Continue to Veles, named after a Slavic god called Veles. After World War II the city was known as Titov Veles after Yugoslavian president Tito but it was dropped after the break up of Yugoslavia. Return to Skopje and check in to the hotel for overnight. (B)