DAY 1: WELCOME TO NORTH MACEDONIA
Meet Macedonia Travel guide at Skopje airport, transfer to your hotel in Skopje. Explore Skopje in the afternoon: Mother Teresa memorial house, the monuments and fountains on Macedonia square, and walk over the old Stone Bridge into the maze of narrow cobblestoned alleys of the old town, lined with small colorful shops, cafés and restaurants. End the day with dinner in a reconstructed inn from Ottoman times. Overnight in Skopje.
Total drive: 24km / 25min
DAY 2: HIKE & KAYAKS IN CANYON MATKA
Start the day with a cable car ride to the Millennium Cross on top of Mount Vodno. As you reach the peak a 360 ° panorama opens in front of you: the valley of Skopje, the mountains in the North bordering with Kosovo, the Central mountain massif in the South, and on the West - the ridgeline path leading you to Canyon Matka, home to the bald eagle, endemic plant life and over 130 different types of butterfly. In 3-4 hours walk you will reach a 13th century Orthodox monastery standing on the cliff above the canyon - enjoy the spectacular view from here before you reach the lake and the boat that will take you along the canyon to one of the deepest cave in teh world: Cave Vrelo. Or, take a kayak and explore the canyon at your pace. Late afternoon transfer from Canyon Matka to the national park Mavrovo. Overnight in Mavrovo.
Hike: 10,5km, 150m D+, 822m D-
Total drive: 97km / 1h 45min
DAY 3: CYCLING IN NATIONAL PARK MAVROVO
Today we start cycling by Lake Mavrovo and through a gorge following River Radika. At the end of the ride, we hike to the beautiful Duff Waterfall, we enjoy a picnic lunch there and head to one of the most important shrines in the country - Rajcica monastery, with the remains of the hand of St George from 4th century, embeded in gold-plated silver. Overnight in a village guesthouse where we will taste some locally smoked meat and homemade wine over a true village feast.
Ride: 53,6km, 596m D+, 1.127m D-
Total drive: 63km / 1h 15min
DAY 4: EXPLORE THE CAVE CHURCHES
Enjoy the village breakfast on the balcony of the guesthouse and take a short walk to the springs of Vevchanska River, and to your bike. Today we ride to the cave churches built by monks centuries ago in the rock overlooking Lake Ohrid. Then, we cycle along the lake on a bicycle path to the town of Ohrid.
Ohrid and Lake Ohrid are both declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ohrid for its great history heritage, and the lake being the oldest and deepest lake in Europe with great biodiversity. Next two nights we will stay in Ohrid.
Ride: 58 km, 293m D+, 455m D-
Total drive: 0km
DAY 5: OHRID
Our layover day in Ohrid will start with a guided tour of the old town: you will see the most photographed church in the Balkans, walk on the Tsar Samoil city walls and see the ancient theatre built over 2.200 years ago - today it is still used for outside performances. The afternoon is yours to explore the hidden alleys of the old town, visit the workshop for handmade paper, shop for world-famous Ohrid pearls, or just sip a drink staring at the lake... Overnight in Ohrid.
DAY 6: CYCLING TO ALBANIA
Early transfer from Ohrid to the pass of Galicica Mountain. This is the best spot for photos of Ohrid Lake and the mountain peaks and ridges that surround it. Here we get on our bikes, and we ride down on the other side of the mountain to the villages and beaches by Prespa Lake. We'll cross the border with Albania here, and continue to a small Albanian village for lunch, and for a short boating tour to the tiny island in Prespa Lake - the kingdom of pelicans and cormorants. Late afternoon drive to the town of Korce, a small town set on a high plateau between the mountain ranges of southeast Albania. Overnight in Korce.
Ride: 40 km, 449m D+, 1.174m D-
Total drive: 68km / 1h 40min
DAY 7: HIKE IN BREDHI I DRENOVES – ALBANIA
We explore the busy bazaar of Korce, where street stalls are piled high with all manner of goods - get a feel of how this bustling trade town must have been during Ottoman times. Than we head to Drenove national park forest, or 'Bredhi i Drenoves' (the forest of fir trees) as Albanians call it, for a 4 hours hike through the bottom of the valleys. Our picnic lunch will be by one of the many natural springs with drinking water here. Later we drive over the border in Greece, to the lovely town of Kastoria placed on a small peninsula in Orestiada Lake. Taste the famous Greek cusine in a small taverna by the lake. Overnight in a hotel in the old town of Kastoria.
Hike: 10,8km, 420m D+, 780m D-
Total drive: 90,5km / 1h 50min
DAY 8: KASTORIA & ORESTIADA LAKE – GREECE
They call Kastoria the noble lady of Western Macedonia. This romantic town was center of fur trade and embroidery since 18th century, when large numbers of Jewish furriers came here because of the abundance of beavers. The wealth of its inhabitants can be still seen in the manor houses in the old town, built by the renown stone masons from Epirus. Kastoria is also home to over 70 Byzantine churches, dating from as far back as the 9th century up to the 19th. Today we explore the lake shore by bike, and the old quarters of Kastoria on foot. Overnight in Kastoria.
Ride: 35km, 384m D+, 375m D-
Total drive: 0km
DAY 9: CYCLING TO BITOLA – NORTH MACEDONIA
A 30min transfer will take us to the pass of Vitsy mountain, at 1.780m height. From here we ride down the mountain and along the fields of Western Macedonia of Greece, where we cross the border into North Macedonia. Today our ride ends in Bitola, the second largest city in Macedonia that has managed to maintain its 18th and 19th century architecture in the center of the town. These romantic, neoclassical buildings tell of the former glory of the town, when every major European country had a consulate here. Join the evening promenade along the main pedestrian street “Shirok Sokak” (the Wide Alley) before the dinner in one of the many restaurants along the street. Overnight in Bitola.
Ride: 65,3km, 350m D+, 1.512m D-
Total drive: 24km / 30min
DAY 10: TRESKAVEC
Start the day with visit of Heraclea Lyncestis, the ancient city founded in 4th century BC by Philip II (the father of Alexander the Great). See the preserved courtrooms, the Roman theater and residences and basilicas from Early Christian period with world-renown mosaics. From here we head to the medieval walls and towers above the city of Prilep, where we start a moderately easy 5 hours hike. Our target is the 12th century remote monastery - Treskavec, hidden between the boulders of the Golden Mountain. We explore the tiny Orthodox church inside the monastery walls with its faded brick facades and Byzantine frescoes before we head down and continue into the wine region of North Macedonia, where we overnight in a charming winery hotel.
Hike: 16km, 683m D+, 683m D-
Total drive: 140km / 2h 30min
DAY 11: CYCLING TO BULGARIA
Today we cycle to the 4th country on this tour - Bulgaria. Starting from Strumica, we cycle through the last villages of North Macedonia before we cross the border and continue into the Bulgarian countryside where we stop for homemade organic lunch at grandma's Rukie's house. From here we continue towards the smallest city in Bulgaria, Melnik, nestled between beautiful sand pyramids. It is classified as an architectural reserve where 96 of its buildings are cultural monuments. Overnight in Melnik.
Ride: 66,9km, 773m D+, 858m D-
Total drive: 65km / 1h
DAY 12: SANDANSKI THERMAL SPA
Our last ride on this tour starts from Melnik, and leads us to the town Sandanski in the spa region of Bulgaria. The afternoon is free to explore this little town, or to enjoy the thermal spa waters in our 5* hotel. Our last dinner will be in one of the hotel restaurants with traditional Bulgarian music. Overnight in Sandanski.
Ride: 22km, 460m D+, 535m D-
Total drive: 0km
DAY 13: LAST DAY
Our tour ends today with a shuttle to the Sofia airport.
Total drive: 169km / 2h