DAY 1: HIKE TO MILLENNIUM CROSS & CANYON MATKA
A full day hike starting from Skopje: the mountain Vodno rises from the central area of Skopje where you can start your hike to the top, and to the Millenium Cross (a 66 meters high steel cross at the mountain top). This ascent is not long, but it is quite steep, so if it is easier for you, you can always use the cable car from half way - it will take you just below the Millennium Cross. From here follow the path over the ridge of the mountain with 360° panorama of the city and the mountain chains of North, Central, West and East Macedonia to Canyon Matka, with descend of another 600m. We recommend to start early today if you wish to leave some time to explore the canyon – home to bald eagles, endemic plant-life and over 130 different types of butterfly, as well as few 13th century monasteries hidden in the rocks of this amazing landscape. Overnight in Skopje.
Hike: 15,2km / 978m D+, 994 D-
DAY 2: UP IN THE CENTRAL MOUNTAIN MASSIF
A short transfer by the villages at the foothill of Mt Karadzica will take you to Preslap saddle (970m asl) where you start hiking mostly through beech-wood forests and meadows on well-established jeep-roads and hiking trails. As you walk up, a beautiful panorama opens-up of the northern slopes of the massif particularly toward Mount Karadzica and Mount Kitka, and also in the far north Mount Vodno and the capital city of Skopje are visible. This hike should take around 3 hours, if we don’t count the stops for wild strawberries and blackberries along the trail, or rosehips, depending on the season. Once in the mountain hut, don’t miss the open terrace on the edge of the hill – this hut is well known for the best mountain views in the country. Overnight in Karadzica mountain hut.
Hike: 7 km / 727m D+, 282m D-
Total drive: 1hour / 25km
DAY 3: SOLUNSKA GLAVA
Today is the most exciting trail on this tour: after the first 2 hours walk on a jeep road you will enter the hiking path in a beech-wood forest which later extends into low cypress shrubbery, up to the saddle at 2.050m, where a beautiful panorama of a glacial flatland opens up. Begovo pole is one of the most notable landmarks in this part of the massif - a circular-shaped pasture beneath Solunska Glava summit filled with thousands of sheep and little ground squirrels that live only here. As you walk across it, you may notice their little curious heads coming out from the holes in the ground. From here starts the climb on a curvy single-track to the rocky peak Solunska Glava. There is a military base at the summit, where soldiers are usually friendly and respectful towards hikers and may offer you a bottle of water over the fence. Descend down on the other side of the mountain carefully, as the trail follows the edge of a huge rocky amphitheater until you reach the woods. It will take you around 3 hours walk from Solunska Glava to the mountain hut on the other side. Overnight in Cheples mountain hut.
Hike: 22,2 km / 1.358m D+, 1.260m D-
DAY 4: RIVER BABUNA SPRINGS AND THE WATERFALL
As you walk from Cheples to Nezhilovo village, on half-way down there is a special spot where magnificent Solunska Glava peak appears again and its mighty Nezilovi Spili rock face, looming above your head reflecting golden sunshine. And finally deep into the forest, following a narrow well-marked trail, Babuna river roam can be heard but with a surprise: there is a small but picturesque waterfall few hundred meters before the springs - stealing the glory of the locale. Refresh yourself, fill all your bottles with water and get ready for a walk down by a jeep road to Nezhilovo fishpond – there is also a restaurant here with a big swimming pool where you can relax after the hike. Tonight you will be staying in a typical countryside home where you can experience the true countryside life. Your hosts will pick you up from the fishpond and take you to their home. Overnight in village Omorane.
Hike: 13,6km / 698m D+, 1.418m D-
DAY 5: IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
Wake up with the smell of freshly baked breakfast and coffee. Today you can learn and taste the nature with your host Katarina, a biochemist with 20 years of experience in nature protection, who decided to leave the city and move in the countryside. She is also a certified homeopath and have practiced Gnostic meditations for years. If you have the slightest interest in nature, you will be amazed by her short educative courses: learn what is lemon balm, rosemary, St Johns wort, and how to use them in your kitchen and for medical treatments; or how to make your 100%-natural-cosmetics: face creams, soap and shampoo, body scrubs and deodorants. Or, you can simply relax by the small pool in the backyard. Overnight in village Omorane.
Hike: no hikes
DAY 6: TRESKAVEC
Get up early today so you can catch the train to Prilep: one of the most amazing places of North Macedonia is situated above the city of Prilep - the monastery “Treskavec” - laid as an eagle’s nest among vertical rocks and granite slabs. Located at 1300 m height and protruding over the landscape of plains of Pelagonija this holy locale has been shrouded with mysticism since ancient times. The first stop on the hike is Markovi Kuli, or Marko's Towers - the medieval seat of King Marko on the rocks above Prilep that are still crowned with the remains of his fortress. From here starts a single track that travels by granite slabs and boulders – their golden-crimson colors reflect the sun rays and unveil an impression of another planet. The monastery, as similar in appearance as today’s, dates back around 1230 AD and since its foundation it has been the most significant sacred Christian site in this region. The return back from the monastery is on the same trail. Once in Prilep, take the train, or bus to Bitola, the second largest city in Macedonia. Explore the romantic old town of Bitola along the central pedestrian street ‘Shirok Sokak’ in the evening. Overnight in Bitola.
Hike: 13,3km / 571m D+, 571m D-
DAY 7: THE BIG LAKE IN PELISTER NATIONAL PARK
Rising above the city of Bitola, Baba Mountain dominates the Pelagonija valley like a rooftop. It is home of the oldest National park - “Pelister”, the first officially protected natural reserve in N. Macedonia since 1948. This area is full with wildlife, particularly mountain swallows, mountain goats, deer, wolves and brown bears for which the park is famous for. The flora is represented by a unique ancient five-needle “molika” pine trees, which are species of tertiary age, found only in few mountains in the Balkans. The second challenging hike in this tour will be in the national park Pelister: to Peak Pelister (2.601m asl), and to Golemo Ezero (the big glacial lake at 2.220m asl). It will take you around 6 hours to conquer the summit, and another 2,5 hours to arrive to the mountain hut by the big glacial lake. Enjoy the tranquility and the “isolation” of this wonderful place in the evening, and take a dip in the lake. Overnight in the mountain hut ‘Golemo Ezero’.
Hike: 6,3 km / 1.108m D+
DAY 8: GOLEMO EZERO TO BRAJCHINO
The last hike on this tour takes you down from Golemo Ezero to the villages by Prespa lake. This route follows WW1 military roads and passes by several stone rivers – moraines. All the way down there are scattered ruins of military posts and objects – silent reminders of the horrors that were in this part of the frontline. Gradually, the path follows Brajcinska creek serpentines into forested area of beech-wood and oak trees. It passes by an old sawmill and a small church St.Nikola. The village of Brajcino (1000m asl) is situated in the National park “Pelister” and it is 15 min. away from Prespa Lake. It is abundant with spring water, lush deciduous forests, and it is the Macedonian synonym of alternative countryside tourism where the locals have come together to offer the best of Macedonian traditional hospitality, cuisine and unique Balkan experience. As there is no public transport in this area, we have arranged your transfer from Brajcino to the first intercity bus station in Resen – it takes around 30min to get there. It is also possible to extend your holiday with few more days by Prespa Lake, or in Ohrid, which is one hour drive in the same direction.
Hike: 12,7km / 1.418m D-