4 Fascinating Heritage Sites You Must Visit In North Macedonia
Part Mediterranean, part Balkan and rich in Roman, Greek and Ottoman heritage, North Macedonia has an intriguing past and a complex national identity. From the glittering lake Ohrid and its historic towns to the dramatically transformed landscape of the Mavrovo National parks, this small country has carved out a niche for itself in the tourism business and responsible travel in the world. Whether it’s kayaking through the magnificent Matka Canyon where water levels change their mood throughout the day or searching for wildlife in North Macedonia’s largest national park, the adventure in this eco-friendly environment is endless and visitors can explore and the same time to relax.
There is nowhere quite like Lake Ohrid. It is the spiritual heart of North Macedonia and one of UNESCO heritage sites in the country. A thing of breathtaking beauty, stretching as far as the eyes can see, it is one of the oldest lakes in the world, dating millions of years back. Lovers of ancient architecture are not left out as visitors can wander through ancient Macedonia in Heraclea and visualize stunning mosaics, ancient amphitheater and bathhouses. Over the millennium, there has been lots of work done in terms of culture preservation and regenerative travel.
You can always sit back and smell the coffee as visitor can have close interaction with locals in the coffee shops. With over 5000 coffee establishments in the country, meeting in coffee shops is an everyday life for people in the country. Come! Let’s take you through journey as we uncover the many wonders of North Macedonia; stand in awe at the painted mosque in Tetovo with every inch of the wall covered with flamboyant frescoes, painted in floral, geometric and arabesque patterns. Or you can simply relax and have a tasty mix of Turkish, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines. It’s an all comers’ affair in this small but fascinating European country. We have taken our time to curate best place you would like to visit on your trip to North Macedonia.
Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe
The “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” are a transnational serial property comprising 94 component parts across 18 countries. They represent an outstanding example of relatively undisturbed, complex temperate forests and exhibit a wide spectrum of comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure and mixed stands of European beech across a variety of environmental conditions. During each glacial phase (ice ages) of the last 1 million years, European beech (Fagus sylvatica) survived the unfavourable climatic conditions in refuge areas in the southern parts of the European continent. These refuge areas have been documented by scientists through palaeoecological analysis and using the latest techniques in genetic coding. After the last Ice Age, around 11,000 years ago, beech started expanding its range from these southern refuge areas to eventually cover large parts of the European continent. During this expansion process, which is still ongoing, beech formed different types of plant communities while occupying largely different environments. The interplay between a diversity of environments, climatic gradients and different species gene pools has and continues to shape this high diversity of beech forest communities. These forests contain an invaluable population of old trees and a genetic reservoir of beech and many other species, which are associated with and dependent on these old-growth forest habitats.
Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region
The Lake Ohrid region, a mixed World Heritage property covering c. 94,729 ha, was first inscribed for its nature conservation values in 1979 and for its cultural heritage values a year later. These inscriptions related to the part of the lake located in North Macedonia. The property was extended to include the rest of Lake Ohrid, located in Albania, in 2019.
Lake Ohrid is a superlative natural phenomenon, providing refuge for numerous endemic and relict freshwater species of flora and fauna dating from the tertiary period. As a deep and ancient lake of tectonic origin, Lake Ohrid has existed continuously for approximately two to three million years. Its oligotrophic waters conserve over 200 species of plants and animals unique to the lake, including algae, turbellarian flatworms, snails, crustaceans and 17 endemic species of fish including two species of trout, as well as a rich birdlife.
Situated on the shores of Lake Ohrid, the town of Ohrid is one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. Built mostly between the 7th and 19th centuries, Ohrid is home to the oldest Slav monastery (dedicated to St. Pantelejmon) and more than 800 Byzantine-style icons of worldwide fame dating from the 11th century to the end of the 14th century. Ohrid’s architecture represents the best preserved and most complete ensemble of ancient urban architecture of this part of Europe. Slav culture spread from Ohrid to other parts of Europe. Seven basilicas have thus far been discovered in archaeological excavations in the old part of Ohrid. These basilicas were built during the 4th, 5th and beginning of the 6th centuries and contain architectural and decorative characteristics that indisputably point to a strong ascent and glory of Lychnidos, the former name of the town. The structure of the city nucleus is also enriched by a large number of archaeological sites, with an emphasis on early Christian basilicas, which are also known for their mosaic floors. Special emphasis regarding Ohrid’s old urban architecture must be given to the town’s masonry heritage. In particular, Ohrid’s traditional local influence can be seen among its well-preserved late-Ottoman urban residential architecture dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. The limited space for construction activities has led to the formation of a very narrow network of streets.
On the Lin Peninsula, in the west of the Lake, the Early Christian Lin church, founded in the mid-6th century, is related to the basilicas of Ohrid town in terms of its architectural form and decorative floor mosaics, and possibly also through liturgical links.
Although the town of Struga is located along the northern shores of Lake Ohrid, town life is concentrated along the banks of the Crn Drim River, which flows out of the lake. The existence of Struga is connected with several fishermen settlements on wooden piles situated along the lake shore. A great number of archaeological sites testify to origins from the Neolithic period, the Bronze Age, the Macedonian Hellenistic period, the Roman and the early Middle Age period. Similar pre-historic pile dwelling sites have also been identified in the western margins of the Lake. The convergence of well-conserved natural values with the quality and diversity of its cultural, material and spiritual heritage makes this region truly unique.
Cave Slatinski Izvor
Natural values of the Cave Slatinski Izvor are significant in several aspects. It is the biggest of all caves explored so far in the Republic of Macedonia, with a total length of all channels of more than I km. Their spatial proportion, i.e. the size of internal morphological elements (slopes, cascades, dry river bed hollowed out, river terrace, sand deposition, as well as the number, diversity and dimensions of cave decorations – – stalactites, stalagmites, salives…), make the cave an unique natural phenomenon. It is also characterized by hydrographic elements (cave river with fissile and active sections, chasms, siphon lake, travertine ponds, springs at the exit from the cave), as well as the existence of living forms in the cave.
Among the characteristics of the cave, one could newly discovered channel (300 m) is 1100 m. With this length, the Cave Slatinski Izvor is the longest of all caves explored so far in the Republic of Macedonia. By its hydrographic function, the Cave Slatinski Izvor is an active, spring cave. It was created by mechanical and corrosive activity of the water flow, manifested as spring at the exit from the Cave. Apart from mechanical and corrosive activity of the water flow, the formation of the cave was also under great influence of micro tectonics, which initiated the direction of groundwater flow, i.e. the direction of cave channels. The dropping of the ground water flow in the Cave Slatinski Izvor went on in parallel with the hollowing out of Slatina River, and the main water artery -River of Treska. This is confirmed by the genesis of caves situated in the vicinity of the village of Slatino.
They are positioned at about 60 m above the level of Slatina River and are connected to the fluvio-glacial terrace of 50 – 60 m at the village of Belica, originating from the virm glacial. The caves were probably created during this last glacial phase. This manner of detecting the age of these caves (in correlation with the surface relief) is novelty in speleological science in the World (Jovanovic, 1928). The said caves in the basin of the Slatina River were created by ground water flows, which do no longer exist inside of them, and they are now diry caves. The present carstic hydrographic zone is at the level of the River of Treska. This is confirmed most obviously by the Cave Slatinski Izvor, which, by its origin, is the youngest carstic form in the area of Porecie Basin, the appearance of which dates back in the early Holocene, while its evolution is in progress.
The rocky mass called Markovi Kuli are composed of numerous, diverse small denudation forms representing exceptionally fine sculpture of the relief. Similar shapes can be noted in the wider area of Prilep, from the area of Mariovo to Kajmakcalan, but such an intensive concentration and such diversity of micro relief forms as at Markovi Kuli have not been recorded so far in broader environment. This phenomenal wealth of shapes is due, mainly, to the geological composition of the terrain composed of metamorphic rocks (gneiss) broken through by younger granites¬granodiorites (ademelites), climate, relief and plant cover. According to the results from modern geochronological research (Mark Grunenfelder, 1991, Zurich), granites intruded about 300 million of years ago into the older gneisses, the age of which was estimated at about 720 million of years. Later, the complex geological., geotectonic and petrographic development of this part of the terrain led to numerous fissures, faults and specific forms of bending that have played an important role in terms of the evolution of the present physiognomy of the terrain around Markovi Kuli. Relaxation processes of the acid magma product followed up by denudation processes had played a critical role in the formation of specific forms of the relief, through the chemical influence of water, activity of humus acids released by lichen and moss covering the rocks and mechanical activity of temperature fluctuation, freezing of water in fissures of the rocks and air circulation. Those agents had demolished the surface of rock masses, especially fragile granite and gneiss rocks and created specific shapes in their present form. Natural structures of granodiorite rocks date back in the period of the hot granite magma solidification and cooling, which resulted in spherical and parallelopiped rocky blocks.
The entire massif of gneiss and granodiorite is characterized by most diverse, amazing and, one might even say, incredible forms of peaks and bare rocks, columns and spurs, mashrooms, balls, cavern and passage recesses and many other forms. Some of these complex geomorphological forms are of giant size, with a weight of up to several hundreds tons. The configuration of the terrain itself and the favorable geographical position caused this area to be constantly populated, since earliest times (Bronze Age, Iron Age, Antic and Medieval periods). The oldest testimonies of life in this area originate from the period of Neolite. Remains of a settlement from Irone Age have been discovered on the hill of “Cardak”, and traces of settlements from the Hellenic and Roman periods have been preserved on the southern slopes of Markovi Kuli. In the 2″d and 4`h centuries, a big settlement of urban nature existed in the area of “Zagrad”. The monuments of the Slavic culture, represented by remains, such as the biggest early Medieval Slavic settlement discovered on the Balkan Peninsula, hold an exceptional position within the monumental complex of Markovi Kuli. The Slavic period (9`h-10`h centuries) are also featured with the great necropolis at the south-eastern side of Markovi Kuli and social and political centre, with the throne made of stone, assumed to originate from the period of Slavs’ comming to the Balkans. At the beginning of the 3rd century A.D., one of the five biggest towers on the Balkans was built there.
The tower is organized into three defense perimeters, inside of which there are remains of various building structures for different purposes. Building structures of the tower are represented, inter alia, by the Monastery St. Arhangel Mihail, where a composition dating from the second half of 12th century was discovered, while close to it, high quality frescos dating from the middle of the 11 `h century were found on a formerly vertically positioned rock.