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North Macedonia: how to explore this little-known gem

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North Macedonia is, on paper anyway, a new country. In 2019, this mountainous swath of land in the heart of southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula changed its name. In doing so, the nation – bordered by Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece – shone a novel spotlight on its diverse metropolis capital, historic and protected lakes, hiking trails, national parks and ancient, old-world culture.

The country previously known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which most just called Macedonia, is not new, of course. Settlements can be traced back more than 5000 years. What the recent name change provided – beyond political implications opening the door for European Union-accession discussions – is a chance for the freshly minted North Macedonia to repackage itself. For travelers greedy to explore the ‘next great spot,’ this repackaging means a refocused opportunity to discover one of the continent’s most authentic and locally grown adventure destinations.

‘For a relatively small country, North Macedonia is incredibly dense with landscapes, adventure possibilities, and culture,’ said Antonia Sisak, director of the Local and Regional Competitiveness Project (LRCP) – an EU-funded initiative.

The LRCP provides support to community-based and responsible tourism development in North Macedonia.

‘Travelers will find their own special place for discovery whether they are in the capital of Skopje, on our famous Lake Ohrid, or anywhere in the mountains, which are some of the most dramatic in the region,’ Sisak said. ‘And, don’t even get me started about how great the food and wine is.’

To match North Macedonia’s rebranded handle, travel operators are offering a slew of unique and active ways to see the country. Horseback riding, e-bikes, hikes, cycling, paragliding and mountaineering are paired with city life and tables of homemade specialties to round out a visit to one of Europe’s most underappreciated destinations.

Author: LonelyPlanet