In his book “Return to the balkans” Nedim Gürsel writes that the French call a mixed salad a “Macedoine”. And Macedonia really does offer a wonderful mosaic both in terms of nature and culture. Here we invite you on our trip from Mavrovo, the summit of this mosaic, to Lake Ohrid, the “Pearl of Macedonia”
Macedonia is destined to change and variety in every sense. And it is this that makes Macedonia the country that best reflects the character of the Balkans. The character of Macedonia was determined in a period stretching from Alexander the Great to today, including the days of the Ottoman Empire.
As well as its cultural and historical variety, the country’s geography also offers great differences side by side… Over 70% of Macedonia is mountainous and the country is home to a rich landscape of natural rivers, valleys, plains, waterfalls, forests and lakes. This landscape is also what makes Macedonia exceptional. But you only have to travel within a distance of 100 kilometres in order to experience all this variety in which you can ski, live the joys of romance and walk from the mountains to the lakes accompanied by impressive landscapes. Being able to easily reach your destination in the compact country of Macedonia is enough to give you a sense of peace.
Mavrovo National Park
In recent years the Mavrovo Ski Centre, just 1-1.5 hours from Macedonia’s capital, of Skopje, has drawn many ski- lovers from Turkey. Another attraction of Mavrovo, which has a total of 15 kilometres of ski pistes, is its surrounding geography.The region of Mavrovo has held National Park status since 1949. Since that time it has been under protection, meaning that the area has retained its pristine nature. The region has an incredible variety of ora, and there is next to nothing in the way of construction.
The National Park is formed of many peaks, the highest of which stands at a height of 2385 metres. All of these peaks – and the region of Mavrovo in general – lie within the Sharr mountain range. Many Turks will know these mountains as ‘Mount Maya’ from the folk song ‘Vardar Ovası’. The highest point of Mount Bistra, the location of the ski centre, is 2160 metres. The hotels that serve the ski centre are located very close to the summit, facing Mount Bistra on one side and Lake Mavrovo on the other. And so wherever you look you are confronted with an amazing view.
The Mavrovo Ski Centre has a well-developed infrastructure. The hotels are very close to the slopes, making them easily accessible, and thanks to the numerous ski and chair lifts you can quickly reach the top of the 1960-metre high piste.
Ski fans are served by 11 ski lifts and 3 chair lifts measuring a total of 5700 metres. The pistes that can be reached by chair lift have a total length of 5000 metres, while those reached by ski lifts have a total length of 10000 metres. But on the pistes reached by chair lift, the main attraction is the music and lighting. The lighting system means that you can happily and safely ski on these pistes even in the dark.
The members of staff at the Mavrovo Ski Centre are very friendly and hospitable, and with English-speaking assistants on hand all season long, making your needs known in the hotels and on the slopes is easy.
When night falls, the daytime skiing fun gives way to open-air entertainment. With après-ski events almost every evening, you can enjoy your holiday day and night. In this way Mavrovo gives you the chance to make the very most of your holiday.
World Heritage: Ohrid And Lake Ohrid
It is unthinkable to come this far without visiting the easily- accessible Ohrid, 100 kilometres from Mavrovo down a winding road. The road to Ohrid is accompanied by astounding natural views, and the Sharri restaurant is the classic stop for both locals and tourists. As well as the view, the restaurant is famous for its delicious savoury doughnuts, ayran (a yoghurt drink) and natural yoghurt.
As you approach Ohrid, the rst sight you see is Samuil’s fortress. The fortress, which overlooks the whole town and lake, is named after Tsar Samuil who used Ohrid as the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire in the 11th century. The cute Ohrid houses that line the slopes of the hill upon which the fortress stands slant downwards as if owing into the river.
The lake was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979, followed by the town of Ohrid in 1980. Lake Ohrid is known as the oldest and deepest lake of the Balkans; its average depth is 155 metres, while its deepest point is 288 metres, and over Over 200 endemic plant and animal species live in these waters. When speaking of Lake Ohrid it would be impossible not to mention the unique Ohrid pearl. The pearls are created by spreading the emulsion made from the scales of the ‘plasica’ sh that lives in the lake on pearl beads. The process of producing the emulsion that is spread on the pearls, however, is known only by the families that make them. Necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets and prayer beads made from Ohrid pearl are among the most popular gifts bought by tourists. Because of this special pearl, Ohrid is also known as ‘the Pearl of Macedonia’.
Another point of interest in the historically rich area is the Water Museum that is constructed on stilts in Lake Ohrid. The design of the museum was based on the findings of archaeological research carried out in the area in the 2000s, and the museum also exhibits items found in underwater archaeological research. The Water Museum is interesting as it shows the way of life of peoples who are known to have lived in the region in pre-historical times.
What’s more, on one side of the lake lies Macedonia, on the other Albania. As the Macedonian side of the lake is a summer resort, the population here doubles in summer months. In the winter a peaceful silence and the slow moving rhythm of life rules over Lake Ohrid.
As well as being Macedonia’s holiday retreat, Ohrid is also a town that holds religious importance. Known as the town where the Cyrillic alphabet was born, Ohrid holds an important place in the Orthodox Church. The Early Cyrillic alphabet, which was developed to write the Old Church Slavonic language, became the common alphabet of the hundreds of churches and monasteries built around the lake. According to legend, 365 churches and monasteries were built around Lake Ohrid in order for people to be able to worship at a different site every day of the year. Today there are known to be roughly 40 churches and monasteries around the lake and there are ten churches in the centre of Ohrid alone. The churches of St Nikola and St Sophia are the most visited. The Church of St John at Kaneo, which stands on the shore of the lake, is the most striking of these churches and has become the symbol of the city. Another reason for the church’s popularity with tourists is that it was the setting for some scenes of the 1994 lm “Before the Rain”.
There is one other place in Ohrid that we absolutely must mention. Here, in a small workshop, custom-made paper is produced using traditional methods, upon which views of Ohrid are painted. Who knows, perhaps this special souvenir that will remind you of your wonderful holiday moments will make it a tiny bit easier for you to say goodbye to the enchantingly beautiful Mavrovo and Ohrid.
Summertime Beauty: Mavrovo National Park may be a top destination for ski lovers but it can also be the perfect spot for a peaceful holiday surrounded by nature in the summer months.
How Can I Get There?
Atlasjet has an ‘Interline Agreement’ with ‘Macedonian Airlines’, meaning that you can fly to Istanbul from all our domestic and international flight destinations and get a connecting flight to Skopje, the heart of Macedonia. Thanks to this agreement you can benefit from our special prices and collect your luggage at the final customs point.
There are almost 40 churches and monasteries surrounding Lake Ohrid. These places of worship are interesting for their historical importance and also keep faith tourism alive.
High Income From Tourism
Other than Ohrid, the cities of Struga and Pogradec (Albania) are also located on the shores of the lake. Despite their lakeside location, all of these cities receive a greater income from tourism than from fishing.