We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Gintare, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Gintare lives in Italy, and submitted the following report about Skopje. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo travel rating: 1.5 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: Macedonian, English
Reasons to Visit Skopje
For a new visitor to Macedonia, or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), every corner offers many surprises. Let’s take Skopje, the capital city, as an example. In the center you can feel the real greatness and this impression is stimulated by majestic statues, especially the one in the main square, called “Warrior on a Horse,” which is usually paralleled with Alexander the Great. This greatness is felt most strongly during the night, when all the monuments and beautifully reconstructed buildings are lit up. It has its share of critics, who refer to delusions of grandeur, but personally I was really impressed by this grand picture of Skopje.
Just cross the Vardar River, take a few steps outside the central area, and you will enter into the Old Bazaar, which collected its features from Ottoman and Byzantine Empires. It is considered as the largest in the Balkans and the next biggest after Istanbul in Europe. You can find anything you desire here: good food both in hip bars and local eateries, interesting nightlife, very particular Macedonian souvenirs, traditional apparel and footwear shops, museums and galleries.
Are you looking for splendid nature? Then go to Matka Canyon, located just twenty kilometers outside the city center: emerald waters, surrounded by wooded mountains, secret caves, and solitary monasteries will easily touch everyone’s heart. “Nobody actually knows how deep this canyon really is,” a Macedonian woman once told me.
I was so impressed by the hospitality and helpfulness of local people. Don’t be surprised if after taking out your map in the street somebody immediately stops on the way to explain how to reach the destination you are looking for. The super cheap hostel will provide a free welcoming glass of wine, or the owner of the apartment which you booked will treat you to a cup of tea and carefully explain everything about the town. By the way, all the locals I met on my way spoke fluent English.
Locals are always assuring you that everywhere in Macedonia is really safe, and even coming back home alone at night won’t create any danger. Generally speaking, I always felt safe in Skopje, but I couldn't understand the phenomenon of many dark streets outside the brightly lit central area: these ones I wanted to cross as fast as possible.
Skopje offers a perfect mix of history, today’s modernity, strong Balkan charm, really impressive nature and warm friendliness for solo travelers. In general, I would say that Macedonia is a perfect solo travel destination. First of all, locals are really helpful and very easily involve themselves in friendly communication with foreigners. Secondly, it is a very inexpensive country to travel. As solo travelers we know that travelling alone is more expensive because you cannot share the price for accommodation, car rental, and other similar things with your fellow traveler. But, in Macedonia you can fully allow yourself everything, even if you need to pay all by yourself.
Macedonia, in fact the whole Balkan region, is a very attractive destination for curious solo travelers. So, booking the right accommodation, where many other solo travelers are staying, may give you a very international experience too. I remember stumbling upon one lovely hostel located just a few minutes on foot outside the Skopje center, which was filled up only with solo wanderers from all around the world.
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 1.5 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)