Skopje is the capital city of Macedonia and the beating heart of this modern nation. There is plenty of culture and history to embrace here, with a stay in the city an essential part of every school trip.
Macedonia is proudly home to some of the finest wildlife encounters in Europe and a historical tapestry that dates back thousands of years. This itinerary provides students with an exciting and fulfilling trip through one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.
Beginning in the capital Skopje, students will be introduced to the vibrant Ottoman history of the city and enjoy a guided sightseeing tour before heading out to the stunning Matka Gorge. Here, the students will get to kayak the picturesque lake to Vrelo Cave, thought to be the deepest freshwater cave in the world.
In Mavrovo National Park, local rangers and guides will educate the group on the myriad of conservation and research projects that are continuously underway in the park, as well as learning how to track different animals. There are good chances to encounter exciting mammals such as bear and wolves – and perhaps even an elusive lynx – in addition to undertaking wildlife hikes and drives.
To the south west of the country is the famous town and Lake of Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the group will have a tour of the hydrobiology institute and receive a lecture on the unique endemic species found in the lake. Depending on the biological and conservation work at the time, there will be an opportunity to join researchers on their projects around the lake. For groups seeking more adventure, it is possible to scuba dive on the fascinating archaeological Bay of Bones site dating back over 3,000 years.
The final stop on this itinerary is the ancient town of Bitola, once the capital and one of the most prominent historical and cultural regions of Macedonia. Here students will find incredible archaeological ruins including buildings, mosaics, and the remains of a city.
Depart the UK and arrive in Macedonia later the same day. Meet your local guide at the airport and drive to Skopje to check in to your hotel.
In the afternoon there will be a guided sightseeing tour of Skopje, introducing the group to Ottoman architecture and visiting some of the local museums. Depending on what is available at the time of travel, it is also possible to attend a cultural event, art gallery, or theatre performance.
This morning, transfer to the beautiful Matka gorge and embark on a kayak tour of Lake Matka. The route travels to the famous Vrelo cave, thought to be the deepest freshwater cave in the world. Once the group have explored part of the cave, they will be transferred to Mavrovo National park.
Once at the park, students can visit the deer reproduction centre to learn about the life cycle of the resident deer and join the park rangers at the seasonal conservation jobs. There are always different conservation and research projects underway at the park throughout the year. Students will also get to attend to a 'Leave No Trace' class to learn about ethical behaviour in nature.
Today, the group will have an early morning wildlife observation hike where the local guide will teach techniques for tracking brown bear and other wild mammals. In the afternoon the students will go on a jeep safari tour and take an active role at the wild goat feeding programme.
The drive to Ohrid this morning travels through the most picturesque region of Macedonia - along the lakes Globocica and Spilje and through the canyon of the wild river Radika. On the way, the group will stop for a visit of Bigorski monastery where they can learn about the monks’ life and admire the world’s biggest and most valuable wood carved Iconostasis.
In the afternoon there will be a sightseeing tour of Ohrid (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Ohrid is famous for its traditional 18th & 19th century houses, numerous Byzantine churches filled with valuable icons, the ancient theater and the remains of St. Clement University. Whilst here, students will learn the secrets of the Byzantine fresco painting and see unique compositions which hold the first traces of what would become Renaissance art.
Today, the students will visit the Hydrobiology Institute and receive a presentation about Lake Ohrid and the unique endemic biodiversity. Lake Ohrid is the deepest lake in the Balkans and the oldest in Europe, meaning the ecosystem that thrives here is completely exclusive to these particular waters. Students will learn about the methods of the wildlife protection and join the scientific team in their seasonal conservation activities and biological research. For those seeking a little more adventure, there is the option to take part in an underwater archaeology scuba dive at the Paleolithic site in the Bay of Bones.
In the afternoon the students will visit local workshops to become familiar with the traditional crafts, including medieval paper production and printing, woodcarving, and manufacturing of the local jewelery, 'Ohrid Pearls'.
After a short transfer from Ohrid, the group will get to bike on the scenic route connecting the villages along the lake coastline. During this stunning country route, students will visit several villages, meeting the locals and tasting homemade food and drinks. They can learn about the rural traditions and potentially get to take part in some of the unique cultural activities of Macedonia.
In the afternoon, students will continue hiking in Galicica National Park, where it is possible to climb Magaro peak (2,250 metres) and enjoy the breathtaking panoramic views of lakes Ohrid and Prespa. Before returning to the hotel, there will be a visit to the monastery of St. Naum and the springs of Crni Drim River.
This morning, drive to Bitola and continue the adventure by exploring the ancient site of Heraclea Lyncestis and the scenic old town core of Bitola. This is one of the most prominent and important ancient sites in Macedonia and provides one of the best insights into historic life.
In the afternoon, the group will join a local folklore club for a folk dancing and singing class. They will learn the basics of the Macedonian folk dance and singing, and perform over dinner at a traditional restaurant.
Just outside of Bitola is Pelister National Park, where students will visit the Information centre and be given an introductory presentation by park rangers. Afterwards, they will join the park rangers as they take part in the seasonal conservation jobs, including taking an active role in the protection of the rare pre-historical Molika pine.
Later in the day, the group will hike on a historical trail from World War I, through the Molika forest. This region of Macedonia was pivotal during the War and saw fierce fighting. Whilst here, the group can also learn about the main attributes of Mount Pelister which dates back to the Ice Age.
Later in the afternoon, the group will take a jeep ride to the glacial lake of Golemo Ezero, located in the heart of the national park. The students will then overnight at a mountain hut at Golemo Ezero.
This morning, after breakfast, hike to the smaller glacier lake of Malo Ezero and climb Pelister Peak (2,600 metres). The views from the top are stunning and there is a great chance of wildlife encounters on this route. On the ridge, there is a famous television tower; there will be an option to have a break here to see how it functions before continuing the hike downhill to the foot of Mount Pelister.
Once at the bottom, students can visit a beekeeper’s farm in Dihovo village to learn about the bee life, various honey products and the basic principles of 'Api Therapy' which has a strong history in Macedonian culture.
Today, the group will transfer to Skopje airport and depart, arriving in the UK later the same day.
- Destination: Macedonia
- When to go: May to Oct
- Duration: 10 days
- Trip type: Explorer
- Lake Ohrid
- Pelister National Park
- Mavrovo National Park
- Accommodation: Hotels and mountain hut
- Ideal for: Ages 15 to 16
Travellers will need:
- High level of fitness
- Appreciation for outdoor adventure
- Interest in encountering new cultures
The largest National Park in Macedonia and home to the highest point of the country, Mount Korab, Mavrovo National Park is a key addition to any Macedonian school adventure.
With some of the finest scenery in Macedonia, Lake Ohrid is most famous for its unique ecosystem. As the oldest lake in Europe, the range of endemic species found here is unprecedented.
Founded in the ancient kingdom of Macedon, through to becoming a regional capital under the Ottoman Empire, Bitola is a town that breathes the history and culture of Macedonia.
Pelister National Park is one of the most beautiful parts of Macedonia, offering Alpine mountains, glacial lakes, sprawling forest, and a great diversity of flora and fauna.