Macedonia is, quite simply, one of Europe’s most relaxing travel destinations. Outside the capital it’s almost all countryside, with vineyards, mountains, forests and rolling fields lending their hues to a pleasantly green patchwork.
Look a little closer at the few urban areas, though, and you’ll likely come to understand why the French refer to a mixed salad as a macédoine: this hotchpotch of Ottoman rule, Yugoslav domination, Orthodox faith and Albanian influence represents one of Europe’s most varied societies.
The capital, Skopje, is something of a Yugoslav symphony in grey, though one whose brutal architecture is softened by an appealing Ottoman centre, as well as by friendly locals.
Most travellers prefer to base themselves around Lake Ohrid, a delightful, mountain-fringed expanse straddling the Albanian border. Between Skopje and Ohrid, a glut of immaculately painted monasteries competes for your attention; Sveti Jovan Bigorski is the most enjoyable, and lies within Mavrovo, a national park that provides great hiking opportunities, as well as skiing in the winter.