‘Wildly underrated’ destination is one of the cheapest holidays in Europe

It’s hard to argue with this view (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

When it comes to a European city break, it’s hard to look past Paris, Berlin and Rome – the star players of short-haul getaways.

But if you’re on the hunt for an off-the beaten-track destination that offers serious value for money, one Eastern European country could be just the ticket.

With just 750,000 foreign tourists visiting in 2019, North Macedonia truly is an underrated gem.

Nestled between Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania, this lesser-travelled Balkan destination has plenty to offer, from glittering lakes and national parks to the ancient churches and bazaars of the capital, Skopje.

North Macedonia’s undiscovered appeal has captured the hearts of tourists curious enough to explore it, with many raving about the country’s spectacular scenery and affordability.

One recent TripAdvisor reviewer, named @jordanellie41, described North Macedonia’s Lake Matka as ‘nature at its best’. High praise indeed.

Tourist interest in North Macedonia is surging (Picture: Getty Images)

Temperature, weather and where to stay

Accommodation in North Macedonia is remarkably cheap, with Airbnbs in Skopje starting from £17 a night and five-star hotels like the Limak Skopje Luxury for just £86 – something for every budget.

That’s provided you’re travelling in January, the coldest month of the year when average temperatures fall between -4°C and 4°C.

May to September is a better time to travel, when the mercury usually hovers between 22°C and 20°C. Acommodation prices rise slightly during the summer season, to roughly £30 a night in the capital, and £45 in the historic lakeside town of Lake Ohrid.

Built on the edge of Europe’s oldest lake, Ohrid is three hours drive from Skopje by bus, which runs every three hours with return tickets costing around £10.

Nestled between Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania, North Macedonia has plenty to offer (Picture:
A must-see sight is the Church of St. John at Kaneo in the heart of Ohrid (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Food and drink in North Macedonia

Balkan and Turkish restaurants line the waters edge in Lake Ohrid, with cheap and cheerful meals starting from £4 while a three-course menu will set you back about £18.

You won’t find Michelin star venues in North Macedonia, but what it lacks in fine dining and international cuisine is made up for by the incredible restaurants and fast food joints serving authentic regional snacks.

Food experts at travel agency TUI advise trying pastrmalija, a pizza-style flatbread topped with diced pork and egg, traditional fish soup and of course baklava, a thin pastry oozing with cheese and honey that’s been popular since the Ottoman Empire.

The Old town Bazaar in Skopje has survived centuries and a series of bloody battles (Picture: Getty Images)

Locally sourced dishes will naturally be cheaper than anything imported, and a pint of Macedonian beer shouldn’t cost more than £1.50. We’re sold.

A word of warning: the legal tender of North Macedonia is the Macedonian Denar.

Currencies such as euros and sterling are not accepted anywhere except in casinos and major hotel chains, and even then the exchange rate is poor. So don’t forget to change a little more than you expect you’ll need before flying!

But don’t take our word for it. According to travel industry insiders, it’s clear that North Macedonia is a top trending destination for 2024.

Travel experts hail ‘underrated’ North Macedonia

Skyscanner’s destinations and trends expert Laura Lindsay says there has been a sharp uptick in interest in recent months.

‘We have seen a big increase in bookings to North Macedonia with its capital Skopje making our top 10 trending destinations list,’ she tells

‘We’ve also seen a 10% increase in flight bookings from the UK in the last 12 months.’

Laura continues: ‘Eastern Europe is beautiful and it’s no surprise that holidays here are often considered “dupes” of more expensive Southern European destinations.

Alexander statue in North Macedonia’s capital Skopje (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘Kitsch, exaggerated, poised between brutalist architecture, hundreds of giant statues in the classical style, and one of Europe’s largest bazaars, Skopje looks a little like Las Vegas and a little like Istanbul.

‘North Macedonia’s capital is one of the most absurd cities in Europe, and despite its many follies, it is a place full of surprises.

‘Plus, this part of Europe is very affordable and less touristy than other southern European destinations.  

‘For those wanting a quirkier, inexpensive and less crowded take on somewhere like Italy, North Macedonia is the place for you. ‘ 

Not to mention the low-cost appeal. Flights from London to Skopje start from just £44 return on Wizz Air, with estimated flying time of 3 hours 15 minutes one-way.

And travellers are catching on fast, with TikTok’s North Macedonia page boasting 33.7 million views at the time of writing.

Tourist Nikki G is such a fan, she can’t wait to go back: ‘I was there last year for the first time, but I’ll go back next year.’

Australian blogger Cate in Italy called North Macedonia a ‘wildly underrated’ destination, alongside its neighbour Albania.

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