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Introducing Macedonia

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Skopje old town ©

Macedonia is an ancient country in search of a modern identity. Since the end of the civil war in 1991, Macedonia can claim to be the most peaceful republic to emerge from the former Yugoslavia, and visitors here get to experience one of the safest and most beguiling countries in all of Europe.

Macedonia is a paradise for hikers, bikers, skiers and climbers, as over 80 percent of the land is mountainous and forested. Its abundant lakes and unpolluted rivers also attract fishermen, while Roman ruins and religious art invite culture buffs looking to see a different, fresher face to ancient Europe. Macedonia's prime attraction is Lake Ohrid, on the south-east border with Albania. This is Europe's deepest lake and one of the oldest in the world. Between mid-July and late August the Ohrid Summer Festival takes place, and this is the best time to experience Macedonian music, food and people in all their glory.

The capital is Skopje, a really enjoyable microcosm of Macedonia's many charms. There are plenty of historical relics, medieval fortresses and a bustling Ottoman-style bazaar. After dark, Skopje's celebrated nightlife comes into its own with great live music and clubs. Mavrovo, 40 miles (60km) east of Skopje, is an excellent though hugely underrated ski resort in a wonderfully scenic mountain location. Bitoli, the country's second largest city, is known for its café culture and Ottoman heritage.

Getting around in Macedonia is relatively easy, with fairly well maintained roads plied by public buses, and reasonably good value car hire available. The trains are clean, cheap and slow - which is a good thing as the scenery en route to destinations can be magnificent.

For the moment Macedonia is still an off-the-beaten-track travel destination, but with its unbeatable mix of wilderness, culture, and famously friendly people, this destination is primed to become the next big thing on the European visitor's map. For those who like to explore countries relatively 'undiscovered' by tourists Macedonia is ideal.

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