I arrived in Skopje, Macedonia and met up with Evan, my sophomore year college neighbor, and two of his new friends from law school. They were doing a three-week trip through the Balkans, and just by coincidence I happened to be only a short bus ride away in Greece. Since I had no plans, I met up and attached to their trip for a bit.
We’d been in Macedonia no longer than 30 minutes before heading to dinner at a cheap burger place next to our hostel, and the boys told me the plan for the next day was to visit Matka Canyon, which was about a 40-minute bus ride from the city. While waiting for our burgers, we sat down at a table with a solo girl named Angela. We got talking, and it turned out she and her friends were going to hike to Matka Canyon the next day, and she invited us to tag along. Not really knowing what we were in for, the four of us all said, “Sure, why not?!” This got quite the reaction from our hostel employees, who all raised their eyebrows saying, “you guys do realize how far that is, don’t you…” and didn’t believe we would actually do it. However, the next day, we met up with Angela, her boyfriend Vlad, and friend Dina, and set off on the trek.
The first two hours were up a 1057m high mountain called Mount Vodno. This was the toughest part of the trek, as it was entirely uphill, but rewarded us with fabulous panoramic views of the city. Also at the summit of Mount Vodno stands the Millennium Cross, which, at 66m tall, is one of the largest crosses in the world.
The next four hours wound us 14km through the woods past old army bunkers, across grassy pastures, and winding around the most epic mountains. Though much of the path was uneven rock, it was mostly downhill, so it wasn’t actually too challenging. The best part was we were entirely off the beaten track, and we didn’t see even one other hiker the entire time!!
Eventually the path declined back to ground level where we reached beautiful Matka Canyon. The most difficult part of the trek was the steep decline at the end, which was all gravel, so we ended up slipping and sliding down the mountain. We finally reached Matka Canyon after about 7 hours of walking, so everyone’s feet were pretty sore, but the beautiful canyon easily made up for this. The emerald green water running through the steep cliffs looked so inviting after a full day of hiking, and many people were kayaking or swimming in the refreshing river.
At Matka Canyon, we did a boat trip to a cave called Vrelo, which is presumed to be the deepest underwater cave in the world, though the depth hasn’t yet been verified. The cave itself was impressive, but since we couldn’t see the underwater section, we didn’t really grasp its total size. Nevertheless, even the peaceful boat ride along the canyon to reach the cave was worth it.
Overall, the trek to Matka Canyon was extremely long, but wasn’t too challenging. And to cut out climb at the beginning, there’s even the option to take the cable car up to the top of Mount Vodno, eliminating nearly all the ascent. If you visit Skopje and have the time, definitely give the Vodno to Matka trek a shot; you won’t regret it.
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida ✌