Anyone looking for an escape into the great Macedonian outdoors should not miss the Mavrovo National Park, a site of sensational natural beauty in the west of the country.
There is a massive area of 730 square kilometres to explore, making it the largest of the three Macedonian national parks.
There are more than 50 mountain tops and peaks higher than 2,000 metres, with canyons, caves, rivers and waterfalls.
One of the key destinations is Mavrovo Lake, which offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Many come here just to relax and breathe in the mountain air.
But visitors should also make sure they climb up the slopes to see the breathtaking view of the lake from above.
There are numerous trails for hikers, but it’s possible to go up the mountain by car as well.
To get a sense of the impressive nature, check out our aerial footage of key parts of the park filmed from a drone.
The ruins of a church, St. Nikolas, which is sometimes half-submerged in the lake, is a popular attraction for photographers and has become an iconic image.
A national park since 1949, many Macedonians spend their vacations here. It’s less than a few hours’ drive from the capital, Skopje, and close to other main centres.
There are homes scattered around the lake, which some locals rent out to tourists, and there is a good choice of hotels and places to eat.
The lake is very popular for fishing and lots of other summer activities can be enjoyed here. Also, in winter, a ski resort operates near Mavrovo Lake.
People can go on guided tours of the park or see the nature at their own pace, with cycling and horse riding among the most popular ways of getting around.
Visitors should also make sure they check out the quaint villages inside the park, including the picturesque community of Galicnik.
The restaurants here are very good for quality, traditional food, and rooms are often available upstairs.
The mountains of Korab (the country’s tallest at 2764 metres), Bistra and Desat are perfect for adventurous hikes and to get right up close to some of the unique flora and fauna and wildlife.
The colourful forests here contain more than 100 rare species of trees and plants and 140 species of birds.
Animals that can be seen here include the brown bear, the grey wolf, the linx, chamoix and red deer.
There are numerous rivers in the park, including the Radika, with rapids, waterfalls and delightful natural springs.
The Baric gorge, for example, is just one of the many spots visitors should check out, where the surrounding rocks shoot up as high as 1500 metres.
Also, there are various glacial lakes that are well worth the climb.
By Seamus Kearney