Have you ever heard about Matka Canyon? It is located near Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia. North Macedonia is a part of Balkan and it is totally worth the visit. I wanted to visit North Macedonia for a long time and this year I finally did on my North Macedonia & Albania trip. This is how I ended up in capital city, Skopje. I think it is a great place to visit, although some people say that the city centre is kind of fake with all its statues. I had three days in Skopje and that’s why I was looking for a day trips from Skopje.
Matka Canyon is the perfect choice for a day trip from Skopje, since it is only about 15 km away from the city centre. If you are visiting Skopje and you have enough time, this is definitely a thing to do. Matka Canyon has a lot to offer – canyon boat trip, hiking, swimming, visiting caves, medieval monasteries… how does that sound to you? If you find it interesting, keep on reading. Matka was so much fun!
Where is Matka Canyon and how to get there?
As mentioned, Matka Canyon is about 15 kilometres from Skopje city centre. The canyon is a place where locals and tourists love to go on a sunny, hot day to escape the capital. It is pretty easy to go there.
There is no entrance fee at Matka Canyon.
As a tourist you have three options to get there:
By bus from Skopje Bus station
This is the cheapest option to visit Matka Canyon. You have to take bus number 60 at the main bus station. They run quite regulary. You can ask the driver about the timetable and they will tell you. The cheapest option is to buy the Skopska card for buses (but keep in mind that one Skopska is per one person and every person needs its own card). If you don’t have, you can pay on the bus. It will cost you a little bit more, but still very cheap (one direct will cost you around 0,60€).
Matka Canyon can get very busy and it can happen that the bus can’t get to the place where you got off, so you have to walk a little bit further so that the bus driver can pick you up. Also, the bus will drop you off a bit further from the entrance and you will have to take a walk – but don’t worry, it is an easy walk.
This is ofcourse the easiest option. Use Google Maps to get there. The road is pretty good, but can get narrow at some places.
This is another option to get to the Matka Canyon. If you are not traveling on a budget you can take a taxi, which is not expensive – a single ride will cost you around 10€. The taxi will drop you off at the beggining of the trail.
Best things to do in Matka Canyon
1. Rent a kayak
You can rent them by the hour and there are single and double ones. Kayaking on the Matka lake is pretty easy and this is one of the best ways to see the canyon from the water.
2. Boat trip on Matka Lake
You have to see this amazing canyon from the water and if you are not into kayaking, the best thing to do is to take a boat trip to enjoy this beautiful place. There are two places where you can take a boat trip – the first one is not so busy. Boat trips are around 30 minutes and cost 200 MKD/person. There is also a 1 hour trip, where you also visit the Vrelo Cave.
3. Vrelo Cave tour
To get to the caves you will have to take one of the Matka Canyon boat trips that take around 1-2 hours in total. You will get to the entrance by boat and then there is a short walk through the caves where you can see stalactites, stalagmites and deep holes. Some parts are illuminated and colorful. There is a walkway through the caves and they are pretty interesting to visit. Boat trip with caves will cost you 400 MKD/person (this is around 6,50€).
4. Hiking Matka Canyon
I have a good news for hiking lovers. There is a trail that goes all the way to the end of canyon. You will pass medieval churches and monasteries. I didn’t do it, but I’ve heard that the hiking is a real adventure – it is 10 kilometers long and hiking all the way and back will take you around 6 hours. Ofcourse you don’t have to hike all the way and you hike just a bit. I bet you’re gonna love it!
5. Hike to the St. Nikola Monastery
The path through the woods will take you about 30 minutes and you shouldn’t take this to easily. The path is pretty steep but the views are stunning. If you decide to hike, be sure that you are carrying enough water with you. There are springs where you can refill higher up, but it takes a while before you get to them.
6. Sleep at the Hotel Matka Canyon
This is the only place to sleep in Matka Canyon. I only did a day trip to Matka, but I am sure that it feels great to spend the night here. Not even to mention the peaceful morning in this amazing canyon. If I ever visit the Matka Canyon again I will stay there to experience this.
Also, there is a restaurant and you can’t miss it because you will stumble upon it when walking up to the boat tour place. Just for your information ; the restaurant is a little pricey for North Macedonia. But the views are worth it.
My experience with Matka Canyon
We left around 11 a.m. and we’ve decided to go by bus since my Airbnb host gave us 2 Skopska cards to use during our stay. Ofcourse I was very “smart” and I thought that one Skopska card will be enough because we have enough money on it. Well, I guess I was very wrong about it (so, don’t be like me and get your own card). We were running late and the bus was leaving the station the moment we got there. Friendly bus driver picked us up and we found out that we both need Skopska card.. He was friendly enough (people from Balkan, thank you) to let me go to top up my card. In the mean time he drove closer to the information office and picked me up in the middle of the bus station. Yup, the Balkans again 🙂
We stayed for like 3 or 4 hours, somewhere in between. First we walked around to see what the canyon has to offer and how we can experience the canyon. We decided to hike a bit, but we had to stop and turn around because we weren’t wearing appropriate shoes for this type of terrain. Instead of this we decided to go for a boat ride and our choice was the boat ride with the Vrelo cave included.
If you are looking for things to do in Skopje, this makes a great day trip. The views are just amazing and I couldn’t believe that we are so close to the capital of North Macedonia. If you have only one day for Skopje, I still recommend you to go to the Matka Canyon and spend 2 hours there. It is totally worth it.
Useful tips for visiting Matka Canyon
- There is no entrance fee. Even the parking is free.
- In Matka Canyon there is a hotel and a restaurant (which is a little bit pricey for Macedonia)
- There are picnic spots, so you can bring your own food
- There are street vendor, selling ice cream, fruit, water, roasted corn and so on
- You can rent a kayak, take a boat tour, go hiking, visit monasteries or enjoy in the peaceful nature
- Swimming is possible, but only if cold water doesn’t bother you
I hope this blog post was helpful for you. Feel free to ask me anything about Matka Canyon or leave me a comment and tell me if you have visited already or if it is on your travel list. I will be very glad.