(The National Reserve Park in Macedonia)
The warm and sunny days in Autumn are about to be gone. They are going to be replaced with cold, knife-cutting windy, dark days. I wanted to use up the few good days we have left in this year to go hiking this past weekend. The weather was perfect; a sunny, warm day. After making plans with some friends, and organizing the day, we set out to see an unforgettable view from the observatory at Kozjak, Macedonia.
This was an all-day exploring trip to few of the beauties in Macedonia. We got up early, one friend made sandwiches, and another brought snacks, drinks and board games (for when we decided to rest). Once we got through all the pickup points to get everyone and filled the tank, our trip began.
The first point was Marko’s Monastery, located in Markova Susica, Macedonia. The drive from the center of the city to our first, and closest, point took about 30-40 minutes. The monastery is named after the Serbian Prince Marko, who reigned at the time of the completion of this monastery in 1376.
During the Ottoman empire, this monastery was one of the few that were left untouched, while many were destroyed by the Turks. The property, the priest and monk quarters, and the church itself are all intact.
The monastery is always filled with locals and residents of nearby towns during holidays and weekends. If the weather is nice, many choose to have picnics or barbeques in the grass fields near the monastery by the river.
From Marko’s Monastery, we continued to an observatory at the mountain Kozjak. This viewpoint in the recent years has become very popular for tourists. Once we got there, I knew why. The view is magnificent.
When you get to the ledge at the viewpoint, you can see the River Treska going into the Kozjak Lake. For those that read my travel guide on Canyon Matka, it is the same river Treska that leaves the Matka dam. The river flows down into the Kozjak dam and enters the Kozjak Lake.
At the observatory, there are several hiking trails that will take visitors to higher grounds around the rocks. To those that plan on visiting, be careful and cautious. There is no railing, and the ground does slide easily from under your feet.
We ended up staying for few hours up here. It was the perfect place to rest, eat, and play some games. In the previous post, I made a list of fun, compact, light, and travel-friendly games to bring on group trips. We ended up playing Zombie Dice and Yahtzee.
St. Nicholas at the Kozjak Dam
Our third destination on the itinerary was supposed to be St. Nicholas at the dam in Kozjak. Unfortunately, our plans changed, and we had to cut our journey short.
I can only hope there will be few more good days left, so I can go visit it this year. If not, then there is always next year.
Jasen (East Side)
Our last destination was Jasen, the east side, but of course, we didn’t get to explore it. The land, mountains, lakes, rivers, and caves all fall under the national reserve park Jasen.
The lowest point in the park Jasen is Canyon Matka, while the highest is Mount Karadzica. The national reserve extends to about 24,000 hectares, and it is the home to the Eurasian lynx and the Balkan Chamois (a wild goat), which are rare and endangered.
Outdoor activities usually include mountain biking, paragliding, hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, kayaking, cave exploring, and much more.
Things to keep in mind:
1. There are no restaurants or shops around (unlike canyon Matka)
2. Bring a bag for the litter, don’t pollute.
3. At the viewpoint on Kozjak, it gets heavily crowded, if you plan to stay at the viewpoint get there early to find a spot.
4. At Marko’s Monastery, cameras are not allowed inside the church. Also, no shorts or skirts or tank tops.
5. Please be respectful of the monks, nuns, and priests and keep quiet at the monastery.
6. The roads are narrow, about 3.5 meters, so don’t drive too fast because there are hikers, bicyclists, and other oncoming cars.
7. The national reserve park Jasen is huge, so be very selective what you visit and explore. Most go to Canyon Matka because of possible transportation and small urbanization around the area.
8. There are no hotels around the national park. There is a park management, which provides accommodation for a group at one of the hunting lodges.
All in all, I would say that Kozjak is a must visit spot if you ever find yourself in Skopje. However, keep in mind that, even though accessible by car, it is in the wilds, on top of a mountain and has no restaurants or shops around. So, you need to plan your trip carefully, make sure you have transport, food, and drinks to get through the day.
Oh, also, don’t forget to bring a camera because you will most definitely want to make a selfie with that breath-taking horizon!