Cave Vrelo in Canyon Matka
Recently, a dear friend of mine from the USA came to visit North Macedonia. With so many things to see in North Macedonia, we decided to start from all things to do in Skopje to the natural wonders around the city.
Among the many places we visited around Skopje and North Macedonia, Matka Canyon and Vrelo Cave Matka were one of the first destinations on our list of natural wonders in North Macedonia.
About Vrelo Cave
North Macedonia has many caves, including Peshna Cave near Makedonski Brod, but the most popular in the Macedonian tourism is the Canyon Matka Cave Vrelo.
Cave Vrelo is an underwater cave in North Macedonia. It’s the only cave, out of ten, that is open to the public in Matka Canyon North Macedonia. The cave is both an underwater and an above ground cave.
So far, it has been estimated that the depth of Cave Vrelo is around 230 meters. It’s not the deepest cave in the world, but it’s been debated that it might be the deepest underwater cave in the Balkans. This is because the deepest underwater dive point is still unknown in the cave. Dive explorations are still ongoing, but the lowest depth of the cave has not been reached.
Visiting Cave Vrelo in Matka Canyon Tour
How to get to Matka Canyon
You can get to Canyon Matka from Skopje either by bus or a car.
If you don’t want to use a taxi or a rental car, you can get from Skopje to Canyon Matka using bus route numbers 60 and 160. You will need an electronic bus card to use as a bus ticket, which you can obtain at the main bus terminal in Skopje.
Upon arriving at Matka, there is a 10-minute walk to the Matka Dam, Lake Matka, and the canyon from the parking lot by the Treska river. Get our free Canyon Matka travel guide for more detailed instruction to visiting Matka.
As you walk around and make your way around the dam on your Matka Canyon tour, you will arrive at the tourist information center. The kayaking rentals and boat tours offices are situated by the tourist information center in Matka Canyon, next to the church of St. Andrew’s.
How to get to Cave Vrelo
Vrelo Cave is situated across the canyon and around 3 km away from the Matka Dam.
The cave is NOT accessible by walking. The only accessible way is by water. To reach Cave Vrelo, you can go for a boat ride or kayak rental.
The Matka Canyon Boat Trip
A boat ride across Lake Matka to the cave is easier and cheaper than a kayak, especially during summer. The boat ride price to cave Vrelo is 400 denars per person for a guided tour with a duration of one-hour.
If the weather permits it, you can still visit Matka Canyon in the winter, including the cave.
The Matka Canyon Kayak Rental
Self-guided kayaking trips along the Matka Canyon and to the Vrelo cave are much more expensive. Single kayak rental price for 30 minutes and 60 minutes is 150 and 300 denars, respectively. For double kayaks for 30 and 60 minutes, the prices are 250 and 500 denars, respectively.
The tour guide stated that if kayaking it takes about an hour just to reach the cave due to paddling against the current of the water.
Also, docking the kayaks can be tricky, since there is no designated spot for them, the dock is only for the boats. So, if you don’t want the hassle, I would recommend a boat tour of the cave.
The Matka Canyon Boat Ride to Cave Vrelo
As stated before, the boat tour around the cave takes about an hour, round trip. Once the boat leaves from the tourist information center by St. Andrew’s, in about 20 minutes visitors will arrive at the dock below the entrance of the cave.
From the dock, you hike for about 2 minutes and climb some stairs on a marked pathway to get to the entrance of cave Vrelo. Then, prepare to be amazed by nature!
Inside the Vrelo Cave Tour
Your first steps inside the Vrelo Cave are mysterious and insecure. You enter a wet and dark place, inside the heart of the Canyon’s mysterious cavities. Inside is dark, except for the parts that are lighted with reflectors. There are stairs and the tour guide will slowly lead you to the center part, explaining things along the way.
There are numerous stalagmites and stalactites inside the cave, with one famous stalagmite is known as the “Pinecone” due to its cone shape. You will be given enough time to take photos of all the amazing stalactite formations, with the Pine Cone being the most popular one.
The cave is also a home to a local bat species in North Macedonia. You will get to see the hundreds of bats sleeping at the top of the cave as well as their feces on the ground beneath them. There is a nearby cave Krshtalna (not open to the public) that actually is the home to four different species of bats: Rhinolophus Ferrumequinum, Rhinolophus Hipposideros, Myotis capaccinil, and the Miniopterus schreibersi.
In cave Vrelo, there are two green-emerald lakes – Big and Small Lake – and a beach at the Big lake known as the “Russian beach.” The beach got its name the “Russian beach” because one of the first people exploring the cave and swimming in the lakes were mainly Russian pilots hired by the North Macedonia aviation.
Entering the two lakes is, naturally, forbidden. However, there are still ongoing diving underwater cave explorations to figure out the true depth of Cave Vrelo.
Leaving Cave Vrelo
Due to the small size of the cave available to tourists, the visit is relatively short but memorable. Then, you’ll get a few minutes outside the cave to relax and prepare for the return boat ride in Lake Matka towards the Matka Dam.
Where is the cave located?
Vrelo Cave is around 3 km away from the Matka Dam, within the Matka Canyon in northern part of North Macedonia. The canyon is nearby Skopje, the Capital of North Macedonia.
What makes the cave special?
Vrelo Cave is known as one of the world’s deepest underwater caves. Aside from that, it is home to different bat species and many stalactites.
Currently, visitors can enter only one small portion of the Vrelo Cave, look at the stalactites and take photos of the magnificent views inside.
Vrelo Cave Tour Price?
As far as we noticed, the entrance at Vrelo Cave was free. However, to get inside you must wait for a guide to open the door as visitors can’t wander inside by themselves.
Those that want a guided tour (which I recommend) can rent a boat ride for 400 MKD per person (at the time of my visit). The boat takes visitors from St. Andrew’s Church to the Cave and back with a guided tour. The guide speaks English and provides interesting information regarding the Cave.
Tips for visiting Vrelo
- Bring comfortable shoes as on the inside of the Cave is slippery
- Bring a sweater because inside can be a bit chilly
- Prepare for a boat ride of around 20 minutes one-way
- Prepare for a short hike and a climb of stairs from the spot where the boat stops at the entrance of the cave
- Bring a hat, sunglasses, water and even snacks
- Bring your camera – photographing is allowed in cave Vrelo
- During high season visit during working days as on weekends it’s crowded
Opinion on Vrelo Cave Matka
Well, I am ashamed to admit that this was my first visit to this amazing spot. I’ve heard about it, I’ve read about it, but I’ve never actually paid a visit to Vrelo Cave Matka before.
I believe that this cave is a wonder of nature that everyone should visit, especially because it’s not too expensive to see it, plus you also get to explore the popular and breath-taking Matka Canyon.
Therefore, everyone that loves nature, every cave-enthusiast and anyone that enjoys natural wonders definitely should reserve a day to visit the Matka Canyon and the Vrelo Cave in North Macedonia.