Western Macedonia gets most of Macedonia's visitors, and no wonder: its mountain ranges provide a stunning backdrop, running south from Šar Planina to the gentler Jablanica range, ending with the 34km-long Lake Ohrid. Lying outstretched southward, and flanked by Galičica National Park, the lake is dotted with coastal and upland villages.
With elegant buildings and beautiful people, elevated Bitola (660m) has a sophistication inherited from its Ottoman days as the 'City of Consuls'. Its 18th- and 19th-century colourful townhouses, Turkish mosques and cafe culture make it Macedonia's most intriguing and liveable major town.
Tikveš Wine Region
Macedonia's winery heartland, Tikveš, has produced wine since the 4th century BC. It features rolling vineyards, lakes, caves and mountains, plus archaeological sites and churches. It's especially beautiful at dusk, when the fading sunlight suffuses soft hills laden with millions of grapes. Tikveš' local grapes generally retain an ideal sugar concentration (17% to 26%).
West of the road and rail hub of Negotino, Kavadarci is fittingly dusty and agricultural, though it has a pleasantly maintained town centre with all the services you'll need if you decide to stop by. Attractions include wine tastings, monasteries, museums and Lake Tikveš, good for boating and birdwatching.
Only 5km from Bitola, the 830m-high mountainside hamlet of Dihovo is a charming and increasingly popular base for Pelister hikes, with appealing stone houses and the icon-rich Church of Sveti Dimitrije (1830). The setting is gorgeous, surrounded by thick pine forests an rushing mountain streams.
Pelister National Park
Macedonia's oldest national park (1948) covers 125 sq km on its third-highest mountain range, the quartz-filled Baba massif. Eight peaks top 2000m, crowned by Mt Pelister (2601m). Two glacial lakes, Pelisterski Oči (Pelister's Eyes), provide chilly refreshment. Pelister's 88 tree species include the rare five-leafed Molika pine.
Three kilometres southwest of Kavadarci, past Vataša, the Monastery of Sveti Nikola sits alongside a forested river and displays rare 16th-century frescoes. Created in 1968 by damming the Crna River, nearby Lake Tikveš is surrounded by scrubland and stark cliffs, dotted with medieval hermitage frescoes and circled by eagles and hawks.