Kokino Observatory

Top choice in North Macedonia

A Bronze Age, archaeo-astronomical site, this megalithic observatory sits atop a volcanic hill, at an elevation of 1013m; it's a truly marvellous place. The cracked volcanic rocks were easily shaped for marking the points of the rising sun at the summer and winter solstice, and the spring and autumn equinox. You'll need your own transport to reach Kokino, 19km northeast of Kumanovo: follow the signs for Staro Nagoričane, then for Kokino. The observatory is signposted.

There are some English-language information boards. If you're here in midsummer, remember to bring a hat and sunscreen, since there is very little shade.

Observe the two platforms, upper and lower, and the four 'thrones'. This was where the bonding ritual between the sun god and their representative on earth – the ruler, who sat on one of the thrones – was meant to take place. The ritual took place after the harvest, when the sun's energy was starting to fade and plant life was at its seasonal end. The ruler's power was said to be reinforced by absorbing the sunlight, reuniting them with the sun god and bringing peace and good crops for the community.

The site's primary purpose was for the daily marking of the rising of the sun and the moon, and measuring the length of the lunar months so that a calendar for a periodic cycle of 19 lunar years could be produced. The exceptional complexity of the calendar shows that the people of the time had a keen understanding of astronomy.