Treskavec Monastery

Top choice in North Macedonia

The 13th-century Treskavec Monastery rises from Mt Zlato (1422m), a bare massif replete with imposing twisted rock formations. One doesn't know which is more impressive – the bare granite boulder mountainside or the half-ruined monastery. Vivid frescoes, including a rare depiction of Christ as a boy, line the 14th-century Church of Sveta Bogorodica, built over a 6th-century basilica. Restoration work is slowly progressing, following a fire that ravaged much of the structure.

Earlier Roman remains are inside, along with graves, inscriptions and monks' skulls. The monastery is not always manned, so you may find yourself completely alone atop the hill. At such times, an echo of Indiana Jones can accompany a wander through the site as the sense of abandonment, silence save for the wind, and birds flapping through dusty eaves make it a very eerie place to explore.

Treskavec is 10km above Prilep and there's no public transport, so driving or hiking are the only options. A pristine asphalt road zips you up to the monastery along a steep and winding route that must have been a real test of faith a few centuries back. Start from Prilep's cemetery and turn uphill at the sign marked 'Manastir Sveta Bogorodica, Treskavec'. It takes about 10 minutes to drive up from there.