Skopje: Matka Canyon

One of the natural wonders on Skopje’s doorstep is the Matka Canyon which is easily accessible by bus from the city. I wanted to try and get there on a sunny day but the grey clouds wouldn’t budge. I did manage to just about avoid the rain though and the canyon was no less stunning.

London-inspired red buses ply the route to the canyon from the international bus station approximately every 90 minutes or so. The bus station is split into numbered stands and it’s the No. 60 bus which heads to Matka. The fare is the same for all bus journeys in Skopje – 35 MKD one way (less than 50p) and the journey takes about 40 minutes. The bus dropped me off in a car park next to a whooshing river and it wasn’t really clear where to head for the canyon (maybe it was just me!) but if you keep walking ahead down the road where the bus drops you off, you’ll eventually come to a dam and the canyon entrance.

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Dam it.

It’s free to get in the canyon and the first section of it has been restored with a restaurant and boat rides (400 MKD) though it wasn’t packed when I was there, probably because of the weather. Past this opening, the path merges into a trail which takes you deeper into the canyon. It’s kind of half restored. It’s quite narrow but there’s a railing in some spots. The terrain’s awful though, with jagged rocks and random dips. It evens itself out at some stages but I was definitely glad the railings were there!

Eventually, it opens up a bit and there was a somewhat dilapidated bench where I could soak in the fantastic view of the canyon. I don’t think the pictures quite do it justice. The way the various rocky hills overlap with one another made for some great photo and the sprinkling of green amongst the rocky landscapes gave it an almost otherworldly feel, especially with the water running through it. I half expected King Kong to pop out of one of the rocks.

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Matka Canyon

After the opening which was maybe a couple of kilometres in, the trail continued but the terrain got worse and there weren’t any railings. I think the trail carries on for about another 4km or so, but given my casual footwear and my tendency to walk head first into complete disaster, I decided to retreat back a little, perch myself on a rock, stick my headphones in and admire the view. It was much less stressful than falling to my death.

The bus back picks you up in the same car park it dropped you off about every 90 minutes. It’s a 10 minute or so walk back to the car park from the canyon entrance so time your return accordingly. The canyon is absolutely worth a visit. Had it been better weather I’d have hung round for longer and had I been wearing better footwear I’d have braved more of the hike. But even if you’re just soaking up the brilliant view, the canyon is worth seeing. Because Macedonia is yet to find a permanent spot on the tourist trail, Matka Canyon remains unknown and yet if it was found in Western Europe or Southeast Asia it’d be a tourist hot spot.

Maybe the fact it is still undiscovered is part of its charm…

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