Macedonia: a country blessed with fascinating nature and history

Steeped in the long-fascinating history and blessed with the bounties of the nature, Macedonia is an incredibly beautiful tourist destination. A landlocked country located in the Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe, Macedonia is emerging a favorite tourist destination. Government of Macedonia is proactively developing infrastructure to promote tourism in the country. In an exclusive interview with TnH magazine, H.E. Dr. Toni Atanasovski, Ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia, talks about the tourism potential of his country and steps to promote Macedonia as a tourist destination.

Q. Please tell us about tourism potential of the Republic of Macedonia.

A country enormously rich in nature, Macedonia has huge potential for tourism. Our country has immense potential for tourism such as ecotourism, archeological, cultural and rural tourism. The variety of natural and cultural attractions present in the country makes us a very attractive tourism destination. We have plenty of mountains, rivers, lakes, valleys, etc. Macedonia has three national parks, Ohrid lake is the oldest and the largest lake of the country. It has been listed as a UNESCO site. Our countryside is incredibly beautiful. Tourism infrastructure has also improved in our country. Our heritage is very old and diverse. You will find every kind of monuments in our country. So there is huge potential of archeological tourism.

Q. How is the connectivity between India and the Republic of Macedonia?

I understand that to promote a destination, you need to have good connectivity; the destination should be well-connected and easily accessible. On this front, Macedonia is wellconnected to every major region of the world including India. Although, there is no direct flight between Macedonia and India, the two countries are well-connected through major capitals of Europe such as London, Munich, Zurich, Istanbul, Vienna etc, and also with capitals such as Dubai and Doha. You can go to Istanbul from India non-stop by Turkish airlines and from there you can fly to Skopje. You can also go from Delhi to Doha by Qatar Airways and then from Doha to Macedonia. Other option is to fly from Delhi to Vienna by Air India and then to Skopje. Indians can also go to Macedonia via Dubai. so there are many options to go to Macedonia.

Q. What are the steps the government is taking to promote tourism?

We are creating awareness about our destination in the overseas markets. A considerable number of Europeans are travelling to Macedonia. The number of people visiting Macedonia is growing every year. We are maintaining a steady annual growth of 10%. Now we have also developed five-star hotels. We have professional tourist guides and inbound tour operators to assist and serve tourists who want to come to Macedonia. These days a lot of tourists from Scandinavian countries are coming to Macedonia by charted flights. We are working in the best possible way to promote Macedonia.

We will bring delegations of tour operators from Macedonia to India to interact with Indian tour operators; similarly, Indian tour operators will also be taken to Macedonia to interact with the Macedonian tour operators. In this way, tourism exchange between the two countries can be improved. We will participate in trade fairs like SATTE in Delhi and Mumbai. As of now not a significant number of Indians are travelling to Macedonia. Most of Indians going to Macedonia are business travelers. We encourage Indians to visit Macedonia as part of their travel to the region.

Q. What are the activities tourists can do in Macedonia?

There are a lot of things to do in Macedonia. In Macedonia you can you visit archeological sites, enjoy food and wine, stay in attractive and affordable five star hotels. Macedonia is also famous for its wines. We have 30 plus wineries. We have some of the finest wines and wineries in the world. Indians also like wines so they would enjoy their stay in Macedonia. Macedonia is located somewhere between the east and the west so our culture has been influenced by the both parts of the world. There are lots of options for outdoor activities, you can do hiking, adventure activities, shopping, participating in festivals and enjoying nightlife.

Q. What about foods for Indians in Macedonia?

Food is not a problem in Macedonia for Indians. Considering that a lot of Indian people are vegetarian, they will find foods in Macedonia very attractive. We have lots of options for vegetarian foods. As in India, we also use lots of spices in making foods. Other good aspect of our foods is that they are very healthy. Our farmers produce vegetables and fruits that are very healthy as they use very little pesticides.

Q. How is the visa process for Indians?

It is very easy to get Macedonian visa. We have exempted foreign visitors who have Canadian, UK, US and Schengen Visa, from the requirement of having the Macedonian visa to visit our country.

Q. What kind of similarity do you see between India and Macedonia?

An interesting link between India and Macedonia is the saint Mother Teresa, who was born in 1910 in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, then part of the Kosovo Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire. She lived in Macedonia for 18 years before moving to Ireland and then to India. Indians will find interesting to visit the Mother Teresa Memorial House built in the memory of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mother Teresa, which is located in Skopje. Just like Indians, Macedonians are awesome people. They are very warm, welcoming, sociable and caring. Indians and Macedonians share many family values. They enjoy togetherness and sharing. There are similarities between Indian and Macedonian cuisines. Like Indian foods, Macedonian food is also great with enjoyable dishes for vegetarian preference of taste.

Q. How affordable is Macedonia for tourists?

Macedonia is incredibly affordable country for tourists. Whether it is food, accommodation, drinks, transportation, everything is reasonably priced. Even the budget travelers can afford to travel to Macedonia. As Macedonia is a small country, you can visit Macedonia as part of multi-countries tour comprising many neighboring countries such as Serbia and Albania.

MACEDONIA IN BRIEF

A landlocked country located in the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe, Macedonia became independent from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. Surrounded by countries such as Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Albania and Kosovo. Macedonia boasts of its natural beauties that include beautiful lakes, ubiquitous mountains, valleys and rivers.

Macedonia has a long and rich history dating back millennia. The city of Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the country’s most popular tourist destination, is located in the southwestern part of the country on the eastern shore of the incredibly beautiful Lake Ohrid. Macedonian has 3 national parks and 33 natural reserves. Mavrovo is the largest national park in the country; Mavrovo Lake is located inside the Mavrovo park. Pelister and Galičica are the other two national parks. Galičica is the second largest national park in the country that offers terrific views of Lake Ohrid.

Skopje, the capital and the largest city of Macedonia, is a treasure trove of archaeological sites. The city has plenty of monuments, statues and museums. The capital city also acts as a venue of many cultural extravaganzas. Bitola is Macedonia’s second largest city. Heraclea Lyncestis, one of Macedonia’s largest archaeological sites, is located in Bitola. Bitola has many neo-classical buildings, Ottoman buildings and monuments and old churches. The town is also a shopping destination.

“We are creating awareness about our destination in the overseas markets. A considerable number of Europeans are travelling to Macedonia. The number of people visiting Macedonia is growing every year. We are maintaining a steady annual growth of 10%. Now we have also developed five-star hotels. We have professional tourist guides and inbound tour operators to assist and serve tourists who want to come to Macedonia.

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