High Trails of Macedonia

Mountain biking highlights holiday in the `Pearl of the Balkans`




From $1,220 Land only

Book this holiday

Holiday Overview


  • Off-road biking above the lakes of the Galicica National Park
  • Wine tasting in the region of Demir Kapija
  • Sightseeing in the UNESCO Heritage city of Ohrid
  • Makes a circuit of all the best mountain bike sites in Macedonia

Landlocked and sandwiched between Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece, Macedonia is a mountainous country with extensive wilderness areas that make it a paradise for mountain bikers. Our bespoke itinerary takes us on a tour of the best riding, transferring between locations, staying in family-run hotels and with time for sightseeing in Tetova, Ohrid (UNESCO Heritage Site) and Bitola, as well as a spot of wine-tasting. Predominantly off-road riding on tracks and trails, our explorations take us to the Shar Planina Mountains, the stunning Mavrovo and Galicica national parks, Golemo Ezero (Big Lake), Mariovo and into the Vodno Mountains above Skopje. With a selection of excellent day-rides, far-reaching views and a wealth of ancient ruins and cultural interest, this Macedonian adventure has something for everyone.

explore international

Explore International. This is one of our Explore International holidays. Participants on these trips can book through KE or through one of our international partners. This helps us to gather together sufficient numbers of like-minded adventurers to get your holiday up and running quickly. Led by an English-speaking guide, the cosmopolitan nature of these groups can be an important part of the experience!

Is this holiday for you?

FAT TYRE ADVENTURE. Averaging 45 kilometres each day, with approximately 1000 metres of ascent and ascent, largely on rough mountain roads and forest tracks, with some sections of non-technical singletrack, this is a holiday for regular weekend bikers with a reasonable level of fitness. We will be riding for between 4 and 6 hours on each day. Baggage is transferred between hotels each day and there are several short transfers, but no vehicle support during the day-rides. BIKE HIRE AVAILABLE LOCALLY

Brief Itinerary

View in full
  • Meet at the group hotel in Skopje. A single transfer from Skopje Airport is provided.
  • A superb day of off-road cycling in the Shar Pannina Mountains. Drive to Bistra.
  • Cycle high grassy trails and gravel roads through the Mavrovo National Park. Return to Bistra.
  • Ride alongside Mavrovo Lake and onto forest trails. Finish with transfer to Ohrid.
  • Challenging ascent across slopes of Mt Jablanica. Descend to Lake Ohrid. Afternoon at leisure.
  • Cycle the rugged mountains trails of Galicica National Park. Transfer to Skopje.
  • A day of singletrack riding on Vodno Mountain followed by afternoon sightseeing in Skopje.
  • Departure day. A single transfer to Skopje Airport is provided.
Sun 29 May - Sun 05 Jun Code MAMB/01/16/ Adult$1,220 Status 2 more to guarantee Book now
Sun 21 Aug - Sun 28 Aug Code MAMB/02/16/ Adult$1,220 Status Available Book now
Sun 25 Sep - Sun 02 Oct Code MAMB/03/16/ Adult$1,220 Status Available Book now
Sun 28 May - Sun 04 Jun Code MAMB/01/17/ Adult$1,220 Status Available Book now
We sell this holiday on a Land Only basis and recommend that you book your flights to Skopje Airport. A group transfer is provided to the first night's accommodation in Popova Shapka. Please refer to Joining Arrangements and Transfers in the trip dossier for further details.

Flights SHOULD NOT be booked until you have received your booking confirmation and the trip is showing 'Guaranteed to Run' or 'Limited'.

If flying from the UK there are a number of airlines offering flights to Skopje. These include the low-cost airline Wizz Air who have flights from London Luton. Click on the 'Flight information' link below for further information on booking low cost airlines.

Alternatively if you would prefer to book a 'Flight Inclusive Package' using scheduled airlines from the UK please contact our flights department for a quote. Whilst flight prices are likely to be more expensive you will benefit from full financial protection.

BOOK WITH KE CONFIDENCE - No surcharge guarantee*

* Against Land Only services.

Map & Itinerary

The Route

  • airport
  • point
  • trip direction
  • transfer
  • bike

Holiday Itinerary

  • Meet at the group hotel in Skopje. A single transfer from Skopje Airport is provided.

    We will meet at the group accommodation in Popova Shapka. KE Land Only package services begin with a single timed group transfer is provided from Skopje Airport to the group hotel. This is usually later in the evening, so the group meeting will be over breakfast the following morning.

    • Accommodation Hotel

  • A superb day of off-road cycling in the Shar Pannina Mountains. Drive to Bistra.

    Today's great introductory ride takes us into the mountains of Shar Planina. Following non-technical off-road tracks and close to the border with Kosovo, we cycle into the untamed Leshnica Valley. Here, we discover a hidden paradise and have astonishing views of one of Europe’s secret mountain regions. On our way back to the road, we ride by way of Ceripashina and the Ski Centre, then continue to the city of Tetovo, where we will visit one of the most beautiful mosques in the Balkans. In Tetovo, we will also take a break for Turkish coffee, before driving to our hotel in Bistra.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Ascent 1000m

    • Distance 35km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 1000m

  • Cycle high grassy trails and gravel roads through the Mavrovo National Park. Return to Bistra.

    After our introduction to Macedonian mountain biking yesterday we are now in good shape to take on a few further challenges today. Today we cycle the first of two days through the Mavrovo National Park. Riding an ever changing combination of tar and compact gravel roads leads us through a fairytale scene of grassy meadows and snowy peaks. Our route today follows the Radika River and depending on conditions the finishing point today will decided on the day. Finishing the day with the short transfer back to our charming Bistra hotel, we refuel with traditional Macedonian cuisine.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Ascent 950m

    • Distance 50km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 1300m

  • Ride alongside Mavrovo Lake and onto forest trails. Finish with transfer to Ohrid.

    Biking into the Bistra Mountains takes us alongside the emerald green Mavrovo Lake, with visits to the villages of Nikiforovo and Leunovo. We continue off-road to Galicnik, whilst riding through green pastures dotted with ancient sheepfolds. Galicnik is one of the most beautiful mountain villages in Macedonia, with houses built in an old traditional Macedonian style. A long downhill through forest then leads to the roadhead village of Tresonche, where the way of life has changed remarkably little since the 19th century. Here, we are picked up and transfer to our hotel accommodation in Ohrid.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Ascent 1000m

    • Distance 70km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 1650m

  • Challenging ascent across slopes of Mt Jablanica. Descend to Lake Ohrid. Afternoon at leisure.

    After breakfast we take a short transfer to the lower slopes of Mt Jablanica. Straddling the border with Albania, Jablanica is one of the few places that where the Balkan Lynx can be spotted. Starting with a dirt road climb our route today takes us close to the Albanian border and through traditional Macedonian mountain life. From our highpoint, we follow the Albanian on a superb 14km descent directly to Lake Ohrid. Continuing to cycle around Lake Ohrid we stop by a local fish restaurant for a traditional lunch. On return to Ohrid town, the rest of the afternoon is yours to explore the historic streets and sights of this UNESCO town.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Ascent 700m

    • Distance 45km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 1100m

  • Cycle the rugged mountains trails of Galicica National Park. Transfer to Skopje.

    Described as an open air botanical gardens, the Galicica National Park is our objective today. Riding from Velestovo (on the outskirts of Ohrid), we ascend gradually into a scenic mountain region with panoramic views of the Ohrid and Prespa lakes. There will be lots of opportunities for photo stops. Then, as we begin our descent, we will enjoy a mix of off-road and backroad biking with some singletrack. From Eleshec, we drive to the picturesque fishing village of Trpejca for lunch, then transfer to Skopje.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Ascent 850m

    • Distance 40km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 1250m

  • A day of singletrack riding on Vodno Mountain followed by afternoon sightseeing in Skopje.

    We have a final morning of riding in the Skopje area and this includes the option of some cable-car assisted singletrack biking on Vodno Mountain. There is then a short ride on a quiet road to Matka Canyon, one of the most famous outdoor destinations in the Skopje region – this is a magnificent canyon with a man-made lake, with the option of a boat trip to a cave. Here, too, we visit the 14th century monastery of St Andreja (built by the son of the famous medieval king, Volkashin). We take lunch, before heading back to Skopje, where we do some sightseeing in the old bazaar, at Skopje Fortress and at the ‘Stone Bridge’. We also see some monuments from the ‘Skopje 2014’ Project. We spend our final night at our Skopje hotel.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Ascent 800m

    • Distance 40km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 1000m

  • Departure day. A single transfer to Skopje Airport is provided.

    KE Land Only package services end with the early morning group transfer from the hotel to Skopje Airport. Should you wish to extend your time in Macedonia, our team of adventure travel consultants would be happy to discuss options with you.

    • Meals b

Holiday Information

  • English-speaking local guide
  • Airport transfers as described
  • All accommodation as described
  • All Meals
  • All land transport required by the itinerary
  • National park entrance fees
  • All excursions and sightseeing mentioned in the itinerary

  • Travel insurance
  • Visas
  • Airport taxes
  • Airport transfers other than those described
  • Extra activities and excursions
  • Tips for local staff
  • Miscellaneous personal expenditure
  • Bike hire and/or bike carriage

For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

Clients should join this trip at Skopje Airport. A single timed group transfer to first night's hotel in Popova Shapka is provided on Day 1 of the trip itinerary. This transfer will depart from Skopje Airport in the late evening of day 1/early hours of day 2. At the end of the trip itinerary (Day 8) there will be a single, early afternoon group transfer back to Skopje Airport. Clients arriving/departing on flights that do not coincide with the times for these transfers should make their own transfer arrangement. Contact details and an emergency number will be provided.

Hotel contact details together with an emergency number will be provided with your booking confirmation.

During this holiday there will be 7 nights in simple and comfortable hotel and lodge accommodation in several different towns. All accommodation is based on twin sharing, or occasionally triple sharing. If you are travelling by yourself, you will be paired with another solo traveller of the same sex.

View the gallery below for images of the style of accommodation used

With a mix of Balkan, Turkish and European influences, Macedonian food can be brilliant. In the hotels breakfast are continental style, with cereals, bread and jam, tea, coffee and sometimes eggs. You may also have the chance to try a more traditional Macedonian breakfast of eggs, tomato and feta. At the guesthouses, breakfasts are also simple. Packed lunches are provided and will consist of bread and a variety of meats, cheeses, tomatoes and cucumber. There will also be plenty of fruit, biscuits and cake. Evening meals include traditional soups, fantastic locally-grown vegetables, local dairy produce and meat dishes. Water is provided, but very often this is from local wells or mountain streams and is not chlorinated. If you are concerned about drinking untreated water, we suggest you bring a supply of water treatment tablets.

All meals from breakfast on day 2 to dinner on Day 7. The transfer on Day 8 will be too early for breakfast.

Approximately £150 should be allowed for miscellaneous expenses including your bar bills and reasonable tips to the support crew. If you intend to buy expensive souvenirs, you should budget accordingly (credit cards can be useful in this respect). Macedonia's unit of currency is the denar. By far the easiest way to obtain your travel cash is from ATM’s using a credit card or a debit card linked to the International Plus or Cirrus system - remember you will need your PIN number to do this. ATM’s are available at the Skopje Airport and in Popova Shapka and in Ohrid. Credit cards can be used to purchase goods and services in some shops, hotels and restaurants in Macedonia.

The group will be accompanied throughout by a professional English-speaking local tour leader.

Tips do not form part of the wages of local staff but they are very much appreciated. It is important to remember that tipping is voluntary and should be dependent on good service. It is best if the tip is given at the end of the trip by the group as a whole. We recommend that each group member contributes around £25 and that tips are then distributed between the guide, driver and any other support staff as the group feels is appropriate.

Taking a bike on an aircraft is usually straightforward. Different airlines have differing policies with regard to baggage allowances and transporting bikes. We strongly advise that you check the current policy of your chosen airline for carrying bikes and their baggage allowances before purchasing your air ticket. The baggage section on your chosen airline’s website will usually contain this information. We suggest that you are aware of the weight and dimensions of your intended check-in baggage in advance of your arrival at the airport as airlines may charge for both excess and oversize baggage, or refuse to carry oversized baggage. If you are using a domestic flight to connect with your International flight then it is likely that a different baggage policy will exist for the domestic and international flight sections. Again you should check the baggage policy with your chosen domestic airline prior to booking your domestic flight tickets. Any additional charges incurred for transporting your bike on any of the flights required for this adventure (international, domestic and internal flights within the trip itinerary - if applicable) are the responsibility of each individual client.

We recommend CROSS COUNTRY KNOBBLY tyres for this holiday. Your Bike MUST be at least a mid level Mountain Bike such as a Specialized Rockhopper or Trek 6500. Front suspension is essential and comes as standard on the vast majority of modern mountain bikes. Whilst 'hardtails' work OK for this trip, it is likely that a full suspension bike will allow you to make more of the terrain. Please call us if you are unsure about the suitability of your current bike. We cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring that your bike is in perfect working condition before you start this trip. You are depending on your bike to transport you throughout your holiday and across demanding terrain. It is VITAL to ensure it is THOROUGHLY SERVICED to guarantee it is in good mechanical order before departure. If you are not mechanically minded, get your local bicycle dealer to service it for you. For home mechanics, points to note particularly are:

a) Check rims and if they are worn, cracked or dented replace with a new rim or wheel to avoid wheel failure. It is especially important to check that the rims on rim-braked bikes are not worn concave by the brake blocks - replace them if they are.

b) Check wheels are true and spoke tension is tight.

c) Check ALL bearings and quick release skewers, adjust / grease bearings as required.

d) Check and, if required, replace brake and gear cables.

e) Check brake discs, brake pads, calliper mounts and cables / hydraulic lines - replace if necessary.

f) Check, lube / threadlock (as required) and tighten all bolts to specified torque settings (esp. suspension pivots, bottom brackets, disc rotor bolts & disk mount bolts).

g) Check chain, cassette and chain rings for wear - replace if worn.

h) Make sure you have the right tyres, inner tubes and BIKE SPECIFIC SPARES for your bike.

Whilst not essential, it is a good idea that you familiarise yourself with how to carry out at least some basic repairs to your bike e.g. fixing a puncture and changing an inner tube. Naturally, our bike guides will always be happy to assist with any repairs. However, due to the often-remote nature of our trips, being able to carry out a simple repair can save time and the inconvenience of waiting for assistance.

Travelling with a bike is usually as straightforward as travelling with any other type of baggage -providing you have packed it adequately. We have many years experience of travelling with our bikes, and nowadays we think that the best way to travel and fly with a bike is to partially dismantle it and put it into a purpose made soft bike bag. Although more expensive than a cardboard bike box, they are smaller in size to transport and are considerably easier to handle. To pack your bike you simply remove both wheels and pedals and prepare it for travel as follows. Obviously, extra care when packing your bike can minimise the chances of accidental damage occurring in transit. Ask your local bike store for plastic wheel hub protectors (which will prevent damage to your bike bag) and plastic fork and frame spacers, insert the spacers into the dropouts, tape them in place and then put extra padding over this area. Use pipe insulation lagging (from your local DIY store) to cover frame tubes, forks and seat post. If required, remove your bars from the stem and attach them carefully to your frame/forks using plastic ties or pvc tape -ensure that your Ergo/Sti levers are well padded to minimise the chance of damage. You may also wish to remove your rear gear mech, pad it with foam and tape it to the chainstay out of harms way. Finally, you should partly deflate your tyres, but leave some air in them to help absorb any impact on the wheels. Don’t forget to pack wheel skewers, pedals and any bolts you have removed, these are the items that tend to get left behind. Finally, find an old cardboard bike box and cut out panels to fit inside your soft bike bag for extra protection. Don’t forget to bring sufficient packing materials to pack your bike on the way home.

PLEASE DO NOT USE a purpose-made rigid bike box -these are heavy (which can put you over your baggage allowance) and are also too bulky to be easily stored or transported on the group’s support vehicle.

This biking holiday is not vehicle supported during the day. All baggage is transported between hotels. A single airport transfer is provided at the start and end of the holiday and there will also be a number of short transfers within the itinerary. During the day you need to have a day pack that is big enough to carry spares, extra clothing and a packed lunch. Check our equipment list for details.

It is possible to hire bikes for this holiday. Our local agent has access to Corratec X-Vert Halcon hardtail mountain bikes in all sizes. These have Shimano components, RST Capa 80mm travel forks and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes. The bikes are equipped with flat pedals. If you prefer to use spd or clip-in pedals, you will need to bring these with you, along with your regular cycling shoes and cleats. Another item which you might choose to take with you on the holiday is your saddle. The hire bikes have standard saddles and anyone requiring more comfort, or a women-specific saddle, should consider taking their own. Helmets are included in the hire cost, although you might choose to take your own. The cost of bike hire for the duration of the holiday is 160 euros (January 2014 subject to change). You will make this payment directly to the local group leader in euros when the bike is delivered to you. This payment does not cover you if you lose the bike or damage it beyond 'fair wear and tear'. You will need to provide a photocopy of your passport information pages and your credit card details, as security against loss of or damage to the bike. If you want to hire a bike, please contact the KE office and we can reserve one on your behalf. We must stress that your hire contract will be with the local hire company and that KE cannot be held responsible for any issues arising from bike hire.

All KE clients will receive a FREE KE trek bag.  These have been specially made to stand up to the rigours of adventure travel.  Your KE bag will be posted to you when your trip is guaranteed to run or on receipt of your booking if the trip is already guaranteed.  If you have travelled with us before and already have a KE trek bag you can select an alternative free gift in the booking process.

This holiday does not involve any significant ascent to altitude and we would not expect any altitude issues with this trip.

A passport with 3 months remaining validity is required. Passport holders from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or any EU countries do not require a visa. Other nationalities should check with the respective consulate in their own country.

Whilst we keep our information up to date, you should be advised that visa requirements can change. It is recommended that you contact the relevant commission in case of recent amendments.

The following is a basic checklist to help you with your packing. We recommend using the layering principle of clothing for varying climatic conditions. Good padded cycling shorts are essential.

Your Bike MUST be at least a mid level Mountain Bike such as a Specialized Rockhopper or Trek 6500. Front suspension is essential. It is vital that your bike is THOROUGHLY SERVICED and in perfect working condition before the trip.



  • Stiff soled cycling / SPD shoes
  • Overshoes for use in wet weather


  • Base layer - short sleeve cycling top (x 2)
  • Mid layer - long sleeved cycling top (x 1)
  • Outer layer - lightweight waterproof jacket
  • Fleece top or jumper

Daypack and contents

  • A cycling daypack (e.g. Camelbak or Deuter Trans Alp) of at least 25 litres total capacity is recommended. (Note there is no vehicle support during the day and so your daypack needs to be big enough to take the contents below and a packed lunch.)
  • Water bladder - min. 2 litre capacity
  • Lightweight waterproof top
  • Multi-tool
  • Puncture repair kit and tyre levers
  • Inner tube(s)
  • Pump
  • Camera
  • Sun cream
  • Small roll of gaffer tape
  • Fleece jacket
  • Head torch
  • Basic First Aid Kit. Including: antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Imodium), painkillers, plasters and blister treatment, Insect repellent, and re-hydration salts (Dioralite).


  • Regular biking gloves


  • Padded cycling shorts (x 2)
  • Cycling tights or tracksters


  • Eyewear - Biking glasses
  • Cycling helmet - mandatory

Trek Bag Contents

  • Travel and apres biking clothes
  • Training/Leisure shoes for apres biking
  • Wash bag, towel and toiletries
  • Antibacterial hand wash
  • Small padlock (to lock trek bag)
  • Swimwear
  • Headtorch
  • Chamois cream (e.g. Assos/Ozone)


Please note: If you are hiring a bike, you do not need to bring any spares – but you should still take a pump, a puncture repair kit and a couple of 26 x 2 inch standard mountain bike inner tubes with Presta valves.

  • You should bring the following with you as a minimum. Whilst not essential, it is a good idea that you familiarise yourself with how to carry out at least some basic repairs e.g. changing an inner tube, fixing a puncture. Naturally our bike guide will always be happy to assist with any repairs, but due to the often remote nature of our trips, being able to carry out a simple repair can save time and inconvenience waiting for assistance.
  • Tyres - for this trip you will need: 1.9 to 2.2 cross-county tyres suitable for mostly dry, but occasionally wet, conditions.
  • Pump
  • Plastic tyre levers
  • Small tube of grease
  • Spare set of brake blocks / disc pads (front and rear)
  • 2 spare spokes for front and rear wheels
  • 2 x inner tubes
  • Spare chain links
  • Liquid chain lube (bottle not aerosol)
  • Multi-tool with Allen keys
  • Chain link extractor (if not on multi-tool)
  • Puncture repair kit
  • A rag and brush for cleaning bike and drive train.
  • Spares specific to your bike**

KE tools and spares

  • On all of our trips we carry a toolkit and a basic range of spares for emergencies. As bikes become increasingly part specific it is impossible to carry a comprehensive range of spares compatible with all makes and models of bike. **Please ensure you bring any bike-specific spares that might be needed - such as disc brake bleed kits, appropriate brake fluid, shock pump, etc.

Energy Gels/Sports Drinks/Power Bars

  • We do provide ample supplies of water, and packed lunches but if you like a particular energy gel, sports drink or power bar we suggest you bring a selection from home. In most towns we staythere will be a small supermarket where you can easily purchase extra snacks if needed.

A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required. The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. Please check the relevant embassy or consulate for other nationalities. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Visa requirements and charges are subject to change without notice. If you are travelling outside the EU you should have at least 2 blank pages in your passport.

We recommend you check if you require an adaptor for your electrical items at:


The better conditioned you are the more you will enjoy your trip. We suggest that you adopt a sensible weekly exercise regime and fit in a number of long cycle rides in hilly country to ensure you are physically capable of taking part in this trip - this will also provide you with an opportunity to make sure all your riding kit is tried and tested before you travel. Cycling is obviously the best activity to prepare for this trip, however, running, squash and swimming are also good for developing aerobic fitness and stamina.

As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign & Commonwealth Offices ‘Know before you go’ campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas, and we recommend that all KE travellers take a look at the FCO Travel Advice for their chosen destination on the official FCO website: www.fco.gov.uk. North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: www.travel.state.gov for essential travel advice and tips.

KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

Daytime temperatures in the lower valleys will vary between 20 and 30 degrees centigrade at the times of year we operate this trip. The weather in summer is generally excellent - with hot days, clear skies and little rain. Note that temperatures do drop in the evenings by several degrees. High up, we may encounter cooler conditions and stormy weather cannot be ruled out at any time of year in this mountainous region.

Macedonia Bradt Guide Ottoman Empire, Diamuird New Europe, Michael Palin A Companion to Ancient Macedonia, Roisman Ruler of Ancient Europe, Boshnakov

Macedonia Map - Freytag & Berndt

Macedonia at 1:200,000 scale on a large map in Freytag & Berndt`s 'Top 10 Tips' series with the index booklet also providing multilingual descriptions of the country`s 10 most interesting locations, plus a street plan of central Skopje. Names of towns and villages are in both Latin and Cyrillic alphabets.

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