If you are looking for a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of Skopje, you should definitely consider visiting Matka Canyon. Matka Canyon is a hidden gem located just 15 kilometers outside of Skopje.
You can spend a day exploring the canyon by hiking, kayaking, boating, or caving, and enjoy the breathtaking views of the turquoise water and the green cliffs. The canyon is a popular getaway for locals and tourists alike.
Here are some tips and information on how to make the most of your day trip to Matka Canyon.
A few facts about Matka Canyon
Matka Canyon and the Lake are located west of Skopje, North Macedonia, and cover an area of about 5,000 hectares. This spectacular place was actually not made by nature. In 1938 the dam was built on river Treska, creating the artificial lake surrounded by high mountains, making it the oldest artificial lake in the country.
The Canyon is home to many endemic and rare species of plants, animals, and butterflies, as well as the most venomous snake in south Europe, the horned viper. The Canyon has 10 caves, including Vrelo Cave, which is one of the top 77 natural sites in the world and a candidate for the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The cave has two lakes and a large stalactite called the “Pine Cone”.
There are several historic churches and monasteries, such as St. Andrew’s Monastery, Matka Monastery, and St. Nicholas Monastery.
How to get to Matka Canyon from Skopje
Matka Canyon is located about 15 km west of central Skopje, and it is easy to reach by different modes of transportation. You can choose one of the following options:
How to get to Matka Canyon by car
Drive southeast towards Matka Canyon (use Google Maps). It takes around 30 minutes. There is a parking lot near the entrance of the canyon, where you can leave your car for a small fee.
How to get to Matka Canyon by bus
Take public bus 60 from Skopje bus station. It takes 45-50 minutes one-way and costs $1.5 (cheapest option). The bus runs every hour from 7 am to 9 pm on weekdays, and every two hours on weekends. The bus stop is right next to the entrance of the canyon. Check the official site for public transport on this link.
- Skopje to Matka Canyon weekdays: 7:00 / 8:45 / 10:30 / 12:10 / 13:50 / 15:30 / 17:10 / 18:45 / 20:15
- Skopje to Matka Canyon weekends: 7:00 / 8:45 / 10:30 / 12:10 / 13:50 / 15:30 / 17:10 / 18:45 / 20:15
- Matka Canyon to Skopje weekdays: 5:50 / 7:45 / 9:40 / 11:20 / 13:00 / 14:40 / 16:20 / 18:00 / 19:30 / 21:00
- Matka Canyon to Skopje weekends: 7:45 / 9:40 / 11:20 / 13:00 / 14:40 / 16:20 / 18:00 / 19:30 / 21:00
How to get to Matka Canyon by taxi
A taxi ride from Skopje to Matka Canyon will cost you between $11 and $14 one-way, depending on the traffic and your bargaining skills.
You can also book a taxi online or by phone in advance.
How to get to Matka Canyon by organized tour
If you prefer a hassle-free and convenient way to visit Matka Canyon, you can join an organized tour from Skopje.
You will have a guide who will show you around the canyon and tell you more about its history and nature. You will also have transportation, entrance fees, and lunch included. You can book a tour online through GetYourGuide or other platforms.
What to do at Matka Canyon?
There are plenty of things to do at Matka Canyon, depending on your interests and preferences. Here are some of the most popular activities:
Hike on the Wild Side
There is a well-marked trail that follows the shore of the lake for about 6 km, passing by several monasteries and caves along the way.
The trail is easy to moderate, with some steep sections and stairs. It takes about 2 hours to complete one way.
You can also hike up to the viewpoint above the canyon, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the lake and the surrounding mountains. The hike up takes about 30 minutes from St. Andrew’s Monastery.
Kayaking-Paddle Your Way Through Matka Canyon
If you want to explore the lake at your own pace, you can rent a kayak from one of the vendors near the entrance of the canyon.
The rental fee is around $7 per hour for a single kayak, and $10 per hour for a double kayak.
You can paddle along the lake and admire the scenery from a different perspective. You can also reach some of the caves that are not accessible by foot or boat.
Single 150 denars (30 min.) Single 300 denars (60 min.)
Double 250 denars (30 min.) Double 500 denars (60 min.)
Included: Life-vest, Paddle
Take a boat
Another way to see the lake is by taking a boat tour. You can hop on one of the boats that depart regularly from near St. Andrew’s Monastery.
There are two different types of tour. Short one and one that takes you to the cave, you chose what you preffer more.
The boat ride lasts about an hour and costs around 600 denars per person (10 €). The boat will take you to Vrelo Cave, one of the most impressive caves in Matka Canyon, where you can get off and explore for 15-20 minutes.
Vrelo Cave is famous for its stalactites and stalagmites, as well as its two underground lakes. Some speculate that it could be the deepest underwater cave in the world.
Boat trips are about 30 minutes and cost 200 denars per person (3,30€). There are two places where you can take a short boat trip, but the price it’s same.
Cave Deep Into the Heart of Matka Canyon
If you are feeling adventurous, you can also visit some of the other caves in Matka Canyon by caving.
You will need a guide and special equipment for this activity, which you can arrange with one of the local agencies or hotels in advance. Some of the caves that are suitable for caving are Krshtalna Cave, Ubava Cave, and Gorna Slatinska Cave.
How Long Should You Stay?
Matka Canyon can be explored in one day. However, if you want to do more activities or explore the area more thoroughly, you can stay overnight at one of the guesthouses or hotels in the area.
Where to eat and stay at Matka Canyon?
If you get hungry or thirsty after exploring Matka Canyon, you have several options for food and drinks.
There are some restaurants and cafes near the entrance of the canyon, where you can enjoy traditional Macedonian cuisine or international dishes. Some of them have terraces overlooking the lake, which offer a nice view while you eat.
If you want to stay overnight at Matka Canyon, you can book a room at one of the hotels or guesthouses in the area.
One of them is Canyon Matka Hotel and Restaurant, which resembles a sprawling chalet with 10 rooms decorated in local style.
The hotel also has a restaurant that serves progressive Macedonian cuisine with local ingredients.
If you prefer to stay in a cozy apartment or a spacious house, you will be happy to know that there is a plenty of rentals on Airbnb or Booking that you can choose from. You can find options for every budget and taste, from modern studios to rustic cottages.
Tips for visiting Matka Canyon
Before you go to Matka Canyon, here are some tips that will help you have a better experience:
The best time to visit Matka Canyon
It’s from spring to autumn, when the weather is pleasant and the nature is lush. If you want to avoid the crowds, try to visit on weekdays or early in the morning, especially in the summer.
Avoid going in winter, when it can be winter can be cold and rainy, but it can also offer a different perspective of the canyon’s beauty.
The entrance fee to Matka Canyon is free
Which means you can enjoy the beauty of nature without spending a dime. However, if you want to experience some of the attractions in the canyon, such as the caves or the boat tours, you will have to pay a small fee.
You can also buy some souvenirs or snacks from the local vendors near the entrance.
You can swim in the lake
Jump in the lake if you want to cool off, but be aware that the water is cold even in summer.
Wear comfortable shoes and clothes
For hiking or kayaking, and bring sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, water bottle, snacks, camera, and cash.
Be respectful of nature and wildlife at Matka Canyon, and do not litter or disturb any plants or animals
Matka Canyon is a protected area that hosts a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. Some of the species that live here are endemic and rare, and need a healthy environment to survive.
By being respectful of nature and wildlife at Matka Canyon, you are helping to preserve this natural treasure for future generations.
You can also learn more about the canyon’s ecology and history by visiting the information center or joining a guided tour.
Matka Canyon is a hidden gem of North Macedonia that offers a great opportunity to enjoy nature and history in one day trip from Skopje.
Whether you want to hike through the mountain, kayak on the lake, boat to the cave, or cave into the depths, you will find something to suit your taste and adventure level at Matka Canyon.