Mavrovo National Park is in Western North Macedonia. With over 73,000 hectares it is the largest national park in the country. This mountainous region contains Macedonia's highest peak, as well as lakes, rivers, and caves. The park is more or less contained within Mavrovo and Rostuša Municipality, which consists of 42 villages. Therefore, Mavrovo also features many cultural and historical attractions, including some of Macedonia's best-known villages.
Mavrovo is the name of the national park, a village within the park, and the park's largest lake. The municipality that covers most of the park is called Mavrovo and Rostuša Municipality.
Mavrovo has an interesting mix of peoples. Ethnically, it is populated by Macedonians (half the population), Turks (nearly one-third), and Albanians (17%). Notably, a relatively large proportion of ethnic Macedonians are Muslim (some identify as Turks or Albanians). Conversely, a relatively large, though still small, proportion of Albanians are Christians.
The Mijaks, a subgroup of ethnic Macedonians, originate from this region including near Debar. They are historically known for their building and artistic skills, as evidenced in the traditional homes and churches of their villages.
Mavrovo National Park was established on 18 April 1949 “on account of outstanding natural beauties, historical and scientific values of the forests and the forest land around Mavrovo Field”. Its boundaries were increased in 1952 and have been unchanged since. A section of forest near the village of Žužnje was submitted as a tentative World Heritage Site by Macedonia in 2019 as an extension of the existing Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe listing.
Mavrovo features mountains, including Macedonia's highest, valleys, lakes, rivers, forests, and fields. Dozens of villages also dot the landscape.
Flora and faunaEdit
Fees and permitsEdit
- 1 St Jovan Bigorski Monastery (Бигорски манастир), village of Rostuša. The most important cultural attraction of Mavrovo and one of the most important spiritual places for the Macedonians, St Jovan Bigorski Monastery was established in 1020. It was destroyed following Ottoman takeover and rebuilt beginning in 1743. Situated on a mountainside near the road connecting Debar and Gostivar, the monastery is noted for its wood-carved iconostasis, done by Petre Filipov-Garkata from 1829 to 1835, as well as its icon collection which contains icons dating from the 11th century. In addition to the main church dedicated to St John the Baptist, the monastery contains many other structures in its perched location. Visitors are required to dress modestly; skirts and shawls are provided for women at the entrance, as well as loose pants for men.
- 2 Church of St Nicholas (Summer) (Црква „Св. Никола Летен“), village of Mavrovo. One of the region's foremost curiosities is the often half-submerged Church of St Nicholas. Built in 1850, its interior featured beautiful frescoes and stonework. It came underwater once the river was dammed and Lake Mavrovo came into existence. Nonetheless, when this part of the lake dries, the church can be visited. Hence why it is now referred to as "Leten" meaning Summer, as it can be visited typically in summer. The roof is completely gone but the walls and bell tower on the facade remain intact. A new Church of St Nicholas was built in 2006 above the shore of the lake. It is one of the larger churches of the region and has a detached bell tower. Its interior is entirely frescoed. Mavrovo has another more recent church at its lakeshore dedicated to the Virgin Mary in a more Russian style.
- 3 Šarkova Hole (Шаркова дупка), village of Mavrovo. At the end of a short, paved trail from the village is the entrance of this cave. Open to tourists, it is 18 m (59 ft) wide and 25 m (82 ft) long and fully lit with reflectors. The cave is rich in stalactites and stalagmites, and is home to populations of bats, lizards, and insects. The cave was discovered three decades ago and named after the first villager brave enough to enter it, Šarko.
- 4 Church of St Nicholas (Црква „Св. Никола“), village of Belčica. This church was built in 1885 and is noted for its icons and frescoes, two of which were done by noted painter Nikolaj Mihailov. The church has an uncommon square-ish shape and was built of stone.
- 5 Belčica Massacre Memorial (Споменик на Масакрот во Беличица), Trnica. A memorial commemorates the roughly 40 victims who were massacred by the Albanian anti-communist Balli Kombëtar on 19 September 1944. The massacre occurred primarily in the neighboring village of Belčica but the monument sits in Trnica, a former village that now draws visitors for its Korab Motel and as a starting point for hikes to Mount Korab. It also has a monastery established in 2012.
- 6 Church of St Nicholas (Црква „Св. Никола“), village of Vrben. The birthplace of astrophysicist Paskal Sotirovski, Vrben sits on Vraca Mountain and is home to the 19th-century church dedicated to St Nicholas. It is a large church with a pitched roof and its bell tower at its front facade. The tower is domed and capped by a cross.
- 7 Church of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (Црква „Успение на Пресвета Богородица“), village of Leunovo. On the shore of Lake Mavrovo, the village of Leunovo has a very prominent main church. Dedicated to the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God, it was built in 1840 but a church existed on the site as early as the 14th century. The church's facade features five arches and its stone-built bell tower stands just a few feet away.
- 8 Church of St Nicholas (Црква „Св. Никола“), village of Kičinica. Historically an Albanian Orthodox village, Kičinica hasn't had permanent residents since the 1960s. Its main church is among the eight remaining historic structures in the village. Built in the first half of the 19th century, its frescoes were done by artist Dičo Zograf and it has a notable collection of icons. The village cemetery is within the church's courtyard.
- 9 Old Mosque (Стара џамија), village of Rostuša. At the entrance of Rostuša is one of the more historically significant mosques of the region. Built in the 17th century, it has gone through many alterations over the years. The mosque is built of wood and stone atop a square foundation, and features one minaret.
- 10 Church of St Achillius of Larissa (Црква „Св. Ахил Лариски“), village of Trebište. The only church in the country dedicated to this saint, it is a metochion (dependent parish) of the Bigorski Monastery. Built in 1840, the church has a prominent bell tower above its front entrance and one large dome above the rear. Its frescoes and many of the icons were painted by Dičo Zograf. The church also contains a significant collection of ecclesiastical books.
Mijaks are a group of ethnic Macedonians who originate from several villages in and around the Mavrovo region. They are known for their ecclesiastical architecture, woodworking, iconography, and other rich traditions, which have made their villages some of the best-known in the country. The two most prominent among these are Galičnik and Lazaropole.
- 11 Galičnik (Галичник). On the slopes Mount Bistra, noted for its historic architecture, rich culture, and interesting landscape, is Galičnik. A bustling town of sheepherders as recently as a century ago, the village is now virtually deserted, its population having fled for work opportunities abroad decades ago. Notable Macedonians such as Gjorgji Pulevski, one of the first authors to argue the existence of a Macedonian ethnicity, and Aleksandar Sarievski, a singer-songwriter who wrote countless songs that are now treasured by Macedonians, were born in this village. The families originating from here, however, generally maintain their ancestral households and return frequently, mostly in summer. It is during July when the Galičnik Wedding occurs (described in "Do"). The village has more buildings under protection than any other in the country. Its main church, dedicated to Sts Peter and Paul, was built in 1931, but it also has two older but smaller churches.
- 12 Church of St George (Црква „Св. Ѓорѓи“), village of Lazaropole. Like Galičnik, Lazaropole also had a large population at the turn of the 19th century but saw immense depopulation over the following decades until it became virtually deserted. Also like Galičnik, many of its families return during summer and other holidays. It is spread out on a flatter area and one of its most significant buildings is the Church of St George, easily one of the most impressive village churches in the country. Built in 1841, it was frescoed by Dičo Zograf. The church is large, sitting within a walled, hilltop courtyard that features a detached three-section bell tower. The church has a large dome over the rear section. Also in the courtyard is the grave of writer and revivalist Gjurčin Kokaleski.
- 13 Church of St Michael the Archangel (Црква „Св. Архангел Михаил“), village of Bituše. The main village church was built in the 18th century. Its octagonal bell tower, which forms the front facade of the church, is capped by a dome and a cross. The interior of the stone-built church contains fresco paintings by noted master painter Dičo Zograf. The village also has a newer church dedicated to St Elijah with impressive architecture.
- 14 Church of the Holy Mother of God (Црква „Пресвета Богородица“), village of Janče. This 19th-century church sits in Janče, a historic mountain village near the Bigorski Monastery. It is a stone-built church with a large cross on top of its attached tower.
- 15 Church of Sts Peter and Paul (Црква „Св. Петар и Павле“), village of Tresonče. The oldest and main church of the village, it was built in 1844. The church is large with a front porch and a freestanding domed bell tower. Its frescoes were done in 1845 through 1851 by noted artist and Tresonče native Dičo Zograf.
- 16 Church of St Nicholas (Црква „Св. Никола“), village of Tresonče. Built on a hillside above the village in 1873, the Church of St Nicholas is a smaller church and capped by a dome.
- 17 Alilica Cave (Алилица), village of Tresonče. Located between the mountains of Bistra and Stogovo, and immediately beside the Tresonče River, this cave is 4 km east of the village center. There are three legends surrounding the origins of its name. The cave is tight and features a rather small opening.
- 18 Church of the Introduction of the Virgin Mary (Црква „Воведение на Пресвета Богородица“), village of Rosoki. Rosoki is another depopulated Mijak village that receives visitors in the summer months and other holidays. Its main church was built in 1835 in the centre of the village and painted by Dičo Zograf. The church is white on the exterior and features a prominent bell tower with a pointed roof.
- 19 Church of St Elijah (Црква „Св. Илија“), village of Selce. Another significant 19th-century church painted inside by Dičo Zograf in a depopulated but charming Mijak village. Selce's main church, St Elijah has one large dome as well as a taller bell tower above its front side. Its façade features three arches.
20 Mount Korab (Голем Кораб). Mavrovo National Park contains the highest peak of Macedonia and Albania, Mount Korab. Reaching a height of 2,764 m (9,068 ft), it is the fourth-highest mountain in the Balkans and 18th-most prominent peak in Europe. It is featured in the national emblem of North Macedonia. It is situated in the northwest of the park. Hiking can begin at the border police station or further depending on how much one trusts the road and his car. The hike does not involve any rock climbing but there are steep inclines and the length of the hike alone makes it quite demanding. Sheep herds will likely be encountered which of course means sheep dogs will also be encountered, so be careful.
The national park also contains many other hiking trails that can be found on its website, as well as at info centers throughout the park.
- 21 Korab Falls (Корапски водопад), near villages of Bibaj, Nistrovo & Žužnje. The highest waterfall in the Balkans is located on the upper course of the Dlaboka River. Its water flow is greatest in springtime when snow is melting. There are paths to reach the falls from the three nearest villages, however they aren't well-marked and involve challenges such as crossing the river on unsecured crossings. The exact height of the falls isn't agreed upon, with high estimates at 138 m (453 ft) and low estimates at 100 m (328 ft).
- 22 Duf Falls (Дуфски Водопад), village of Rostuša. Just outside the village in thick forest are these falls of the Rostuša River. They are accessible via a relatively easy half hour hike alongside the canyon formed by the river, which is a sight to behold in itself. The total vertical drop of the falls is 23.5 m (77 ft) and water flows year-round. Equipment has been installed that makes it possible to descend near the falls by rope.
- 1 Galičnik Wedding Festival (Галичка свадба), village of Galičnik. One of Macedonia's best-known annual cultural events happens in its best-known village, Galičnik, every July. Traditionally, the only period of the year when couples got married was five days around the holiday of St Peter on 12 July. Today, the festival occurs on the weekend nearest St Peter's Day. One Macedonian couple is selected by the organizers to be the lucky couple to have a Galičnik wedding. The traditional dance "Teškoto" is performed by men, symbolic of the struggles of the Macedonians through the centuries.
- 2 Mavrovo Lake (Мавровско Езеро). Until 1947, this was the site of the Mavrovo Basin through which the Mavrovo River flowed. The river was dammed and then it became the artificial lake it is today, a major attraction of the national park. It has excellent swimming, boating, and fishing in the summer months and freezes over in winter. An additional point of interest is the half-submerged church in the lake. Multiple villages sit at the lake's shore, including Leunovo, Mavrovi Anovi, Mavrovo, and Nikiforovo.
- 3 Lokuv Lake (Локув), village of Trebište. This glacial lake has the lowest elevation of all such lakes in the country. Located on Dešat Mountain, it is surrounded by thick forest. The small lake can be reached via a 40-minute hike from Trebište, though it can also be reached from Bituše. Benches have been placed around the lake. There is also a local dairy production facility nearby where one can try the famous Trebište cheese. The area around the lake also contains herbs that are used for medicinal purposes.
- 4 Zare Lazarevski Ski Resort (Ски центар Заре Лазаревски), village of Mavrovo. One of Macedonia's top ski resorts is situated on Mount Bistra and looks down onto Lake Mavrovo. The ski trails start at 1,960 m and ends at 1,250 m above sea level. It has two double lift chairs, one single lift chair with over 1100-person capacity per hour, several ski lifts with synchronized connection and over 5,000 person capacity per hour.
- 5 Bunec Safari Park (Бунец). This site covers 430 hectares (1,063 acres) and is a European deer reproduction center. Tours are guided by park rangers and last 1 to 2 hours. An observation tower has been built that allows for prime wildlife viewing.
Fish from Mavrovo Lake.
- [dead link] Glamour (200 m from the slopes), ☏ . Glamour is a few hundred meters from the slopes, and has a restaurant and bar, and rooms to rent for skiers. The staff speak some English and are more than accommodating. €18.
- 1 Hotel Tutto, village of Janče, ☏ . This 4-star hotel built of natural construction materials is located in the historic mountain village Janče. It features seven spacious rooms with private terraces, offering sweeping views at the surroundings in the national park.