A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know

A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Skopje – Everything You Need to Know

Everything you need to know about taking a day trip to Matka Canyon from Skopje by public transport. How to get there, what to do at Matka Canyon and how much this trip is going to cost you. This is a complete guide.

North Macedonia was one big surprise for me. A wonderful surprise!

The country totally stole my heart and I spent more time there than initially intended. And the Matka Canyon was a place that everyone was talking about.

Whenever I told someone that I was on my way to Skopje, literally everyone said: You have to visit Matka Canyon! This, after Lake Ohrid, was the most recommended place in North Macedonia.

So I just had to go and see it.

A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know

Contrary to popular recommendation, I spent quite a few days in Skopje and taking a day trip to Matka Canyon was at the top of my list of things to do.

So if you are also planning to visit Matka Canyon on a day trip from Skopje, if you are on a budget like me and prefer to use public transportation, this guide is for you!

What Is Matka Canyon?

Matka Canyon is an incredible natural wonder located in North Macedonia, only about an hour’s bus ride from Skopje. This dramatic canyon was formed by the Treska River and is known for its dramatic landscapes, steep cliffs, dense forests, clear waters and mysterious caves.

Many refer to this area as Lake Matka, mainly because of the dam that was built here, which led to the formation of an artificial lake. Although it is not a natural lake, it is still breathtaking, and the calm waters allow for boat and kayak trips along calmer waters.

A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know

But Matka Canyon has much more to offer than just a turquoise lake and boating. There are numerous hiking trails, many of which offer incredible views, medieval monasteries, caves and even ruins.

In addition to the natural attractions, you will also find some good restaurants in the area and even a hotel if you want to stay overnight.

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How to Get to Matka Canyon by Bus from Skopje?

It is very easy and affordable to take the bus from Skopje to Matka Canyon. From the central bus station in Skopje, bus number 60 runs directly to Matka Canyon several times a day and the journey takes a little under an hour.

Make sure to not confuse the bus stations. There are two bus stations in Skopje that are right next to each other. Buses to other major cities and countries such as Serbia or Albania depart from the main station, while the bus station for local buses is right next to it under the rail bridge. This is where you need to head to.

The bus from Skopje to Matka runs via Boulevard Partizanski Odredi, so you can also catch it there.

The bus ticket cannot be bought from the driver. At the station, you will find a couple of small white kiosks where you can buy your ticket and the main ticket ”office” which is a funky yellow bus with large Skopska writing on it.

A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know

In Skopje, you cannot get an individual ticket. Instead, you purchase a travel card which is topped up by the desired trip amount or travel plan. So you can top it up with 2 trips, 5 trips or anything similar or you can get a daily pass for example. The card costs 50 MKD, (around 0.80€), and one bus ride is 40 MKD, (around 0.40€) and the daily pass is 150 MKD (around 1.45€). One trip can last up to 90 minutes.

You could also download the Skopska App to your phone where you will be able to check up-to-date timetables and even purchase and validate tickets! But the app works a bit funky and it’s best to be used if you want to get a bundle tickets rather than a single trip. To validate your ticket, activate NFC on your phone and hold it close to the validation machine inside the bus.

The great news is that Google Maps is well integrated with Skopje public transport, but I recommend using the Moovit app too!

The first bus leaves Skopje at 7 am and here is the up-to-date (2024) bus timetable for Matka Canyon:

Skopje to Matka Canyon: 7:00, 8:45, 10:30, 12:10, 14:00, 15:30, 16:50, 18:35, 20:10, 22:30

Matka Canyon to Skopje: 7:45, 9:40, 11:20, 13:05, 14:55, 16:20, 17:45, 19:20, 21:00

Be sure to validate your ticket as soon as you enter the bus!

You can also take an organised Matka Canyon tour from Skopje which will also stop at Vodno and Millennium Cross.

Can You Hike From Skopje to Matka Canyon?

If you are an avid hiker and fancy an adventure, you could hike from Skopje to the Matka Canyon!

I haven’t hiked it myself, but a bunch of people from my hostel have hiked to Matka Canyon and I’ve seen them come back the same day in one piece – so it’s doable. Exhausting, but doable.

The trail starts at Vodno Mountain by the cross and the group I met actually took a cable car to get there and then hiked the rest of the trail. The great thing about this trail is that you have the opportunity to visit St Nikola’s Monastery and enjoy spectacular views from there. The hike can take between 4 and 5 hours.

It is a moderate to difficult hike and I recommend you only do it if you are a fairly experienced hiker. Also, make sure you download maps.me as I have heard that the trail markings are not always reliable!

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How Much Does it Cost to Visit Matka Canyon?

The great news is that there is no entrance fee for Matka Canyon and there are many things you can do there for free. So apart from your bus ticket, you don’t need to spend a penny on visiting Matka.

If you are on a tight budget, pack a little lunch as there are plenty of places you could rest and eat it and enjoy the great outdoors for free!

If you wanted to take a boat trip to the cave this will cost you 500MKD and renting a kayak costs 200MKD for a single person.

A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know
A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know
A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje – Everything You Need to Know

What to Do on a Day Trip to Matka Canyon

There are enough great things to do around Matka Canyon to keep you busy for at least half a day if not more!

Take a Hike Along the Canyon

The must-do thing at Matka is to take a pleasant and super-easy hike along the canyon. It offers amazing views and you can walk all the way to the Vrelo Cave.

Just follow the paved path after you get off the bus. You will walk along the lake and then continue slightly upwards towards the path leading along the gorge. It’s safe and other are safety railings along the entire way. The walk takes around 2 hours there and back if you decide to go all the way to the end.

A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know
A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know

Enjoy a Boat or Kayaking Trip

The one-hour trip to Vrelo Cave which includes the cave itself, is a lovely and relaxing thing to do! It costs 500MKD and the cave entry is included.

You can also rent a kayak and paddle along the river and the price of the kayak will also include the cave entry.

A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know

Don’t Miss the Vrelo Cave

Vrelo Cave is one of the most fascinating attractions of Matka Canyon and you should definitely visit it whether as part of a boat tour or by getting there on a kayak.

Although the exact depth of Vrelo Cave is not known, some speculate that it could be the deepest underwater cave in the world and divers are drawn to this cave for its mysterious depths and stunning stalactites and stalagmites.

Visit Old Monasteries at Matka Canyon

There are a few beautiful old monasteries near Matka which are definitely worth visiting:

  • Monastery of St. Andrea
  • Šiševo Monastery
  • Holy Sunday ruins
  • Macedonian Monastery Dormition of the Holy Mother of God 
  • St. Nikola Šiševski Monastery (more on this one below)
A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know

Go Hiking!

If you fancy a bit more challenging hiking than just a walk along the canyon then first of all a hike to St. Nikola Šiševski Monastery is a must! It is around an hour of a stereo hike but it is so worth it. The view is just incredible!

Once you get there you will find places to sit down and have a picnic or just rest and a small cafe.

You can also take the popular St Nicola Church hike or the mentioned already Vodno to Matka Canyon trail.

Finally, for those looking to summit a peak, a Rasa peak hike is worth considering.

Have a Picnic by the River

After all the hiking, boating and exploring head over to the river where you will find a lovely promenade with some benches and even places where you can swim. If you brought lunch with you, this is the best spot for a picnic.

A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know

Can You Swim in Matka Canyon?

I have read a few times that you can swim in Matka Canyon but I was there on a hot day in September and didnt see anyone swimming. Also, I didnt notice any actual places where you could swim like a beach or jetty, So maybe I have missed it, but if you are hoping for a swim don’t keep your hopes up. Also, the water is pretty cold

If am wrong, and you found a swimming spot, let me know!

A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know

Is it Worth Spending a Night at Matka Canyon?

It is possible to stay for the night near Matka Canyon and if you want to get away from the smog or heat of Skopje for a day, this could be a great choice. Also if you are planning some longer hikes and want to have a place to rest you could also consider staying at Matka for a night.

But would I? Probably not. You can easily spend half of a day at Matka, enjoy the activities relax and return on the same day without feeling like you missed on something because you didn’t stay for long enough. Also if you are on a budget, Skopje will be a more affordable option.

If you want to stay for the night Canyon View Lodge – Matka has excellent reviews and offers incredible views!

A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know

How to Return to Skopje from Matka Canyon?

The bus from Skopje tends to drop and pick people up from slightly different spots. I believe it all depends on how busy the road is as it might be hard for the bus to turn around if there are a lot of parked cars.

I walked all the way towards this spot near the Monastery Cave Restaurant, where I found a couple more people waiting for the bus. And I was glad I did as the bus didn’t really go much further from there, so if I had waited at the spot we were originally dropped off, I would have missed the bus. So I suggest you do the same.

Another thing worth noting is that the bus might not arrive on time. Me and other people a the spot were waiting for almost an hour. A couple of taxis stopped and offered us a ride saying there was no bus (of course) and one couple actually decided to do that. I decided to wait and finally, the bus did arrive. So dont get discouraged and be patient.

A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje - Everything You Need to Know
A Day Trip to Matka Canyon from Sokpje – Everything You Need to Know

Usuful Tips for Visitng Matka Canyon

  • It is very easy to get to Matka from Skopje so during peak summer months and on the weekends it can get pretty busy. Try to visit during the week and quite early in the morning in order to avoid crowds.
  • The entrance to Matka Canyon is free
  • Bring cash – to pay for kayaks, boat tours, souvenirs – cash is still a king in North Macedonia.
  • There are few restaurants and cafes along the path, so you will go hungry
  • Bring comfortable shoes
  • Leave no trace! Please be respectful of the natural wonder you are surrounded by. I was brokenhearted when I saw a litter on the trail. Please don’t be one of those!
  • The whole area is pet-friendly

Are you heading towards Lake Ohrid and wondering where to stay? Don’t miss my guide to all the wonderful places to stay around Ohrid. And of course, here is the list of all the incredible things to do once you get to Ohrid!

Happy travels my friend and enjoy North Macedonia!

Pati x

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