Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide

Visiting Tetovo From Skopje – Is it Worth it And What to Do?

This is your complete guide on visiting Tetovo on a day trip from Skopje.

Tetovo is a very interesting town to visit and for reasons that are not immediately obvious.

What at first seems like a great day trip from Skopje to admire a one-of-a-kind painted mosque and interesting town, if you are a curious traveller, it can become an insight into complicated and complex Balkans history and international relationships.


You should be!

Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide

Tetovo was founded in the 14th century and came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. Although Tetovo fell under the rule of many different empires such as the Illyrians, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Ottomans, its history has always been closely intertwined with that of Albania. Today, around 70% of Tetovo’s inhabitants are ethnic Albanians. Some say that Tetovo is more Albanian than Macedonian and with that, as you can imagine, come many challenges.

In 2001, an armed conflict in the village of Tearce near Tetovo shook the nation, and although the conflict ended with the signing of the Ohrid Peace Accord, most Macedonians left Tetovo. However, it is also said that the conflict and the subsequent peace agreement helped to reduce ethnic tensions. This is a complicated matter and one that I am far from being qualified to talk about.

So why do I think visiting Tetovo is a good idea?

I have even heard that a visit to Tetovo is dangerous.

These misconceptions never cease to amaze me, especially since North Macedonia is one of the safest countries I have ever visited.

Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide

Yet I think that trying to understand the ethnic and cultural tensions, the differences and the similarities across the Balkans would enrich any traveller’s experience. This was true for me when I travelled in Bosnia and in Albania, and it is also true for North Macedonia.

So Is Tetovo Worth Visiting?

Many travellers visit Tetovo primarily for its painted mosque, which, alongside the mosque in Travnik is the two only remaining example of such type of mosque in the whole of Balkans.

But Tetovo is also worth a visit if you want to experience a different type of everyday life in North Macedonia. Apart from sights such as the Tetovo Mosque or the Arabati Baba Teke dervish monastery, you will notice major Albanian influences. The signs are not in Cyrillic, but often in Albanian and the city just seems different from other parts of the country. In many strange ways.

If you are a curious type of traveller who likes to dive into countries’ culture and nuances, and like to experience more off-the-beaten-path destinations, Tetovo is a must-visit on a day trip from Skopje.

I have exciting news to share with you, my travel friends!

I have just launched my own Backpacking and Budget Solo Travellers FB Group and I would love you to join me there! Travellers of all budgets and ages are welcome! I would like to create a community where we share tips and experiences and where you could ask me all travel and budget backpacking related questions!

I hope to see you there! Pati

Where Exactly is Tetovo?

Tetovo is located only 45 km away from Skopje, the north-west part of North Macedonia not far from the borders of Albania and Kosovo. Tetovo is in fact 5th largest in Macedonia and is said to be the fastest-developing city in the country.

Further North Macedonia reading: Are you looking for another exhilarating day trip from Skopje? You cannot miss a visit to Matka Canyon! And of course, don’t miss my guide to the most interesting capital in Europe – Skopje! Finally, in this post, you will find everything you need to know before travelling to North Macedonia.

How to Get to Tetovo from Skopje

The best and cheapest way of getting to Tetovo from Skopje is by bus.

It only takes around an hour to get from Skopje to Tetovo on a bus. Busses start running at 5:30 and continue throughout the day almost every half an hour so can just turn up any time. You cannot purchase the ticket online, you will have to get the ticket at the station and it costs 200MKD.

Buses to Tetovo leave from the Skopje main intercity bus station.

The great thing is that before arriving at the Tetovo bus station (which is slightly outside of the town centre) the bus stops nearer the town, at the large roundabout. I suggest you get off there. It will be easy to spot as many people will also get off at this stop.

But you need to remember that in order to get the return bus you need to head to the bus station in Tetovo which is located here. This is also where you will have to get your return ticket. The ticket cannot be purchased with the driver.

In Tetovo be sure to have cash for your bus ticket! I could pay for the ticket with my card in Skopje, but in Tetovo, I had to run to the ATM and almost didnt make it for my bus!

The last bus leaves Tetovo at 9.55 pm.

Is Tetovo Safe for Solo Travellers?

I found people in Tetovo friendly and open. Not the ‘into your face, you are a tourist’ way. In a ‘you are another human being’ way. Also, I think they don’t see many middle-aged solo female travellers out there so people were curious and kind at the same time.

When my sandals broke, I walked into the random shop asking for super glue. Turned out it was a makeshift shoemaker and the guy just glued my shoe for free!

The lady in the museum was so nice and proudly showed me around I was very surprised!

It is just your regular Balkan town where people go about their lives not minding you much. My favourite kind!

Sometimes they would stare a bit, and sometimes a barman in a coffee shop would be a bit miserable but mostly people are kind and happy that you took an interest in their town.

In no way I would say Tetovo isn’t safe. The opposite actually it is not only very safe to visit, but a must-see!

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What to See in Tetovo?

Tetovo Painted Mosque

The Painted Mosque, also known as the Šarena Džamija, is not your typical mosque. It is an outstanding Ottoman-era mosque famous for its vibrant and intricate interior and exterior adornments. The mosque’s history goes back to the 15th century but it was in 1833 when it underwent considerable restoration, which contributed to the elaborate decorations we can see today. 

The mosque is stunning and unlike any other mosque I have ever seen so it is definitely worth visiting Tetovo just to experience this sight!

Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide
Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide

Unlike many other Ottoman mosques, the Painted Mosque is richly decorated with floral motifs, arabesques, and scenic depictions. Both the interior and exterior walls are covered with colourful frescoes, making extensive use of bright colours such as red, blue, yellow, and green. 

You are welcome to see it inside but be sure to avoid the prayer times and of course, dress appropriately. If you dont have anything to cover your hair, dont worry there are scarves in front of the mosque you can use. And remember to take off your shoes!

Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide
Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide

The Hamam of Tetovo

On the other side of the river, opposite the mosque, you will find historical Isa Bey Hamam which today is home to The Gallery of Visual Arts. It was closed when I was there but it’s worth taking a look and walking around.

It was founded in the 16th century and it is a typical Turkish hammam from the Ottoman era, and it has been recently renovated.

Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide

Arabati Baba Teke Dervish Monastery

Although I loved the Tetovo Mosque, Arabati Baba Teke was a highlight of my visit to Tetovo.

Arabati Baba Tekke, also known as Harabati Baba Tekke, is a dervish monastery associated with the Bektashi Order, a Sufi Islamic order with roots in the teachings of Haji Bektash Veli, an esteemed 13th-century mystic and saint. The monastery is set within lovely gardens and it’s a whole complex of buildings you can walk around.

Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide
Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide

The architecture of Arabati Baba Tekke is a blend of traditional Ottoman and Islamic styles and the most characteristic feature of the tekke is its octagonal türbe, which is richly decorated and serves as a focal point of the complex. 

Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide

Its setting is wonderful with a backdrop of nearby mountains and it’s a truly peaceful site! A must-visit sight in Tetovo.

Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide

Walk Through the Crazy Local Market!

I did not know about the existence of this market as I hadn’t seen anyone writing about this place. This was a crazy surprise! It is one of the busiest markets I have ever seen and it was so fascinating that my Tetovo visit wouldn’t be the same if I missed it!

I am not sure if this is run every day, maybe I was just lucky. It is located alongside the large cemetery on the way to the Arabati Baba Tekke. You will not miss it!

Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide

Ruins of Tetovo Fortress

If you have some more time and fancy a bit of a trek you can visit the ruins of Tetovo Fortress. It is a bit of a hike but it is very much worth it if only just for the views. The fortress was destroyed during the Balkan wars and sadly it was never restored.

Walk Towards the Tetovo Regional Museum and See Tetovo Life

After visiting the monastery I took a walk looking for a Tetovo Regional Museum and I really enjoyed walking along the streets and observing the local life. The museum wasn’t what I expected but the walk was definitely worth it.

The lady at the museum seemed to be genuinely surprised to see a foreign visitor and gladly showed me around and explained the origin of the photographs. It was a lovely stop!

Visiting Tetovo From Skopje - Is it Worth it And What to Do / Tetovo TravelGuide

You can definitely spend just a half day exploring Tetovo, even more, so it’s worth visiting this interesting town!

Did you go? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Until then, enjoy North Macedonia and happy travels!

Pati x

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Are you heading to Ohrid next? Here you will find a complete guide and list of things to do in Ohrid – my favourite Balkan town! And if you are looking for alternative places to stay around Lake Ogrid – I got you covered too!