Of course North Macedonia was also part of my Balkan road trip itinerary and that is how I ended up in Skopje. Although I later heard the city centre of Skopje with all its statues is kind of fake (more about it later on my blog) I still think it is an impressive place to visit in North Macedonia. But since I had two days in Skopje I also looked for day trips from Skopje and stumbled upon Matka Canyon.
A couple days before I visited Skopje I took the impressive boat trip on the Komani Lake in Albania and was so blown away by the beauty of this gorge. When seeing pictures of Matka Canyon Skopje I wanted to go there straight away too. If you are visiting Skopje this definitely is a thing to do, even if you are only there for a day. Most people think a Matka canyon boat trip is the only thing you can do, but there is more.
What about hiking, medieval monasteries, caves and swimming? It was so much fun that I actually really regret I did not have more days in Skopje. I would loved to stayed overnight in the Matka Canyon hotel. Waking up here in the early morning drinking a coffee overlooking the lake while working on my travel blog. Perfect!
Where is Matka Lake Skopje
Since Matka Canyon is only about 15 kilometer away from the city centre this place is the perfect day trip from Skopje. The canyon is a touristy place where locals and tourist love to go on a hot summer day to escape the bustling capital of North Macedonia.
There is no entrance fee at Matka Canyon. It is free to visit for everyone. Parking is also free!
How to get to Matka Canyon from Skopje
From the city centre it is pretty easy to get to Matka Canyon. Tourists have 3 options:
From Skopje to Match Canyon by bus
This is of course the cheapest option to visit Matka Canyon. In the city centre take bus 60 at the main bus station. I did not go by bus to Matka Canyon but I asked around for you and a return ticket will only cost less than €3. Bus 60 is one of the busses but there are more busses according to the helpful old man and they run quite regularly.
From Skopje to Match Canyon by car
This of course is the easiest option as the drive from the city only takes about 30 minutes. The road to Matka Canyon is pretty ok, but narrow at some places. Use Google Maps to get there, they direct you straight to the parking space. When arriving at the Lake Matka there is a parking area. I was there mid June, but I reckon when you get there in the peak season parking will be a problem. Parking spaces are limited!
From Skopje to Matka Canyon by taxi
Although taking a car to visit Matka Canyon seems like the best option, I would actually suggest tourists to take a taxi when you visit Matka Canyon. Why? A single ride from Skopje to Matka Canyon is €10 only. There are plenty taxis waiting for you when you walk out of the canyon. Taking a taxi to Matka Canyon saves you the hassle of parking and the taxi will drop you all the way at the beginning of the trail.
8 Travel tips for Matka Canyon
The Matka Lake is formed in this gorgeous canyon because the river running through the gorge is dammed. This created an artificial lake which is a playground for adventurers willing the escape the city life in Skopje or for those tourists willing to admire the canyon’s beautiful landscapes like I did.
- There is no entrance fee at Matka Canyon.
- You can do a tour at the visitor centre at designated times.
- From the parking to the start of the canyon is an easy 10 minute walk.
- There is a restaurant in the canyon to order drinks and food.
- Towards the canyon there are also several eateries.
- There are picnic spots so you can bring your own food.
- You can rent a boat, kayak, visit monasteries or go hiking.
- Swimming in Matka Lake is possible, but water is pretty chilled.
Picknick places at Matka Canyon.
Boat rental and swimming at Matka Lake.
8 Things to do in Matka Canyon
1. Hike to the St. Nikola Monastery
Don’t take this easily, but do it if you want some action. The steep path through the woods and bushes will take about 30 minutes and when I arrived at the top I was pretty exhausted. Views were stunning from above. Bring water! There is nothing up there. The monastery was closed when I visited.
The view from St. Nikola Monastery over Matka Canyon.
2. Rent a kayak
The most adventurous way to see the canyon from the water is in a kayak. You can rent them by the hour. There are single and double ones. Peddling on the lake was pretty easy, there is basically no current.
3. Boat trip on Lake Matka
Best thing to do is to take a boat trip to enjoy this beautiful place from the water. Boat trips are about 30 minutes and cost 200 Denar per person (€3,30). There are two places where you can take a boat trip. The first one you will walk up to is not so busy as the second one. I took a boat trip with the guys closest to the dam and the entrance of Matka Canyon and basically enjoyed a private trip.
There is also a 1 hour boat trip, but these are group tours! The 30 minute boat ride was enough for me.
4. Caves tour
To get to the caves you will need to take one of the Matka Canyon boat tours that take about 2 hours in total. You will get to the entrance of the cave by boat and then it is a short walk through the caves where you can see lots of stalagmites, stalactites, dripstone pillars and deep holes. There is a walkway through the caves and some parts are colourful illuminated. Cave tours are guided!
5. Rent a boat house for a day
There are a handful boat houses on the shores of Matka Lake. Some hidden behind the bushes, but the cool thing is that these boat houses are for rent. You can only get to them by boat. I asked around for you and they go around for $50 a day including transport and a kayak. If you are interested call this guy: Resul +38 970 725 537.
6. Have dinner at Canyon Matka Restaurant
When walking up to the boat and kayak rental place you will also stumble upon the restaurant. They have good coffee and fresh healthy juices (€4). I did not eat there, but it seemed a little pricey for North Macedonia.
7. Sleep at Hotel Matka Canyon
Want to spend a night right in the canyon next to the lake in a stylish hotel? Have the canyon for your self around sunset and get to see the canyon in the misty morning? How about spending a night in the Matka Canyon Hotel?
For less than €40 per room you already sleep in this exclusive hotel. The only possible place to sleep in Matka Canyon! Click on the link to reserve your bed with the best view.
8. Hiking Matka Canyon
It looks like the trail ends at the hotel & restaurant but that is not true. For those keen on hiking in Matka Canyon I have good news! I did not do it myself, but there is a trail that goes all the way to the end of canyon. You will pass medieval churches and monasteries on your way. The trail is an elevated path on the side of the canyon. From what I heard is hiking in Matka Canyon a real adventure. But be aware that the trail is 10 kilometers long and hiking it all the way and back takes around 5-6 hours.
My trip to Matka Canyon
I left around 13.00 to the canyon and stayed around for like 3,5 hours. After I arrived I first walked around and explored all the options on how to experience the canyon. I decided to first walk to the monastery so I asked the boat guys to drop me on the other side of the lake. The hike uphill was indeed super steep, but I like a good challenge. As soon as I reached the monastery on top of the mountain the weather suddenly changed and it started raining like crazy. Luckily half an hour later the sky turned blue again and I walked down and got into a boat that took me around Lake Matka for about 30 minutes and had a drink in the restaurant on the water.
If you are looking for things to do in Skopje, this is a great day trip. The views are incredible and it is hard to believe this place is so close to the bustling capital of North Macedonia. Even if you are in Skopje for just 1 day get your ass over here. Take a taxi from the city, enjoy a boat trip in the canyon and be back in the city centre within 2 hours.
I hope this blog post about Matka Canyon was helpful for you. Please leave me a comment or even better share this on any social media platform. It is a small thing for you to do, but would make a big difference for me. Massive thanks!
Read about more destinations on my Balkan roadtrip adventure like the Kravice waterfalls in Bosnia, the Komani Lake Ferry in Albania or things to do in Skopje. What about camping in the mountains of Kosovo or the incredible Uvac Viewpoint in Serbia. All fabulous things to do in the Balkan region.