Every year more and more tourists who travel to the Ionian coast cross the Niki border instead of Evzoni. During the season there is usually no crowd; the road is not so good, but very interesting!
Whether you are crossing this border at your arrival or departure, if you have some time, do not miss to visit Ohrid, Edessa, the monastery of St. Naum, the springs of Black Drim and Bitola, where we recommend you to stay.
The cities you should visit in Greece are Edessa and Kastoria. With a good organization, you need only two days to see all these places that we've listed.
When you return from Lefkada, Cephalonia, Parga or some other place on the Ionian coast, instead of going over Kozani, take the exit to Kastoria.
Kastoria is a town of about 50,000 inhabitants and is located on the lake Orestiada, which is one of the most beautiful lakes of the Balkans and has been announced a "Monument of Natural Beauty ".
There are many historical and religious sites in the city, but if you don't have time for detailed sightseeing, it's enough to walk along the lake and through the city, and to take a lot of nice impressions with you. At the exit of the city is the largest aquarium in the Balkans. The aquarium has a total of 450 squares and you can see only freshwater fish from the lakes and the rivers in Greece.
The other city in Greece for which you should take some time (and it's really worth it) is Edessa. Edessa (used to be called Voden) is known as the water park. In the city center is one of the largest waterfalls in Greece, and the old part of the city is also interesting.
When you cross the border and enter Macedonia, you will be just 15km away from Bitola. Bitola is a very nice city, which was a very pleasant surprise for us. It's been known as "The City of The Consuls". It is the second largest city in Macedonia and the cultural, economic, industrial, scientific and educational center.
A wide and nice promenade, numerous cafes and restaurants, a park, interesting architecture, many people on the street, will make your stay in this city really pleasant. You should reseve your accommodation in advance and you can find very decent hotels in walking area.
By the recommendation of the locals we have visited the Grne restaurant, which is famous for traditional Macedonian cuisine and we really enjoyed the fantastic tastes. The restaurant is located at the end of the promenade, on the second floor of the building. Evening walk in Bitola is a real pleasure.
It has about 70km from Bitola to Ohrid. If you like nature and you don't mind to drive a bit longer (about 25km), then we suggest you to take the road via Galicica. Galicica is a national park with a magnificent view of the Prespa and Ohrid lake. The view is breathtaking and due to the curvy road, you can enjoy in beautiful nature, during the ride.
Before visiting the city of Ohrid, you must definitely visit the monastery of St. Naum. The price of the ticket for entrance to the monastery complex is about 2 euros per person. When you enter, you will see very nice park and many shops with traditional products. On the other side is a green area with trees and flowers, and an organised beach. The path through the park leads to the monastery, but before the monastery you will find the mouth of the Drim river into the Ohrid lake. After crossing the mouth, you come to a fantastic restaurant on Drim. We traveled a lot, but we have to admit that the natural beauty we found there really left us breathless. At this place you can rent a boat and take a ride on Black Drim and if you do that, you will always remember it, because of the incredible nature. The river is also very interesting because of its path from Prespa lake, Galicica, to Ohrid lake, Struga and Drim. This is something you can not miss.
The monastery of St. Naum is the most important monastery in Macedonia, and it is located on a hill, from where is a fantastic view of the lake. In the monastery church are the relics of St. Naum, the student of Saint Cyril and Methodius. According to the tradition, if you lean your head on the grave of St. Naum, you will hear his heartbeat.
St. Naum and St. Clement of Ohrid were spreading Christianity on the territory of the southern Balkans, and most around Ohrid lake. On the way from St. Naum to Ohrid, you will see the Bay of Bones. It is a place where archaeological remains of a tribe and a prehistoric settlement on the lake were found. The reconstruction of the whole settlement was done and it is very interesting to see how people used to live. Houses made of mud and straw, bear fur, fireplaces, and you can also visit the museum.
When you arrive in Ohrid you can enjoy walking on the shore of the lake of a new part of the city, the narrow streets of the old town, or some restaurant near the lake ... Let this city win you completely.
From Ohrid you return to Bitola, but this time you are not going over Galicica. You don't enter Bitola, just continue the road to Prilep. You can visit Krusevo, the birthplace of Tose Proeski. You have to take a curvy road until there, surounded by beautiful nature. Krusevo is located at 1300m above the sea level. We did not go to the city, but straight to the grave, and then to the mausoleum dedicated to Tose. If you loved this extraordinary singer, you have to visit the mausoleum. His parents gave to the mausoleum everything that belonged to him (school reports, wardrobe, studio, furniture from the apartment, rewards, wardrobe from concerts and video spots, gifts, pictures, guitar, keyboards, bicycle, motor).
After the mausoleum, we decided to visit the monastery that Tose built with his parents and uncle. They have continued to build it with the donation of Tose's fans. We talked a bit with them, visited the place where Tose used to sit and watched the surrounding mountains. Now there is set a cross, which was the great desire of Tose.
Prilep is on the road to Veles. We wanted to see this old Serbian capital. As soon as we arrived at the center of the city, we saw the great statue of Marko Kraljević :) The city looks really old, but we liked it. We walked through the market and had a drink in a very picturesque alley. Half an hour for the center of Prilep is enough, and then you continue to Veles.
We planned the visit of Veles, because we wanted to try the famous pastrmajlija, which is traditionally prepared here. Again by the recommendation of the locals, we went to the Snupi restaurant in the city center and finally enjoyed pastrmajlija. It was delicious! Pastrmajlija is some sort of pizza with a similar base (but thicker and tastier) and small pieces of meat. We recommend it to try!
From Veles, we continued our road to Serbia with wonderful impressions from Greece and Macedonia.