Early in the morning (yes, somehow it’s always early in the morning!), we had breakfast, said goodbye to the local cat, and met up with Simon. We were all heading to Tirana, so he joined us on a Matka Canyon boat ride along the way.
The road there wasn’t very pleasant (I was sharing the backseat with Simon and one of our backpacks) and we got a bit lost because we took a wrong turn. However, it was worth it.
Is Matka Canyon worth visiting?
Matka Canyon is a beautiful and scenic destination that is definitely worth visiting if you are in North Macedonia. It’s located just outside of Skopje and is well-known for its scenic beauty and is a popular destination for hiking, rafting, and other outdoor activities.
The canyon is home to several medieval monasteries, as well as the Matka Dam, which was built in the 1930s and is the oldest artificial lake in the country. Matka Canyon is also a popular spot for birdwatching, as it is home to many different species of birds, including the rare Peregrine Falcon.
The natural beauty of the canyon and the surrounding area make it a must-see destination for anyone visiting North Macedonia. Just look at this video with a Matka Canyon boat ride:
How to reach Matka Canyon
To reach Matka Canyon, you can take a bus or taxi from Skopje. The canyon is located just outside of the city, and the trip should take about 30 minutes by car. Once you are at the canyon, you can follow the hiking trails to the various points of interest, including the medieval monasteries and the Matka Dam.
Alternatively, you can take a boat tour of the canyon, which will allow you to see the sights from the water. There are also guided tours of the canyon, which can be a convenient and enjoyable way to explore the area.
The Matka Canyon boat ride
We waited a while to get on a motorboat which took us to the wonderful Vrelo Cave in the Matka Canyon and back.
Vrelo Cave is the longest underwater cave in Europe, with a total length of 5,360 meters. It was formed by the Treska River, which flows through the canyon and has carved out the cave over thousands of years. The cave is a popular destination for cave diving and exploration and offers a unique and beautiful underground world to explore. The Vrelo Cave is part of the natural beauty of Matka Canyon and is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the area.
During our Matka Canyon boat trip, we also admired rustic homes, nice rocky landscapes, and lots and lots of butterflies!
Kanyon Matka is located in the western part of central Skope, which covers a surface of approximately 5.000 ha. It’s one of the most popular outdoor destinations in North Macedonia.
Address: 1000 Village Matka, North Macedonia
Matka Canyon boat ride vs. canoe
The Matka Canyon boat ride, including the visit inside the Vrelo Cave, lasts about one hour. The alternative is renting a canoe, but it will take you much longer to go to the Vrelo Cave and back.
Swimming in the Matka Canyon
You can swim in Matka Canyon. The canyon is home to the Matka Dam, which forms an artificial lake that is popular for swimming and other water activities. The water is generally clean and clear, making it a great spot for swimming in the summer months.
However, it’s important to exercise caution when swimming in Matka Canyon, as the currents can be strong and the water can be cold, especially at higher altitudes. It’s also a good idea to wear a life jacket or other flotation device and to avoid swimming alone.
Fun on the Treska River
The Matka Canyon boat trip wasn’t too long, but it was a really hot day and we needed to rest a bit afterward. So we looked for a spot to get our feet in the cold mountain river water. Those of us who weren’t driving also enjoyed some cold beer. (My doing, I put the cans in the thermal isolation bag with some ice.)
The locals and perhaps better-informed tourists came to the river as one would go to the swimming pool. They even had some areas of the river which were used as water slides. And, being so hot outside, it became quite crowded.
Hikes to do after the Matka Canyon boat ride
Matka Canyon is a popular destination for hiking and outdoor activities. The canyon offers a variety of hiking trails that range in difficulty from easy to challenging. Some of the popular hikes in the canyon include the trail to the Vrelo Cave and the trail to St. Andrew’s Monastery, a medieval monastery located on a cliff overlooking the canyon. Other points of interest in the canyon include the Matka Dam, the medieval St. Nicholas Monastery, and the stunning views of the canyon and the surrounding area.
Leaving Matka Canyon
It was an adventure to get the car out and head for Tirana: there were cars parked randomly, cars wanting to go both ways in spaces that allowed only one car at a time, and lots of people who had just abandoned and parked their cars in the middle of the commotion… and nobody to direct traffic!
At one point an older guy got out of the car and started directing the traffic and he got helped by others, including Tim. They were all running around and hectically moving their hands while yelling haidi, haidi!
But we did it! And, sometime around lunchtime, we were at Ohrid Lake, a lovely stop on our way to Albania.
Discover more of North Macedonia after your Matka Canyon boat ride
Millennium Cross hike and Mount Vodno’s stunning vista
Lagadin, the best place to stay at Lake Ohrid
A day trip by bus to Bitola