Vodno to Matka Canyon: A Hikers Guide

Vodno to Matka Canyon: A Hikers Guide

Hiking to Matka Canyon from Skopje’s Vodno Mountain is a great way to escape the heat of Macedonia’s capital city.

Located just a 10-mile drive from Skopje’s city centre. Matka Canyon is a popular day trip for locals and tourists.

Ditching the car and hiking to the gorge is definitely a worthwhile detour. A well marked 6-mile trail will guide you through leafy forests and over craggy peaks, affording endless views of Skopje’s surrounding mountains.

But the rewards don’t stop at the end of the hike. Matka Canyon is a tranquil contrast to Skopje’s intensity. A ravine of rugged peaks sliced in two by an emerald green reservoir. A verdant oasis for city dwellers and tourists to relax and explore.

Skopje to Vodno’s Millenium Cross

Millenium Cross Cable Car Skopje

The hiking trail starts from Vodno’s Millenium Cross. With its elevated position and night time illumination the cross is rather hard to miss.

There are two ways to reach the cross. An easy way (to take a cable car) and a more challenging way (to hike). With a 6 mile hike ahead of us we chose the easier route.

First, we walked from Skopje’s city centre to the Millenium Cross cable car station at middle Vodno. A one-way ticket costs 50 denar’s and will whisk you to the top.

Vodno Millenium Cross Skopje

Once you reach the top take some time out to enjoy the panoramic views of Skopje and its surrounds. There is also a refreshment and snack shop should you need to stock up on supplies.

The cross itself is something to marvel at. Built-in 2002 by the Orthodox church and with donations from Macedonians across the world. It is located at the highest point of Vodno, known as Krstovar (translated to Place of the Cross) and is a memorial to 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia.

Millenium Cross to the top of Matka Canyon

Hiking Markers in Macedonia

The start of the trail is easy to find, but if you want some extra guidance we managed to build the route into our Strava app before we left home.

One thing we discovered about hiking in Macedonia is that popular trails are all pretty well marked. If using a GPS tracker is not an option just keep an eye out for the red and white markers.

Plus there is a very helpful map halfway along the route to guide you in the right direction.

Mountain Ridgeline Around Matka Canyon
(Photo: Brett De Woody)

The trail is diverse taking you through sheltered woodland and up over ridge lined peaks. The natural beauty of the area makes you forget how close you are to Macedonia’s capital city. All you can see in the distance are the miles of rolling hills and pyramid-tipped mountains.

The descent into Matka Canyon

The top of Matka Canyon
(Photo: Brett De Woody)

After a couple of hours walking, you will reach the top of the canyon. But descending into the crevasse was something I hadn’t quite expected.

Why? Because it is steep! But totally doable, and without question, worth it.

I did, however, stack it once or twice. Probably down to my ‘useless hiking boots’ as my husband informed me. But also because some areas of rock are loose underfoot. So just a friendly word of warning. Take it slow.

The descent into Matka Canyon
(Photo: Brett De Woody)

Before you reach the water, halfway down the mountain you will reach the St. Nikola Monastery. From here there are two ways to finish the hike.

If you take the path which leads you to the right of the monastery, you will arrive at the bridge which gets you to the other side of the gorge.

Taking the boat at Matka
(Photo: Brett De Woody)

If on the other hand, you take the other path like we did. It will lead you down to the water’s edge, where you will then realise, that there is no way to access the bridge. But, don’t panic.

The friendly boat men who work at Matka keep a watchful eye out for stranded hikers and will make the 30-second trip to come and rescue you. Phew!

Things to do at Matka Canyon

Matka Canyon

There is plenty to do once you arrive at Matka. You can continue hiking around the edge of the jagged reserve, take a boat ride, hire kayaks or get up high and rock climb.

After our 6-mile ramble, we decided to take a break before we continued exploring the canyon. So we settled for lunch in the restaurant which provides a delicious selection of snacks, salads and main dishes.

I did read some reviews that people thought this place was expensive. Perhaps by Macedonian standards, it is a little pricey. However, compared to UK costs, it is still pretty cheap. Plus, you are paying for the location and the effort it takes to bring supplies into the canyon. So for us, we were happy to pay a slightly higher price.

A Must When Visiting Skopje

Visiting Matka canyon is a must when visiting Skopje. If you love the outdoors and getting out onto mountain trails, then this hike is a great way to spend a day out of the city.

But even if you aren’t a hiker you can skip the trail, jump on a bus, and still make your way out to the  Canyon.

Whichever way you choose to get here, you will not be disappointed by Matka’s spectacular beauty.

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