14 Facts You Might Not Know About Macedonia

Skopje Fortress

It’s so interesting to visit a country that has so much history, yet it is so new to the eyes of our modern world. Macedonia still has an air of mystery that makes this mountainous, off the beaten path country an intriguing destination of real discovery.

Here are a few facts that you might not yet know about Macedonia, but that speak part of the interesting and mysterious character of this country.

1 – There are (supposed) parts of the cross on which Jesus was crucified in the foundations of the monasteries of St. Bogodorica Prechista in Kichevo, and St. Jovan Bigorski and St. Georgij Pobedonosec in Debar.

2 – According to NASA, Kokino is the fourth oldest astronomic observatory in the world; with the oldest three being Abu Simbel, Egypt; Stonehenge, Great Britain; and Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Kokino is located approximately 30 km from the town of Kumanovo, and about 6 km from the Serbian border.

3 – Ohrid Lake is the oldest and one of the deepest lakes in Europe (max depth 288m or 940ft). It is estimated 4 million years old and has 200 endemic species that haven’t been found at any other place in the world. It was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1979.

4 – Mother Theresa of Calcutta was born in Skopje, Macedonia. Even though she was born in Skopje, she was Albanian by ethnicity at the time of her birth in 1910. Today, you can see museum house dedicated to her in the center of the capital city of Skopje.

5 – Macedonia is the only country that got independence from Yugoslavia without shedding a single drop of blood. It remained entirely at peace at the heat of Yugoslav wars in early 1990s and got independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

6 – Another interesting feature about this country is that it has more number of mountains and mountain peaks than any other country in the world. The country has as many as 34 mountain peaks, each with a height of more than 2,000 meters above the sea-level; with Mount Golem Karb being the highest at 2,753 meters above sea-level. Most peaks in Macedonia have never been visited by people.

Matka Canyon, Skopje

Matka Canyon

7 – The Cyrillic alphabet, official in Macedonia, is based on the alphabet developed in the 9th century by two Macedonian (Region) brothers – St Cyril (thus – Cyrillic) and St Methodius. It was taught by their disciples at a monastery in Ohrid, from whence it spread across the eastern Slavic world.

8 – The official name of Macedonia in the United Nations is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM. This is due to a long dispute the country has with Greece regarding their history as the former Kingdom of Macedonia. Even though they’re officially FYROM in the U.N, the government has persuaded more than 130 countries (135 at the time of publication), including the United States, to recognize it as the Republic of Macedonia.

9 – Skopje has suffered quite a few devastating earthquakes throughout history, the biggest ones in 518 and in 1963, leveling most of the city. In addition, the Austro-Hungarian General Piccolomini ordered the city burnt down in the 18th Century.

Alexander the Great Statue in Skopje

Alexander the Great statue

10 – Alexander the Great, who was king of the former Kingdom of Macedonia, was the first world-size conqueror who extended his empire across Greece and Persia to India and Egypt. During his time, the Kingdom of Macedonia was the most powerful state in the world; but after his death, the empire fell apart and it became the first Roman province in 146 B.C.

11 – Since becoming an independent nation in 1991, Macedonia has had two flags. Both its first flag and the current flag feature a yellow sun on a red background. The first version was based on a symbol found on ancient tombstones discovered in 1977 in the town of Vergina. However, Vergina is in Greek Macedonia and Greece decided to claim that they owned the copyright to use the symbol.in order to force Macedonia to change its flag, Greece blocked trade with the Republic of Macedonia and forced the UN headquarters in New York to take down the Macedonian flag. As a compromise, and to restart trading with their Greek neighbours, Macedonia changed its flag to its current one from 1995.

12 – The country’s name derives from the ancient Greek Kingdom of Macedonia; which was named after the ancient Macedonians. Their name, Μακεδόνες (Makedónes), derives ultimately from the ancient Greek adjective μακεδνός (makednós), meaning “tall, taper”. The name is originally believed to have meant either “highlanders” or “the tall ones”, possibly referring to the physical character of the ancient Macedonians and/or their mountainous land.

13 – The cave Peshna in Makedonski Brod was described by New York Times as looking “exactly like Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings”.

Skopje at Night

Skopje at night, with the Millenium Cross in the background… up in the mountain.

14 – The Millennium Cross is a 66 metre-high cross situated on the top of the Vodno Mountain in Skopje, and it is the biggestcross in the world. It was constructed to serve as a memorial of 2,000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and the world.

Know of other little known facts?

Like what you just read?
Join the newsletter community where I share more exclusive tips to help you plan your trip and get on the road. Plus, get 15 Beginner Tips and Tricks to Start Travel Hacking straight to your inbox.


  1. Mary says

    Interesting facts, but I’m not too sure about #7. This is not a fact that they were Macedonians from this country. They are generally believed to be Byzantine Greeks from Thessaloniki in the district of Central Macedonia from Greece. I have read other countries saying that they are from there or half this or that. But, the fact of the matter remains I guess there’s no real fact on this since everyone claims them.

    • says

      Thanks, Mary. Actually, you have a great point. It is often confusing when referring to Macedonia, as there is the FYROM, the Region of Macedonia, and the former Kingdom of Macedonia. In this case I was referring more to the Region, though you’re right about the variety of claims of their real origins.

      • koki says

        Actually Norbert if you want to refer to region Macedonia than you are refering to wider region that includes today’s Republic of Macedonia, Greek province of Macedonia, Bulgarian part of Macedonia and small portions on Albania and Serbia. So region Macedonia is wider region consisting of these parts mentioned above.
        On the other hand about 7) actually Sc Clemente made the cyrilic alphabet in Ohrid and named the alphabet cyrilic in hounor of his teacher Sc Cyril. Sc Cyril and Methodius actully made the alphabet named glagolica on which basis Clement made the cyrilic alphabet.

        Anyway nice article about Macedonia

    • says

      Mary, the nowadays Macedonians have proved to derive from the Ancient Macedonians (same people who conquered Greece 2000+ years ago). This was proven when they took D.N.A. samples from people all around the Balkans, including Greeks. Now, it turned out that the Greeks derive from a sub-Saharan tribe, while the Macedonians had more than 6% left of “the Ancient blood”, and it’s also worth mentioning that the now Greek region of Macedonia, used to belong to the Republic of Macedonia, or as the Greeks like to call Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (which doesn’t really matter to us, since we all know we’re Macedonians, and Greeks are Greeks, as they can’t be both Greeks & Macedonians at the same time because it’s simply ridiculous), but was divided in 1913 with the Bucharest Agreement. Read more before writing about two separate nations, don’t get confused by Greek propaganda.

      • Vasilis Roussos says

        That time there was no Greece. The Greeks had many countries and the Makedonia was one of them. Greeks or Macedonians, it is the same thing. Is that so hard to understand? It’s not propaganda, it is fact. They in FYROM with DNA Makedonianns are Greeks or Macedonians who today lives on the other side of the Greek borders. It is logical because not all of the ancient Macedonia is within the Greek borders today

        • Vasilis Roussos says

          If we look a little closer into the DNA of all living around the Mediterranean should all have Greek DNA But where is Greece today, it’s just a story to write in the books. I think you should take what you have and look forward. You told me that I should look forward. But do not you. You insult Greece and Greeks all the time, why?

        • Peter Smith says

          Vasilis Vasilis Vasilis!!! you said
          “the Greeks had many countries and Makedonia was one of them (WRONG)
          “Greeks or Macedonians it is the same thing” (WRONG)

          I don’t know which books your reading but how ever i will advise you to read books from world historians.

          DNA does prove that people in the balkan come across as white people with blue eyes and blond hair (Slavic People) as Alexander the Great Matched all three

          DNA from Greece matches Egyption people: Olive colour with Dark features

          Now the difference between these to countries is not just there DNA looks but also have a completely different Language and culture

          hopefully this answers and help guide you to the truth of world history

        • Tony says

          It is not hard to comprehend. You combine countries together to form a new country called Greece and now try to claim all those countries are ethnic Greek. So why aren’t you turkish. Didn’t the Otooman Empire unite all the city states to form the Ottoman? This si basically what you are saying. City states is another type of propaganda. Are the croatians and slovenian ethnic Serbians, Yugoslavia united all the city states. Let’s start saying ancient yugoslavia.

          If you think you are so Greek and Greek has so much Ancient Greek Histroy. Why isn’t there not one ancient Artifact that says Hellas in the Koine language not the renamed Ancient Greek Langauge. Let’s not forget that as well.

          Also, Ottoman Empire Ruled the Balkans for 500 years. So during that time if they excavated historical sites, is it fair to say they are Turkish because they were in Ottoman Land at time of excavataion. This is exactly what you are doing now.

          Oh I forget. Greece expelled thousands of Macedonians from Aegean Macedonia after its division, renamed all macedonian surnames to sound Greek (Koine) an drenamed all the cities. And of course the Macedonia was banned (hich they so love to call now Macedonia is Greek) and they actually rename the Macedonian terrioty they took in 1913 to Northern Greece. Amazing facts isin’t it.

  2. oliver says

    Hi Norbert.
    About the number 3. Ohrid is really a great lake but it’s one of the deepest lakes in Europe, not the deepest.
    This is from wiki but you can verify it from reliable sources also:
    “Hornindalsvatnet is Norway’s and Europe’s deepest lake, officially measured to a depth of 514 metres (1,686 ft).”


    • Vasilis says

      You are not honest here either. When someone writes something that is not in the same ring with your you take away that, makedonia Greece and Makedones are Greeks. All else is false. YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH GLORY firs. YOU DO NOT WANT TO LIVE IN PEACE WITH HONOR firs YOU JUST PROVUSERAR. this is a small proof that you have no honest thoughts for the future.

      • od Cresevo says

        Give up on your propaganda man. Its falling like a domino ..
        One can not be two things at the same time.
        Choose one. Either you are Greek or Macedonian ?

      • Tony says

        Greece is an empire which was formed in 1832 with your Bavarian King. First time a country was ever called Greece.

        Greece is just another Yugoslavia waiting to fall apart and then its states countries will gain independence again.

  3. says

    Macedonia is definitely a place I need to go back to. I didn’t have the most amazing experience last time, but that could have been for a number of reasons, so I’m willing to give it a second chance.

    • says

      Oh, shame you didn’t have a good experience there. I know how that feels. Well, I visited during the winter, which to be honest is not the best time to go, but I had a good time. Would love to visit back during the summer, which is supposed to be much better.

  4. Nico says

    Made me revisit my history books. I didn’t realise that Alexander the Great conquered Eqypt. Anyways, some cool facts about the country.

    Nico recently posted Discover Why Lond Distance Friendships Last and Relationships End

      • Nick says

        Never mind that he conquered Egypt. The Macedonian General Ptolemy took over the country at Alexander’s death, and it stayed in his family for over 300 years. Infact, Cleopatra, was Macedonian!!!

    • says

      I’ve heard that Ohrid is beautiful. Unfortunately the day I planned to go there was pretty snowy, so I had to stay in Skopje instead. I hope to go to Ohrid in my next visit. :)

  5. Mazedonier says


    8 – there are actually 133 countries recognizing Macedonias constitutional Name – Republic of Macedonia.

  6. says

    Its wonderful post, its just such a shame that there will always be people (both, macedonian and greek) that would find this kind of posts and turn everything political. There is no prove who is originaly who and who cares, dont fight about the past! Enjoy the present and try to create future :)

    Im sorry but i dont have my own site, instead i just put a site that was chosen best macedonian promoter :)

    • says

      Thanks, Martina! I agree. The purpose of this post is not political, but to show people around the world the interesting facts of Macedonia. I visited this country not knowing much about it, so I want to share some of the wonderful things I saw and learned while there.

      Cheers to enjoying the present and creating a good future!

  7. Марк says

    This is nice. However, it’s not true that the name of Macedonia came from the ancient Greek adjective μακεδνός. The name came from the ancient macedonian language. However, this is really nice facts.

  8. Tony says

    Hi Norbert

    This is something interesting you would want to read up on. The so called Greeks of Today would never mention this. You can also see that the language we speak today is the ancient language. So did the slavs really come from the North to the South. Or did the Macedonian’s flee from Macedonia to the North from the Roman Empire. Something everyone is hiding in order to keep up the Greek Propaganda.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>