Macedonia Countryside – Rural Tourism in Macedonia
The mountains, National Parks, protected areas and forests of Macedonia are renowned for their beauty and wilderness that are of great interest to visitors, offering various possibilities for outdoor sports throughout the year, as well as many winter sports. During the last decade, Macedonia has taken steps to make research and innovation more competitive, increase the skills level of the workforce and farmers, improve road and tourism infrastructure, quality standards and food safety in order to achieve long-term sustained growth rates, with the objective of increasing the impact on the national economy which will compete in global markets. Rural development policy of Macedonia is one of the major financial instruments for the economic and social development of rural areas in the FYROM, for both mitigating the process of depopulation and highlighting the country’s natural and impressive intangible and inherited endowments as part of its rich cultural heritage. Wine and tourism have been utilized for the national and regional development and re-imagining strategies, and tourism has been identified as one of the greatest sources of job creation and as a national strategic orientation.
The current tourism development plans in Macedonia recognize around thirty rural tourism development zones, over twenty rural tourist centers and over 200 hundred rural tourism settlements in Macedonia. Development steps emphasize the need for undertaking serious measures and activities on regional and local levels, that /will/ enhance lifestyle of different cultures in Macedonia, for which the whole Balkan region is recognized.
In 2008, there were 34 cities in the FYROM, and 1,767 settlements, out of which 10% are abundant and 50% are with bellow 150 inhabitants. The fact is that the majority of the Macedonian population lives in rural areas /out of which 17.6% live in pure rural municipalities/, where the individual rather small family farms prevail /1,5 ha/, and its main revenues come from organic agriculture-related activities. This makes agriculture a very significant sector for the economy, especially when combined with tourism and related services /crafts…/.
Besides other significant features and traditional and autochthonous values, as the innate cordiality and hospitality of population, Macedonia is blessed by typical and traditional food: fruits and vegetables, such as beans, potatoes, rice onions; as well as wines, honey and liquors, recognized as highly specific of the region; dairy and meat products, particularly the traditional white and yellow cheese of Galicnik village /that in the past matured in sun/ and sheep’s cheese and lamb meat from the Sharr Mountains. Authentic and organically produced food and wine are becoming significant dimension in not only promoting image of Macedonia, but also as focal points of tourist interest. Harvesting and processing of wild products /forest fruits, mushrooms and medicinal herbs/ is also developing in rural areas of Macedonia.
Rural tourism of Macedonia experiences revival of neglected and forgotten traditional professions as knitting, weaving, cooking traditional dishes, practicing traditional work and art, and include farm tourism, eco tourism, gastronomic tourism, camping tourism, ethno tourism, hunting and fishing and wine tourism, with variety of surprising activities awaiting visitors – horse riding, cycling, walking, swimming, hunting and fishing, bird watching, festivals and events…
The first and most impressive thing for visitors is the warmth and the kindness of the Macedonian people. Best rural tourism practices in Macedonia with stress-free experiences of visitors are performed in Dihovo, Pehcevo, Berovo, Koleshino, Bansko, Mokrino, Smolare, Vevcani and Galicnik villages. The spirituality and quiet life meets dynamism and adventures around the corner of century-old-style stone houses, religious sites, white walls and old windows. There is the simple table set with finest tasty Macedonian food and small plates and a jug of wine, at which friends may gather at slowly talk at the end of the day….