Mount Vodno to Matka Canyon – it can actually be hiked

It is possible to complete the Mount Vodno hike without going drastically off course and battling with a sheer cliff as we did…

Realistically, it is possible to hike from Skopje, up Mount Vodno to the Milennium Cross, and continue on to Matka Canyon.

But there’s also a high likelihood that you will get horribly, indescribably lost – as I very much succeeded in doing.

Here’s a slapstick guide in case anyone else really wants to tempt fate, but I warn you: my memory is not the greatest and I really can’t pinpoint where I went wrong. However, what I do know is it’s fairly imperative to download the map of the route from Wandermap.net – though it’s not the most accurate piece of guidance you’ll ever find, it keeps you going in the right direction and will more act as a compass than anything else.

A patriotic Skopje, from the top of Mt Vodno.

To get up to Milennium Cross is the easy part, there are plenty of paths from the back streets around Skopje, and so long as you keep aiming up you’ll more than likely be fine. Either that, or take the cable car and save yourself couple of hours of breathless ascent.

From the cross, the path in the direction of Matka is very well signposted, and wide, obvious and inviting. It’s also mostly downhill, which makes for a disconcerting bonus.

Somewhere along the way, just as I was virtually high-fiving myself for shaving a couple of hours off the expected time, and having enough time to go back for a second cheese-stuffed pork roll before my bus to Ohrid, I wandered off the trail and ended up in a sheep paddock.

Well, I shan’t be continuing down this path, shall I

Realising my mistake fairly quickly, I darted back into the forestry, only to be stopped in my tracks several hundred metres on by a wayward cow.

After that, it really just was a series of misfortunate events as I plodded through paddocks, what looked like the backyards of people’s properties, and along a ridgeline in search for the trail, without another single soul in sight.

At one point, as I was crawling through gorse and scrubbery on the side of a very sheer cliff, I did contemplate just curling into a ball and setting up my own settlement – until I spotted the St Nicholas Monastery wedged in between a large crevasse below.

The gorgeous scenery of Matka. At this stage I was indescribably lost, tired, hungry, and swearing the scene around me was the worst I had ever seen anyway.

Sure, it was down a fairly rapid descent below, but after what was essentially a bit of a bum shuffle down the hill, I’d found my way back to the path. Thankfully, the path between the monastery to the settlement at Matka Canyon is fairly well traversed, so around five hours after I’d set off, I collapsed in a heap on the shores of Lake Matka.

While my shins, which had been cut to shreds, wouldn’t agree, the hike is well worth it – and worth thinking I might have to huddle into a ball and erect a tent out of gorse on the side of the cliff.

It’s stunning, and the perfect place for a mid afternoon picnic. However, I will forever hold a grudge for it also got in the way of me and a cheese-stuffed pork roll. 

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