Matka and thermal baths in Katlanovo

After we took the wrong path yesterday for too long, we were more concentrated on the marks today. Now we know this path is well marked so we shouldn’t walk too long without seeing a mark on a tree or rock.

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Finally, we reached the Matka canyon. The only thing left now is to descend all the way down to the lake. Halfway down is the Saint Nikola monastery. There is a water spring and some huts with great view on the canyon and Restaurant Matka.

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The huts with views into the canyon are the two square roofs on the left side of the monastery complex. To each of these huts goes a fragile, wooden bridge across a small trench. Inside the hut are benches and a large table. Perfect for a picnic.

Saint Nikola monastery. Matka canyon near Skopje, Macedonia.

Next to the church – not on the photo – is a larger shelter and a house. In the shelter are tables and chairs to accomodate larger groups. The best feature of the monastery though is the water spring. Having a water source nearby during a picnic is just amazing on a hot summer day in Macedonia.

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From the monastery, it’s only a short, but steep, descend further to lake Matka. Here you can call a boat by slamming with a hammer on a large iron plate.

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The other side of the lake is much more touristy. Most tourists just visit the Restaurant Matka. Some of them also make the boat trip to the Vrelo cave a bit further in the canyon.

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We enjoyed a coffee and a fresh juice on the terace of Restaurant Matka. We explored the beginning of the trail further into the canyon. Since we would see the same views later on the way to the Vrelo cave, we only walked to the first bend in the river and returned to the restaurant. It’s pretty obvious where you have to ask for a boat tour or rent a canoe to visit the Vrelo Cave. The Vrelo cave is only accesible by boat.

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Most tourists will opt in for the motor boat taxi to visit the Vrelo cave. However, we visited the Vrelo Cave by canoe. It’s good hour of rowing for the fit to reach the Vrelo cave.

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We returned to Skopje by bus and then by taxi back to Hotel Vodno where we had parked our car. We used the wifi available at the picnic area around Vodno Hotel to book a room for that night.

Now we had our accomodation fixed, we had all the time to relax. According to our Bradt travel guide book, the closest thing to western spa we would find in Katlanovo.

Katlanovo is not so well known for tourists, but Macedonians know the place very well. When you enter the building is looks more like a hospital than a spa resort. Luckily, very quickly an English speaking girl showed us where we could take a bath in the natural spring water. We opted for the two person version. With some immagination this bath looks indeed close to the western spa.

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We were the last visitors for that day as it was almost 10pm when we left the resort after one hour of mineral treatment. What followed was the perfect introduction of a horror movie. Two tourists finding their hostel for tonight in a tiny village during a huge thunderstorm.

When we finally found the village we still couldn’t find the hostel. You would expect the locals to know the place when we showed them photos from the booking site but they told us that place doesn’t exist in their village. Finally we had a local calling the hostel. The man turned out to be a friend of the hostel owner and suggested he would drive in front of us to the hostel.

A bit later we understood why he had never seen the hostel. A very steep trail, climbs up the hill in the village ending at our hotel. It was night, so we couldn’t see the view, nor the property. Our poor Skoda Fabia barely managed to get all the way up to the hostel. We got to know the owner of the hostel as well as one other guest with a cup of delicious tea.

We called it a night, curious to see the surroundings the next day.