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Castles in North Macedonia: 5 secrets of one of the last unexplored countries in Europe




Although easily accessible from anywhere in the world, North Macedonia remains one of the last unexplored countries in Europe, yet boasts all the comforts of the Western world. It is a unique natural paradise of mountains, lakes and rivers where life moves at its own pace amid vast grandeur, rich historical ruins and idyllic villages that have hardly changed over the centuries. The majority of the population is ethnic Macedonian and Orthodox, but there is also a significant Albanian Muslim minority. Therefore, one can expect a wonderful combination of architectural and ethnic heritage. The local culture is an exciting mix of Greek, Albanian, Turkish and Mediterranean influences that have left their mark on the architecture. We have selected the most famous castles in North Macedonia – one of the smallest countries in modern Europe.

Castles in North Macedonia: Samuel’s Fortress

Samuel’s Fortress in the old town of Ohrid was erected during the reign of the king at the turn of the 11th century. Today, 18 towers and four gates have been preserved from the original building. Due to its strategic location overlooking the city and the lake, it is a perfect place to enjoy a panorama of Ohrid and its surroundings.

Castles in North Macedonia
Samuel’s Fortress. Photo: Diego Delso, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Castles in North Macedonia
Samuel’s Fortress. Photo: Diego Delso, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Castles in North Macedonia
Samuel’s Fortress. Photo: Делфина, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Markovi Kuli

Markovi Kuli or Marko’s Towers are located to northwest of Prilep, North Macedonia, right above the village of Varos. The towers, named after the Serbian medieval prince Marko Mrnjavčević, rise on a 120–180 m high hill surrounded by steep slopes covered with tiny granite stones. The upper part of the former settlement can be reached from its northern and southern sides. During four decades of archaeological research, artifacts were found here, indicating the existence of an early antique settlement called Keramija. During the Roman period, this small village expanded to the southwest, as evidenced by several marble decorations from the early Christian basilica.

Castles in North Macedonia
Markovi Kuli. Photo: Risto Rolevski, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Castles in North Macedonia
Markovi Kuli. Photo: Bogdan.jeliskoski, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Castles in North Macedonia
Markovi Kuli. Photo: Risto Rolevski, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Castles in North Macedonia: Skopje Fortress

Skopje Fortress, commonly referred to as Kale, is located on the highest point of the city overlooking the Vardar River. She is depicted on the coat of arms of Skopje, which, in turn, is included in the flag of the city. The first outpost appeared here in the 6th century AD on land that was inhabited during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages (from about 4000 BC). It was built from yellow limestone.

Castles in North Macedonia
Skopje Fortress. Photo: Andrzej Wójtowicz from Poznań, Poland, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Castles in North Macedonia
Skopje Fortress. Photo: Nikolina Hristovska, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Castles in North Macedonia
Skopje Fortress. Photo: Darko Nikolovski, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Viničko Kale

Viničko Kale is an ancient ruin located near Vinica on the left bank of the Grdečka River, on a hill about 400 meters above sea level. Viničko Kale was discovered in 1954, and in 1978, 5 fragments of terracotta icons were found on the territory of the ancient complex, which indicates that this place was inhabited from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages.

Castles in North Macedonia
Viničko Kale. Photo: Makedonij at Macedonian Wikipedia., via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)
Castles in North Macedonia
Viničko Kale. Photo: Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Castles in North Macedonia
Viničko Kale. Photo: Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Castles in North Macedonia: Strumica Fortress

Strumica Fortress, also known as the Czar’s Towers, is a ruined outpost in the eastern part of North Macedonia. Its windows overlook the city of Strumica. The fortress was built in the 5th century, although the site itself dates back to the 1st century BC. Reconstruction of Strumica was started in March 2014.

Castles in North Macedonia
Strumica Fortress. Photo: Тиверополник, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Castles in North Macedonia
Strumica Fortress. Photo: Тиверополник, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Castles in North Macedonia
Strumica Fortress. Photo: Тиверополник, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)