Boat on the river in Matka Canyon, Skopje, Macedonia

Visiting Matka Canyon by public bus

Matka canyon is located just outside Skopje, but you really can't tell that you're close to a city when you're out there. It's accessible by public bus, and there's a selection of hiking, boating and kayaking on offer.

Matka Canyon is located about 15 kilometers from Skopje, and its vicinity to the capital coupled with all of its other features makes it a very popular destination for locals and tourists alike. It is also the location for the annual wildwater kayak slalom championship, and you can see the course at the entrance to the canyon. Would probably be awesome to watch that!

Two days in Skopje, the city of so many statues

Getting to Matka Canyon from Skopje

The special Matka Canyon bus is number 60, and goes from the bus station in Skopje all the way to the parking area at Matka Canyon, where it turns around. Its location at the bus station can be a little bit tricky to find, but it’s in the section for local services behind the gas station. Look for the sign with the number 60 on it.

You need a card to travel by bus, which can be bought in special kiosks. If you board the bus at the bus station it’s also possible to buy a card from the driver. The card costs 150 MKD and that includes the return trip to Matka. Don’t forget to validate the card at the machine on board the bus!

The Matka Canyon bus does not go often, only once every two hours or so, so my best advice would be to ask at your accommodation if they can look it up for you. We took the bus that left at 10.30 in the morning, giving us plenty of time to have a long breakfast at the hotel and stroll down to the station. The trip took about an hour, which was a bit more than I expected seeing as it’s not far at all on the map. It was unbelievably crowded, some people at the end of the line didn’t even get on it. We were lucky enough to get seats as we boarded at the station.

Be prepared to walk or take a taxi back

The return journey didn’t work out very well at all. We didn’t know the times, so we asked some people waiting for the bus and they said they’d been waiting for an hour already. We went to get some food but no bus showed up, so we walked a couple of kilometers up to the road to the first village where bus 12 passes. Turns out the afternoon bus never came. But there are plenty of taxis down there, and plenty more people who need a ride, so if you’re not on a very tight budget, that’s also an option worth considering. We were quoted 3 euros per person, which is probably negotiable. If we were to return, we would definitely go for the taxi.

The hiking trail along Matka Canyon outside Skopje, Macedonia

What to do at Matka Canyon

All that being said about the journey, what about the canyon? Well, it’s lovely. It’s hard to imagine that you’re so close to the city, because it’s very calm and wild out there. Aside from the few restaurants by the water, what you can do is essentially to go along the canyon. Either on food by the side of it, or on the water in a shared boat or a kayak. The latter cost a few hundred denars per person.

We chose to hike, because we were anxious to move about after the long bus ride. It’s possible to walk along the lake for about 10 kilometers and end up by a cave. We thought that was a bit much, so we turned around after 5 and walked back. The views from the walk are mostly awesome, but in part the trail goes into the forest and you can’t see a thing. It was a little bit crowded in the beginning, but the farther along the trail you go, the less people you will see, as everyone will have to turn back at some point.

Tunnel on the hiking trail in Matka Canyon, Skopje, Macedonia

We wore light hiking shoes but regular city clothes, which seemed like a good choice. The hike is not strenuous at all, but the ground is uneven. We met a girl wearing heels and a long white dress, and while she was indeed moving forward, it surely wasn’t pleasant. You will also need to bring all the water and snacks that you think you’ll want. There are some restaurants, and we had an excellent lunch of cheese burek at one of them, but don’t depend on them for water.

A cheese burek we had at the restaurant at Matka Canyon, Skopje, Macedonia

Next time, we’ll kayak down the canyon

So the thing is, we’re walkers. When given the option, we’ll always walk. But this day was very hot, and we kept looking down at the people kayaking and that looked so awesome. It’s probably a lot cooler down there by the water. At first it seemed scary as there are also bigger boats coming, but it didn’t look like the waves got very high. No one seemed to struggle, anyhow. We also sort of wanted to take the boat trip, because then you can go and visit the caves. They are on the other side of the water from the hiking trail, so it’s not possible to reach them on foot. We were very happy with the hike, but guys, the kayaking looked NICE.

I’ve already mentioned the burek and the walk and the bus we ended up taking back, so I won’t repeat myself. We were happy with the outing, it was almost a full day trip but it was so nice to get out of the city and still not have to travel very far for this spectacular nature. Plus we hardly spent any money doing it!

Hiking, boating and kayaking in Matka Canyon Skopje MacedoniaBudget outdoor adventures in Matka Canyon Skopje Macedonia
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