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How To Enjoy A Day In The Rain In Matka Canyon

Matka Canyon pinterest

Sometimes Mother Nature is in a bad mood. Like many women, she has her off days and wants to piss on your bonfire. You may have planned to visit Matka Canyon, hoping for glorious sunshine, but she’s determined to thwart your plans. If you only have this one day to visit, and it is raining, I urge you to go anyway. You can still have fun and won’t miss out on spectacular scenery near the city of Skopje. You can always rely on the video or this wonderful photo from Breathe With Us to demonstrate what the canyon looks like on a beautiful day.

Matka Canyon views
Matka Canyon kayakers courtesy of Breathe With Us

The journey

Getting to Matka Canyon is like a Krypton Factor challenge. First, you have to find the bus, then get on the one going in the correct direction. If you happen to head in the wrong direction, as we did, the driver may take pity on you and take you back for free.

If you are travelling to Sagari, you then need to hail a non-existent cab or accept a ride from an entrepreneurial local in a battered Skoda. Once you arrive at the Canyon, you then have a short hike in the rain. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Buses in Macedonia

Finding information on buses in Macedonia is no mean feat for a non-Macedonian speaker. There’s no English website, no proper timetable, the route map goes to a 404 error and strangely enough the bus drivers don’t speak much English.

After a little improvisation, we arrive at the Canyon feeling smug that we made it independently. Whilst I cannot guarantee you more success than we had, this ‘Top things to do in Skopje’ provides a little more information to help.

Matka Canyon on a drizzly day
Matka Canyon on a drizzly day

Communicating with locals

We arrive to drizzle and a fine mist descending over the valley. There is a small parking lot, a bus-stop, and a white-water rafting course. Not equipped with waterproof clothing, we seek shelter in a nearby restaurant. There’s little sign of activity, but we are ushered in as tables and chairs are quickly arranged to seat us. I order the obligatory shopska salad (my new staple diet of tomatoes, cucumber, and onion) and by the time we finish eating, the drizzle has turned into a downpour. Time to reconsider our options maybe?

White water in matka-canyon
White water in matka-canyon

I try using my notepad to communicate that we want to go on the boat and receive a waggled finger pointing up the hill. He waggles a further three fingers at me indicating it is three kilometres away. At least that’s what I thought he said.

We contemplate a taxi to take us but another waiter shakes his head in horror, muttering about expensive taxis. He urges us to walk up the short track stressing that it’s not far. We set off trying to keep our grip on the slippery cobbles. Following the fast-flowing river, we reach a small car park and a tiny path hewn from the cliffside. Admiring turquoise waters, steep rock faces and descending mist, we round the corner to find an unexpected scene. Incredibly, hidden away in a small nook of the Canyon is a restaurant, hotel, and tiny orthodox church.

Here is what it look likes on a glorious day, courtesy of The Sweetest Way. She was much luckier with the weather than we were!

Matka Canyon scenes
Matka Canyon scenes, courtesy of the Sweetest Way
Matka Canyon Hotel, Skopje, Macedonia
Matka Canyon Hotel, courtesy of The Sweetest Way

What if the boat isn’t running?

We enquire about the boat and are advised that it will only leave if more guests arrive. Fuelling the boat and paying for the cave lighting is not cheap. We can wait in the coffee bar though and if anyone else crazy enough to be out here today comes along, they will find us

Drink cappuccinos and reading a good book

We head into the restaurant of the Matka Hotel to pass the time. It is cute as a button, with pink, white and red flowing geraniums cascading over thick stone walls, terracotta tiles and tubs of colourful flowers. There’s a large outdoor terrace swathed in rain covers, and blankets to keep visitors toasty.

Matka Hotel and Restaurant, Matka Canyon, Skopje, Macedonia
Matka Hotel and Restaurant, Matka Canyon

Nursing a coffee, I take advantage of this enforced activity break to chill out and read with showers drumming on the overhead canopy like a lullaby. One coffee turns into two, and then a beer in the cozy lounge, and still no one from the boat  company comes. It seems they have forgotten us as my later inquiry simply results in the same answer as before. We decide to cut our losses, happy to watch the weather’s unstable moods from the warmth of the hotel.

A mini hike into the canyon

And then a glimmer of hope, the downpour turns into a light drizzle which might not drench my jeans. I practically skip out of the hotel, intent on exploring, if only for a short interlude. I follow the signs up to the waterlogged path in anticipation.

Initially, it is like a high-ropes adventure course with ropes on both sides to pull yourself along. These soon are replaced by sheer drop-offs, uneven stones and glistening cobbles as the path weaves around the headland. Its mesmerising – even in the rain with clouds hovering menacingly above the water it is stunning. I find myself not wanting to turn back, bewitched by my desire to find the pot of gold at the end of the pathway.

Matka Canyon, Skopje, Macedonia
Matka Canyon, Skopje, Macedonia
Scenes of Matka Canyon, Skopje
Scenes of Matka Canyon, Skopje

If only…

If only we had known we could have hiked around the Canyon to the caves and explored further. If only we had brought waterproofs (obviously on everyone’s holiday packing list) and come prepared. Yet still we find ourselves laughing, remiscising about childhood holiday mishaps and how sometimes it can be fun when things don’t turn out as planned.

Have you ever experienced something similar?

Maybe you have a similiar story where things didn’t quite go according to plan. I’d love to hear your stories so feel free to comment below.

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips


  1. Even the rain and clouds don’t diminish its beauty! What a find!

    I can’t say Macedonia has ever been on my radar, but this looks pretty good!

  2. I don’t know why but I always associate Macedonia with the sunshine 🙂 but yes you are right the weather in nature could be not in a good mood, It happened to me the same thing when I visited the Lake District in the north of England

  3. OH mY we had a few days like this when we visited Croatia and yes the rain can totally spoil your trips or give you some down time that often is needed! For me coffee and book are not a ruined day! Super ideas!

  4. The Matka Canyon is breathtaking, Anne! Skopje in general is picturesque, but this place is paradise on Earth!

  5. Megan Jerrard

    It still sounds like you managed to pull out of it having had a good day … misadventures like these always make for the most memorable trips … so nice of the bus driver to take you back for free after having caught it in the wrong direction! Sounds like something I would do lol!

  6. Aww…initially it can be very disappointing when things don’t go the way you plan. But then, there are multiple ways to enjoy the beauty of a place. Plus you get a great story. 🙂

  7. Very poetic description. 🙂 I know how rains spoil plans of travel.
    The place does look gorgeous on a sunny dry day!

  8. Barbara szekeres

    This must have been so much fun! The nature looks beautiful! I loved the colors. I would love to try this one today.

  9. LOL it is just so annoying when this happens! I’ve just been posting about San Sebastian where the same thing happened to us. I suspect it’s a lot easier in a city – but still a shame. You will just have to go back!

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