For those of you who enjoy offroad experiences, and try to have them on a budget, Macedonia is a dream come true. With adventure opportunities aplenty, especially during spring and summer, you’ll find serene and picturesque scenery waiting to be discovered. Most of the attraction sites are offering a combination of activities, where you can immerse yourself completely – one such is the Marble Lake near Prilep. Secluded into remote hills that surround a marble mine, it is a sight to behold.
Honoring the repetitive Macedonian archetype, this marble lake is to Prilep what canyon Matka is to Skopje – a breathtaking nature attraction only several kilometers away from the city. Located at an abandoned marble mine, it is uniquely attractive.
How to get to the Marble Lake
Exiting the highway near Pletvar, a gravel road starts to climb uphill. In close proximity to the rustic village of Belovodica, the adventure starts right away. You can choose to park your car at the very beginning of the road, or slowly navigate the curvy trail. Formidable as it is, I’d strongly advise you to turn off the engine.
The road itself is ideal for hiking, since the upward climb is neither mild nor steep. Should you bring a mountain bike, the experience becomes much more challenging and therefore quite rewarding.
The village of Belovodica is located on the left side of the road, climbing further still. Forgotten in time, it is one of the few rustic villages that decorate the Macedonian countryside. It is tempting to take a D tour and pass through the village, but do so with caution – shepherd dogs can always be nearby.
On the right of the village, the road descends slightly taking you deeper into the hills. From there, a steep climb begins, going all the way up. It will take you half an hour to conquer the trail, covering nearly 3 kilometers. The marble mine peaks through the hills, showing you the destination ahead. Sitting at the top and nestled deep into surrounding hills, it reveals itself only after you arrive.
Once there, a spectacular view opens up – a massive theatre like setting, carved deep into a mountain of marble. In the center, a crystal blue pocket of water, with huge white blocks on the side providing a stunning contrast.
Enjoying the lake
While landscape photos capture the serene setting of the marble lake, they do a poor job at providing perspective when it comes to size. Without a point of reference, the lake looks much smaller on screen than it actually is. Arriving there, you are instantly taken aback by the sheer magnitude of the massive rock formation. It takes a while to circle the lake, as you must climb one row of marble after another, enjoying panoramic lookouts aplenty.
The echo of the place, both earie and glorious at the same time, is a separate experience to write about. With birds and insects producing a garden variety of sounds, the site creates a vibrant and colorful rhythm that remains constant.
Important, however, is the timing of your arrival. Since hills are blocking the sun till nearly 8 AM, you can allow yourself to miss the sunrise. Painted with sunshine, the water would change color, transforming, rapidly, from deep blue to stunning turquoise. Seeing both is just as rewarding as you would imagine.
After taking your pictures left and right, the opportunity is there to just sit and enjoy the view. The white platforms become even brighter when the sun is above, so make sure to bring a sun cream and polarized sunglasses if you are planning to stay well past noon.
You can go down near the lake, and even swim if you like. There is a bit of controversy about the safety of the water, but no official warning has been given. Locals are convinced that it is safe, which results with small crowds during the middle of the summer. Serene and captivating, the blue pocket of water will draw your attention until you finally decide to jump right in. Arrive well before noon, and you will have it all for yourself.
If you are not ready to wet your toes, the surrounding terrain offers plenty of opportunities for hiking. Though it is hard to look away from the main attraction, you can scout the area and return back for another hour of gazing at the marble lake.
With Macedonia being wildly underappreciated by foreigners, most of these sites are empty throughout the better part of spring, and well into summer. That being said, you can enjoy the opportunity to capture stunning pictures, or fly your drone and observe the marble lake from above. A brief discussion with a friend of mine opened my eyes for the possibility of drone tourism. Vast and empty terrain, with many nature attractions like this would certainly place Macedonia among the best destinations in the world.
If you are a timelapse enthusiast, Macedonia is perfect for “fishing” unique sequences. This site, of course, is one of the most captivating locations – so many angles to shot from and so many different lightning conditions, with the breathtaking marble lake as your focal point…
Heading back for a visit to Prilep
Leaving the lake, you get to enjoy the gravel road backwards. A mountain bike will get you down in minutes, whereas a hiking session would allow you to contemplate the entire experience. Neither is better than the other. Getting into your car, and back on the highway, the road towards Pletvar and Prilep awaits. You will need less than 15 minutes to arrive into the city, entering civilization once again.
Known as the town of tobacco, Prilep hides one of the most interesting museums. With an archive richer than you can possible imagine, it tells stories of great historic figures as related to all things tobacco. The Old Bazar coincides with the center of the city, and it’s the best place to go after an off road adventure. True to its old architecture, it is an interesting sight for foreigners.
Pick a restaurant with a view of the Watch Tower, order traditional Macedonian food, and sit back while browsing through surreal pictures of the marble lake. Prilep is known for its barbecue, and with prices so affordable you might just overindulge yourself.
You can even find local accommodation, and stay a while longer while discovering other unique adventure opportunities like Treskavec and Markovi Kuli (Marko’s Towers). If you are a fan of paragliding, the surrounding area offers unmatched takeoff locations, towering above Prilep and the plain of Pelagonia. With a well-structured agenda and successfully embarking before the morning light, you might be able to cross the entire region off your list, stopping at one site after another. It would truly be an experience to remember.