One of the advantages of visiting Skopje is that it takes only several minutes to leave the urban jungle with all its malls, traffic jams, and crowded streets and get lost into the nature of the Vodno mountain forests. Vodno is a mountain located in the southwest part of the capital which could be reached in 30 minutes from the square in the city center by walking. Amazing, right?
The highest point of the mountain is the peak called “Krstovar” and it rises 1.066 meters above sea level. On this location, in 2002 started the construction of the 66-meter tall cross, which is known as the Millennium Cross. It was completed in 2009. The Skopje Millennium Cross was built with the purpose to represent the 2.000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and its’ construction was funded by the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Macedonian government and donations from Macedonians from all over the world.
With a height that not only offers a magnificent panoramic view of Skopje but also makes the cross visible from all sides of the city, today the Millennium Cross is the symbol of the Macedonian capital. Entirely covered with lights, at night the cross is a true spectacle to behold.
How to get to the Millennium cross?
Once you are in Skopje and decide to visit the Millennium cross, there are several options available on how to get there depending on your physical capabilities and preferences. Your first goal is to reach Sredno Vodno, i.e. the middle of the mountain, around 550 meters above sea level. It can be reached by car (including taxi), by bus or roughly a 30-minute hike. If you decide to break a sweat, the scenery will reward you right off the gate – it is spectacular that Vodno offers such a dense and green forest that is located only 15 minutes away from the urban jungle!
By car or bus
Parking is available on Sredno Vodno for those who are driving. The price is conveniently stated on the signs placed throughout the parking lot, and currently it is 100 denars (1.6 euros) for the first hour and 45 denars (around 70cents) for every additional one afterwards. It is charged on the weekend and during weekdays’ afternoons. If you want to get there by bus, do note that there is only one bus line that goes to Sredno Vodno. It departures at the bus station, which is located next to the Skopje International bus station and one of the stations it also passes is the one in the city center – “Rekord”. On the red double-decker bus will be written “МИЛЕНИУМСКИ КРСТ”, Macedonian for “Millennium Cross”.
For those who prefer hiking, there is one trail and it takes approximately half an hour to reach Sredno Vodno.
Vodno Cable car
No cars are permitted after Sredno Vodno, so in order to reach the Skopje Millennium cross one should get the Vodno cable car or start a somewhat more demanding hike. A single round trip with the cable car will cost you 120 denars, which is equivalent to 2 euros. When it comes to the cable car Skopje timetable, it should be noted that it does not work on Mondays and the last Tuesday of the month. The working hours, for the rest of the month are as follows:
- From November till March: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., with the last ride down at 4:45 p.m.
- From May till September: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., with the last ride down at 7:45 p.m.
- April and October: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., with the last ride down at 5:45 p.m.
Worth mentioning is that the Vodno cable car works in stints, i.e. it operates in the first half of the hour, with a break during the second. If you are discovering Macedonia for the first time, make sure to take the cable car to the top of the mountain and enjoy the unforgettable experience. The city reveals itself in its entirety, and you will have an opportunity to see one of the most breathtaking panoramic views.
Hiking to the Millennium cross
Several trails with different intensity are available for those who will choose to hike to the Millennium Cross and all of them offer breathtaking scenery. The shortest one, which is obviously the most intense one, will take you to the cross in approximately one hour. However, this depends on your fitness level. This trail goes through the forest and is rather steep, taking you over some loose rocks and quite dangerous terrain. Locals often mistake Vodno for a park forest and would tell tourists that there is not much to be feared during a hike. Unfortunately, this doesn’t reflect reality.
The one that provides the easiest pace is the asphalt street, but at the same time, you will need between two and three hours to reach the Millennium Cross overlooking Skopje.
Mountain cycling is a sport that became quite popular in recent years and the number of cyclists that can be seen on Vodno is increasing annually. Besides the asphalt street, the mountain offers several off-road trails that are suitable for mountain biking, and the experience is unlike anything you can imagine.
At the Millennium cross
Once you reach the Skopje Millennium cross, there is a small shop where you can buy some refreshment drinks, coffee, water, and snacks. Right in front of the cross, there is a small playground surrounded by benches where you can rest and enjoy the fresh air along with the surrounding panoramic view. Needless to say, the view from the top of mount Vodno is mesmerizing, as it allows you a clear panoramic view of the entire city. Standing at the base of the Millennium cross, the view upwards is just as humbling as the panoramic postcard stretching from the left to right down below.