September 8th - 18th, 2023
Join Natural Exposures on a photo adventure in the Balkans!
Begin our journey in North Macedonia, where colorful Mediterranean-style villages and historic monasteries blend into breathtaking mountainous countrysides. Though landlocked, there is plenty of water in this small nation! Glacial lakes, cascading waterfalls, and winding rivers carve their way through pristine forests. We’ll immerse ourselves in traditional culture while mingling with friendly beekeepers, cormorant fishermen, and local townsfolk. Likewise, we’ll be sure to savor farm-fresh Macedonian cuisine and award-winning wines.
Our journey ends in the small Serbian village of Donja Lokosnica, self-proclaimed paprika capital of the world. Most of the town’s residents grow red paprika peppers. During autumn harvest, millions of peppers are hung and dried using traditional handmade wreath techniques. This results in a deep crimson canvas throughout the village and provides us with plenty of compelling photography opportunities.
These hidden Balkan gems offer outstanding cultural and landscape opportunities—a unique Southern European trip, without the crowds!
Please Note: This trip will be lead by professional photography guide Luka Esenko along with Tanya hosting our guests.
Meet Daniel and Tanya Cox
2023 North Macedonia and Serbia Photography Tour I Travel Plans
Friday, September 8
Arrive at Skopje Airport (SKP). Transfer will be provided to the Park Hotel & Spa.
Today, we’ll explore Skopje’s Old (Turkish) Bazaar. Walk across the Stone Bridge, an important city landmark, which spans the Vardar River to connect Macedonia Square with the Old Bazaar. Marvel at Skopje’s abundance of aesthetically pleasing statues, including the monument and fountain of Alexander the Great in the center of the city. A highlight today will be a visit to the Memorial House of Mother Teresa. The renowned Catholic saint and Nobel Peace Prize laureate was born in Skopje in 1910. Tonight we gather for a group welcome dinner.
Saturday, September 9
This morning we’ll eat breakfast at the hotel and have some time to photograph in Skopje before we begin our journey westward.
Our first stop is in the city of Tetovo to visit and photograph the Šarena Džamija, or ‘Decorated/Painted Mosque.’ This unique Ottoman-era structure was originally built in 1438 and restored in 1833 after it was damaged by earthquakes and fire. We are sure to be impressed with Šarena Džamija’s intricate and colorful paintings, decorations, and ornaments, as well as its fascinating history.
Further down the road, we’ll enter Mavrovo National Park, a scenic mountainous region with stunning canyons, pristine streams and waterfalls, glacial lakes, alpine meadows, and densely wooded forests. We’ll stop at the medieval Saint John Bigorski Monastery, an important Macedonian pilgrimage site, nested on the slope of Bistra Mountain.
At the end of the day, we’ll settle in Lazaropole, a picturesque remote village high on the Bistra plateau. Explore the beauty of nature that surrounds you, and mingle with the locals. This region, known as Mijak, is the birthplace of the difficult and enchanting Teshkoto folk dance. Overnight Kalin Hotel
Sunday, September 10
A morning of photography in Lazaropole before we continue on to our next destination, Lake Ohrid.
Behold the captivating scenery as we ride. We’ll stop for photographs and visit a mountain village or two, perhaps Gari or Vevčani, where we can have lunch and take a little break.
In the afternoon, we’ll arrive in the city of Ohrid on Lake Ohrid and get settled into our hotel. Ohrid has been called “The Jerusalem of the Balkans” due to a plethora of churches in the city. Both the city and the lake are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We’ll take a guided walk to fully explore the quaint atmosphere and charming houses and monuments of Old Town. We hope for a magical sunset tonight. We’ll have amazing views from St. John Kaneo, a grand Orthodox church perched atop rugged cliffs overlooking Lake Ohrid.
Overnight at Unique Resort & Spa
Monday, September 11
Relax this morning. Midday, we’ll make a short drive to Kuratica, a small mountain village where time has seemingly stopped. Kuratica transports us to a life Macedonians might have lived centuries ago. Cute, social donkeys are commonplace. Many families keep them in their yards, using them for light work and companionship. We’ll indulge in the pleasure of a homemade lunch in Kuratica and also meet up with a local folklore group who will perform traditional dances in their decorative costumes.
Back in Ohrid, the evening is free to spend at your leisure. Overnight Unique Resort & Spa
Tuesday, September 12
After breakfast, we’ll bid farewell to Ohrid and head south through Galičica National Park toward Lake Prespa. There are several viewpoints to stop and photograph from along the way.
Golem Grad, also known as Snake Island, is a small island in Lake Prespa. The island is officially located in North Macedonia, but neighbors Greece and Albania are just a few kilometers away. If weather permits, we’ll take a boat trip to this walker-friendly island. Once a king’s summer playground, Golem Grad now showcases a remnant settlement built long ago. Ancient ruins, including churches and monasteries, date as early as the 2nd century. These days, flora and fauna are Golem Grad’s only inhabitants. Wild tortoises, many bird species, including Dalmatian pelicans and great cormorants, snakes (as you may have guessed), and other small creatures can be found here.
We’ll spend the next two nights at Hotel Epinal in Bitola, one the most historically significant cities in North Macedonia.
Wednesday, September 13
Today will be an adventure. In the morning, we’ll load into 4×4 jeeps and leave the city to explore remote areas of the legendary Mariovo region. This region is dominated by breathtaking landscapes. The River Crna flows through the valley, creating Skochivirska Klisura, the largest and longest canyon in all of North Macedonia. The mountains and rolling hills are interspersed with small villages where we’ll discover historic architecture, centuries-old traditions, and unique cultures.
Later in the afternoon, we’ll make our way back to Bitola and meander the city’s bazaars, mosques, and any other interesting sights we spot along the way. We’ll end the evening with a stroll down the pedestrian-friendly Široki Sokak street, the cosmopolitan hub of North Macedonia. Overnight Hotel Epinal
Thursday, September 14
Some of the oldest winemaking regions exist in the Balkan countries, North Macedonia included! For that reason, we’ll leave the city this morning and set out for North Macedonia’s Tikves wine region. Tikves is the country’s most famous wine region; vineyards stretch far and wide throughout the region’s gently rolling hills.
En route, stop and photograph the Roman archeological site of Stobi. Well-preserved mosaics, remnants of temples and basilicas, and a theater are just a few highlights in this ancient city. Just down the road, we’ll make a visit to the Stobi Winery to tour its amazing wine cellar, followed by a wine tasting with snacks.
The day ends in the small town of Demir Kapija, gateway to the fertile Tikves valley. We’ll check into the hotel at Popova Kula, which also happens to be a unique winery. Gather for a group dinner tonight, and wind down with a sample of the local Vranec – subtle, round, and full.
Friday, September 15
Rise and shine! A sunrise photo shoot above the vineyards is on the menu for this morning.
Eat breakfast, and then we’re on our way to Dojran Lake. Dojran’s fishermen are especially proud of an old, traditional fishing technique, and here we can photograph them in their fishing boats and huts that stand on stilts above the water’s surface.
Next, we arrive Strumica, one of the larger cities in the country’s southeastern region. We won’t spend too much time in Strumica, but we will make one stop here to visit one of the oldest nunneries in the country.
In the afternoon, we’ll meet up with locals in a little village called Gabrovo. Our hosts will take us around and introduce us to the area, known for its pepper production. Along the way, we’ll pick up fruits and vegetables, which we can use for a special traditional meal we’ll prepare with our hosts.
On the return to Popover Kula, if time allows, we’ll stop for a photo shoot at Kolešino Falls on the Baba River. One last cozy evening at Popova Kula
Saturday, September 16
As the end of our trip is near, we’ll make our way back to Skopje today.
Along the way, we’ll stop in Kratovo to explore a bit. The town of Kratovo lies on the western slopes of Mount Osogovo, right in the crater of an extinct volcano! This off the beaten path location is known for its medieval towers and stone bridges. We’ll also stop in nearby Kuklica, which has around 120 naturally-formed, massive stone pillars. A few legends surround the formation of the strange pillars, thought to be 100,000 years old, and we may experience a mystical aura standing in their presence.
We hope for enough time to visit one last beautiful monastery, Saint Joachim of Osogovo, before we settle in Skopje for the evening. Overnight Park Hotel & Spa
Sunday, September 17
Last but certainly not least, we venture into Serbia to visit Donja Lokosnica, self-proclaimed paprika capital of the world. It’s harvest time! The area is bustling as the majority of villagers harvest, string, and dry their red peppers. Millions of hot, yet sweet, red peppers surround us, and the waves of intense crimson provide us with ample photographic opportunities. This is the place to purchase paprika and a traditional Serbian condiment called ajvar that is made from their peppers and also contains garlic, chili pepper, and roasted aubergine.
We’ll have lunch with a local family to experience the warm hospitality of this part of the world.
With our senses are revitalized, we’ll return to Skopje. Gather tonight to reminisce, bid our farewells, and of course, enjoy one last Macedonian dinner with wine. Overnight Park Hotel & Spa
Monday, September 18
Breakfast at the hotel this morning along with free time before departure. Transfer to the Skopje Airport for your flight home today.
12 Guests Maximum
6690 pp, DBL occupancy
Under 8 guests: ADD 300
Single sup: 600
Pricing in US Dollars
$1000 Per person due at time of booking
Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, Discover, or check accepted
Deposits are non-refundable. If cancellations are necessary, we require this request in writing. We will do our best to resell your space. Only if we can resell your space, we will refund (minus deposit and discounts given to sell your space). No partial refunds are possible for unused services.
October 1, 2022: $3000 pp first installment
May 1, 2023: Final Payment
Installments are payable by check only. Please make checks payable to Natural Exposures and mail to:
810 N. Wallace, Suite E
Bozeman, MT 59715
- Private small group travel with professional photographer Luka Esenko
- Most meals with beverages
- Transportation in a private minibus
- Airport transfers on scheduled arrival and departure days
- Entrance fees for all locations in itinerary
- Local taxes
- Accommodations for 10 nights
- International airfare
- Travel/emergency medical evacuation insurance
- Airport transfers pre/post trip
- Any attractions/optional activities not listed in itinerary
- Gratuities for guide/driver
- Miscellaneous personal expenses such as laundry, Internet, phone calls, beverages outside of meals
- Two meals
Flights to Book
September 8, 2023
Arrive at Skopje International Airport (SKP) any time of day.
September 18, 2023
Depart at Skopje International Airport (SKP)
Travel/emergency evacuation insurance is not required for this photo tour, but we always recommend purchasing it for any trip. We recommend one or more of the following, depending on your needs:
(use code natexp)
Allianz Global Assistance
(use travel agency ID F203564)
Terms & Conditions
Natural Exposures cannot control nor is responsible for abnormal weather, natural disasters, or any other disaster that might affect the trip. Travel insurance should be purchased to cover any missed flights or medical problems that may affect/delay your travel. National Parks have the right to change our itinerary.
By booking a trip with Natural Exposures, you agree to the following CANCELLATION AND LIABILITY POLICY
Accommodations for 2023 North Macedonia and Serbia Photography Tour I
September 8 and 16-17, 3 nights
Park Hotel & Spa
Overlooking the Vardar River and the Telekom Arena, this modern hotel is surrounded by the greenery of City Park. There’s an upscale restaurant in the hotel and a salad/wine bar with a patio. Other amenities include a riverside terrace bar, an indoor pool, a serene spa, and a gym with river views.
Room amenities include free Wi-Fi, bath robes and slippers, flat-screen TVs, minibar, tea and coffee-making facilities, and safes. Room service is available 24/7.
September 9, 1 night
Kalin Hotel features traditional “mijach” construction with modern architectural solutions, creating a warm and unique atmosphere. The hotel boasts 16 comfortable and tastefully arranged rooms.
September 10 and 11, 2 nights
Unique Resort & Spa
Unique Resort & Spa’s inspiration is the nature surrounding Ohrid Lake. Here you will find peace and a lot of outdoor facilities, so you can enjoy the sun, fresh air, and the landscape.
Luxurious rooms are uniquely furnished. Each room has a balcony, TV, mini bar, and Wi-Fi. A warm and modern interior exudes a pleasant ambience for a relaxing stay.
September 12 and 13, 2 nights
Hotel Epinal is centrally located in Bitola, opposite the Cultural Center and just 9.3 miles from the Greek border. Numerous shops, restaurants, and cafes are within walking distance. The hotel features a casino, sauna, gym, indoor pool, and hot tub.
The Gradska Kefeana Restaurant serves international and Macedonian dishes as well as seafood specialties. Fresh trout can be selected from specially designed fish tanks.
September 14 and 15, 2 nights
Popova Kula Hotel
The Popova Kula Hotel at Popover Kula Winery offers a unique experience to guests. Distinct rooms are named after and decorated in the colors of the wine type they represent. Most rooms have a balcony with breathtaking views, a true enjoyment for nature lovers.
Helpful Information for 2023 North Macedonia and Serbia Photography Tour I
Passport and Visa
Your passport must be valid six months beyond your planned stay. We recommend having at least four blank pages for the entry stamps plus any additional you may need to return to your home country. A visa is not required for stays of less than 90 days within a six month period.
It’s always best to make sure you’re up to date with routine vaccinations and to check in with your doctor or a medical professional ideally 4-6 weeks before travel to discuss your personal needs. Please visit CDC Traveler’s Health for suggested vaccines for North Macedonia and Serbia.
Dan will phone each guest prior to trip time to discuss camera gear for the trip. Please feel free to email at any time if you have questions regarding camera gear for the trip.
The Republic of North Macedonia is a landlocked nation in Southeastern Europe, bordering Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, Serbia and Kosovo to the north, and Albania to the west.
Have a question?Have a question about this tour? We're happy to answer any queries you may have.
Testimonials from Natural Exposures' Explorers
"If you ever want to travel to another country and you want to go first class, travel with Natural Exposures. They are number one in showing their guests the best time ever in the classiest way. I would recommend Natural Exposures Tours to everyone. If you want to go in style, go with NE!"
Michelle Duggan, Massachusetts
"Tanya/Dan are a dynamic duo! There are not enough adjectives in the dictionary to cover the entire breath of their combined strengths. Fair, attention to detail, supportive of everyone’s needs, ability to get things done, did I mention down right good people, and on and on. We hope there will be a trip in the future that we could take advantage of."
Corbett Alley, Arizona
"I just wanted to again thank you for a wonderful week of photography and relaxation away from the office. It was a really a good group."
Sue Wolfe, Texas
"Tanya and Dan’s logistic skills provide a seamless photo tour where one can truly enjoy the experience. With unlimited photographic opportunities Dan’s instruction has taken my photography to a higher level."
Linda Henry, Oregon
"We have been friends and have traveled with Dan and Tanya for almost 20 years. We have had the privilege of being invited to join them on their wonderful photography adventures. Dan, a master of photography, is always willing to share his vast knowledge of cameras and photographic skills. Tanya has mastered the art of arranging great tours along with being able to please everyone involved. I keep thinking of how Dan and Tanya pass the Rotary International "Four Way Test". Is it the Truth? Is it fair to all concerned, will it build good will and better friendships and yes it will be beneficial to all concerned. We love, trust and feel safe with Dan and Tanya. Our home is filled with spectacular images we have taken on tours with Natural Exposures Photo Tours."
Ed and Pat Nahin, California