Mountain hiking is the best recreational activity you should learn your children to appreciate. The benefits are just so many: body development, oxygen concentration, adventure, closeness to nature, the excitement of going to unfamiliar places far away from the urban pace of life, etc. The first time we took our kids to climb Vodno mountain was when they were only two and a half years old. People that we met on the way up were astounded by their will and determination but the truth is that we often underestimate the strength that children possess. They are much stronger and more determined than we tend to think. Since that first adventure, we visited many mountains and loved it every time.
This time we went on a long but relaxed tour from the village Kozhle in the Skopje region, walking by the rivers Vardar and Pchinja, and up to the village of Karabunishte in the municipality of Veles. There are two old monasteries along the way which we visited – St. Ilija the Thunderer (Sv. Ilija Gromovnik), just below the village of Karabunishte, and the cave church of St. Mary (Sv. Bogorodica) below the village of Kozhle.
The scenery is magnificent all along the route. It is one of the cleanest areas in Macedonia. The route starts at the center of village Kozhle, situated 37 km south from Skopje, at an altitude of 380 meters / 1246 feet. The path takes you on the ridge of a hill between the Skopje-Veles highway and the river Vardar with a spectacular view on both sides.
It continues downhill to the bank of the river Vardar, where you have to cross a suspense bridge to get to the other side. The kids loved this adventurous experience!
Once you cross the bridge there is another crossing and this time it’s the railway. Be careful – although there are only a few trains passing daily, it’s always important to be extra cautious when doing this. Being locals, we know the train schedule so we allowed ourselves a quick photo session.
The route continues above the rails for a while and then it starts going up again towards the monastery of St, Ilija. There are streams of fresh mountain water in the churchyard where you can refresh and rest.
The village of Karabunishte (altitude: 508 m / 1669 ft) is not more than a half an hour walk above the church. It’s an almost-abandoned settlement on a top of a hill with old ruined houses and animal shelters. We met a local goatherd with a small herd of goats, a donkey, and two dogs. Some of the animals were friendly and the children had a chance to enjoy something you don’t get to experience in the city.
We climbed down the same route up to the suspense bridge over the Vardar. From there we took a slight turn right and continued in the direction towards Kozhle but this time below the hill ridge and by the river Pchinja. We saw the point where the two rivers meet and become one before we took the road to the old monastery of St. Mary. The path takes you by the lush foliage bank of Pchinja for approximately one hour. Just before you reach the church, there is another suspense bridge, this time over the river Pchinja, higher and longer than the one over river Vardar.
Once you get to the monastery premises you should take a longer rest, eat, relax, and enjoy the hospitality of the hosts. The church itself is a cave church dating back to the 14th century according to Svetle and Dragi, husband and wife who take care of the monastery. If you want to visit this place without much of physical effort, you can climb down from the Skopje-Veles highway – there is a parking space approximately 30 km from Skopje where you can leave your car and take a short walk down to the river and across to the church.
We ate some really tasty boiled beans prepared by Svetle, who kindly allowed us to visit the church interiors before we left. From there, we climbed up again to the ridge that took us back to the village of Kozhle.
The whole tour lasted about 8 hours, with a relaxed pace and several resting stops. It’s a perfect route if you want to spend a beautiful day in nature without extreme effort. If you have any specific questions or comments, please write to us in the comment section below or through our contact form. Check the video blog from the tour below and enjoy!