Strumica is one of the popular and vibrant cities in the country. Although the city itself is not that large, the municipality includes many smaller villages and towns making it quite busy. The region is known for two main things, agriculture and the Strumica Carnival that takes place every year. Since there are many smaller villages surrounding the city the main occupation is trading and producing agricultural goods, the peppers and tomatoes are said to be the tastiest in Strumica.
Strumica Panoramic View (photo by: Vesna Markoska)
The Strumica Carnival takes place traditionally at the start of the Easter Fasting period. Since the fasting period for Easter in Macedonia always starts on a Monday, the carnival lasts until Wednesday with Tuesday night being the main carnival event. Although its roots are traced to the religion and the locals, the carnival has evolved and is now recognized as an international event, with more than 2,500 domestic and 650 international performers. The carnival always attracts many visitors from both Macedonia and abroad and is supported by other entertainment such as concerts, art expos and all night parties. So if you are in Macedonia in march make sure you attend the Carnival, who knows maybe you'll get the inspiration to participate in the parade with your own mask!
Strumica Carnival (photo by: R.Atanasovski)
Veljusa is an idyllic village that is around 10km away from Strumica centre and is best known for the 11th century monastery dedicated to the Holy Mother of God. Often referred to as the Veljusa monastery, it was built in 1080 and its long history is a testament of the tradition of monasticism in Macedonia. The Macedonian Orthodox Church has found two inscriptions on the marble plaques dating from 1080 and written by the man who built it, Episcope Manuel.
"Since I have placed my entire hope in You, O immaculate Mother and fountain of mercy, I, a shepherd, monk Manuel, Your servant, offer to You, Sovereign Lady, this church."
"This church of the Most Holy Theotokos the Merciful (Eleusa) is built from the foundations by the monk Manuel, who became episcope of Tiberiopolis in the year 6588 (1080 AD) indiction 3".
Veljusa Monastery (photo by: Macedonian Orthodox Church)
Vodocha is another idyllic village between Strumica and Veljusa and it is also known for a monastery, the Monastery of St. Leontius. This monastery is also built in the 11th century but it's built on the grounds that hold remnants of several churches that date back as far as 7th century. It truly is a holy land, best portrayed by the belief that the mission of St. Cyril and Methodius started from these regions and that later their disciple St. Clement came back to continue their deed and act as an episcope.
Vodocha Monastery (photo by: Vesna Markoska)
Another must see near Strumica are the waterfalls of Mt. Belasica, of which the two most well known are the Koleshino and Smolari waterfalls (24 and 28 kilometers to the east). The flow of the river Baba near the village of Koleshino, at an altitude of over 600m, forms a gentle wide fall with a height of 19 meters. Since the waterfall is wide it can sometimes become frozen in winter, but it makes up in the springtime when the melted snow fills the river Baba. Further east of Koleshino is the Smolari waterfall, which has a height of nearly 40m and is part of the Lomnica river. The two waterfalls are reachable only by hiking on trails made from wooden bridges and stairs of stone, which are often covered with leaves from the dense forest surrounding them. Walking the trails and climbing the stairs, surrounded by noises of nature alone feels like moment that you would like to last for an eternity.
Smolare Waterfall (photo by: Vesna Markoska)
While on the road to the falls you can stop at the village Bansko that got its name from the thermal springs and centuries old tradition of health spa. The use of the thermal waters dates back to Roman times and the Roman baths are still standing at the archeological site that is open for visitors.