Dan and view, Prilep, Macedonia

Visiting Prilep – An Unexpected Charm in Macedonia

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As part of my tour around Macedonia, I decided to go to Prilep.

Why?

Well I’m not really sure. I think I had seen it on a few other blogs and maybe heard some good things, but I didn’t go with a set reason in mind.  I went because it’s there and it’s kind of on the way on my journey, the rough track I had in mind.

I woke up in Tetovo that morning. I woke up late which meant I couldn’t get any of the early buses, so I had breakfast at the hotel and made my way to the bus station to get the 10am bus to Skopje. Arriving at 11, I walked up to the ticket office with the news the next bus to Prilep was at 1.30pm.

I sat in a coffee shop and did some planning in those two and a half hours between buses. Did I actually want to go to Prilep? What is there to do in Prilep? Shall I just move on to Bitola the same day or maybe go back to Ohrid, where I was basing myself, instead of being stuck in another random Macedonian town.

Prilep, Macedonia

In all of that, I made a plan of a hotel in Bitola and check onward bus timings. I was going to Prilip, but maybe I would just spend an hour or two there and get the next bus out…

When the bus arrived into Prilep, I wanted to leave. “What am I doing here I thought?” The one thing I wanted to see was an hours walk away. And it was warm. And my backpack was heavy. And I was in jeans.

It was one of my few sulky moments of travel.

Instead of moping around, I found the town centre was a short distance away, walking along streets lined with brown and beige Eastern European style 4 story buildings, home to many apartments.

I found the main square in the city and…

I loved it.

I just had this feeling of finding somewhere and thinking “yep, this is a cool place”. Could it have been the sun, the blue sky and the warmth? It definitely added to it. But those things I didn’t know what to do, I soon found.

The main square, targeted by the large red and yellow Macedonian flag fluttering in the wind, 20m up had families milling around, people sitting down and having coffee or a beer in the bars and restaurants surrounding it. There were statues all around, the largest of Alexander The Great on horseback standing proud in the main square, as all statues of Alexander The Great are in this country.

Alexander the great statue, Prilep, Macedonia
Alexander The Great Statue
Old Bazaar, Prilep, Macedonia
The Old Bazaar in Prilep

I walked through the Old Bazaar. I doesn’t have anything compared to the one in Skopje but its still its own thing, a miniature version from the Ottoman era that has stood the test of time. The narrow pedestrian streets with stores and kebab shops and coffee shops like in times past.

I saw something I had read about, the leaning clock tower and was amazed that I had never heard of it before and how it astounded me leaning in front of me whilst the rest of the city folk went about their day. Next to that, I saw the burned down and abandoned Carsi Mosque, a victim of a 2001 insurgency.

Leaning clock tower, Prilep, Macedonia
It’s actually leaning more than this image suggests!
Carsi mosque, Prilep, Macedonia
The burnt down and abandoned mosque

Carsi mosque, Prilep, Macedonia

I sat down close by, on a bench bathed in the late afternoon sunshine and I had a massive change of heart. I booked a hotel to stay the night and get to feel the charm of Prilep for a little bit longer.

A quick dinner, checked into my hotel and I was back out into the evening sun to check out the Burial Grounds of the Undefeated. Despite the less than catchy name, the giant stone sculptures that reminded me of massive chess pieces, with the names on soldiers on a monument close by, was set in a park on a hill that had beautiful views of the surrounding hillside.

Burial Grounds of the Undefeated, Prilep, Macedonia
Burial Grounds of the Undefeated

Back into town, I crossed one of the many cute bridges, discovered the Itar Pejo (Sly Peter) fountain depicting a cheeky chappy from Macedonian folklore. At this point the sky was turning pink in the sunset so I sat at a bar in the Town Square and enjoyed a couple of beers at this little treasure that I had discovered.

Sly peter, Prilep, Macedonia
Itar Pejo statue
Main square, Prilep, Macedonia
Enjoying the Town Square at sunset

I woke early in the morning and decided to hike to one of the only things I knew and wanted to see in Prilep: Marko’s Towers (Markovi Kuli). The hike is about 60 minutes from the centre of town, following winding side streets until it opens out and you hike up to the remains of the towers, a former settlement that was last used by Prince Marko of Serbia and his last stronghold until his death in 1395 when the Ottomans took over.

Now the structures of the towers and fort can be seen with various towers and buildings still standing, some more exposed to the elements than others. I spent about an hours wandering around, climbing up stone steps and enjoying the views over town. I tried to get up to the metal cross on top of the hill, but with few guardrails and an incredibly windy day, I got as far as the last metal steps before nearly being blown off the hill and I headed back into town.

Markos Tower, Prilep

Markos Tower, Prilep
Ruins of Marko’s Tower, Prilep

As the images throughout this post show, the views from the top of Marko’s Tower makes it well worth the effort to hike up. Going so early in the morning meant I was the only one up there, having and ancient structure and the views, all to myself. It was by far the best thing I did in Prilep, if not all of Macedonia.

What to see in Prilep

  • Old Bazaar
  • Main Square
  • Alexander The Great Statue
  • Burial Grounds of the Undefeated
  • Itar Pejo Fountain
  • Leaning Clock Tower
  • Carsi Mosque
  • Marko’s Towers – Markovi Kuli

Where to stay in Prilep and what to eat and drink

I stayed at the Atlas Hotel which is right next to the main square on the main road. Rooms are basic, but the one I had was huge considering its one of the cheapest rooms I had on my roadtrip around Macedonia. it also had a good breakfast. Other cheaper options are available such as Majestic Homes which has rooms for around €10.

Unfortunately the meals I had in Prilep weren’t great. I have heard good things about some of the traditional meatball and grill restaurants in the bazaar but the pasta dish I had isn’t worth writing about. I do however recommend sitting in the town square, or the square next to the leaning clock tower, and having one of Macedonia’s excellent coffees or do what I did and have a local beer in the evening sunset. Zlatan Dab is there beer you will find here as it is brewed in Prilep itself.

Markos Tower, Prilep

How to get to Prilep

There are a few buses per day to Prilep from Skopje, Ohrid, Bitola and Veles and a single bus from Tetovo. All buses arrive into the bus station, about a 15 minute walk from the main square.

From Skopje, buses depart at 06:00, 08:30, 09:00, 13:30, 14:00, 15:30, 17:00, 18:00, 19:00 and 21:00 costing 530 den and taking 2 hours.

From Tetovo to Prilip, there is one bus per day at 13:10 costing 650 Den.

There are four buses per day from Ohrid at 06:00, 08:15, 10:00 and 1330 and should cost 630 Den and take about two and a half hours.

Most bus companies can be found on the Balkan Viator website but tickets can’t be booked online. Use it as a guide only.

It is easy enough to walk around all of Prilep in a few hours. There are some taxis roaming the streets but I didn’t use these.

Markos Tower perfect view, Prilep, Macedonia

Summing up Prilep

I didn’t know much about Prilep other than wanting to visit Marko’s Towers, and I nearly missed it altogether. But I am so glad I made the decision to stop and spend the night in what is actually the fourth biggest city in Macedonia. I wish I could have planned it better to spend more time to learn about the tobacco, weapons and marble industries they have in Prilep and export to the world, what the city is actually known for.

But the one great thing I learned about Prilep: always give a place a chance and you may be surprised with what you find.

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