Gostivar Travel Guide

Explore the culturally rich and naturally beautiful city of Gostivar in Western North Macedonia with our comprehensive guide. Discover the top places to visit, unique activities to try, delicious local cuisine to indulge in, and much more!

Discover Gostivar: A Comprehensive Travel Guide

Welcome to Gostivar, a hidden gem nestled in the Western North Macedonia region of Balkans. Known for its cultural richness, natural beauty, and warm hospitality, Gostivar is a perfect destination for adventurous travelers in search of off-the-beaten-path experiences. From breathtaking mountain ranges and tranquil lakes to ancient palaces and soaring minarets, Gostivar offers an authentic glimpse into the vibrant history and rich traditions of North Macedonia. Let’s explore everything Gostivar has to offer with our comprehensive travel guide.

Introduction to Gostivar

Gostivar is a picturesque town located in the foothills of the impressive Bistra Mountain range. It is approximately 90 kilometers from Skopje and is the largest Albanian-inhabited town in North Macedonia. The city is well-known for its distinctive Ottoman history and multicultural vibe, with ethnically diverse communities living together in harmony. The town is also famous for its fresh and delicious local cuisine, art, handicrafts, and music.

List of Places to Visit in Gostivar

There are several cultural and natural attractions in Gostivar that leave visitors mesmerized. Let’s explore the top places you shouldn’t miss.

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Gostivar Museum: Located in the heart of the town, the Gostivar Museum offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history and culture. The museum contains various objects and tools that reveal Gostivar’s ancient past.
  • Isa Bey Mosque: This beautiful 15th-century mosque is a prominent landmark in Gostivar. Its striking architecture and minaret make it an ideal place to explore the region’s Islamic heritage.
  • Saraj: Saraj is a famous palace built during the Ottoman era. It currently houses the town hall and the public library and is a great place to learn about its rich history.
  • The Ethnographic Museum: Located south of the town centre, the Ethnographic museum provides visitors with an understanding of North Macedonia’s cultural heritage through various exhibitions, workshops, and events.

Natural Attractions of Gostivar: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Karadzica: Karadzica is a popular recreational site that offers enticing views of Gostivar and its surroundings. It is a perfect place to relax, hike or picnic with your family or loved ones.
  • Mavrovo Lake: Mavrovo Lake is a breathtaking natural wonder located in the Mavrovo National Park. Its crystal-clear waters, vast surrounding forests and stunning mountain scenery make it an ideal place to swim, hike and take pictures.
  • Smolare Waterfall: Smolare Waterfall is a mesmerizing waterfall located in the middle of the mountain. Its stunning beauty and remote location make it a must-visit for off-the-beaten-track travelers.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Gostivar

The stunning mountains and rolling hills surrounding Gostivar make it a perfect destination for hiking and biking enthusiasts. Some of the popular routes include:

  • Bistra Mountain Hiking Trail: This trail provides hikers with a chance to explore the local flora and fauna while enjoying breathtaking views of the region. It’s a challenging route that takes about six to seven hours to complete.
  • Smolare Waterfall Hike: This moderate hike takes about four hours to complete and takes you through beautiful forests, past streams and ends at the stunning Smolare Waterfall.
  • Mavrovo Lake Circular Route: This route is perfect for leisurely walks, cycling, and picnics. It’s about 10 km in length and takes you around the majestic Mavrovo Lake.

Best Things to Do in Gostivar: Activities and Tours

Gostivar offers visitors a wide range of unique experiences to indulge in, including:

  • Hot Air Balloon Rides: Get an aerial view of Gostivar and its surroundings from a hot air balloon. This is an ideal activity for the adventurous travelers, and we guarantee that the views will take your breath away.
  • Tour of the Traditional Albanian Villages: The Albanian villages in Gostivar have retained their unique cultural identity and architecture. Take a tour of these traditional villages, interact with the locals, and learn about their way of life.
  • Cultural Festivals and Events: Gostivar is famous for its traditional music, dance, poetry, and food festivals. We recommend that visitors take part in these festivals to experience these ancient traditions firsthand.

Week-Long Itinerary for Gostivar

If you have a week to spend in Gostivar, we recommend the following itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Gostivar, check-in to your hotel and take a walking tour of the town centre. Day 2: Visit the Gostivar Museum, Isa Bey Mosque, and Saraj Palace. Day 3: Spend the day hiking in the Bistra Mountains or participating in hot-air balloon rides. Day 4: Take a day trip to Mavrovo Lake and indulge in some watersports. Day 5: Relax and breath-taking scenery of Karadzica. Day 6: Explore the nearby traditional Albanian villages or participate in a traditional cultural festival. Day 7: Depart from Gostivar after a leisurely breakfast.

Food and Drink Scene of Gostivar

Gostivar offers some of the most delicious local cuisine, using fresh ingredients grown from local farms. Take a look at some of the best local dishes and beverages that you must try during your visit.

Must-Try Dishes

  • Pastrmka: Grilled trout typically served with potatoes and vegetables
  • Tavallo Kolonytje: Traditional potato pie, stuffed with cheese and spinach.
  • Kadayif: A famous dessert made by layering vermicelli-like pastry and filling with sweetened cheese.
  • Tavce Gravce: A delicacy made with beans, peppers, tomatoes, and pork meat.

Local Beverages

  • Rakija: A popular alcoholic beverage made by distilling local fruits such as plums, apricots, or grapes.
  • Mastika: An anise-flavored alcoholic beverage usually served with meze plates.
  • Boza: A fermented drink made from cornflour, sugar, and water. It is usually served cold.

Where to Stay in Gostivar: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Gostivar offers plenty of accommodation options to cater for every visitor’s budget. From luxurious hotels and guesthouses to affordable hostels, the city has something to offer everyone.

  • Bunjakovec Hotel: This is an upscale hotel in a serene environment, perfect for those who want extra comfort during their stay.
  • Hotel Bistra: Located in the heart of Gostivar, Hotel Bistra offers luxurious rooms and top-notch facilities for visitors.
  • Guest House Sofia: If you’re looking for something budget-friendly and cosy, Guest House Sofia is an excellent option.

What to Buy in Gostivar: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Gostivar has a rich history in handicrafts, traditional clothing, and jewellery. Some of the best things to buy as souvenirs include:

  • Carpets and Rugs: Gostivar is famous for its handwoven colorful carpets and rugs that make a perfect souvenir.
  • Silver jewellery: The region is known for its intricate silver jewellery designs, loved by both tourists and locals.
  • Balkan Textiles: You can find hand-embroidered blouses, skirts, and dresses, which are traditional Balkan clothing in Gostivar.

Local Culture and Customs of Gostivar

Gostivar’s locals are known for their warm hospitality and friendliness. Here are a few customs to keep in mind during your stay:

  • Dress conservatively when visiting a mosque and remove your shoes before entering.
  • If you are invited to someone’s house, it’s customary to bring a small gift for the host.
  • It’s polite to offer a handshake when greeting someone.
  • Remember to tip at restaurants and cafes, but this is purely optional.

Best Time to Visit Gostivar

The best time to visit Gostivar is during the warmer months, from May to October. The weather is pleasant, and all outdoor activities are available during these months. The winter period is known for its harsh weather condition, making it difficult to engage in outdoor activities.

Do’s and Don’ts of Gostivar

Here are some important things to keep in mind when visiting Gostivar:


  • Do try the local cuisine.
  • Do dress conservatively when visiting religious sites.
  • Do engage with the locals; they are friendly and hospitable.
  • Do take part in traditional cultural festivals and events.


  • Don’t disrespect the local customs and traditions.
  • Don’t litter in public places.
  • Don’t photograph people without their permission.
  • Don’t wear revealing clothing while visiting religious sites.

Safety and Health

Safety in Gostivar

Gostivar is generally safe for tourists. However, visitors should take standard precautions to ensure their safety, such as:

  • Staying vigilant in crowded areas and avoiding walking alone at night
  • Securing your valuables and belongings
  • Following traffic rules when using public transportation

Health in Gostivar

Visitors should make sure they are up to date with their vaccinations before visiting Gostivar. They should also be careful when drinking tap water and avoid eating uncooked food.

Getting to Gostivar: Transportation Options and Logistics

Gostivar is easily accessible by various modes of transportation, including:

Airports Near Gostivar

The nearest airport to Gostivar is Skopje Airport.

Bus Stations Near Gostivar

There are plenty of bus stations in and around Gostivar, with daily connections to most cities in the region.

Other Options

Visitors can also travel by taxi, rental cars, or private vehicles, which can be arranged through local travel agencies.

How to Get Around Gostivar

The best way to explore Gostivar is on foot or by renting a bicycle. Public transportation is also available in the form of buses, taxis, and trains.

Where to Go Next from Gostivar: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

There are several nearby destinations and excursions from Gostivar that visitors can explore, including:

  • Skopje: The capital of North Macedonia offers a vibrant cityscape with ancient Ottoman, Macedonian, and European influences.
  • Ohrid: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ohrid is known for its tranquil lake, ancient churches, and fortresses.
  • Prizren: Located in nearby Kosovo, Prizren is a charming town known for its historic quarters and stunning mountainous views.


Gostivar offers travelers an authentic glimpse into the traditions, history, and culture of North Macedonia. We hope this comprehensive travel guide has provided you with everything you need to plan a remarkable trip to Gostivar. Our city offers a unique blend of ancient heritage and contemporary lifestyle. With friendly locals, beautiful scenery, and delicious cuisine, Gostivar promises an unforgettable adventure.