Atop Mount Bistra in the Mavrovo National Forest lies a town touted as having the cleanest air in Eastern Europe, Lazaropole, Macedonia.
With a population of few, and no more than ten in the off-season, it is a place set back in time.
The buildings are modern, the roads paved, but the atmosphere is of complete isolation and tranquility. Lazaropole is a destination where you find yourself communing with nature, and breathing in air that is so pure your lungs burn upon arrival as your sinuses clear within hours.
Getting to Lazaropole is not for the faint of heart, or those who do not take pleasure in driving up a steep, winding hill where the road can only accommodate one car at a time.
Should the weather not be in your favor, with rain pouring down and the asphalt slick or covered in fallen rocks from the surrounding mountain cliffs, it is downright frightening. The danger only adds to the excitement when you arrive in Lazaropole, and discover the hidden beauty that very few ever experience.
There is only one hotel located in Lazaropole, the Kalin Hotel, and the management is happy to welcome you during the season they are open (April through mid-October). The cost is high to stay here, at a minimum of 50 Euro/night for two people, but the rooms are clean and comfortable, with heavy down comforters to take the chill out of the night air.
The Kalin Hotel is also home to the only restaurant in Lazaropole, and given the season they may or may not have a full menu to offer. The best decision you can make is to ask for the “Mandza” stew, composed of pork belly and potatoes in tomato based broth. It is a local Macedonian dish and you will not find it on the menu; you will find all of the locals coming in at night to eat the stew. Join in, it’s well worth it.
You can journey to Lazaropole for the clean air and relaxation, spending your days in front of the hotel’s wood-burning fire, or you can venture out on one of the many hiking trails in the area to witness first hand the beautiful scenery.
If you’re lucky, the local town dog, who just happens to be massive in size and gentle as can be, will join you on your adventure through the Mavrovo National Forest. Just a quick walk from the hotel takes you to the beginning of four trails to choose from, and none will disappoint as the surrounding mountains foliage and the strikingly gorgeous views astound.
Travel Tip shared by Cookies Travel