Camp on Sharra Mountain, with view of Titov Vrv (2748m)

Camp on Šar Mountain, with view of Titov Vrv (2748m) © Aleksandar Donev / Lonely Planet

At 3:30am, on the fifth day of an expedition along Macedonia’s mountainous western edge, we traded our trekking poles for reins and mounted horses in search of yet another peak. Headlamps spotlighted the steam from our breath mixed with the fidgety smoke of rolled cigarettes. We left Galičnik, a village tucked into the folds of the Bistra massif, and plodded nose to tail, hoof to stone over seven dark kilometres and up nearly 1000 steep metres of elevation gain to the top of Mt Medenica.

For explorers and adventure travellers who don’t know this undiscovered expanse of Macedonia, a country on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe, an excursion to this dovetailing string of summits and massifs (which include the Šar, Bistra and Jablanica Mountains) means some of the best, and most unheralded, hiking on the continent. But even for the horseback members of the group assembled – all of whom live in the Balkans and have spent a significant amount of time scaling the region’s topography – this was a treat.

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