Mariovo (Macedonian: Мариово) is a region in southern North Macedonia. This historic region consists of 29 villages spread across the southern chunk of Prilep Municipality, as well as neighboring portions of Novaci (part of the Bitola area) and Kavadarci municipalities, bordering Greece to the south. Surrounded by tall mountains, it features rolling hills, short mountains, rivers, and plains, and makes up 4% of the country's total territory. The region is known for its culture and traditions. At the turn of the 20th century, the total population of this region was over 14,000; at the turn of the 21st century, the population had shrunk to under 1,000.
The unique scenery of the region, along with the historic architecture of the all but deserted villages has attracted filmmakers like Milcho Manchevski to film here.
There are a few legends offering to explain the origin of the name of this region but the most popular surrounds a beautiful villager from the region named Marija. A Turkish bey wanted to have her as a wife in his harem and she obliged, however only under the condition that this region remain un-Turkified and un-Islamified. The condition was accepted and the region never saw a Turk settle here, nor a mosque get built. Out of appreciation for Marija, the locals named this place Mariovo.
Whether or not the legend is true, Mariovo was spared Turkish settlement and the spread of Islam. This lead to a distinguishable spirit among Mariovci compared to other Macedonians; a spirit of rebellion and freedom-loving.
The Crna River flows through the region, including through the Skočivar Gorge - the country's longest.
Mariovo has a long and storied history. The severe drop in population in the past century is explained by a few reasons. During the partition of Macedonia, Mariovo was cutoff from the adjacent regions to the south that now found themselves in Greece. Following destruction in the world wars, Mariovo came out as one of the least developed regions in Yugoslavia but nonetheless with a high birthrate. Massive emigration to cities and North America and Australia began to occur in the 1950s. Road-paving, electricity, and other infrastructural improvements came too late.
Mariovo is also known for its unique culture. Its traditional folk costumes are distinguishable from typical Macedonian traditional dress.
The western portion of Mariovo makes up much of Novaci Municipality, considered part of the Bitola area. Most of the places of interest here are found at Zovikj.
- 1 Stone Bridge of Zovikj (Камен мост (Зовиќ)), village of Zovikj. A single-arch stone bridge crosses the Gradeška River, forming quite a picturesque scene. A bridge has existed at this spot for centuries but it was wooden until the 1950s when the wooden bridge collapsed as a herd of oxen were crossing. The villagers then decided to reconstruct it of stone. Saint George is painted on the underside of the bridge. The bridge has been featured in Macedonian films.
- 2 Church of Saint Nicholas (Црква „Св. Никола“), village of Zovikj. Built in 1862, this is the main church for the village and contains the village cemetery in its courtyard. It features a long porch and a detached bell tower. It suffered damage in World War I but was subsequently restored. Inside the church is an engraved tile from the date of its construction. Notably, the engraving states the name of the village to be "Bzoikj".
- 3 Church of Saint Athanasius (Црква „Св. Атанасиј“), village of Zovikj. The oldest church of Zovikj, this one was built in the 17th century but it is smaller than the village's main church. It sits upon a hill beside the village that provides a view above it, including the Stone Bridge. Inside the church are some significant icons.
- 4 Čebren Monastery (Чебренски манастир), village of Čebren/Zovikj. Within the historical village of Čebren beside the Crna (Black) River, it is now within the boundaries of the village of Zovikj. Founded in the 15th century, at its height it was a leading center of education with a rich library. It is now essentially abandoned with no monastic life, but it is a tourist attraction and various attempts are made at upkeep. Sitting on a sprawling site, it contains two churches as well as living quarters. The main church is dedicated to Saint Demetrius of Solun; it was built in the 15th century and its iconostasis dates from this time. The other small, single-nave church is dedicated to the Ascension of Christ and was built in the 16th century on a hill. The frescoes of these churches are in varying condition.
- 5 Antania (Антанија). A town in ancient Macedonia, Antania is located near Čebren Monastery. During the Roman era, it was an Episcopal seat. It was a walled city with the church at its center. The Episcopal church and other structures stand in ruins today. The Erigon (Crna) River Road, which Alexander the Great marched along to the city of Pelium, ran through Antania.
The largest section of Mariovo lies within Prilep Municipality, forming the center of the region.
- 6 Vitolište Monastery (Витолишки манастир), village of Vitolište. Despite having only 170 residents, Vitolište is the largest village in the Mariovo region. It contains this monastery built in the 1870s, with its church dedicated to Saint Elijah. The interior frescoes are rich and were completed in 1881. With the vast depopulation of the area, maintenance on these frescoes has not been sufficient. In the village itself is another notable church dedicated to Saint Athanasius with its tall white bell tower, surrounded by the historic residential architecture of the village.
- 7 Mariovo Monastery (Мариовски манастир), village of Manastir. First established in 1095 by a relative of Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, this monastery dedicated to Saint Nicholas is one of the country's oldest-surviving. The current church dates from 1266 and is similar in appearance to the Church of Saint Sofia in Ohrid, both large churches with cathedral appearances. The monastery actually predates the village it sits within and has had a long history of monastic life that survives today. The church's frescoes were painted five years after the construction was completed. The icons within mostly dates from the 19th century. Aside from being home to this significant monastery, Manastir is also home to the annual Mariovo Off-Road Experience festival occurring in late spring.
- 8 Little Hollywood (Мал Холивуд), village of Štavica. This village has been featured in some of the films of foremost Macedonian filmmaker Milcho Manchevski and the villagers took it upon themselves to label their village "Little Hollywood" because of this. The welcome sign to Štavica proclaims this. Amidst the architecture and scenery of the village is also a 19th-century church dedicated to the Nativity of the Holy Mother.
- 9 Church of Saint Demetrius (Црква „Св. Димитрија“), village of Gugjakovo. While this Mariovo village has been deserted for decades now, its main church was restored in the late 1990s. It is a small church built in the 19th century, featuring frescoes covering the entirety of its walls and a colorful ceiling. The rest of the village is in ruin, a sight in itself.
The Tikveš region is known for its vineyards near its largest city Kavadarci, but it also contains a smaller share of Mariovo's eastern end.
- 10 Church of the Ascension (Црква „Вознесение Христово“), village of Rožden. On an elevation above the village of Rožden, this church was built in 1872 and frescoed in 1874. It was built of stone and features a large porch on one side. The church is in rough condition with the surrounding grass and trees overgrown.
- 1 Mariovo Off-Road Experience, village of Manastir. A three-day festival occurring in late May or early June is held in one of the country's best-suited locations for off-roading experiences, Mariovo.