Prilep is a city in Western North Macedonia nicknamed "The city under Marko’s towers", alluding to its fortress. The city of 76,768 is the Macedonian tobacco and beer capital. The city was the capital of the medieval kingdom of Kings Volkasin and Marko which explains the large number of churches and monasteries in and around the city.
What is most striking about Prilep is the strange bare scenery with huge rocks scattered around. The city is nestled below a bare hill. On the top of the hill, ruins of a medieval fortress stand. All around the city are tobacco fields, and if one visits the city in late summer or fall, one will see tobacco drying everywhere he turns. What is unique about Prilep is the strange sense of humor its inhabitants have and the way they preserved their traditional way of life. Near Prilep is Mariovo Region, one of the most untouched regions of Macedonia, with small half deserted villages scattered in untouched nature.
Even though the city has been in existence since ancient times, its peak was in the Middle Ages. In 1018 it was here that emperor Samuil died of a heart attack when he saw his army of 14,000 blinded by the Byzantine Emperor Vasilij. Prilep was the capital of the medieval kingdom of King Volkasin (r 1350-1375) and his son King Marko (r 1375-1395). They both tried to stop the progress of the Turkish expansion, they are remembered as mythical heroes in the folk tales and songs. After the death of King Marko, Prilep was conquered by the Turks. On 11 October 1941 in Prilep, the rebellion of the Macedonian people against the fascist occupation began.
- The whitest marble in the world is found in Prilep. The marble is called "Sivec". The pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is made of Sivec, and the marble has also been used in building the White House and other buildings in Washington, D.C.
- Prilep and the village of Varosh are attached to each other. In the Middle Ages Varosh was actually the city and Prilep was a suburb attached to the city.
- 1 Prilep bus station. New inter-city bus station with buses to Bitola and Skopje (around dozen of buses), Ohrid (couple of buses daily)
- 2 Train station, Boulevard Goce Delchev. As of 2017, five trains in each direction run between Bitola and Skopje; all stop in Prilep
Riding from Bitola, one can take on old road that parallel the new highway. It is in good condition, and has little traffic; parts of it are still paved with stones, rather than asphalt.
From Skopje and Veles, the usual road would follow the valley of the Vardar River to near Gradsko (where an older road, suitable for bicycles, roughly parallels the expressway); from there, one would continue west to Prilep along Hwy P106; the highest pass on this route has elevation 992 m.
A much more challenging, but historic and quite scenic route from Veles follows the valley of the Babuna River, and then that of its tributary, the Izvorčica, crossing the mountains over Prisad Pass (elevation 1090 m). From near Izvor, and to the vicinity of the Prilep Reservoir (a few km northeast of Prilep) the road is unpaved. While at lower elevations it's a more or less normal dirt (gravel) road, around Prisad Pass it's been paved with large boulders, perhaps in the Ottoman era or during WWI. Considering the road condition and steepness, you likely will be walking for several miles over the pass. Although old kilometer stones, with nearly illegible numbers, still stand along this road, few cars (maybe one or two a day) travel over the pass, and that's a good thing, considering the amount of dust a vehicle would rise on a road like this.
The monastery of St Dimitri is found near the dirt road north of the pass, and that of St George, south of the pass. Large marble quarries can be seen south of the pass as well. An old pillbox is located at the pass itself.
The centre is small and it's easiest to get around on foot.
The bus station is in the centre too.
To get to Varosh village, you can get a taxi for around MKD50 - ask to be dropped at the monastery and then walk down to visit the churches, or walk for about 20 to 30 minutes.
- 1 Old Bazaar (Стара чаршија). Prilep has a pleasant, compact, and well-maintained bazaar with orthogonal streets.
- 2 Clock Tower (Саат кула). Towering above the Old Bazaar, this is the most beautiful clock tower in Macedonia. Built in 1826, it stands 55 m (181 ft) tall. It first received its clock in 1858.
- 3 Čarši Mosque ruins (Чарши џамија). Built in 1475 atop an older religious building, this mosque was the oldest in Europe to having a double balcony on its minaret. Following protests in 2001 against the massacre of ten Macedonian soldiers by Albanian rebels, the mosque was set afire and now sits in ruins. Most of the minaret remains, as well as many of the walls. The ruins are unprotected and open to the public.
- 4 King Marko Statue. An equestrian statue of King Marko, whose kingdom was centered in Prilep, sits in the town square facing the clock tower.
- 5 Marko's Towers (Markovi Kuli, Маркови Кули). Truly a Macedonian gem. While the towers themselves are quite interesting, it's the location and rock formations that make this hike well worth it. The trail begins above a residential area, at the "Stone Elephant" rock formation. The trail then steadily gets steeper and steeper. There is not a single tree to be found on the entire hike; bring water and avoid hiking during peak summer heat. With the lack of trees, it is easy to stay on the trail and not get lost. Enjoy the vistas from the trail that only get better as you climb further. The remains that can be seen are from the 10th to the 14th centuries, built under King Marko. They exist at varying heights on the hill and are in varying conditions. Upon exploring the area, you'll likely find that you are alone in your exploration - no staff, no signs, no rules. Just yourself wandering ruins used to defend a medieval kingdom. This is a rare situation and may not always be the case, so be sure to visit Prilep soon.
- The fortress can also be reached by a more scenic but rough path from Holy Archangels Monastery. You have the option of continuing on the original dirt road (before the fork) for another 5km/3.2miles towards Treskavec Monastery.
- Sv.Blagoveshtenie Church (Holy Annunciation Church), Republikanska (Републиканска) St. An excellent example of revival period architecture. Built in 1838, it is three nave basilica with galleries, and lavish woodcarving (furniture and 17m long icon screen)
- 6 Holy Archangels Monastery (манастир Светите Архангели) (Off Borka Lopach). – with its church built in the 12th and dormitories on both sides it looks as if the monastery has grown out of the rocks. There are few compositions of frescoes left inside. Ask the nuns to point you to entrance of the crypt below the church (entered from outside). On the columns of the porch of the church look for the second oldest inscription in Cyrillic letters dated 996. Walk around the monastery to admire the scenic landscape and scattered ancient and early Byzantine ruins.
- St. Nikola Church (Црква Свети Никола) (in Varosh village). – one of the loveliest churches in Macedonia is this small and slim church built in 1299. The façades are elaborately and carefully decorated. The frescoes inside are excellent, with very vivid colours and well preserved. Look for the outstanding Mocking of Christ and Juda’s kiss frescoes. In the altar look for the frescoes of an earlier church painted in the 12th century. The church is open on weekends in the morning but if you ask around someone will come and open the church for you. In the past the key was in the house next door but I think it is not there any more (ask anyway and you’ll be pointed in the right direction, or ask in one of the stores so you won’t have to walk back and forth). Leave a small donation.
- 7 St. Dimitrie Church (Црква Свети Димитрија), Blagoja Sukuroski, 12. built in the late 13th century, it is the biggest church in Varosh village. The builders had a problem with managing the uneven terrain and they did a mistake visible in the uneven roof on the different sides of the dome. The inside is in a decay and has a special middle age atmosphere. Ask for the key in the house next door.
- St. Peter Church (Crkva Sveti Petar, Црква Свети Петар) (Varosh village). A small church from the 14th century. Ask for the key next door
- St. Bogorodica Precista Church (Sveti Bogorodica Prečista Crkva, Свети Богородица Пречиста Црква) (Varosh village). A small church, the first from the 15th century Ask for the key next door
- St. Atanasie Church (Crkva Sveti Atanasie, Црква Свети Атанасие). Built in the 14th century, stands in ruins before Holy Archangels Monastery.
- 8 St. Cyril and Methodius (Sv. Kiril i Metodij, Св Кирил и Методиј), Archbishop Dositheus St.
- 9 Treskavec Monastery (Holy Mother of God) (The road to the monastery has been paved as of 2013 and you can get a taxi to take you directly there. Alternatively, you can hike about 6km/3.7miles from Varosh Village (see entry for Markovi Kuli). This hike is strenuous but brings you through spectacular scenery with expansive views of the plains below.). Built in the 14th century and set atop an outcropping of rock, the monastery is renowned as the place with the most beautiful sunset in Macedonia. A fire in 2013 did a lot of damage to the monastery, destroying almost everything but the church. The surviving frescoes inside are from different periods in the 14th, 15th, 16th and 19th century. It is no longer possible to spend the night here as the monks' and visitors' quarters were destroyed in the fire. If you go in summer start early, if you want to take the hike in winter, early spring or late fall, ask around to make sure the path is passable.
- International festival of folk instruments and songs "Pece Atanasovski" held in the village of Dolneni 15 km away from Prilep on 22 and 23 May
- Center for Contemporary Arts an Art Colony from 1957 year, held from 10 July until 10 August every summer in the center of Prilep. web.wwwcslu-prilep.org. tel +38970208331
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- Theatre festival Vojdan Cernodrinski. First week of June
There are many burek and pastry places and restaurants in the centre but for best grill and local food head for:
- Makedonska Kuka restaurant, ☎ . 5min walking from the old bazaar.
There is a selection of cafes, bars and clubs in Prilep, most of them in and around the old bazaar and in the shopping mall that stands on the main square. Here are some of the popular destinations:
- Cafe Cavalli (in the heart of downtown). One of the best downtown cafe bar and nightclub, with free Wi-Fi. Located , on the main boulevard Goce Delcev, close to the Alexander the Great statue. Call +389-71-208-210 for reservations.
- Di Caprio (main square). Di Caprio is a tastefully decorated cafe where attentive staff are keen to serve beers coffees etc. well worth a visit.
In the center of the town there are at least twenty cafe bars offering a variety of fun and you can have a nice time enjoying some very modern or rustique views of architecture.
- 1 Pension Breza (Хотелот (пансионот) Бреза), (Улица Моша Пијаде) 24а (off. Alexander the Great road), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. This family-owned pension is walking distance away from the center of the city, with a friendly and comfortable atmosphere. +Моbile.:+389 71 214 071 €14 p.p..
- 2 Hotel Dion (Хотел ДИОН), Joska Jordanoski Str. b.b. (ул. Јоска Јорданоски бб), City Pool (700m East from the centre of the city and is a part of the City Pool.), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 14 rooms: double, rooms with 3 beds and rooms with 4 beds, all with bathrooms, TV, telephone and internet.- Phone. +389 0 48 430965 Sgl/dbl/tpl €17/31/40 or MKD1080/2000/2450 (2014, tax. incl.).
- Kristal Palas, Lenin br. 184 (N 1.2 km), ☎ . This four star hotel is the finest in all of Prilep. It is only 10 minutes walking from centre. From €50.
- Astra Rent-a-Car Tel: +389-71-214-071. Affordable and fully insured car rental in the center of the city, with signing contract available in English. You can travel everywhere in the country and also outside of Macedonia. Specially organized trips to Treskavec Monastery with off-road jeep and a tour guide are available. Company is part of Pension Breza hotel.
- 10 Zrze Monastery (Зрзевски манастир) (village of Zrze). This monastery, dedicated to the Holy Transfiguration, is 34 km northwest of Prilep on the mountainside of Dautica. There are two main churches in the complex. The older one was built in the middle of the 14th century and the one beside it was built in the 17th century. Excellent frescoes are painted on the main façade of the church under the charming porch. The monastery stands on a plateau with a breathtaking view over the Pelagonia plain and the surrounding mountains. The monks are very friendly and might prepare tea and coffee for you. They will also tell you the history of the monastery and show you around. Look for the water spring behind the monastery for a tasty sip of natural water. The monastery is open to everyone only for day visits.
- 11 Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (Црква „Рождество на Пресвета Богородица“) (village of Kostinci). This small, single-nave church was built in 1625, making it among the oldest in Pelagonia. The interior is entirely frescoed and also contains wooden icons.
- 12 Mariovo region (Мариово) (SE 20km). - one of the least developed regions of Macedonia with small half deserted villages scattered in untouched nature. Milco Mancevski films his movies here.
- Bitola- Visit the “city of consuls”. Cozy Old Town and a very ruined, ancient city remains.
- Kicevo - There is the St. Bogorodica Precista a monastery with the 'flying icon'
- Ohrid- A couple bus per day. With ancient churches and flower-filled balconies in the hillside old city, and beach life down below on the lake coast, this is no doubt the "Macedonian Riviera"
- Skopje - around dozen of buses and couple of trains depart to the Capital
- Veles - 65km NE. - Visit the nearby Saint Jovan Vetersko monastery