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By Julia Van Peer
"Today, Bozovce may be abandoned for the greatest part, however it has an undeniable charm."

The more I travel, the more I realise that it’s the small villages that make for the best memories. And Bozovce is just one of those places. 


Located at the uttermost northwestern part of North-Macedonia, less than 5 kilometres from the border with Kosovo, Bozovce is a tiny hillside town dropped in the midst of the Sharr mountains. Its single main street, branching off in very narrow side streets here and there, comes to an end at the other side of the village, marking the habitable border. Yet don’t be surprised to see ten times more horses, cows or chickens on this street than people. And while most cattle find their way home on their own, there is still one shepherd left in this region. Everyday he rises with the sun and takes his sheep to the deserted hills.


Today, Bozovce may be abandoned for the greatest part, however it has an undeniable charm. Narrow roads with children of all ages playing, and steep pathways where you will be more likely to encounter livestock than another human being, this is Bozovce. You won’t find a place more peaceful and authentic than here. There are many reasons for you to add one or more days in Bozovce to your itinerary. 

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View on Bozovce from afar. The village sits in the light of the setting sun.


I’ll always remember Bozovce for various reasons. Firstly, the village’s charismatic scene lures you in. With some of the most narrow streets you will have ever seen, don’t overestimate your driving skills. Seeing they are steep as hell and mostly intended for walking the cattle, there is not much room for error. Especially because the sole drivable road turns into a dirt road, only accessible to jeeps or 4×4s, at the other side of the village.


Brick-built houses, now and then plastered with natural clay and covered with corrugated iron roofs, follow each other at either side. Not only the exterior, but also the interior design of the houses looks more or less the same. Consistently there is a bedroom, a separate bathroom and a living room, at the same time serving as a kitchen. The stove usually marks the centre of the common room, burning up wood all day long, either for the purpose of cooking or heating the room. Inside these houses you will not often find the knick-knacks that we Westerners value so much. Yet, I have never felt more at home. It is more common than uncommon that entire families cohabit in one big house, creating a homely atmosphere.


Charming houses line the Main Street of Bozovce.

Furthermore, it’s the one of a kind locals that make the village. And this couldn’t be more true for Bozovce. Not only do they make you feel right at home, you will only need a few hours with them to cherish them forever. Once counting more than a thousand residents, today less than 150 remain, with many of the residents having moved to Tetovo to find more opportunities. Nowadays Bozovce counts exclusively Albanians, one of the most heartwarming and welcoming ethnic groups in the Balkan Peninsula. 


‘Everyone knows everyone’ that much is true. And it’s not just that they all know each other by name, rather they are like family (or at least very close friends). Every few steps you meet someone new, inviting you into their home, or tempting you to drink a coffee in the local bar. It doesn’t matter at what time you enter one of the two café’s, for you will encounter at least a few of Bozovce’s male residents (it is not yet in their tradition for women to accompany their husbands). And believe me, once you set foot inside the bar you will not leave before midnight. After the sun has set, the cards, chess and traditional games are taken out. And even though you will probably have no clue to what they are playing, the homely atmosphere is great. 


The only shepherd left in Bozovce. Everyday he takes his sheep out in the mountains.

Another reason is without doubt the stunning nature in which the village is embedded. Isolated and forgotten, the Sharr is one of the most remote areas in the Balkan, preserving old traditions and a way of life carved out from the surrounding nature. But more on that in the next passage. 


It should be clear by now that Bozovce has gained a very special place in my heart. It is the place where lifelong memories and friendships are made.


Embedded in the Sharr mountains, Bozovce makes for the perfect escape to nature. 


Šar Planina, meaning The Colourful Mountain Range, stretches for 160 kilometres throughout northwestern North Macedonia, northeastern Albania and southern Kosovo. Since ancient times the mountain range has known various epithets, including ScardusCatena Mundi (‘The Chains of The World’), Mlečni (because of the considerable organic milk production on the mountains), Mali i Sharrit, and so on.


The Šar mountain range is one of the most rugged, least discovered regions of the whole Balkan Peninsula. Peaks exceeding 2 700 metres afford amazing views over other imposing peaks, including Mt. Korab (2 764 m) in the south, Mt. Titov (2 747 m) in the west and Mt. Bistra (2 163 m) in the north. Wildflower meadows are home to herds of horses and cows, grazing peacefully underneath the apple trees. The world famous Šar cheese and milk are produced in this very region, and I have to admit it is delightful!


The hike to Leshnica Waterfall takes you past wonderful tracks.

Hikes of varying difficulty are at hand, ranging from gentle walks through spring green pasturelands past shepherds houses where smoke rises from the chimney all day long. To challenging, strenuous hikes to the peaks of the highest mountains in both North-Macedonia and Albania. Further the High Scardus Trail traverses the Šar mountain range. With a total length of 495 kilometres the trail crosses three nations, and six national parks. 


Make your way to the end of Bozovce’s main road, where all the hiking trails start. Although markings can be found here and there on trees and/or rocks, it is not unwise to have an online hiking app at hand. We undertook a lovely hike to the Leshnica waterfall. The trail takes you through thick pine forests, over transparent azure streams, past overhanging rock faces, all the way to the thundering Leshnica waterfall. To get a glimpse of this natural wonder, go inside the cave to find the pure snowmelt water tumbling down at a dizzying speed. 


Note: Be careful not to accidentally cross the border with Kosovo without the correct papers!


Even if hiking is not your favourite pass time, it is still more than worthwhile visiting Bozovce. Your best alternative to soaking in the encompassing nature is from the back of a horse. This way you can still discover the panoramic views, though no effort is needed. 


Dursim hadn’t started his horse riding business yet when we stayed in town, yet we had the honour of being his first clients. The ride was even more impressive than our hike the day before, this time leaning back in the saddle and enjoying our 360° view. While leading the way over the off-the-beaten tracks, Dursim indulged us with fun facts about Bozovce and pointed out the most stunning places. Born and raised in Bozovce, plus an important member of the local hiking association, he knows the surrounding nature like the back of his hand. 


One of the few children still living in the village, enjoys a ride on his horse.

In the meantime his business has started booming and he has organised several trips. More information about the tours can be found on his Facebook page Horse Riding Bozovce. And if you can’t reach him by social media, just ask for Dursim in the village, everyone knows everyone remember! 


Let me use this section to give a special thanks to Hesat and Dursim, two locals who made our stay in Bozovce memorable. Thank you Hesat for inviting us into your home, introducing us to Bozovce’s culinary side and indulging us in the town’s daily affairs. Thank you Dursim for asking us to be your first horse riding clients, and of course for the amazing traditional concert you performed together with Driton. 


We enjoyed a lovely traditional Albanian concert of Dursim and Dritoon in Hesat's living room. It was mesmerizing.


Located 22 kilometres from Tetovo, Bozovce is a very small village only reachable by car or taxi. Public transport is no option, as there are no buses driving this route. 

Keep in mind that the road is in very bad condition. At most times it is impossible passing a car in the opposite direction, not to mention the bumps and steep slopes on either side of the road. 

Google maps may claim it’s only a 45 minute drive, but add at least half an hour. 


Seeing there are no restaurants or real supermarkets in the tiny village, it is important you bring your own packed lunch. Non-alcoholic refreshments on the other hand are plenty in the two bars. 


Unfortunately there are no accommodations available yet in Bozovce (which, according to me, only adds to the charm). To be certain of an overnight stay, check out the possibilities in Tetovo. 

Another option is to set up your own tent in plain nature. There is no better feeling in the world than to wake up with the warmth of the sun and the scents of a summer meadow. 


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Hi there!

I'm Julia, a Belgian native who loves to travel and explore off the beaten places all over the world. Discover more on how to fill your travels with adventure, warmth, and colour. Learn more about me here.

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