Popova Shapka – True Winter Dream
Photos by @Nino Arsovski
For everyone who lives in Macedonia or the neighbor countries one of the most desired winter destinations is “Popova Shapka” (which means Priest’s hat). The name comes from an old legend about this place about an orthodox priest traveling through the villages on the mountain while exerting the evangelical mission was killed and torn apart by the wild animals, so when the people tried to find him, they only found his hat.
Popova Shapka is a famous ski center located on the one of our tallest and largest mountains in Macedonia, the Shar Mountains (or as we call it: Shar Planina), covering around 1600 km2 of area. It is located north-west of Macedonia and covers a small area in Serbia, Kosovo and Albania. There are many famous peaks on this mountain with heights over 2500 m, which are loved by the people passionate for skiing.
The Shar Mounatin
This mountain is also famous for being a home for over 200 endemic species and rare fauna. You’ll find here some rare animals like lynx, doe and bear wild boar and the famous Yugoslavian Shepard Dog, called “Sharplaninec” (because of the name of this mountain). The mountain is beautiful for visiting in the summers too, because of the rich fauna and warm summer climate. Also you can visit the many mountain lakes and ponds which are called “Shara Eyes” or Mountain Eyes. There are constant 25 lakes and occasional 15 and around 150 ponds. In the summer there are organized motorcycle tours riding to the peaks and camping in the mountain lodges. There are also organized hunting tours when the hunting season is open in the allowed locations for hunting. In addition, for adventurists who love extreme sports and adrenaline rush, there is organized paraglide flight from the peak of the mountain. Many of the paragliders who flew from here say that this is one of the best places to glide from while watching bellow the great mountain and the wonderful nature it offers.
The Ski Center “Popova Shapka”
The ski center Popova Shapka is located on the peak “Titov Vrv” which is the highest one on this mountain and the second highest in Macedonia, with height of 2747 m. When you first google about Popova Shapka you think of it as a very small ski center according to the number of the chairlifts and ski lifts, which are few. However, because of the length of the stopes, which cover around 35 km2, is dominating in the Balkans.
Popova Shapka offers various ski slopes for people with different level of skiing. There are two beginner slopes, four slopes for advanced skiing and few hard slopes for professionals. Also there are two ski slopes available for night skiing and snowboarding.
In addition, for people who love extreme sports especially advanced and extreme skiing, Popova Shapka is a real snow paradise offering vast untouched landscapes. The resort, also offers, transportation to the skiers to the nearby peaks for free rides, skiing and snowboarding.
The security is at top level. There are available rescue teams on site, equipped with full equipment, rat racks and snow mobiles. Also for the visitors who love to learn skiing and snowboarding there are available ski schools with trainers on the site and shops where they can buy or rent ski or snowboard equipment, or even sledges.
There are amusements for children and for the people who love the snow, but are not into winter sports. The resort offers many different restaurants and cafés serving beautiful traditional food and one of the best barbeque in Macedonia and hot beverages for getting warm easily. One of the oldest and best known restaurant is called Bachilo. While you seat and wait for your order in Bachilo, you’ll be astonished by the view of the breathtaking landscape of the snow and the mountain and how the sunrays make the snow sparkle in different colors. It’s very magical. When you get your food, especially if you ordered the famous Bachilo recipe “Sharska Pleskavica” (traditional famous burger of this place), you’ll feel like never tasted anything better before, tasting many flavors at the same time while juiciness fills your mouth. It’s a great combination of wonderful landscape and tasty food at a same time.
This resort offers many hotels for accommodation or you can rent one of the beautiful private villas and fill warm and cozy in front of the fireplace in the beautifully built wood and stone small villa, which in my opinion is better for experiencing the snow idyll at is best, especially if you are traveling as a family with children.
Because is a winter ski resort in the mountains, there aren’t any places like nightclub to party at night. But people there often make house parties in the villas or walk around the mountain for breathtaking views and clean air. But if you want to party, and you are not a fan of house parties, or you don’t want to fill your batteries with relaxing on the mountain, you can drive down the mountain for around 7 km, to the nearest town called Tetovo, which offers one of the best parties and nightclubs to offer in Macedonia.
In my opinion, if you choose to visit this resort or choose mountain vacation, you should try to relax, become one with the nature, have a great sleep (which is known that the best sleep you’ll ever get is in a high place on a mountain), breathe as much clean air as you can, and feel healthy. Try to make new friends with the locals or the other tourists, eat tasty food and get warm with hot beverages in front of the fireplace and talk to each other, tell some stories, play some social or board games and became closer. Or go out, walk and enjoy the landscapes, take some pictures for remembering the place or involve in a winter sport, follow your passion and fill your hearth with adrenaline. Relax you mind, fill your batteries before you return home, to your jobs, in the busy cities we leave in.