Thickly-forested mountains, deep caves, Communist-era military tunnels and an ammo factory all conspire to make Brod an offbeat and interesting region. Makedonski Brod (population 3,500), officially Macedonia’s smallest town, is a sleepy place but not bereft of character. It is the central hub for a number of smaller villages in the Brod municipality.
Along with some such places, there is the best honey in Macedonia and there are some of Europe’s best caves (with the endangered European brown bat species), and the southern entrance ot the mountainous Porece region and Lake Kozjak. Because of the mountains, the main access points to Brod are from the west-east road connecting Kicevo and Prilep. From Skopje, it is only 57km to Brod.
Pesna, 7km east of Brod, is named for the enormous cave entrance – reputedly the biggest in Europe – that looms over it. You can walk there in five minutes through a wooded path starting through the gate across from the restaurant. Meana Dedo Ilija (075 404-788; mains 80MKD-150MKD; 8am-1am) a great place with sculpted lawns and pagoda seating. Bungalow accommodation was being prepared at time of writing.
Some 17km east of Brod, the village of Monastirec has, as the name would suggest, a monastery. The monastery is about a one-hour hike uphill, or drive there in 20 minutes on a winding asphalt road.
Entering the village take the right-hand dirt road after the bridge for 20m to the Riben Restoran Motel Izvor (045 279-200; firstname.lastname@example.org; 10am-10pm; fish 200-400MKD). In a cool setting alongside the River Treska, this restaurant has trout swimming in its falls- choose which one you like to be served on your plate. The Izvor has a couple of simple but clean e-suite rooms with double beds (600MKD), and a couple more with shared bath (400MKD)- they plan more.
There are lovely hikes along the river just past the restaurant. Also in the village, bucolic scenes in a bowl surrounded by verdure.
Several kombi per day connect Brod with Monastirec (60MKD), or else taxis run 400MKD.
Belica Reka has first category drinking water from the spring, and the fish protected- endemic trout. Also here are caves where international speleological set takes part in annual explorations.
If you have a 4X4, visit the artificial Lake Kozjak, north of Brod. Snaking southwards from Skopje, it was built for something as banal as electricity generation, but is nevertheless a breathtakingly beautiful sight. The mountains around it are filled with bear, wild boar, foxes, deer and some of Macedonia’s last remaining lynx.
-Text by Chris Deliso. Published in Lonely Planet Eastern Europe 2012.