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Climate - Macedonia

Temperature, rainfall, prevailing weather conditions, when to go, what to pack

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Flag - Macedonia

Map - Macedonia

In the Republic of Macedonia, the climate is cold in winter and hot in summer. The continentality of the climate is due to the fact that the country has no outlet to the sea, and in addition it's separated from the Adriatic and Aegean seas by mountain ranges. The major cities are located in hilly areas, often in valleys that enhance the cold in winter (because the cold air stagnates in the valleys) as well as the summer heat. The Balkan Peninsula is exposed to cold waves from the north or east, and Macedonia is no exception. The north-west cold wind blows in the valley of the Vardar and is called Vardarec, an equivalent to Bora, maybe a little less violent.
The climate becomes milder in the far south-east, near Lake Dojran, where there are cities like Gevgelija and Valandovo: actually, it becomes almost Mediterranean, because the area is located south of the mountain ranges that insulate the country from the sea.
In mountain areas, in particular the Shar mountains in the north-west and the Baba mountains in the south-west, which both exceed 2,500 metres, the climate naturally becomes colder, with heavy snowfalls in winter, and afternoon thunderstorms in summer. In general, at a given altitude, the temperatures in winter are similar to those of the Alps.
Here are the average temperatures of the capital Skopje, located in the north, at 250 metres above sea level.
Skopje average temperatures
Skopje G F M A M G L A S O N D
Min (°C) -4 -1 2 5 10 13 15 15 11 6 1 -2
Max (°C) 4 8 14 19 24 27 30 30 26 20 11 5

Precipitation is not abundant in the valleys, where it amounts on average about 500 millimetres per year, while it becomes a bit more abundant with increasing altitude. In general, the two rainiest seasons are late spring and autumn, while winter and summer are relatively dry.
Here is the average precipitation in Skopje.
Average precipitation Skopje
Skopje J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 40 30 30 40 55 45 30 30 35 60 55 55 505
Days 7 5 6 5 8 5 4 2 4 6 8 6 66

Winter in Macedonia is generally cold, although the temperature varies with altitude. The average January temperature is around freezing at the lowest altitudes, for instance in Skopje, at 250 metres above sea level. The weather is not always stable: calm periods, where the cold air clings to the soil, alternate with mild days in which warm air masses from Greece manage to penetrate in the country, and periods of intense cold due to cold air masses from Russia, when the temperature can drop to -20 °C.

Summer is hot in the valleys located at lower altitudes (eg in Skopje), where the maximum temperatures are usually around 30 °C. The temperature range is high and the moisture is not high, so the nights are cool, but the days can be scorching, with peaks of 40 °C. Sunshine is frequent, and the rains are relatively rare, occurring in the form of thunderstorms in the afternoon.


When to go

The best time to visit the Republic of Macedonia goes from May to September. In Skopje and other cities located in the lowlands, the months of July and August (and sometimes the second half of June) can be really hot, so you may prefer May, June and September. September is usually a sweet month, sunny and with little rains.

What to pack

In winter: warm clothes, sweater or fleece, down jacket, hat, gloves and scarf, raincoat or umbrella.
In summer: light clothes, t-shirt, but also long pants, light jacket and sweatshirt for the evening; umbrella.

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