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Ancient Observatories; Kokino, Macedonia

Sometimes the most amazing places are right under our nose.

Even though the rocky outcropping of Kokino has been in plain view since the beginning of time, it was only in 2001 that scientists discovered it was one of the most important ancient observatories on earth.

While not the stunner like Stonehenge, this Megalithic site is among the giants of stellar surveillance and is well worth a trip to see it in person.

Macedonian Stonehenge

Kokino is in the far northeast of Macedonia, just 43 miles (70km) from the capital Skopje. It’s believed to be the holy site of the Kokino civilization, dating back to the end of the Bronze Age (around 3800BC). It is the fourth oldest in the world, after Abu Simbel, Stonehenge, and Angkor Wat.

Sitting at 3300 feet (1000m) above sea level near the Tativec Kamen Summit, its height and location made it perfect for observations of celestial movements, enabling them to accurately record the equinoxes, solstices and the movements of the Pleiades. The ancients carved ritual rooms, precise markers, and thrones out of solid rock.

Full day hiking tours can be arranged from Kumanovo where guides will lead you to Kokino. Go during the solstice so that you can sit on the throne and marvel at the ingenuity of it.

Valley of Stone Dolls

Just one hour southeast is the village of Kratovo and the famed Valley of Stone Dolls. Similar to Devil’s Town in Serbia (with similar legends) and Cappadocia, this natural phenomenon was created by erosion. There are 120 stone pillars that look eerily like people who have been turned to stone. Some are 30 feet (10m) tall and are supposedly 10 million years old.

Credit: Nikolovskii Credit: Nikolovskii

Kumanovo

The fun-loving, multi-cultural city of Kumanovo is just 18 miles (30km) from Kokino and 33 miles (53km) from Kratovo, making it the perfect place to call home while you discover the area’s treasures. Kumanovo is the third biggest city in Macedonia with plenty to see and do, and it’s well known throughout the country for its vibrant nightlife.

Credit: vesnickamarkovska Credit: vesnickamarkovska

Other Attractions

Visit the Beljakovce Monastery where the ancient spring is supposed to have healing powers. Stop in the village of Staro Negorichane to see the 10th century Serb-Byzantine Church of St. George, as well as the massive basalt rock slabs and the cave of St. Prohor Pchinski.

While it pales in comparison to one of the world’s oldest observatories, it is still a great place waiting to be explored.

When To Go

The best time to visit Kokino is from May to October.

Climate

May to October is the warmest and driest part of the year. Average temperatures in the summer are 73°F (23°C), but a sweater may be needed in the evenings.

Getting There & Around

Fly to Skopje International Airport and rent a car or take a taxi to Kumanovo. From there, organised tours will take you to the site.

The other option is to go to Skopje city center and from there to the central bus station AT “Proleter”. Two buses go daily to Kumanovo, which is about 26 miles (40km) east from Skopje city center.

Average Costs

  • Mid-range accommodations: $30-70
  • Meals: $5-15
  • Beer: $2

Do’s

  • Come in early July so your visit coincides with the Street Festival.
  • When you have seen it all, head back to Skopje, Macedonia’s cultural center.
  • Take water and a small snack with you.
  • Visit Matka Lake and Vrelo Cave for its stunning beauty

Don’ts

  • Just visit this area. Go a bit further and check out Ohrid Lake.
  • Pick up stones or litter in the area.
  • Try to buy alcohol in the evening. One strange law mandates that you are not allowed to buy alcohol in shops after seven o’clock during the winter and nine during the summer. So if you go to visit someone shop early.

Fun Facts

  • If the Kokino civilization is proved, then it will become the oldest ever found in the Balkans.
  • In legend, the Stone Dolls are wedding guests turned to stone by the spell of a scorned bride.
  • The importance of the site was confirmed by the U.S. space agency NASA. It appears 4th on their list of important old observatories.

Feature Image Credit: markoskavesna

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