Negotino
Demir Kapija

Hiking, Kayaking, and rock climbing in this outdoor paradise

According to Tripadvisor there is almost nothing to do in Negotino so why did we go here?

In Negotino we found a cheap accommodation closest to the village of Demir Kapija. While looking for things to do in Macedonia we stumbled on a black and white photo of a old railway tunnel that somehow sparked our interest. The railway that runs through it turned out to lead through an impressive gorge named by the Ottomans “Iron Gate” which translates to Demir Kapija. After investigating further we found that Demir Kapija also is a popular town for outdoor sports enthusiasts.  You can kayak on the Vardar river that runs through the gorge, rock climb the nearly vertical rocks, or go hiking in the gorge. After spending quite some time searching for things to do we also found out there is a cave that is nearly one kilometer long very near the towncenter. Demir Kapija is also the proud holder of the highest temperature of the country so if you visit this town in summer make sure you’re there early in the morning.

With so little information available about the hike through the gorge, we had to do extensive research to find the exact starting point of the hike. It appears to be mentioned in the Bradt guide of Macedonia but we didn’t have that book. 

There is also an annual outdoor festival held in Demir Kapija in the month of May. Check the outdoor festival Demir Kapija  Facebookpage for dates.

The railway tunnel and car tunnel:

On the other side of the Vardar river where the hike starts, you can find the old railway tunnel with an old regular tunnel. This tunnel was build in 1916 by the Germans.  There is still an engraving carved out by the Germans above the tunnel proudly claiming their effort of building it. 

The Bela Voda cave (Бела вода пещера) White water cave

 This literally means White Water. It is one of the longest caves in Macedonia with 955 meter in length. In total there are over 300 caves in Macedonia. 

Negotino itself turned out to be a nice town. The area surrounding Negotino is filled with vineyards. Because of the very warm climate in this area,  it’s good for growing grapes. But in summer this results in very high temperatures often over 40 degrees.   It’s also home to one of the most famous wineries in the country,  Bovin winery. We have not been there ourselves but you should be able to get a tour and a tasting there. 

To cool down from all these high temperatures you will be happy to know that Negotino has a very large swimming pool. The entrance fee is only 70 denar (1,20 euro). They have a big bar and restaurant where you can order food and drinks. There is also service next to the pool anything you order will be brought to your sun lounger. Drinks are cheap(60 denar for a pepsi) and the food looks very good. At night this is also a club. 

how to get there

How to get to Demir Kapija, Bela Voda cave and the gorge

Getting to Demir Kapija: 

From Negotino you can go by bus to Demir Kapija. This takes about 20 minutes and costs 60 denar (1 euro).  From the bus station you can cross the railway tracks and walk to the road next to the highway. From there you need to walk all the way to the parking spot on the map. This road leads through the first tunnel. This is the first time we walked through a tunnel where people were driving with their car of truck about 80 kilometers an hour. There is only a very small part to walk but we mostly walked on the road itself because the part were you could walk is often broken down. When a car was coming we stepped aside and waiting until the car passed. We were very happy when we reached the car park safely so maybe it’s better to get here by taxi or your own car. 

Getting to the hike 

It’s a bit of a challenge to get to the starting point without a car because the starting point of the hike is in between 2 tunnels on a road (see getting there). Because there was a highway next to it we thought that there would not be so much traffic. I guess we were wrong. We reached the parking spot safely and on the right side of the parking spot between the two tunnels is a way down leading to a small river. From there you can walk to the big river and have a beautiful view on the gorge and the river. 

Walk the other way now and go under the road walking up north (people use this as a public toilet so mind your step). From there the hike starts. You have to cross the river a couple of times but in July that’s is not a big problem because there is little water so you can step on some stones without getting wet feet. The hike passes 3 Turkish villages according to Wikipedia but we haven’t done this ourselves. Being in the gorge is very cool. You can see the almost vertical walls going up to the top and you can sit at the riverside for a while.  

Rock climbing is a very big thing in Demir Kapija. While we were there nobody was climbing but we saw a lot of bolts in the wall and writing on the wall were the climbing routes are. 

We do need to say one more thing. In Demir Kapija there is one of the biggest mental institutes in Macedonia. When we were hiking into the gorge we suddenly heard someone talking really loud and screaming. We were a bit surprised because we did not see anybody during the whole time we were there. Suddenly a guy was walking towards us in the gorge and from the first sight he appeared to be drunk. He was walking with his leather shoes through the water and holding a large bottle with liquid. As he came closer we realized he wasn’t drunk. He came up to us shaking our hands and he started talking to us in Macedonian language loudly repeating the same words over and over again. I told Maarten that I thought that this was somebody who came from the institute. We started walking again further and the guy followed us and stayed with us so we rested for a while and he did the same. Barbara felt a bit uncomfortable because the guy kept talking to us and pointing at himself and the gorge but we couldn’t understand what he was trying to tell us. We decided to go back the same way we came and to not continue further.

Getting to the Bela voda Cave and railway tunnel

When we got out of the tunnel from the hike we spotted a small road down that was leading to the other side of the river and the street we needed to be. We climbed over the low fence and went down to that road. This saved us the walk back to the train station and then the walk through town. 

We didn’t know exactly where the cave and the train tunnel were but we found the tunnel pretty easy. You can’t miss it. Just follow the road. 

Now the cave…. A few teenagers appeared with a guide wearing a helmet and were dirty so we thought that the cave must be close. Barbara found a photo of the entrance online but now is didn’t look the same anymore. They have put a large concrete block before the entrance but we found it. Maarten went into the cave first and when he came back he said it was deep and cool down there so we went together. The cave is small and the first part you need to crawl in on hands and feet but later you can stand a bit. Because we didn’t have a guide we were reluctant to go far into the cave because you can take multiple directions and we didn’t want to get lost.  This was a very cool thing to do! 

 

Check out our adventures in outdoor paradise Demir Kapija!

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Where to sleep in Negotino or Demir Kapija

If you want to mainly have outdoor adventures in Demir Kapija and you have a slightly higher budget for accommodation you are probably best of sleeping in Demir Kapija itself.  We would have loved to stay at Royal Winery Queen Maria

We choose to sleep in Negotino because prices there are friendlier since there are more options. We slept in Todorov House. Here is the link Todorov house. The beds were very uncomfortable but it’s a very big apartment near the city center. A bit far from the bus station. There is a new kitchen and a balcony. 

Costs: 1187 denar/night (18 euro)

 

where 2 eat

Where to eat in Negotino

We had our own kitchen so we cooked ourselves. There are some restaurants in the center of town.

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