Proof that tourism in Macedonia goes in another direction, a direction that will promote the beauties of our country, speaks the new attraction of Tikvesh winery, the largest winery in Macedonia, located in the Tikvesh region, the place where you can find the most beautiful grapes which speaks that the best wine comes out of this winery. After numerous awards and recognitions, Tikvesh has recently embarked in a new challenge, adapting the forty-year-old wine barrels that were previously used for wine storage, today are adapted into accommodation facilities for guests.
The winery has implemented an idea to develop alternative tourism in unique micro wine locations in the Tikvesh region. Their goal is to provide the guests with an accommodation under the stars, but also to enable them to experience life in the vineyard, to feel the smell of the grapes, the silence, the tranquility or in other words to experience the whole region.
To learn more about the new attraction we had an interview with Elena Mladenovska Jelenkovic who is part of the team of “Tikves Winery”, she tried to tell us about how the idea was born until its realization.
Wonder Where: Would you like to tell us how did Tikves get the idea for developing alternative tourism in these unique wine micro locations in the Tikves region? How did all this start? Whose idea it was and why did you decide to attract tourists who love the alternative tourism in this way?
Elena: Enjoying the untouched nature, the authentic accommodation and at least for a short time to live the rural life – these are just some of the requirements of modern tourists. These types of people are constantly looking for unique and unrepeatable experiences, they want to try the local food and drinks, to stay on the farm, to get acquainted with the rural population and the local culture. We, as “Tikves Wine Tourism”, have been working for some time to create a quality tourist offer, and at the moment we are trying to put Macedonia on the tourist map for rural, eco and agritourism.
Guided by such world trends, we were inspired to make a connection between the natural beauty that surrounds the vineyards of Lepovo and Barovo, the resources and experience of our wine industry, and to turn them into a unique offer for domestic and foreign tourists. The most important thing for us was not to usurp the space we want to promote, but on the contrary, to fully fit into the rural environment.
In the process of creating and implementing the project in Barovo, we formed a team of technicians who found the best solutions on how to perform the adaptation of wine barrels. We decided to use the barrels that have been used for over 40 years to keep the Macedonian wine, to give them new life and a new purpose by adapting them as unique accommodation facilities. Another important aspect was the installation of solar panels, so that electricity from renewable sources could be provided in the wine barrel camp. The project included all the other necessary elements that will enable every tourist a comfortable stay in the camp and will make them feel like part of the nature that surrounds them.
The adaptation of the apartments for accommodation in Lepovo was simpler, because there is also the winery “Domaine Lepovo”, so one floor of the building was adapted for accommodation, i.e. we equipped two apartments and a new tasting room. The accommodation here is another unique experience for those who want to enjoy the privacy. Tourists will be able to indulge in the peace and tranquility and the spacious view of the vineyards that stretch around. The specific thing about this winery is that soon “Domaine Lepovo” will become an organic winery, and the accommodation facilities, the food and service will also follow this commitment.
A bigger team worked on the whole project in the past 3 years and this project is supported by the sub-project “Development of the Enogastronomic Tourism – Experience North Macedonia” within the Local and Regional Competitiveness Project (PLRC), funded by the European Union.
Wonder Where: What experience can get the tourists who decide to stay in these wooden barrels? How is all this done? Do you organize wine tours for the tourists who decide to stay here so they can get to know the Tikvesh winery?
Elena: All the tourists who will stay in the barrels of Barovo will fall asleep under the stars and in the morning they will wake up and fall in love with the view of the vineyards covered with sun. The possibilities are really unlimited and the experience is unique and personalized for each group of visitors according to their requirements and needs.
During the stay, if they want, they can have a wine tour, wine tasting paired with homemade cheese and jam, have a picnic among the vineyards, visit nearby sheepfolds, have a private woodcarving or wine drawing workshop (Grisaille technique), even have a cooking class with a reputable professional chef. Also, if they visit the vineyards during the harvest season, they will be able to join the growers and harvest the grapes together. The stay here and the tours are completely designed according to the idea of every tourist, and these are just some of the opportunities we offer.
Apart from the organized activities for the groups, of course there is still the possibility to explore this area walking or cycling. Only in this way one can benefit from the beauties of the untouched nature closely.
Wonder Where: Can you tell us something more about the pedestrian and cycle paths?
Elena: The cycle paths of Barovo are traced and marked with appropriate info boards, pillars and signs. Cyclists can also use the ridewithgps.com app during their bike tour. There are three main off-road trails with different characteristics. The first one is medium light and is 11 km long. The beginning and the end are on the vineyards of Barovo, and it passes through the vineyards and through the village of Barovo. The second is a medium trail and is 13 km long. The trail passes by the village of Stragovo, mountainous area and the vineyards of Barovo. For the most experienced cyclists there is a third path which is medium-heavy and with a length of 42 km. It passes through the village of Krnjevo, the village of Dolna Boshava and Konopishte. The path goes out on the plateau Vitachevo, continues along the village of Stragovo and ends up at the vineyards of Barovo. From the more important cultural-historical sights we single out the monastery of St. Gjorgjija in Krnjevo and the monastery of St. Atanasij in the municipality of Konopiste.
Wonder Where: Is there an interest for your new attraction? What do the tourists say?
Elena: We are glad that immediately after starting to work we already have a great interest for staying in the barrels of Barovo, given that it is still an unusual and an isolated location, but it has already proved to be a suitable space for team building activities of companies, but also for private gatherings for smaller groups. Especially we are glad that we aroused the interest among the foreign tourists and the foreign citizens staying in Macedonia. For example, how often do you hear about your friends who spend their summers on the Lake of Tikvesh and carry all the equipment for their stay on their bicycles? Although it is not a typical habit for the domestic tourists, such locations and ways of vacationing for the foreigners are an attractive offer and a unique experience. We hope that the domestic tourists will be just as curious and will slowly begin to change their travel habits in favor of the domestic rural tourism.
For those wine tourists who prefer to get acquainted with the winery in Kavadarci and have a wine tasting as part of their visit, we also offer new attractions. At the entrance of the winery we have now opened a multifunctional Wine Boutique. We wanted to create a space with a pleasant atmosphere where visitors will feel that drinking wine is not just a routine activity, but a kind of ritual. In addition to the usual wine sales, visitors will be able to taste the products from the Tikvesh and Tikveš Châteaux & Domaines range. Part of the boutique functions as an exhibition corner in which wines from the long wine history of the Tikves Winery are exhibited, as well as soil exhibits and vines from the three exclusive wine micro-locations Barovo, Lepovo and Bela Voda. In the boutique you can find various souvenirs made by the skilled hands of the Macedonian craftsmen, and by buying them visitors will contribute to the development of the local crafts. Another functionality of the Wine Boutique is the tourist info-center, where all the tourists, the wine lovers and the adventurers can get useful information about the offers for the wine destinations in the region – such as staying in the barrels of Barovo.