The Best Things to do in Macedonia

The 25 Best Things to do in North Macedonia

A fascinating melting pot of Ottoman, Roman, and Greek heritage, North Macedonia (officially the Republic of North Macedonia) is a place designed to captivate, dazzle, and delight you. Summers are beautifully warm and sunny, with highs of around 90°F. This makes May to September a fantastic time to visit if you want to explore North Macedonia’s stunning landscapes. 

By contrast, winters can get icy cold, with temperatures dropping down to 41°F. Although the countryside can look achingly gorgeous when it’s covered in a thick blanket of snow, there aren’t many cool things to do in North Macedonia at this time of year. It’s best to plan your visit for summer to get the most out of your trip. 

Whatever type of vacation you’re planning, you’ll never be stuck for what to do in North Macedonia. From wide-open spaces teeming with stunning hiking trails and magnificent buildings you’ll never forget to enchanting festivals steeped in culture and colorful villages just begging to be explored, North Macedonia is filled with wonder and magic. 

With so many exciting things to see and do, it can be tricky to know where to begin. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together a list of the absolute best things to do in North Macedonia. Add these fun activities and attractions to your North Macedonia bucket list, and you’re sure to have a fantastic time exploring this dramatically beautiful country.

25 Fun and Unique Things to do in North Macedonia 

1. Be Mesmerized by the Painted Mosque

Best Things to do in Macedonia: Painted Mosque

It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re interested in religious buildings or architecture – visiting the Painted Mosque is one of the best unique things to do in North Macedonia. This place of worship is located close to the Pena River in Tetovo and is known by many different names, including Šarena Džamija, Xhamia e Larme, and the Decorated Mosque.

The 15th-century masterpiece boasts a handsome exterior with tall marble columns, windows covered with wooden latticework, and marvelous paintings. But all this glamor is just a hint at what lies within the grandiose building.

Remove your shoes and prepare to be amazed as you step inside. You get the impression that every single color in the world has been used to decorate the interior of the mosque. And you probably wouldn’t be far off! All the walls and balconies you can see are intricately decorated with amazing frescoes, floral patterns, geometric shapes, and Arabian-inspired designs. 

2. Hike to the Top of Mount Ljuboten

Stretch your legs and take on the challenge of hiking to the peak of Mount Ljuboten. This colossal mountain is the highest in the Šar Mountains, a staggeringly impressive range that stretches for 994 miles between North Macedonia and Kosovo. At 8,196 feet tall, Mount Ljuboten practically touches the clouds and is guaranteed to reward you with sensational panoramas you’ll never want to forget. 

It takes around 5 hours to hike to the top of the mountain, so you’ve got to be in pretty good shape. At the 5,500-foot mark, you’ll find Villa Ljuboten Mountain Resort, a humble guesthouse where you can begin your adventure.

Follow the trek in summer (it will most likely be blanketed in snow in winter), and you’ll have the pleasure of hiking through lush green meadows dotted with wildflowers as you work your way up to the peak. You may also be lucky enough to spot some wild goats and lynx along the way.

3. Seek Out Rare Wildlife at the Mavrovo National Park

Unique Things to do in Macedonia: Mavrovo National Park

For some of the best North Macedonia sightseeing, spend the day at the Mavrovo National Park. The biggest national park in the country, Mavrovo is genuinely regarded as being the most beautiful part of North Macedonia, and we’re certainly not going to disagree. Whether you want to work up a sweat and go hiking or take it easy and just enjoy the views, you’ll have an amazing day here.

In winter, Mavrovo is where you’ll find the best slopes in North Macedonia. Rent some ski or snowboarding equipment from one of the pop-up huts which appear during the colder months and whiz down the snow-covered mountains. 

In summer, Mavrovo looks like a completely different place. At this time of year, the park is brimming with thick green grass, towering pine forests, plunging gorges, and cascading waterfalls. Deer, wolves, lynx, and bears can even be spotted throughout the park during the warmer months. 

On the outskirts of the park, you’ll find charming monasteries, locals making and selling amazing cheese, and countless quaint villages that you can spend hours wandering around.

 Enjoy a Full-Day Tour of Mavrovo

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4. Feel Like a Star at the Manaki Brothers Film Festival 

Fun Things to do in Macedonia: Manaki Brothers Film Festival

The Manaki Brothers Film Festival may not be one of the oldest in the world, but it’s been running for a solid five decades. It was established way back in 1979 by brothers Yanaki and Milton Manaki, who were major pioneers for 20th-century moviemaking in the Balkans. They wowed people for decades with photographic art and documentaries, some of which date back as early as 1904.

Today the festival has branched out and celebrates the masterpieces created by international directors, producers, and cinematographers from across the world. Each event showcases a huge range of movies from all kinds of genres, from horror and short films to animation and comedy. It’s designed to introduce people to up-and-coming cinematographers as well as established professionals who may have been forgotten. 

Each edition of the Manaki Brothers Film Festival is concluded with a spectacular awards ceremony. If you can bag yourself a ticket, you’ll have the chance to experience an incredible evening as a VIP.

5. Wander around Skopje

Macedonia Bucket List: Skopje

No matter where you’re basing yourself, spending a day exploring Skopje is one of the must-do things in North Macedonia. The country’s capital city, Skopje is a stimulating fusion of old and new, filled with exciting things to discover and inspiring places to explore. We suggest you get yourself to the city and simply see where your feet take you.

One of the first things that will grab your attention in Skopje is the impressive Millennium Cross. It stands 217 feet high on top of Vodno Mountain and looks down on the city below. Another landmark worth checking out is the Kale Fortress. This has been an important part of the city since the 6th century AD, and you can still visit the ruins today. 

The Old Bazaar is one of the most popular parts of the city. Here you’ll find a labyrinth of slender cobblestone streets that have been bustling with shoppers since the 12th century. And don’t miss the chance to wander around Skopje’s downtown square. The government spent a whopping $700 million to turn it into the kitschy, quirky place it is today. 

Visit the City of Skopje

6. Gaze at the Gorgeous Mosaics of Heraclea Lyncestis

Macedonia Things to do: Heraclea Lyncestis

North Macedonia is teeming with stunning villages to traverse, and Heraclea Lyncestis is absolutely one you’ve got to visit. This ancient Greek city may be little more than ruins today, but what remains is so delicate, beautiful, and intricate that you’ll seriously be missing out if you don’t swing by. 

The most impressive ruins are located south of Bitola, nestled on the gentle slopes found below the village of Bukovo. Take a walk around, and you’ll find what’s left of once-breathtaking amphitheaters and astounding bathhouses. While a lot of the buildings have been almost destroyed, many of the detailed mosaics which decorated them are still intact.

Many famous people throughout history are tied to the city, including Strabo, Polybius, and Caesar. If you want to find out more about Heraclea Lyncestis and its colorful past, there’s a small museum with a handful of beautiful artifacts on-site.

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7. Become Addicted to Sarma

Cool Things to do in Macedonia: Sarma

When you need a break from all the fascinating North Macedonia attractions, find a local restaurant and order a plate of sarma. This classic comfort food is hugely popular throughout the entire country, so you won’t have to go far to find it.

Sarma is a traditional North Macedonian dish made of delicate cabbage rolls stuffed with seasoned ground beef and fluffy rice. Although it’s mostly eaten in winter when people devour plates of the stuff to keep warm, it’s available throughout the year and is absolutely worth trying, whatever the weather. 

Best Things to do in Macedonia: Sarma

In winter, sarma is usually made with fermented cabbage leaves, which are slowly baked in the oven and served with whatever sides and sauces you like. But in summer, the cabbage is switched to vine leaves, and the dish is served with cooling sour cream. 

Skopski Merak in Skopje serves some of the very best sarmas in North Macedonia. The menu is filled with all kinds of other local dishes for you to try, too, making it a great place to go to get a taste of Macedonian cuisine.

8. Sip, Sip, Sip on a Macedonian Wine Tour

Must do things in Macedonia: Wine Tour

North Macedonia may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think about incredible wine, but just wait until you try your first glass. This small country has been making magnificent wine for thousands of years. There’s even evidence to suggest that winemaking in North Macedonia goes as far back as Neolithic times!

See what all the fuss is about by signing up for a wine tour. This gourmet adventure begins in Skopje and whisks you away to the Kartal Winery. You’ll get to take a look around the winery and find out exactly how the family that runs it grows their special grapes and transforms them into fine wines.

Macedonia Bucket List: Wine Tour

Now for the best bit – the tasting! You’ll get to try different types of locally-produced wine, including vranec, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and riesling, all of which will be accompanied by tempting platters of cured meats, cheeses, bread, and olive oil. 

Take a Wine Tour in Skopje

9. Get Lost in a Network of More Than 300 Caves

What to do in Macedonia: Gorna Slatinska

If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, spend the day at Gorna Slatinska. This natural attraction is home to one of the most fun things to do in North Macedonia – spelunking. 

The country’s one-of-a-kind landscape is full of secret holes and hidden caves. In fact, there are over 300 just waiting for you to venture in and explore. The best spot to try out the quirky sport of spelunking is Gorna Slatinska, where you’ll find a thrilling tunnel that stretches on for a quarter mile.

If you’re not scared of enclosed spaces, you’ll have an incredible time working your way through the alien-like landscape in search of weirder and more wonderful rock formations. As well as the stalactites and stalagmites, which come in every shape and size imaginable, the caves are also home to bats which leave the safety of their rocky beds and soar through the space.

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10. Witness a Traditional Macedonian Wedding

Macedonia Things to do: Macedonian Wedding

You don’t have to be friends with any locals to be invited to a real Macedonian wedding. On one special day each year in July, the remote mountain village of Galičnik in the northwest of the country celebrates one of the most unusual festivals of the year as everyone comes together to witness the wedding of one special couple.

The festival dates back to the start of the 20th century when only 5,000 people lived in Galičnik. Because of its lack of opportunities, many young people moved away. On the Saturday that fell closest to St. Peter’s Day, young people who had left would return to the village to get married so they could celebrate their special day with their families. Back then, it was common for 40 couples to get married on the same day!

Today, the lucky couple wears the traditional local dress and goes through the traditional rituals of the time. If you plan your visit to coincide with the wedding, you’ll get the chance to see people playing music on generations-old instruments, singing ancient songs, and dancing the Montenegrin Teškoto.

11. Check Out the Views from the Top of Mount Vodno

Best Things to do in Macedonia: Vodno

You’ll find some of the best sights in North Macedonia from the peak of the towering Mount Vodno. This colossal mountain is located in the north of the country, southwest of Skopje, and rises an astounding 3,500 feet into the sky. The lofty summit is known as Krstovar Peak, and if you make it to the top, your efforts will be rewarded with spectacular views of North Macedonia’s capital city and the surrounding valley. 

Don’t worry if the thought of hiking that far makes you gasp. You don’t have to walk up the steep mountain face to arrive at the top. You can take a gentle and relaxing ride to the peak on a cable car.

Take the time to look around as you whiz to the top. The views are absolutely stunning. The cable car is also a great way to get to grips with Skopje and the surrounding areas. 

If you do find you’ve got a little energy to spare when you reach Krstovar Peak, there are plenty of much more chilled-out hiking trails available. 

Ride a Cable Car up Vodno Mountain

12. Gaze at the Unusual Architecture of Veles

Anyone who travels to Veles usually goes for one reason and one reason alone – the Kosturnica Memorial. This one-of-a-kind tribute is a WWII remembrance statue that is guaranteed to look nothing like any other memorial you’ve ever seen in your life. 

The Kosturnica Memorial dates back to the late 1970s and was created in memory of Partisan soldiers. They lived in Veles and fought bravely against the fascist Bulgarian and German forces that were trying to take over during the National Liberation War in the early 1940s. It’s designed to represent an open poppy – the symbol of life and rebirth. Although, depending on where you’re standing, it can be difficult to see that. 

While you’re there, make sure you step inside the memorial. Here you’ll find a fascinating museum that boasts the biggest mosaic in North Macedonia. Thanks to the memorial’s soaring position, you can also admire some incredible views of Veles way down below. 

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13. Go Kayaking in Matka Canyon

Unique Things to do in Macedonia: Matka Canyon

When you’re looking for a bit of excitement, leave the city behind and head 10 miles away to Matka Canyon. Here you’ll find the Treska River and one of the best things to do in North Macedonia – kayaking. The sparkling river curves past limestone cliffs which seem to scrape the sky before opening up to the grand Matka Lake. 

Unless you’ve got your own kayaking gear, you’ll have to visit the Canyon Matka Hotel’s restaurant at the lake to rent some. But when you’ve got that sorted, nothing is stopping you from hitting the water and paddling upriver to the eerie Vrelo Cave. This mystical cave is easy to spot – it’s a deep chasm with illuminated pathways and steps that take you to various underground lakes. 

If that sounds like a bit too much effort for you, you can sign up for a boat tour and check out the caves at a more leisurely pace instead. Alternatively, follow one of the many hiking routes in the area or visit one of the popular rock climbing walls. 

Explore the Stunning Matka Canyon

14. Keep It Simple with Tavce Gravce

Macedonia Bucket List: Tavce Gravce

Baked beans may not sound like the most exciting dish to try while you’re on vacation, but this classic North Macedonian dish isn’t just any old baked beans. Tavce gravce has such a rich, comforting, indulgent flavor and moreish texture combo that it’s loved by practically all local people and eaten by families throughout the country.

This iconic dish is made by boiling beans and covering them with a sauce made from a buttery rue flavored with ground red pepper. When the sauce is perfectly balanced, the beans are spooned into a skillet or pan and baked in the oven, where the flavors infuse and develop.

Fun Things to do in Macedonia: Tavce Gravce

Tavce gravce genuinely tastes so good that you could easily eat it on its own without any extras! But most locals make a full meal of it by serving it with ribs or sausages. Kaj Kanevche dishes up an incredible tavce gravce. Here it comes with a huge smoked sausage and steamed seasonal veggies.

15. Visit the Spot Where Mother Teresa Was Baptized

Must do things in Macedonia: Memorial House of Mother Teresa

For one of the most interesting things to see in North Macedonia, take a trip to the Memorial House of Mother Teresa. The famous nun was born in Skopje in 1910, and although her birthplace no longer exists, you can still visit the place she was baptized. 

The spot has since been transformed into a combined chapel and museum that’s dedicated to Gonxha Bojaxhi, the real name of the Nobel Peace Prize winner who lived in the capital city of North Macedonia for 18 years.

The chapel museum was designed by Vangel Božinovski, who took inspiration from Mother Teresa’s birthplace to design it. Take a look around, and you’ll find an impressive amphitheater in the basement, a comprehensive museum on the first floor, and a surprisingly futuristic chapel on the top floor. 

Some of the most interesting parts of the museum include documents handwritten by Mother Teresa, different objects that played important roles in her life, photographs of her with prominent figures, and even life-size models of her at different ages. 

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16. Experience the Thrill of Paragliding in Kruševo

What to do in Macedonia: Krusevo

Kruševo is the place to go if you’re seeking high-speed thrills in North Macedonia. The highest city in the country, this stunning place is more than 4,400 feet above sea level and boasts the ideal conditions for amazing paragliding.

Whenever you visit, you’ll notice colorful wings dotting the sky, swooping left and right like butterflies. If you’re feeling brave, stop by one of the paragliding kiosks in the city and sign up for the remarkable experience yourself. 

Meckin Kamen is where the takeoff spot is located, just a couple miles out of town. An average flight lasts for 10-15 minutes, but if you’re lucky enough to catch good thermals, you could glide up in the air for around 20 minutes. 

Don’t worry if you’ve never been paragliding before. You’ll be strapped to a qualified, experienced instructor who will make sure you’re completely safe while soaring like a bird!

See Krushevo’s Ottoman Architecture

17. Visit the Space-Age Makedonium

Macedonia Bucket List: Makedonium

You’ll find another one of the top things to do in North Macedonia in Kruševo, too. The Makedonium (also known as Llinen) is a monument created in honor of the brave Macedonians who battled against the Ottoman Empire, pioneering the powerful movement that led to the country becoming free.

Although the uprising took place in 1903 and the monument was created in 1974, the Makedonium looks bizarrely futuristic, like something that’s been pulled straight out of space. In fact, the memorial looks so unusual that if the artist didn’t explicitly state that the Makedonium is in honor of the brave fighters and it wasn’t situated in the memorial park, it’s unlikely anyone would make the connection! 

Must do things in Macedonia: Makedonium

The Makedonium looks a little like a heart valve, except it’s strikingly white and boasts a handful of giant stained-glass skylights that jut out from its circular base. You won’t see any depictions of soldiers or statues here, but the memorial is still captivating and worthy of a picture or two.

18. Unleash Your Cultural Side at the Ohrid Summer Festival

Macedonia Things to do: Ohrid Summer Festival

If you’re visiting North Macedonia in July or August, you’ve absolutely got to check out the Ohrid Summer Festival. One of the country’s biggest and most popular events of the year, the Ohrid Summer Festival dates all the way back to 1961 and takes place in a dazzling city that was founded in the 4th century BC. 

Every year thousands of people from all over the world head to the picturesque village for the chance to witness phenomenal music concerts, spectacular theatrical shows, and astounding dance recitals. There are so many exciting performances going on throughout the festival that it usually takes 6-8 weeks to cram it all in. 

There’s an excellent mix of famous and up-and-coming performers, giving you plenty of opportunities to discover new artists, bands, and groups. Some of the most famous performers over the years have included the Russian opera singer Elena Vasiliyevna Obraztsova and Belgian violinist Vadim Repin.

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19. See the Partially Submerged Church in Mavrovo

Mavrovo is the place to go if you enjoy seeking out the more obscure attractions when you’re on vacation. One of the most unusual things to do in North Macedonia, a visit to St. Nicholas Church after a particularly heavy rainfall will give you the chance to take some fantastic photos that you can’t get during the dry summer months.

The Mavrovo church never used to be underwater. But after a dam was created to stop the Mavrovo River, the basin it’s located in became flooded, partially submerging the church and other surrounding buildings. Today, the church is the only building that battled the water and still remains intact. 

It’s important to remember that the church isn’t always submerged – only after there’s been a lot of rain. But if it is standing on dry ground when you visit, this gives you the chance to step inside and find out what the interior is like.

20. Step Back in Time in Ohrid

Best Things to do in Macedonia: Ohrid

No matter how long or little you’ve got to spend in North Macedonia, Ohrid is one of those places you’ve definitely got to visit. The city is home to one of the oldest lakes in the world that dates back more than a million years – and that’s just the start of it. The entire region is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there are so many beautiful hidden treasures here that you could easily spend an entire day just wandering its streets. 

Because Ohrid has been around for so long and has such a rich history, it’s brimming with historic buildings. The monasteries and churches are the most impressive, especially the Church of Saint John at Kaneo which boasts a gorgeous location on the shore of the lake. St. Panteleimon, the oldest Slav monastery in the world, is also worth checking out. 

Cool Things to do in Macedonia: Ohrid

Don’t miss the chance to walk the ancient streets of the Old Bazaar. Simply follow your instincts and see where your feet take you! If you fancy something a little more demanding, head south and explore the Falicica National Park, where you’ll find countless walking, hiking, and cycling trails. 

Stroll Through the Old Town of Ohrid

21. Mix It Up With Pastrmajlija

Unique Things to do in Macedonia: Pastrmajlija

Many countries have their own version of pizza and North Macedonia is no different. Known as pastrmajlija, North Macedonian pizza comes in loads of different varieties, giving you plenty of excuses to order it again and again.

It looks a little like Turkish pide – an ellipse-shaped pie with a raised puffy crust on the outside and a center filled with gooey cheese and all other kinds of deliciousness. Standard pastrmajlija is topped with bite-size pieces of pork or chicken, but pork fat is often used, too. Not only does this make the pizza taste amazing, but it also makes the dough softer and more tender. 

Stipska Pastrmajlija is one of the most incredible places for pastrmajlija. Set inside what looks like an abandoned street mall in Ohrid, this unassuming place tops its pizzas with top-quality pork, brushes the crust with butter, and finishes it off with spicy peppers that really bring everything together. 

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22. Find Out How Paper Was Made the Old-Fashioned Way

Ohrid is full of great attractions, including one of the most interesting North Macedonia activities. This gorgeous city is where you’ll find the National Workshop for Handmade Paper, a small and humble museum where you can see paper being made the same way it was hundreds of years ago.

The staff here put on a great performance, showing you how people used to press and dry slurry centuries ago. They then roll it out and leave it to dry before using the traditional technique to print on it. The workshop is home to an amazing printer that’s an exact copy of the 15th-century Guttenberg’s printing press. There’s only one other like it in the world! 

The prints are usually historical documents, as well as centuries-old books and scenes of what life was like back then. The National Workshop for Handmade Paper is a great place to spend an hour and gain an insight into what it was like to live hundreds of years ago in North Macedonia.

23. Discover Macedonian Heritage with the Strumica Carnival

Dating back to 1670, the Strumica Carnival is one of the oldest and most sensational events in North Macedonia’s calendar. It takes place every year during the first days of the Great Lent – this is an Eastern Orthodox religious time that changes each year, so check the calendar to find out the exact dates before you book your flights. 

The carnival goes non-stop for three days, with all kinds of dazzling events, from music concerts and dance performances to religious processions and gorgeous parades. All the events take place throughout the streets of Strumica. So even if you’re just in the area, it’s almost certain you’ll come across something fabulous. 

If you’re traveling with little ones, make an extra effort to be in the city on Sunday. This day is reserved for the children’s carnival, when they’re free to dress up and enjoy child-specific carnival activities with their parents. 

24. Check out a Performance at the Macedonian National Theater

Unique Things to do in Macedonia: Macedonian National Theater

For a cultural evening you’ll never forget, grab tickets for the Macedonian National Theater. One of the best things to do in North Macedonia at night, a couple of hours spent at the theater will leave you with memories you’ll want to hold onto forever.

The theater hosts loads of dramatic theatrical and operatic performances throughout the year. There are two separate areas, one with 724 seats for large performances and one with just 213 for mono drama and chamber performances. As long as you don’t mind the language barrier getting in the way a little, you’re guaranteed to have an excellent night. 

Even if you don’t have time to see an actual show, the theater is worth visiting just for the architecture. It looks phenomenal after dark when every inch of the grandiose building is illuminated by carefully placed lights that create playful shadows. 

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25. Get Tipsy on Rakija

Fun Things to do in Macedonia: Rakija

When your trip is coming to an end, it’s time to say “Cheers!” with rakija. This drink is hugely popular throughout the Balkans, but it’s particularly loved and enjoyed by people in North Macedonia. 

Rakija is a type of Macedonian brandy that is usually enjoyed straight before or after dinner. It has a wonderfully warm and rich flavor, which makes it perfect for the winter months. At this time of year, it’s usually mixed with sugar and gently heated up. 

What makes rakija special is that it’s not just something locals drink for pleasure or to toast with on special occasions. Ordinary people make gallons of the stuff and keep it in their homes to ease sore muscles, alleviate cold symptoms, and help with sore throats. Many local people also believe rakija can kill viruses and bacteria, so they use it to keep their homes clean and to disinfect wounds. 

Knowing all this, you may find it difficult to order yourself a glass. But after the first sip, you’ll be hooked and won’t want to drink anything else for the rest of your vacation! 

There you have it! The 25 best things to do in North Macedonia. What’s your favorite thing to do in North Macedonia?

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About the Author:

  • Nicola Quinn

    Nicola is a freelance writer with an insatiable hunger for travel. She swapped her home in the UK for the sunny Canary Islands when she was just 11 and she has been based there ever since.

    From crawling on her hands and knees inside pyramids in Egypt to swimming with baby sharks in Bali and searching (fruitlessly!) for the Northern Lights in Iceland, Nicola takes every chance she gets to explore new places.

    The incredible experiences she has around the world fuels her writing and inspires her to plan even more adventures for the future.

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