Presentation of the destination
After the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, beautiful Kosovo was locked into a violent dispute with Serbia that lasted many years. Since declaring independence in 2008, however, Kosovo has been recognised as a country by 107 of 193 UN member states. It’s a secular republic with many minority groups including Serbs, Romas, Ashkalias, Bosniaks, and Turks. Some 92% of the country’s population is ethnically Albanian, although you’ll find some will chat away in English. Sandwiched between Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia, Kosovo is a land of mighty mountains and remote monasteries, offering a warm welcome to visitors owing to the sacred role of hospitality in Kosovan culture. Lively Pristina, the capital, has the youngest population in Europe. Summers are warm and sunny with cold, snowy winters. Kosovo uses the Euro.
Points of interests / things to see
Walkable, friendly capital Pristina is the place for enjoying café culture. Partly due to the city’s young population and high rates of unemployment, pavements are crammed with bright young things drinking macchiatos and hogging the free wi-fi. Join them after dark at Spray, the internationally-known top nightclub, or at neighbouring Fullhouse or Duplex. Or grab a bite at one of the many fantastic restaurants. Drop by the ‘Newborn’ sign on Luan Haradinaj Road, erected as a symbol of a fresh start after the war, or the three-storey portrait of Bill Clinton. Visit the free National Museum for ancient finds and the beautiful Ethnographic Museum for an insight into Albanian folk traditions. Wander down the main street, named Nëna Terezë after Mother Teresa – who was ethnically Albanian, as you’ll often be reminded – and pick up some silver or woven textiles as a souvenir. Pristina makes an excellent base while staying in Kosovo, and has the best transport links with the rest of the country, as well as bus links with neighbouring countries.
Despite the terrible ravages of the war, Kosovo has kept an incredible heritage of Byzantine architecture and rich medieval history alive. Head to Peć at the entrance to the dramatic Rugova Gorge, where a Serbian orthodox monastery established in the 13th century keeps quiet watch. Inside the red-painted, domed building discover beautiful frescos, incredible religious treasures and an all-pervading sense of timelessness. Peć is spiritual seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church and as such is the burial place for all the archbishops and patriarchs. Construction began in the third decade of the 13th century under Archbishop Arsenije I. Despite ongoing conflict with the Albanian Muslim majority, a sisterhood of 24 Serbian nuns still lives and works here, providing for the small local Serbian community. As a Unesco World Heritage site and a past target for arson, Peć is still guarded by KFOR troops, but is easy to reach by car or bus from Pristina and the sense of peace and tranquillity makes it well worth the drive. Visit the official website for more information. http://www.rastko.org.rs/kosovo/pecarsija/index_eng.html.
Head to the lush border region near Albania and Montenegro for a visit to the Dečani monastery. Built in a picturesque chestnut grove for Serbian king, St Stefan Dečanski, the monastery is decorated with the largest collection of medieval Serbian art in Europe, starting from the 13th century. Later wall paintings signify the first instances of the ‘Palaeologan Renaissance style’, a fusion between Orthodox Byzantium to the east and Western Roman traditions. A centre of medieval art and culture, the monastery has survived looting, plundering and war to become a Unesco-listed national monument. Admire the monumental domes, byzantine blue paint, marble walls and carved stone Katholikon gate. See the ornate ‘throne of the hegumen’ and the richly carved sarcophagus of St Stefan himself. Don’t miss out on the monks’ homemade wine on sale at the small shop. 90 minutes by bus from Pristina to Dečani village, then walk or get a taxi to the monastery. Tours can be arranged with the KFOR guards.
This beautiful medieval city in the south of Kosovo sits atop a hill, commanding incredible views of the surrounding Šar mountains. The settlement has passed through many hands: Roman, Bulgarian, Byzantine and Ottoman. Explore chaotic bazaars, the Hammam baths in the Ottoman quarter and the Roman castle. It’s also the birthplace of Kosovo as we know it – visit the Prizren League House to discover more about the foundations of the modern state. The Kaljaja fortress was once the capital of Serbia, and now offers the best views in the city. Or head down to Shadervan, the main square where you can drink from the fountain, or eat at a traditional ‘qebaptore’ barbecue restaurant. In summer, Shadervan is the best place to hang out after dark, when the locals pour into the square. Visit the two important mosques and the two churches. Then swing by the workers’ co-op at Filigran ShPK to watch the craftsmen making gold and silver filigree, a traditional local product that makes a great gift. Buses run daily from Pristina for €4.
Not far from Prizren in a high mountain valley lies the picturesque village of Brod, one of the most beautiful in all the Balkans. Here you can meet the Gorani people, famous for an unusual combination of occupations: sheep and goat herding and owning sweetshops. They are an ancient people speaking a Torlakian Slavic language, a curious mix of Serbian and Macedonian with many loanwords. Be careful not to speak Albanian as the Gorani are Muslim Serbs who fiercely oppose Albanian rule. However, they are a friendly lot who love to hear tourists mangle their complex language. There’s one important reason to head to Brod, and that’s to ride. One of the locals will be happy to take you up into the high summer pastures on horseback for around €10, where you will see some of the most incredible scenery in Albania. Or stick around and see Brod’s enthusiastic yet somewhat limited nightlife. From Prizren take the bus to Dragaš and then hike or hitch the 8km to the village.
Experience life in a traditional fortified stone ‘kulla’ house near Deçan while supporting a local women’s cooperative. Kullas were once a common building style, but many were destroyed in the war. Luckily, Cultural Heritage Without Borders restored this one to its original cosy state. Venture out to explore the mountains and chestnut forests, or stay in and snuggle up in front of the wood-burning stove and enjoy a meal prepared by local women. 5 km from Dečani monastery, rooms cost between €10 – 15. Phone 044 253 412.
Novo Brdo, or Novobërdë, is situated in the east of Kosovo. It was one of the most important late medieval centres in the Balkans. On a spring day surrounded by wild flowers, or in the bleak midwinter under a foot of snow the crumbling castle is the star attraction here, founded on the wealth of medieval mines. Take a hike and explore the ruins or enjoy mountain biking. Local Serbs and Albanians provide comfortable homestay accommodation. Phone 044 465 471 or visit www.tourism-novobrdo.com for more information.
Get to the heart of a country torn in two with a trip to Mitrovica. During the Kosovo War, Mitrovica was one of the worst hit areas. As Kosovo began to pick up the pieces, Mitrovica became a symbol of a nation divided, with Albanians living in the south and Serbs to the north. Periodic violence has ensured an ongoing police presence in the town, but things have quietened down and tourists are always welcomed. Take a taxi from Pristina for €35 or a bus for even less.
In the summer months this unspoilt chain of waterfalls, an hour’s drive from Pristina, is a perfect spot for a swim. Here the Miruša River has carved a 10 km long canyon, creating 12 waterfalls, 13 river lakes and countless incredible caves to explore. The falls are a real favourite among Kosovans, who crowd here to enjoy the ice blue water on hot days. Bring a good book and kick back to soak up some rays among the beautiful wooded canyon walls.
Vacation rentals in Kosovo (Plovdiv Province)
How to get there ?
Getting in to Kosovo is easy, with regular flights into Pristina from all over Europe. International buses service Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania. There’s also trains coming from Serbia and Macedonia – wrap up warm if you’re travelling in winter as these can get chilly. As Kosovo’s so small, nothing’s more than a few hours from Pristina. The buses are regular, reliable and cheap, and registered taxis operate with fixed fares. It’s also possible to bring a car, but be prepared for some bumpy roads and the occasional wandering farm animal. Remember to carry your passport as you’ll need to show it at many of the country’s sites. Note that although Kosovo is an extremely hospitable country with a great love of foreigners, it’s important to be informed about the latest security situation. Some countries, such as Serbia and Russia, do not recognise Kosovo and will block all travellers carrying passports with a Kosovan stamp. Ask Kosovan immigration not to stamp your passport if you’re planning on travelling onwards. Schengen members can come and go fairly easily, but check with your national embassy regarding visa requirements.
Hotels in Kosovo (Plovdiv Province)
Balneo Comlex Medica Narechen
1 Hristo Botev Str.
4239 - Kosovo
Indicative price : 23 EUR - 57 EUR
Complex Kosovo Houses
4240 - Kosovo
Indicative price : 60 BGN - 125 BGN