There are so many reasons to visit Kosovo.
Photo by Snownjeri
All of the Balkans are steeped in history, but nowhere moreso than Kosovo. In Europe’s newest country, the past isn’t over. Less than two decades have passed since the conflict with Serbia. Independence was only declared in 2008, and the state isn’t yet fully recognised. Despite this, Kosovo is one of the highlights of the Great Balkan Ride. The territory is blessed with impressive mountains, picturesque countryside, and vibrant cities. Better yet, the locals are as hospitable as you’ll find anywhere in Europe. Here is why you should visit Kosovo.
Airstrikes and burned-out buildings are likely the first thoughts that Kosovo brings to mind for many Westerners. These preconceptions will be dismissed immediately when you arrive, greeted by winding mountain roads, green valleys, and vast expanses of deep forest. Prepare for an epic driving experience: the roads twist and turn, with stunning views around each corner. There are 50 peaks at heights of over 2000m, providing myriad opportunities for hiking or more adventurous pursuits: rock climbing, horse riding, or free swimming in natural pools. On your travels you may also come across one of the many historic Serbian monasteries, several of which are UNESCO world heritage sites.
Kosovo is only slowly gaining recognition as a tourist destination, but the lack of visitors just means that locals are even more welcoming. The region is a mix of cultures — Albanian, Serbian, Turkish, Roma — but there is an undeniable Ottoman influence when it comes to hospitality. Whatever you need, someone will be there to help. Whether you are partying in the capital Pristina or encountering lonely shepherds amid the mountains, you’ll invariably be met with kindness and generosity. Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe — 70% are under 35 — which creates a lively, friendly, vibe, especially in the cities.
Culture in Prizren
While Pristina is the biggest city, and the undisputed champion of nightlife, Prizren’s culture and history make it the more popular destination. The city is packed each summer for Dokufest, a documentary film festival offering screenings throughout the city, and open-air parties all through the night. The rest of the year, the city is an underrated gem: the well-maintained old town is reminiscent of more celebrated Ottoman sights. The 11th Century fortress on the hill overlooks a crowded mess of mosques, churches, and stone bridges; whenever the sun in out, you’ll find the locals in riverside cafes, or in the many bars and restaurants around the old square. The city, and surrounding area, is also considered the best in Kosovo for cuisine, particularly for Ottoman-style sweets, and traditional wine production.
Nature in Peja
Though only the third largest city, Peja (known is Serbian as Peć) is perhaps the most attractive to tourists, and is where we stay the night on the Great Balkan Ride. It combines all that is best of Kosovo: history, both Ottoman and Serbian, hospitality, and nature. Walk the central promenade, and admire the gorgeous green hills surrounding you on all sides. At the town’s heart there is an old bazaar, and several mosques, but just outside the city you can find outstanding an outstanding Serbian monastery. The true greatness of Peja, though, lies in its stunning location, right at beside the magnificent Rugova Canyon: 25km long and up to 1km deep, the enormous cliffs hide caves, waterfalls, and incredible roads.