Kosovo may be partially recognised as a state, but we are rather partial to it. It’s safe, sustainable and a little bit sassy, given that it has the youngest population in Europe, with more than 65% of people under 30. The country’s energy is palpable on our Kosovo holidays, where you’ll meet the warmest people walking in Bjeshkët e Nemuna (Accursed Mountains) National Park, or enjoying cafe life in medieval, and now very multicultural cities like Prizren.
As well as splendid sights such as Rugova Gorge or Lake Leqinat, you can hit the pinnacle of Kosovo hiking by summiting Mount Gjeravica (2,656m), the country’s highest mountain. It is also the second highest in the Accursed Mountains, which you will discover on our Peaks of the Balkans walking holidays, Kosovo linked with neighbouring Albania and Montenegro on a superb long-distance trail. Wholly recognised as one of Europe’s finest peacetime pathways.
Where to go
Bjeshkët e Nemuna (Accursed Mountains) National Park
In western Kosovo, this is one of two national parks in the country, carrying the same name of the mountain range it protects, Bjeshkët e Nemuna, translated as the Accursed Mountains. Kosovo hiking enthusiasts dig their heels into the slopes of Gjeravica, the country’s highest peak at 2,656m. Bjeshkët e Nemuna is also home to some gargantuan glacial features, such as Lake Leqinat and eponymous mountain that overlooks it from an elevation of 2,341m. Or Rugova Gorge, which is 25km long and up to 1,000m deep, carved out by the Bistrica River, with the town of Peja (Peć) at its entry point, and also gateway to the national park as a whole.
Peć packs a pretty punch. As well as welcoming a growing number of outdoor adventurers seeking the dramatic landscapes of Rugova Gorge and nearby Via Ferrata, other visitors over the years have left their medieval Serbian, Ottoman and more modern Yugoslav mark on town’s fascinating architecture. The Ottoman style bazaar is the city’s main hub and the River Bistrica its main artery, with streams running off it through the streets. One of its main attractions is the UNESCO Patriarchate of Peć Monastery, built in the 13th century as a home for Orthodox Serbian archbishops and expanded over the centuries to house several churches.
In southern Kosovo on the Prizren River, its backdrop is the Sharr (Šar) Mountains and the national park of the same name. It is Kosovo’s second largest city and, like so many places you will see on Kosovo holidays, it has ancient influences from Roman to Ottoman, but it also has a normal everyday life vibe, with cafes and kids playing football, market stalls and mates on mopeds. The historical highlights include the Ottoman fortress, with views across
The Sharr Mountains, the Sinan Pasha Ottoman Mosque and also the UNESCO Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš, slowly being restored after it was destroyed during the violent attacks of 2004.
Mount Gjeravica (2,656m)
Trek up through high mountain terrain to Mount Gjeravica (2,656m), the highest mountain in Kosovo and second highest in the Accursed Mountains. It is close to the borders of two other Balkan countries, Montenegro and Albania, and so it is a seminal climb for many. Because of its location, the Gjeravica trek features on both the Via Dinarica and the Peaks of the Balkans long-distance trail, extended version, It’s not a technical climb, but it does take time, the 22km trail being pretty rugged underfoot, but with plenty of soothing meadows and pastures thrown into the mountainous mix, and some Accursed views that feel far from cursed.
Things to do
- First and foremost, get to grips with the mountain names, because it can be confusing in the Balkans, where names change across borders. In English, the main mountains in the Balkans are called the Accursed Mountains, and they are a subrange of the Dinaric Alps. In Albania and Kosovo they are called the Bjeshkët e Nemuna, which is also the name of Kosovo’s national park that protects them. In Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian, they are called the Prokletije and sometimes they are also referred to as the Albanian Alps. You can always just call them the big Balkan beauties, because that pretty much sums them up.
- Walk Kosova’s section of the Via Dinarica through Bjeshkët e Nemuna National Park. This is a network of long-distance walking trails that not only takes you through Kosovo but also through the mountain magnificence of Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia. This is one vast via. You could also consider doing a double Dinarica and combining it with, say, the Bosnia-Herzegovina to Montenegro section, which leads you through Sutjeska and Durmitor National Parks, with some white water rafting along Montenegro’s Tara Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in Europe.
- Consider including Kosovo as part of the Peaks of the Balkans long-distance hiking trail which traverses the Western Balkans, on a circuit that encompasses the heritage highlights (and highlands) not only of Kosovo but also Albania and Montenegro. Depending on the heights that you want to hit, and whether you have 11 days or a longer two weeks, there are options to ascend Mt. Trekufiri, Hajla, Taljanka, Arapi and Kosovo’s own Mount Gjeravica, all promising the most peaceful panoramas.
- Raise a toast to new times in Kosovo, a country that has abundant sunshine and consequently, cups overflowing with wine. The leading wine producing area is the Rahovec Valley, also known as Orahovac, which you explore on the last day of this Kosovo hiking holiday. Time your trip for the autumn to catch the grape harvest getting into full Kosovan swing. Gëzuar (cheers) Kosovo!
Responsible travel tips
- The Kosovo War and struggle for independence were both relatively recent, with Kosovo declaring independence from Serbia in February 2008. However, Serbia and many of the resident Serbian minority still don’t recognise it as an independent republic. It is also still not recognised as a state by some UN, EU and NATO members, although the majority do recognise it. Suffice to say, it is still a sensitive topic. For the most part, however, daily life is one of fusion, fun and football, with Kosovo becoming a member of UEFA and FIFA in 2016.
- Bring a reusable water bottle to avoid plastic, as tap water is generally safe in Kosovo. Kosovo must now provide customers with drinking water free of charge in all cafes, bars and restaurants, according to a law passed in 2022. It’s always good to be wary of mountain water, however, and use a filtered water bottle such as the sugarcane, plant-based plastic Water to Go one to ensure it is free of any toxins.
- The large majority of the population of Kosovo speaks Albanian, and a few key words that are useful to know are: Po for yes, jo for no. Tungjatjeta means hello and faleminderit is the all important word for thank you. Another really important one, to make your hosts smile is shijshme, which means delicious, pronounced “shee-SHMEH”.
- If you are planning on combining your Kosovo holiday with one in Serbia, be wary of passport control. Because Serbian authorities dispute Kosovo’s status, they can deny you entry if you have a Kosovo stamp in your passport. So you need to enter via Serbia’s airport, or via Montenegro, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria or North Macedonia. See FCO for more details.