The Republic of Kosovo is characterised by a heartwarming hospitality, a unique blend of cultural and historical heritage and a bustling café culture that has locals and internationals alike claiming that in Kosovo one can drink the world’s best macchiato.
Not yet known as a major tourist destination, the country is slowly becoming the ideal destination for independent travelers.
Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, has since the country’s independence in 2008 been rapidly developing into a charming town that combines an emerging cosmopolitanism with cultural historical touches. With the help of international donors, cultural sites such as the modernist National Library, the Fatih Mosque, the Mother Teresa Cathedral and the Ethnographic Museum have been restored and enhanced. Don’t miss the most photographed object in the country: the inspired “Newborn” monument, a sculpture symbolising a new beginnings.
The city teems with restaurants serving everything from Mexican and Thai to Kosovo locavore, while new spots continue to open along Mother Theresa Boulevard, Luan Haradinaj street, Fhemi Agani and Rexhep Luci street (also known as ABC street, for the cinema there that daily shows Hollywood’s latest blockbusters). Pristina is characterized by a free-spirited nightlife, not unlike 1990s Berlin, Belfast, and Prague. For those who want to leave the bustling city behind, there is the National Park Germia, a lovely place for lazy afternoon picnics, hiking, running and cycling, located about four kilometres from the city centre.
Although Kosovo is a landlocked country, in less than an hour drive one will find beautiful cultural and religious heritage sites as well as a rugged scenery good for a diversity of outdoor activities.
The country amounts several medieval monasteries and churches, including the Gracanica and Decani monasteries, which are both on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Close to the Gracanica monastery are the ruins of Ulpiana, once one of the most important Roman cities in the Balkan. Ancient medieval castles such as the ones in Zvecan and Novo Brdo still stand guard over Kosovo’s planes and are easy to explore during the spring and autumn. The Hadum Mosque, built in 1594 in the city of Gjakova, is a typical example of the classic forms of mosques in the Islamic-Kosovar style, with its rectangular, dome-covered structure and paintings and arabesques in the Islamic-Albanian baroque style. The Çarshia e Madhe of Gjakova, or the Old Bazaar, breathes the old Kosovar tradesmanship spirit still and some of the trades practiced (silversmiths, carpenters, furriers) still remain in the city. Prizren, located in the southern part of Kosovo, epitomizes the 15th to 20th century Ottoman cultural legacy and heritage. The medieval Ottoman fortress, the Sinan Pasha Mosque and centuries old stone bridges represent Prizren’s historically Turkish connection.
In addition to the ancient and historical attractions, several international cultural events and festivals take place each year in Kosovo. In August Prizren hosts the yearly Dokufest International Documentary and Short Film Festival, the largest film festival in Kosovo. Each year the festival fills the cinemas and improvised screening venues around historic city centre of Prizren with a selection of more than 200 handpicked films from around the world. The capital Pristina is home to the international Pristina Jazz Festival, the International Festival of Young Musicians – DAM Festival Pristina, which combines traditional and contemporary music, and the ReMusica Festival, which promotes contemporary classical music. Some smaller festivals, but worth visiting include the Zvecan Jazz festival and the upcoming festival is Peja In the Park, which consists of musical concerts, artistic programmes dedicated to the environment, and tourist expeditions. Peja is also the host city of the Anibar International Animation Festival, the only animation festival in Kosovo.
Kosovo offers a wide range of outdoor activities, throughout the entire year. There are plenty of opportunities for hikes, horseback riding and swimming in natural pools like those at Mirusha waterfalls (close to Gjakova). The Rugova valley, located in the west just behind the city of Peja, is one of many places where one can not only hike and cycle, but can also enjoy rock climbing on the area’s surrounding granite walls. The Brezovica Mountains in the South-East of the country are ideal for skiing during the winter and hiking during the summer. The ski resort there served as an alternate site for downhill skiing events during the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympic Games. Recently, the Kosovo government signed a contract with a French consortium to develop a new tourist centre in Brezovica.
Finally, the “Peaks of the Balkans” Trail offers the more adventurous hikers a trans-border hike through Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro, leading through one of the most remote and wild mountainous regions of the Western Balkans. By using shepherd paths and footways, the trail winds through high alpine mountains up to 2.300 meters above sea level and leads through a wild mountain scenery, varying from green valleys to crystal-clear mountain lakes, waterfalls, rivers and remote picturesque mountain villages.