Kosovo


Overview

Kosovo travel guide, including map of Kosovo , tips on Kosovon culture, places to visit in Kosovo, when to go to Kosovo and Kosovo travel tips

In world terms, Kosovo is a little baby. Long a part of the Ottoman Empire, then an autonomous region of Serbia, it was only in 2008 – following bitter battles and NATO intervention in the 1990s – that Kosovo declared independence from its Balkan neighbour and became a country in its own right.

Landlocked between Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia, Kosovo is a small, rugged enclave and a historic cultural crossroads. Here lies an eclectic mix: Mediterranean flavours (even though Kosovo has no coast); Unesco-listed Orthodox monuments; whirling dervishes; well-preserved Ottoman mansions; Islamic schools and elegant mosques. The people living in Kosovo today, largely ethnic Albanians, are eager to welcome outsiders to their nascent nation.

It’s a natural treasure, too. Tiny Kosovo is hemmed in by mountain ranges, looming over 2,500m. These provide spectacular scenes – waterfalls cascading down valley sides, traditional farmers shooing herds up hill, snow-topped crags pricking the skies. And it also offers an untouched playground for the adventure-seeker: skiers can hurtle down pistes while hikers and mountain-bikers, can get out amid a rainbow of wildflowers.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Soak up the café culture in Prishtina – the Kosovar capital may be slightly shambolic, but has a young, vibrant atmosphere
  2. Get active in the Rugova Valley – the peaks of the Accursed Mountains are ripe for snowshoeing, hiking and paragliding
  3. Pay your respects at 12th century Gracanica Monastery, daubed with incredible Byzantine frescoes
  4. Stroll the streets of historic Prizen, an evocative hub of well-preserved Ottoman architecture lining narrow cobbled alleys
  5. Hike out into the Dragesh Valley to explore the towering mountains and traditional villages where locals use horse carts and serve up tasty fresh cheeses
  6. Eat your fill in foodie haven Gjakova, home to a restored mosque, madrasa and old market, as well as some of the country’s best restaurants
  7. Walk into the forests of Decani Canyon to find 14th century Decani Monastery, a superbly situated showpiece of Orthodox art.

Wanderlust tips for travel in Kosovo

When visiting a Kosovar home, you will be expected to remove your shoes; you may be offered slippers. It is polite to take a small gift – chocolate, sweets etc – when visiting a Kosovar family. If you are given a gift by your hosts in return, accept it graciously.

Squat toilets are common in Kosovo. If travelling in more rural areas, take your own toilet paper.

Crossing the border between Serbia and Kosovo can be problematic. There have been instances where foreigners holding a Kosovo stamp in their passport have been denied entry into Serbia. Check the Foreign Office website for the latest information on transiting between the two, and for the latest security information.

Further Reading

Travel in Kosovo: vital stats

Capital of Kosovo: Prishtina
Population of Kosovo: 1.8 million
Languages in Kosovo: Albanian (official), Serbian (official), Bosnian, Turkish, Roma
Time in Kosovo: GMT+1 (GMT+2 Mar-Oct)
International dialling code in Kosovo: +381
Voltage in Kosovo: 200V
Visas for Kosovo: Visa information

  • Money in Kosovo: Euro (€). ATMS are widespread but credit cards not widely accepted. Tipping in restaurants is customary but not compulsory.

When to go to Kosovo

Kosovo is best visited in spring – April-June – when wildflowers are blooming, temperatures are pleasant and there’s still snow on the mountaintops. From July to September, Kosovo gets hot (well over 30°C) and busier. In winter ice and snow can make travel in Kosovo more challenging, and rather chilly – temperatures in Prishtina dip below freezing.

Kosovo international airports

Prishtina International Airport (PRN), 15km south-west of Prishtina

Getting around in Kosovo

Driving in Kosovo offers the most flexibility, and hire cars are widely available. However, road quality in Kosovo is poor with large potholes blighting many surfaces, especially side-roads.

Buses connect most towns in Kosovo – they are the cheapest and most convenient way to get around. Trains tend to be slow, and only really useful for long-distance journeys on Kosovo’s north-south line.

Cycling isn’t ideal in Kosovo, due to the poor roads, though there are some excellent offroad opportunities in the mountains.

Kosovo accommodation

There are plenty of hotels and motels in Kosovo. Those in cities tend to be quite expensive, catering to business and development workers. Some of Kosovo’s out-of-town motels are often a little shabby and of dubious repute (many rent rooms by the hour...).

There’s no formal B&B network in Kosovo, but making enquiries locally will generally procure a bed in a family home. Campsites are few, though the Rugova Valley and Dragesh area have sites, useful for hikers.

Kosovo food & drink

Kosovo is a surprising treat for foodies, serving up some of the Balkan’s best dishes, accompanied by good service. Carnivores should try lamb, often served in kebab form (generally in bread rather than skewered), and pleskavica, minced beef stuffed with cheese. Trout is the most plentiful fish in Kosovo.

Vegetarians in Kosovo can eat a range of stuffed, baked and grilled peppers, of various spiciness. Cheese is a menu staple too: try the soft cheeses of Kosovo’s Dragesh Valley. Local yoghurt is also good, which can be mixed with the abundant strawberries (from April) and other fruits.

Home-brewed grape raki is Kosovo’s local firewater, frequently drunk as an aperitif. Kosovo produces its own wine – mostly cheap reds of varying quality. Coffee is imbibed strong and often, generally served Turkish style; make it clear if you don’t want sugar. Tea is also popular, and usually comes without milk.

Health & safety in Kosovo

Tapwater is generally safe, though it may be wiser to stick to purified water. Ensure you’re up-to-date on standard vaccinations. Employ tick-avoidance measures if travelling in rural areas between spring and autumn.

Kosovo is generally very safe, but take common-sense precautions against petty street crime – don’t flaunt valuables. Kosovans love to talk politics but don’t push the subject: wait for locals to bring up the topic. 

Hikers and cyclists should not deviate from designated tracks in areas known for land mines – seek local advice if unsure.