During the 90’s and early 00’s, Kosovo was pretty much a no go destination for most holidaymakers. The civil unrest and ethnic cleansing under dictator Slobodan Milosevic meant that international visitors were discouraged from entering the country. Whilst the northern part of the country is still advised against travelling to, the majority of Kosovo, including the capital Pristina or Prishtina, are starting to welcome more and more international visitors. I’ve put together a list of general tips and advice on how to make the most of your trip to Europe’s hidden gem.
Most travellers head straight to the capital Pristina when they come to Kosovo. As well as being the birthplace of chart topper and recently announced X Factor judge Rita Ora it’s also where you’ll find the majority of the countries museums, restaurants and accommodation, making it a safe bet for first timers or those who prefer to base themselves in one location and do day trips. Other popular destinations include the cities of Peja, Gjakova and Prizren. It’s no secret that one of Kosovo’s lures is it’s cheap prices. This means even the most luxurious hotels in Kosovo are attainable. If you’re looking to stay somewhere special, look no further than the Swiss Diamond Hotel Prishtina. This five star hotel boasts regal rooms and spa complete with hammam. For those of you looking for a more ‘authentic’ experience however, there are a number of excellent backpacker style hostels, including Hostel Han in the center of Pristina. As well as a fantastic location, the hostel offers spacious communal areas and balconies offering great views across the city from the 4th floor.
When to Go
There’s no bad time of year to visit Kosovo, but the seasons may have some impact on your activities during your stay. It might not be on the map as a skiing destination but visitors to Kosovo in winter should consider hitting the slopes at Brezovica in the Šar Mountain range. During the summer, the mountains also become a popular hiking destination with the option of organized tours. Although it remains unspoiled by mass tourism, the area is known for its good selection of local restaurants. Many tourists like to coincide their trip with local festivities. Independence Day is celebrated on February 17th, and no matter where you’re staying in the country, you can expect parades and street parties. In autumn, there are a number of cultural events, including the Pristina Film Festival, Art Festival and Jazz Festival.
What to Do
The Ethnographic Museum
Located in a former family home in Pristina, the museum is a good introduction to Kosovo culture and it’s people. The exhibitions include displays of traditional clothing and textiles, pottery and Albanian weaponry.
Sinan Pasha Mosque
Dating back to the 17th century, this Ottoman mosque is the jewel of the historic city of Prizren. Other nearby highlights include the Kalaja Fortress, which offers spectacular views and the nearby Šar Mountains.
Most frequented for its outdoor swimming pool, this tranquil park located just outside Pristina is mountainous woodland frequented by both ramblers and bird watchers. Among the animal species found here are the golden eagle and European tree frog.
What to Eat and Drink
Turkish Coffee – You’ll find many nods towards Turkish cuisine in the Kosovo diet. Visitors can enjoy the sweet caffeine drink at cafes throughout the country.
Ajvar – A vegetarian relish typically made with red bell peppers and garlic. This tasty spread is commonly served with bread during breakfast.
Šar cheese – Available as both a hard or soft cheese, Šar cheese is made in the Šar Mountains using a mixture of sheep and cows milk. Try it with traditional pita bread.
Burek – The Kosovo equivalent of the Cornish pasty, a burek is a baked meat or vegetable filled phyllo pastry topped with sesame seeds.Rakia – The flagship alcoholic drink of Kosovo made with wild fruits including grapes.
Already been to Kosovo? Let us know your tips and advice in the comments below.