KosovoKosovo (Albanian: Kosova, Serbian: Kосово и Метохија, Kosovo i Metohija) is a largely mountainous country in South Eastern Europe.
- - Capital of Kosovo.
- - The most historical city in Kosovo. It has plenty of examples of beautiful Islamic architecture.
Kosovo was last to go its own way following the break up of former Yugoslavia, it declared independence in February 2008 but Serbia has not recognised it.
In 2019, Republic of Kosovo is recognised by more than half of the UN member states. The vast majority of the population is ethnic Albanian. Small minorities include Serbs, Bosniaks, Turks, Gorani. Most Albanians, as well as Bosniaks and Turks, are Muslim, but Republic of Kosovo is a secular state and all religious groups freely observe their key feasts and celebration dates.
Kosovo is also young in terms of average age of population, with more than 70 percent of its population under the age of 35.
Control of Kosovo changed hands many times in the medieval period, passing variously from being part of the Bulgarian Empire, Byzantine Empire and the Serbian Empire. From the 15th century Kosovo was part of the Ottoman Empire for almost 500 years, before the empire collapsed at the beginning of the 20th century. Wars and border disputes continued as Kosovo was annexed into the Kingdom of Serbia, which expanded into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes at the end of World War I, and changed its name to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929.
At the end of World War II, and the defeat of the invading Axis powers by socialist partisans, Kosovo became an Autonomous Province in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, led by Josip Broz Tito.
After Tito's death in 1980, and the rise of nationalism throughout Yugoslavia, Kosovo was stripped of its autonomous status at the end of the '80s by the regime of autocratic leader Slobodan Milosevic. With Yugoslavia breaking apart, Kosovo's Albanians were stripped of many of their rights during a decade of repression during the 1990s, which ended in the war of 1998-99, as Kosovar Albanians stood up against the Serbian regime to fight for their liberation. A bombing campaign against Serbian military targets brought the war to an end in June 1999, and led to a period in which Kosovo was administered by the United Nations.
On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, and was quickly recognized by many world powers, including the United States and most member states of the European Union. However Serbia continues to refute Kosovo's independent status. It is also not a member of the United Nations as its independence is not recognised by Russia and China, both of whom have used their veto power on the Security Council to block any UN recognition of Kosovo. Domestically, while ethnic Albanians support Kosovo's independence, most ethnic Serbs do not and still consider Kosovo to be a part of Serbia.
ClimateThe climate is continental, with very warm summers and cold and snowy winters.
ReligionKosovo is a multi-ethnic, secular state whose population practices a diverse selection of religions. The majority Albanian population is mainly Muslim, though with a significant catholic minority. Kosovo's Bosniak, Gorani and Turkish communities are also predominantly Muslim, while Kosovar Serbs tend to practice Serbian Orthodox Christianity.
You can enter Kosovo through the northern border with Serbia through Mitrovica or near Pristina. There are bus connections from Belgrade and Nis to Pristina and Prizren and from all the major towns in Serbia to the northern parts. The most used transport route is through North Macedonia and Pristina Airport. Skopje is only one and a half hour from the capital city of Kosovo, Pristina. Travelling from Pristina to any other city of Kosovo does not take longer than an hour and a half. For instance, from Pristina to Prizren by car takes 45 minutes, or to Prizren, Gjakova or Peja by bus takes an hour and a half.
Pristina International AirportSeveral European airlines have started to offer direct flights from their hubs to the Pristina International Airport. Examples are easyJet, WizzAir, Eurowings, Jetairfly, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, Swiss, Edelweiss Air and Austrian Airlines. Adria Airways has a regional hub in Pristina. During the summer, several additional charter flights are available for travellers.
There are flights to Pristina International Airport from Frankfurt Airport, Berlin Schoenefeld, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Hannover, Munich Airport, Stuttgart, Geneva, Zurich Airport, Vienna Schwechat, Copenhagen Airport, Gothenburg, Budapest, Ljubljana, Istanbul airports, and London Luton.
By busFrom Montenegro, you can enter through Rozaje to Peja/Pec (approximately 2.0 hours).
From North Macedonia (Skopje), you can take a bus to Pristina (less than 1.5 hr).
There is a border crossing in the Presevo Valley in Serbia.
There are a couple of companies offering buses from Istanbul via Skopje.
From Albania, you can enter through Prizren on the highway. One way trip from Tirane costs €10 and takes less than 4 hours, with two stops.
There are also trains crossing the Kosovo border. Two daily services connects Kraljevo in Serbia with all towns in northern Kosovo. Connections from Beograd are possible but includes a long stay between train at Kraljevo, thus bringing the journey to more than 12 hours for 399 km. Serbian Railways run a twice daily service from Kraljevo, Serbia to Zvecan (just after Mitrovica). Check their homepage for details.
A twice daily service also runs from Skopje in North Macedonia to Pristina in Kosovo. It is hard to find timings for these trains. Trains are very slow and convey second class only, but they give the opportunity to see a lot of Kosovo and are good value at approximately €4 each way.
This service has been reduced to once daily, leaving Pristina at 07:10, arriving in Skopje at 09:52 (return leaving Skopje at 16:35). The timetable is available at the Kosovo Railways website.
By carInternational Motor Insurance Cards are not accepted. At the border you will need to pay for separate insurance, which will cover you throughout Kosovo for up to two weeks. Costs depend on the vehicle but two weeks' cover is usually under €20. Ensure also that you have your vehicle registration and a power of attorney from the car's owner if it is not yours.
From Serbia during the summer holidays in Germany and Switzerland expect long queues at the border crossing in Merdare (up to 3 hours).
You also can enter to the country at Dheu i Bardhe near Bujanoc and at Jarinje near Nis.
From Montenegro, the only legal border crossing is at Rozhaja.
From North Macedonia you can enter near Hani i Elezit in Bllaca or at Bellanice (Stanqiq).
From Albania you can cross at Morine or at Qafa e Prushit near Gjakova.
By busThe best way to travel intercity in Kosovo is by bus. The buses are relatively cheap and comfortable (for example from Pristina to Peja is €4), with discounts available for students. Payment is usually made on the bus to a representative of the bus company coming around once the journey has started - you may or may not receive a physical ticket, depending on the company.
Between some cities you may also have the option of minivans, running from nearby the main bus station. These leave when full and are usually a similar price to the regular buses.
By trainThere are two daily trains from Pristina to Peja which are a comfortable way to make this journey (€3).
Driving in Kosovo, particularly in cities, can be a little stressful to begin with, and it can be best to go in with the attitude of "expect the unexpected." Pedestrians crossing in front of you unexpectedly, cyclists coming towards you on the wrong side of the road, and potholes appearing out of nowhere are all familiar sights, as are just-in-time overtaking maneuvers and swerving lane-changes, while roundabouts bring with them their own unique customs. You are likely to quickly get used to it, though, and as long as you stay alert - and look out for sudden changes in road surfaces - you should be fine!
Parking can be a challenge, particularly in Pristina and major cities, but there are plenty of informal car parks (at around 1-2 euros for the day), where your vehicle should be safe. Lots of locals choose to park up at the side of the road, on pavements, or wherever there are a few square meters, although the police have begun to remove illegally parked vehicles in some areas.
Road signs and place names usually appear in both Albanian and Serbian, although it is not uncommon for the minority language to be scratched out - a useful indication of the majority population of the area you're in.
By taxiIt is best to use registered taxis as they have fixed prices and are metered. Registered taxis are clearly marked with a company name and phone number printed on the vehicle. Unregistered taxis are usually cars with a yellow taxi sign affixed to the roof, they are safe, but the price is entirely at the driver's discretion. For more information on taxi companies see the pages for individual cities.
Young people, particularly in the major cities such as Pristina and Prizren, are likely to understand English, whereas the older generation are more likely to understand German. Some older people are able to speak Russian, as it was compulsory in schools during the communist era, although it may not be received well among the Albanian population due to its apparent similarity with Serbian.
Turkish can be useful, and the Turkish minority speaks both Turkish and Albanian.
Mirusha WaterfallsLocated between Prishtina and Gjakova, it is a nice hike ending in a cascade of 16 waterfalls and visible stone strata. On the way back stop at the restaurant near the road for fish and relaxation.
Waterfall of the Drini RiverDuring the summer, this place is fantastic, and the road to the river is an amazing, narrow road with wires on one side and the river on the other; this is a great part of Kosovo.
The Pec PatriarchyThis location was the seat of the Patriarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church for about 200 years of its history and for many Serbs is considered to be of extreme national importance. All of the Serbs who lived in Peja have either left or been forced to do so by Albanian nationalists leaving the Patriarchy to be heavily guarded by NATO troops, with a few remaining clergy. It is a beautiful monastery with many spectacular paintings. If you go, dress conservatively.
Rugova GorgeThe canyon has extremely steep walls reaching possibly up to 300 meters.
Gjakova Old BazaarA very beautiful old "shopping center" from 17th century. It was burned down during the war in 1999 and has been reconstructed. Also in the center of the bazaar is located an old mosque that was built in the 15th century. It is one of the rarest of its kind. An architectural and cultural complex, with a length of 1 km, including a space of about 35,000m 2 , it holds a large number of crafts-work shops.
The Mitrovica BridgeAn interesting symbol of the division of the population in Kosovo. This bridge is the dividing line between Serbs and Albanians in Mitrovica. It will almost always be safe to approach the bridge and look at it.
Brezovica Ski CentreOld infrastructure but great slopes, located in Southern Kosova. Go there from Prizren or from Prishtina through Ferizaj.
NovobrdoIn Latin documents written as Novaberd, Novus Mons or Novamonte; and in Saxon miners' documents as Nyeuberghe) was mentioned in the historical documents as early as 1326. Novo Brdo was a metropolis at the time, with a huge medieval fortress built on the top of an extinct volcano cone, the remains of which can be visited today, and residential sections sprawling all around. In the outer wall of the fortress, a large cross is visible, built into the stones. The castle, or fortress, was thought at one point to have dated back to the Byzantine Empire.
UlpianaOne of the oldest cities in the Balkan peninsula, is 20–30 minutes away from Pristina towards Gjilan. It was re-constructed by Emperor Justinian I.
Medieval monumentsA UNESCO World Heritage list consisting of four religious edifices:
- Gračanica Monastery near Prishtina – One of the most beautiful examples of Serbian medieval (14th c.) ecclesiastical architecture. This monastery was built by the Serbian king Milutin in the Serbo-Byzantine style, reportedly its shape being inspired by a cloud. It is noted for its frescoes, and being the only medieval Serbian monastery found in an urban setting complete with an old school and archives.
- Decani Monastery in western Kosovo – One of the most important monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo. It is famous for its elegant and peculiar architecture. As an orthodox monastery from the 13th century, it successfully mixes western and eastern church building elements to form a particular hybrid style only known on the territory of old Serbia. This monastery is particularly noted for some of the world's finest medieval frescoes adorning its walls.
- Monastery of the Patriarchate of Peć in Peja, northwestern Kosovo.
- Our Lady of Ljeviš – in Prizren, southern Kosovo.
In Serbian-majority municipalitiesThe Serbian dinar is used in the four Serbian-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo and in Gracanica and Strpce. Exchange offices are found almost everywhere. Note that in these locations while euros are accepted generally, all prices are listed in dinar.
SouvenirsFor those seeking a souvenir to take back with them from Kosovo, there are many options available: From fine handcrafted Filigree silver to traditional Albanian wool hats (a plis) and musical instruments (the stringed ciftelia). Local food and drink specialties to take home could include honey, raki, a high strength alcohol distilled from fruit, ajvar, a pepper based spread or feferona, spicy local peppers.
TippingIn Kosovo generally tipping is not expected from locals, but as it is done by foreigners, it is welcome. In more upmarket venues it might be more likely for tipping to be expected. In taxis you can tip to the nearest euro or half euro.
Lots of great burek (baked pastry stuffed with cheese, meat or spinach). Try the drinkable yogurt (Ayran) — it's superb. Lots of kebabs and other Ottoman Turkish style food.
As far as you are in an Albanian territory, you could try Albanian food as well. Fli, a very good pastry, can be found in different traditional restaurants.
At the bakery, you can buy a fantastic loaf of bread for under €1.
The grocery stores have a plentiful supply of Western food.
Beer brewed in Peja and named after the city of its origin can be found across Kosovo. Peja Premium is a slightly stronger beer from the same brewery but less widely available. Sabaja is the second beer in Kosovo. It is a home brew ale beer. It is mostly found in Pristina but maybe also in different cities. Other local beers include Grembeer and Prishtina.
Kosovo was known for wine production with vineyeards in its southwest in the Rahovec-Suhareka region, with Stonecastle one of the larger wine producers. Even though the Albanians are predominantly of Muslim heritage, attitudes to drinking are quite liberal.
Raki is another alcoholic beverage popular in Kosovo. It is made from local fruits (most commonly from grape, plum, pear and quince).
Yogurt/ayran is a common local drink and is often consumed with pastries. Boza is a malt drink from fermented maize (corn) and wheat and often drank with cakes and pastries.
Local company Frutomania produce 100% natural juices, alongside traditional fruit drinks like limonata (from lemons) and boronica (from blueberries).
- Small hotels (motels)
- Two and three star hotels (more common)
- Three five star hotels in Pristina.
Guesthouses are also dotted around throughout Kosovo, offering inexpensive alternatives.
Don't let the politics stop you from visiting; tensions have risen on a few occasions in the past decade, but nearly all have been in the divided city of Mitrovica in the north of Kosovo. There are now fewer than 5,000-person NATO peacekeeping force. You may likely find an international troop presence from your own country.
Like in much of the Balkans, land mines were heavily used during the Yugoslav wars, although you are extremely unlikely to encounter them in any way today. Mines were a major problem in Kosovo in the first four years after the war, and though some mines still exist, they are generally in remote areas and have well-marked signs advising not to enter a certain space. Most of the mined areas are places where conflict took place (rural Central Kosovo and the Kosovo–Albania border region). It's very safe to go hiking and camping — just ask before you do in order to make sure it's not an area that may still have mines, but most hiking and camping takes place in areas where the war did not occur, like the Sharr mountains, where there is a ski and camping resort.
It is best to use registered taxi companies as they provide fixed prices measured through a meter. Unlicensed taxis are safe but the price is completely down to the driver's discretion.
As with the region as a whole, homophobia is fairly widespread and public displays of affection are almost non-existent.
Tap water in most cities is safe and drinkable.
Most bars, cafes and restaurants have free Wi-Fi connection that customers can use.
There are direct bus links to major cities in Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Albania, Turkey, North Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia.