Kosovo, one of the six republics of the former Yugoslavia is a landlocked country with 1.8 million people. It shares borders with Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, and Serbia. Pristina, the capital city, is 269 miles from Dubrovnik (Croatia), 225 miles from Kotor (Montenegro), 159 miles from Tirana (Albania) and 327 miles from Belgrade (Serbia).
92% of the population are of Albanian descent, and 8% are Serbians, Bosnian and Turkish. The official languages are Serbian and Albanian. Pristina Airport, the airport in the capital city is served by about ten airlines. Currently, there are no direct flights from the United States or Canada. But you can fly into Zurich, Vienna or Stuttgart and catch a direct flight to Pristina.
If you’re heading to the Balkans, don’t miss out on visiting Kosovo for an unforgettable experience. Here are five things to do when you’re there:
1. Explore Prizren
Listed as one of the 25 Iconic European Cities to Explore by National Geographic, Prizren should be on the top of your list of places to visit in Kosovo. This cultural city in southern Kosovo is home to ancient Ottoman-era architecture and Prizren Castle which served as the military fortification until 1912.
Hike up to Prizren Fortress (Kaljaja) and enjoy the beautiful view of this ancient city, the river, and the surrounding mountains. Check out the remains of the military chambers, prison, military warehouses, semi-circular towers, water tank and houses of worship.
The crown jewel of Prizren is Sinan Pasha Mosque. It was built in 1615 and still dominates Prizren skyline today, and seen from almost every corner of the town. Other places of interest include:
- Stone Bridge – the original was built in the 16th century
- Shadervan Fountain – located in the center of the main square and favorite place for locals to hang out and have a sip of water from the fountain
- The Hamman of Gazi Mehmet Pasha – a Turkish bath
- Catholic Church of St George – most of it was damaged in the 2004 uprising
- The Church of Our Lady Ljevis
- 400-year-old Plane Tree by the river
2. Enjoy the rich cafe culture of Prizren
Prizren has many cafes, restaurants, and bars that serve coffee, beer, and affordable meals. Most cafes and restaurants located near Lumbardhi River have tables and chairs set under the trees lining the riverside for guests to enjoy the river and mountain backdrop.
3. Check out Pristina
Pristina isn’t on most travelers’ lists when visiting Kosovo. But if you’re flying into the city, take time to photograph the Newborn Monument. The ten by 80-foot monument was presented on February 17, 2008, when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. You can find former President Bill Clinton’s 11-foot brass statue on Bill Clinton Boulevard.
To some, the National Library of Kosovo is the ugliest building in the world. Check it out and let us know what you think!
4. Visit Visoki Decani Monastery
Located near Pec, known as Peja to the locals, a town in northwest Kosovo, is Visoki Decani Monastery at the foot of Prokletije Mountains. It is one of the most important monasteries for Serbians. This fortified monastery is heavily guarded by a NATO-led Kosovo Force, known as KFOR.
Visoki was founded by King Stefan Uros III, and construction started in 1327. It’s a functioning cenobitic male monastery since the 14th century. Today there are just 25 monks and apprentices. They are engaged in farming, wine-making, publishing, beekeeping, icon painting, wood carving and serving in spiritual roles.
It’s one of the must-visit places for those who like ancient architecture, art, and wants to know more about the history of Serbian monasteries.
5. Stopover in Peja
Peja or Pec is the gateway to Rugova Valley, one of the least crowded regions in Europe for hiking, mountain biking and enjoying all the activities of the great outdoors. Before leaving for Rugova Valley, take time to discover Peja’s cafes, Old Bazaar, and the handicraft shops.