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Kosovo is not a country that you automatically think of when trying to come up with another Balkan bucket list location. The thing is, though, if you avoid this beautiful country, you’re missing out!
Kosovo is well known for the Kosovo War of 1998 and 1999, but putting that sad part of Kosovo’s history aside, you should know that things have changed. Unfortunate historical events shouldn’t define a country, after all.
While once a war-torn part of the globe, Kosovo is now a very safe country for tourists and welcomes more and more visitors every year. Will you be one of them?
You might not be that aware of where Kosovo is, in fact, and possibly don’t know which countries are near Kosovo either! To answer the question of ‘where is Kosovo?’, Kosovo is in Europe, and it is within the Balkans.
Kosovo is landlocked with Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro as its neighbors, Kosovo has its own unique culture. Still, it certainly influences those countries around it, too, and from former foreign rulers.
Pristina, the capital city, is a great place to visit and is home to a huge amount of old versus new and many Kosovo attractions in general. You can easily walk around the city and explore without even needing to use public transport, and there are plenty of great accommodations to choose from!
Because it’s quite likely that you don’t know that much about what to do in Kosovo, let’s give you the low down before letting you in on some of the best things to do when you visit Kosovo.
How To Get To Kosovo
Pristina International Airport is the only international airport in Kosovo. So, that means you need to visit the capital as part of your stay.
There are countless flights every day to and from major cities in Europe, but you could also enter Kosovo via a land border from another Balkan country.
Do you know what language they speak in Kosovo? The official answer is Serbian and Albanian, with differences as you travel across the country. Having said that, English is widely spoken in key tourist hot spots.
If you intend to drive, you’ll pass some fantastic scenery, and driving around the Balkans, in general, is a great idea. This way, you avoid the not-so-on-time public transport options.
What you might have a problem with is renting a car from another Balkan country and taking it to Kosovo. For this reason, verify if there are any restrictions before you make a decision. For ease of travel, flying to Pristina and then hiring a car from the airport is the most convenient transportation option to and around Kosovo.
List Of Cities In Kosovo
Notable towns and cities as part of your Kosovo itinerary should be:
We’ve already mentioned that this is the capital city. There are plenty of fun things to do in Pristina, and you’ll also find a fun cafe vibe here, as well as plenty of modern amenities to enjoy, such as great restaurants and all kinds of shops.
This is also the location of Kosovo’s main museums, including the Museum of Kosovo and the Emin Gjiku Ethnographic Museum.
A local Pristina travel guide will help you see the main sites and give you lots of interesting information on Kosovo’s history. Pristina is also where you will find the majority of the Kosovo nightlife, so that is something to bear in mind if you’re keen to party.
A historically significant place to visit and a change from the capital in many ways. You’ll find old examples of architecture, fantastic views, and the famous bridge made of stone. There’s plenty of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, as well as beautiful mosques and winding alleyways. Prizren is about an hour away from the capital, making it super-easy to visit, even without a car.
In the west of the country, surrounded by some of the highest Kosovo mountains and even more beautiful scenery, you will find Peja, quite close to Montenegro. Nearby you’ll find the Rugova Canyon, which has plenty of outdoor activities. The Old Town offers superb cultural exploration, home to a Turkish bazaar, beautiful religious monuments, and vibrant cafes.
This is another town you can easily reach from the capital. Even though it’s a small city, it’s a very sweet one, with beautiful architecture and a calm vibe. You’ll find many old churches and mosques side by side. However, the top attraction has to be the bustling Grand Bazaar, which is 1 kilometer long and the longest bazaar in the Balkans. This is a great place to add to your Kosovo sightseeing list, for sure.
With plenty of nods to Roman history, this is a very interesting city to visit, and it’s almost like going back in time. This ancient city in northern Kosovo is home to several magnificent monuments. Sights you can’t skip include the Vojinovic Tower and Vojinovic Bridge, Vushtrri Fortress, and a few historical mosques.
If you love wine and raki, this is your destination. The homemade raki knocks your socks off and is one of the biggest Kosovo tourist attractions!
Is Kosovo Safe?
We have to include this section because so many people ask whether Kosovo is safe or not. Let’s be completely clear: Kosovo is safe.
As with all countries in the world, avoid talking about previous tensions and wars throughout history and not get involved in political conversations of any kind. If you see large protest-type gatherings, avoid them. This is the type of advice you will see time and time again in any country, but it applies more so in Kosovo.
The one thing we do need to mention about Kosovo’s safety is to try and avoid the city of Mitrovica. The simple reason is that there are tensions there between ethnic groups, and it’s best to stay out of it. On the border with Serbia, the north of the country is where any trouble would likely be. Steer clear of that part (for now at least), and you’ll enjoy your stay in Kosovo without issues!
The other piece of advice is about unexploded landmines dating back to troubles during the ’90s. As with most Balkan countries, the overwhelming majority of these mines have been cleared, and you won’t have problems on main roads; however, if you venture off-road, this is something you should be aware of. Stick to the marked routes.
Best Things To Do In Kosovo
Visit The Imperial Mosque In Pristina
Kosovo is a mainly Muslim country, and as a result, you’ll find many beautiful and intricately designed mosques wherever you go. The Imperial Mosque in Pristina is one of the most beautiful you’ll see. A visit should definitely be on your list.
Dating back to 1461, built by Sultan Mehmet II Fatih of the Ottoman Empire, this is a stunning and peaceful place to head to. Remember, though, to dress properly when visiting any mosque, covering your head if you are a woman, removing shoes, whether male or female and making sure that arms and legs are covered modestly.
Visit Pristina’s ‘Newborn’ Monument
One of the most photographed places in the whole of Kosovo is the ‘newborn’ sign in the capital. This pays homage to Kosovo’s independence in 2008, which effectively made it the youngest country in the whole of Europe, hence the sign. Every year it gets repainted in a different style, so a picture taken one year will never be the same as the next.
Chill Out In A Coffee Shop
Yes, you can do this anywhere, but Kosovo, and the rest of the Balkan countries, have a great coffee culture. You’ll find pavement cafes everywhere. Sit in the sun and soak up the rays, enjoying a cup of java as you watch the world go by. People-watching opportunities are plentiful, especially in the capital!
You’ll easily find a friendly local to chat to, and you could even try something most people seem to enjoy Turkish coffee. Beware, it’s very strong and very thick, so you might prefer to stick to a latte!
Enjoy An Authentic Night Out On Raki Street
The capital’s side streets are ideal for enjoying nights out in a more authentic manner. Raki Street (called that because you literally can enjoy as much raki as you like) is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the local culture. As a side note, the prices on these streets are far lower than where the tourists go on the main streets, which is an easy way to save cash.
Take Part In The Xhiro
In the evenings, you will see a strange sight – people just getting up and going out for a walk, quite a lot of people. This is called the ‘xhiro,’ and it is a way of life in Kosovo. This is a way for people to walk off their evening meal, catch some fresh air, and catch up with locals. Kosovo overall is a very friendly country, and you’ll be able to meet all sorts of people. It’s quite the sight to see and join in if you can.
Visit Prizren’s Fortress
This fortress constructed by the Ottomans is one of the most visited spots in the whole of Kosovo, not just Prizren. The fortress is free to enter, and the view from the top is simply divine. It’s an incredible place for sunrise and sunset watching.
Enjoy The Nightlife In Pristina
The capital city is a great place to enjoy a spot of nightlife and probably one of the most vibrant places in the entire country. You’ll find music from all over Europe, clubs, bars, and some incredible restaurants to line your stomach before you head out. Be sure to try some authentic Kosovo food, including cevapcici, which is quite common across the whole of the Balkan region. This is a type of skinless sausage, and it’s delicious.
One of the best places to eat in the whole of Kosovo is called a gebabtore. This is a barbecue meat restaurant where you can get all your local delicacies.
Explore Rugova Canyon
If outdoor adventures are your thing, then head to Peja and the nearby Rugova Canyon, one of Europe’s deepest and longest canyons. Caving here is very popular, with stunning underground crystals, as well as stalagmites and stalactites to explore. The area is also famous for walking, hiking, biking, and generally enjoying nature.
Visit The Bear Sanctuary At Novo Selo
Very close to the capital you will find one of the most astonishing sights – bears! Once upon a time, bears were mistreated by the tourism industry and used for entertainment. Thankfully that is now illegal, and these beautiful creatures are roaming free and healthy in this wonderful sanctuary.
Ski In The Sjeshket E Sharrit Mountains
Whether you’ve skied before in your life or not, this is the best place to go for winter sports fun and stunning views. You’ll also hear these mountains called the Sharr Mountains, and they offer alpine fun at a fraction of the price you would pay in the more well-known ski resorts across Europe.
Brezovica is the best place for beginners, but it also has some higher-quality runs for experienced skiers. The highest spot is around 2,200 meters, which gives you an idea of the views.
See The Pec Patriarchate Monastery
Located close to the entrance to the Rugova Canyon, you will find one of the most beautiful buildings, called the Pec Patriarchate Monastery. This is an Orthodox monastery that dates back to the 13th century. It is part of Kosovo’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Medieval Monuments of Kosovo, which gives you an idea of its importance. Set with the Rugova Canyon in the background, the view is impressive.
Visit The Marble Cave
Another popular natural spot to visit is the Marble Cave, which is very close to the capital, and therefore easy to reach. Parts of the cave are still to be explored, but the parts that are open to the public are really spectacular. This is one of the best places in Kosovo for nature lovers.
Visit Visoki Decani Monastery
If you’re a fan of history, head to the burial place of the Serbian King Stevan Decanski from the 14th century. This beautiful monastery is quite close to Peja and is another site that’s part of the above-mentioned UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stroll The Longest Bazaar In The Balkans
In the town of Gjakova, about halfway between Prizren and Peja, lies one of the top things to do in Kosovo. The Grand Bazaar is a kilometer long and home to no fewer than 500 shops. It’s the longest bazaar in the Balkans, a place that should be on any visitor’s to-do list. Other nearby attractions include the Hadum Mosque and a clocktower.
Hike Bjeshkët E Nemuna National Park
Located near Rugova Canyon and Pec, Bjeshkët E Nemuna National Park is one of the two national parks in Kosovo. Its natural diversity is nothing short of impressive, ranging from mountains and valleys to forests and lakes. There’s epic hiking here, as well as superb wildlife watching; the park is home to wolves, deer, mountain goats, and even brown bears.
Best Places To Stay In Kosovo
Kosovo has plenty of options for accommodation, but to give you a few starters, here are some great places to stay in a few of the main towns and cities.
Hotel Hani, Peja
This small, family-run hotel is the ideal spot when staying in Peja and even provides an airport shuttle to make your life easier. Rated as five stars, it’s like a home away from home, with an on-site restaurant that serves delicious, mouth-watering meals with authentic hints. Free parking is also available so that you can explore the local area in and around Peja with ease.
Hotel Princi I Arberit, Pristina
Another five-star choice, this hotel is a great and central place to base yourself during your exploration of the capital city. The outside swimming pool is ideal for those traveling with kids, and the spa and wellness center is suitable for people who fancy a treatment or two. The on-site bar and restaurant will be a great welcome home vibe after a long day of sightseeing.
Astoria Luxury & Spa, Gjilan
A modern place to stay, this hotel gives you a luxury spot to rest your head, while the on-site spa is ideal for ultimate relaxation. Rooms are ultra-modern and spacious and have a coffee machine in every room, taking care of your morning brew. The bar and restaurant are also fantastic for international and local dishes.
Hotel International Prishtina & Spa
Staying in the capital means five-star luxury, and this hotel certainly fits the bill. There is a swimming pool and bar with a spa and wellness center on-site to complete your amenity list. Rooms are large, modern, and there is free WiFi to keep you connected.
Hotel Albatros, Prizren
If you’re with the kids, staying at this Prizren hotel is ideal. The hotel has an outdoor pool during the summer months, the perfect way to cool down. Overall, this hotel is a central and comfortable choice and also offers airport shuttles to make life easier. Check out the on-site restaurant for some mouthwatering local dishes.
These are some of the best places to visit in Kosovo, a country that you might not have had on your visit list, but that should be on it now!
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