KOSOVO TRAVEL GUIDE
INTRODUCTION TO KOSOVO
Kosovo is Europe's newest country and a fascinating land at the heart of the Balkans that rewards visitors with welcoming smiles, charming mountain towns, incredible hiking opportunities and 13th-century domed Serbian monasteries just for starters.
Kosovo is still a disputed territory and after a lengthy and often violent dispute with Serbia, Kosovo declared independence in February 2008. As of 2019, 101 UN states recognise it as independent, and the Republic of Kosovo has become a member country of the IMF and World Bank, despite heavy Serbian opposition. While the legitimacy of the Kosovar government is disputed by many UN countries, from a traveller's point of view the Kosovar government has de facto control of most of the country; local Serb authorities administer five municipalities in the north.
It’s safe to travel here now, and indeed is one of the last corners of Europe that remains off the beaten track for travellers.
KOSOVO COVID-19 TRAVEL STATUS
Kosovo has reopened its airport to international flights.Entry restrictionsKosovo has reopened its airport to international flights.There are medical staff at border crossings and the airport and travelers may be subject to a health check. There are no requirements to self-isolate on entry into Kosovo, but travelers should follow the instructions of the medical staff on the border.Entry requirementsAll travelers entering Kosovo from countries assessed as High Risk by the ECDC must present a medical certificate with a negative RT-PCR test result issued within 72 hours prior to departure.Quarantine requirementsTravelers who enter Kosovo without a negative RT-PCR test, taken within the last 72 hours, are subject to self-isolate for 7 days.Transiting rulesForeign travelers in transit who will leave Kosovo within 3 hours are not required to present a medical certificate with a negative RT-PCR test result. However, they must present a valid document such as plane ticket and sign a declaration that they will leave the territory within 3 hours.There are currently 10,191 active cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Kosovo and 798 deaths as of Nov 15 2020
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KOSOVO QUICK FACTS
Currency: Euro (€)
Area: 10,887 km²
Population: 1,845 million (2018)
Language: Official: Albanian 95%, Serbian 3% Regionally Spoken: Turkish, Romany
Religion: Muslim 95%, Orthodox 4%, Roman Catholic 1%
Electricity: 230V/50Hz (European plug)
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KOSOVO PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 7 January, Orthodox Christmas
- 17 February, Independence Day
- 9 April, Constitution Day
- 1 May, International Labor Day
- 9 May, Europe Day
Also, Easter Monday, Orthodox Easter Monday, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha.
BEST TIME TO VISIT KOSOVO
Kosovo has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. Snow can fall as early as November and as late as April. July and August are invariably hot, although May and June can be too. The night-time/daytime temperature differential is generally greatest in September and October.
The best time to come to Kosovo is during spring (late April, May or early June), when the fields are bright green but there is still some snow on the tops of the mountains and the flowers in the meadows are in bloom. There is still a risk of heavy rain in April but it is rare for this to last more than a day or so. In July, August and early September the flights and roads are busy with travelling not quite as easy or cheap and the weather can easily be too hot to explore - although September generally offers pleasant weather.
April - PriFest, the Pristina International Film Festival, brings a touch of international glamour to the capital.
May to September - You don't have to worry about high-season crowds in Kosovo!
August - The excellent DokuFest in Prizren is Kosovo's best arts event.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN KOSOVO
The snow sports season in Kosovo is in January and February, boasting some of the cheapest skiing opportunities in all of Europe.
HIKING & CYCLING IN KOSOVO
The best time for outdoor activities in Kosovo is from April to December. Remember to pack a rain jacket when hiking in the mountains!
KOSOVO TRAVEL COSTS
The newest country in Europe is also possibly the cheapest one to travel in the Balkans. The capital Pristina is modern and full of trendy coffee shops where locals gather to sip delicious coffee and catch up for hours, and Prizren is a small but charming old town, often compared to Mostar in Bosnia.
KOSOVO TRAVEL TIPS
The best way to travel intercity in Kosovo is by bus. Buses are relatively cheap - Pristina to Peja is €4.00, for example. Within Pristina, rides cost €0.40. Kosovo has good bus connections between Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia, with regular services from Pristina, Peja and Prizren to Tirana (Albania), Skopje (Macedonia) and Podgorica (Montenegro). There's also a train line from Pristina to Macedonia's capital, Skopje.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF KOSOVO
- See the sights in Pristina's charming bazaar area and discover this bustling capital.
- Breathe deep at Peja's Saturday Cheese Market.
- Buy local wine and cheese at the serene 14th-century Visoki Dečani Monastery
- Wander the picturesque streets of Prizren's charming old town.
- Trek around the Rugova Mountains.
- Visit Kosovo's new Bear Sanctuary Pristina and see rescued bears living under excellent conditions.
Pristina - Far more a provincial town than great city, Pristina makes for an unlikely national capital, and yet feels more cosmopolitan than the capitals of many larger Balkan nations due to the number of foreigners working here: the UN and EU both have large presences here and the city feels rich and more sophisticated as a result. Pristina is a fast changing city and one that feels full of optimism and potential, even if its traffic-clogged streets and mismatched architectural styles don't make it an obviously attractive place.
Not far in distance, but worlds away from the chaotic capital, the smaller towns of Peja and Prizren both offer a different pace and a new perspective on Kosovar life.
Prizren - The most historical city in Kosovo, capital of the Serbian empire in the XIV century. It has plenty of beautiful examples of Serbian and Ottoman medieval architecture. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Serbian Orthodox church of Our Lady of Ljeviš is located in the city. Even though the frescoes in the church are badly damaged (the building was largely destroyed by Albanians during the war), there are some stunning, ancient wall paintings here and the entire experience is a sad and troubling example of how ethnic hatred can fracture previously peaceful societies.
Peja - Known as the "City of Tourism", in western Kosovo, sits at the mouth of the Rugova Gorge and adjacent to the newly formed Accursed Mountains National Park. Peja is Kosovo's third-largest city and one flanked by sites vital to Orthodox Serbians. With a Turkish-style bazaar at its heart and the dramatic but increasingly accessible Rugova Mountains all around it, it's a diverse and progressive place that's fast becoming Kosovo's tourism hub.
Gračanica Monastery - Explore beyond Pristina by heading southeast to one of the most beautiful examples of Serbian medieval ecclesiastical architecture. This monastery was built by the Serbian king Milutin in the Serbo-Byzantine style. 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.
UNESCO World Heritage Site - Visoki Dečani Monastery is one of the most important monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Just 15km south of Peja, you will find one of Kosovo's absolute highlights - famous for its elegant and peculiar architecture. As an orthodox monastery from the XIII century, it successfully mixes western and eastern church building elements to form a particular hybrid style only known on the territory of old Serbia.
- Velika Hoča, a beautiful village with 13 medieval churches and a centuries-old tradition of wine-making.
- Waterfall Of The Drini River - Located north of Peja behind the Berdynaj village.
- The Rugova Gorge. The Rugova gorge is also to the north west of Peja and can be found by following the same road that leads to the Peć Patriarchy, and driving further. The canyon has extremely steep walls reaching up to 300 metres.
- The Gjakova Old Bazaar. A very beautiful old "shopping centre" from the 17th century. It was burned down during the war in 1999 and reconstructed recently. In the centre of the bazaar is an old mosque that was built in the 15th century.
- The Mitrovica Bridge. An interesting symbol of the division of the population in Kosovo. This bridge is the dividing line between Serbs and Albanians in Mitrovice/Mitrovica. It will almost always be safe to approach the bridge and look at it, although the French soldiers who guard it may not let you cross if the political situation is worse than normal (with 'normal' not being so good either way).
- Novo Brdo - Mentioned in the historical documents as early as 1326, Novo Brdo was a metropolis at the time, with a huge medieval fortress built on top of an extinct volcano cone, of which the remains can be visited today. In the outer wall of the fortress, a large cross is visible, built into the stones.
- Ulpiana, one of the oldest cities in the Balkan peninsula, is just 20-30 minutes away from Pristina towards Gjilan. It was re-constructed by emperor Justinian I.
WHAT TO EAT IN KOSOVO
'Traditional' food is generally Albanian – most prominently, stewed and grilled meat and fish. Kos (goat's-milk yoghurt) is eaten alone or with almost anything. Turkish kebabs and gjuveç (baked meat and vegetables) are common. Look out for:
Byrek - Pastry with cheese or meat.
Gjuveç - Baked meat and vegetables.
Fli - Flaky pastry pie served with honey.
Kos - Goat's-milk yoghurt.
Pershut - Dried meat.
Qofta - Flat or cylindrical minced-meat rissoles.
Tavë - Meat baked with cheese and egg.
Vranac - Red wine from the Rahovec region of Kosovo.