Table of contents
- 1 Is it worth to visit Kosovo?
- 2 Is Kosovo safe?
- 3 What to see in Kosovo
- 4 Kosovo tourism – practical information
Is it worth to visit Kosovo?
First things first. If you keep wondering is it worth to visit Kosovo, while the countries nearby are so interesting and beautiful (I’m looking at you Albania, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia) my answer is simple – YES. Kosovo tourism is still unspoiled, the country is visited only by a handful of people who are not afraid of the unknown land. And that what makes it even a more attractive destination to visit as everything around feels just real, not made for tourists! Another bonus – even if the local currency is Euro, Kosovo is really cheap!
Is Kosovo safe?
Again – YES. I felt completely safe for all the time. True, there was a violent civil war not so long ago and there are still tensions in the country but for a tourists visiting Kosovo there is nothing to worry about. I was traveling solo there and didn’t have a single awkward or nervous situation, I also don’t know of any other travelers who had any sort of issues in Kosovo. Everyone around was super friendly, trying to help me even when I didn’t need it. I was out in Prizren and Pristina in the evening (mostly in the center but still) and no one bothered me at all. Also due to the specific situation of Kosovo there are numerous foreign forces looking after the country. You might see soldiers walking up and down the main boulevard of Pristina but there is no need to worry – they simply want to show off, behaving like on a runway and looking like a million bucks. Just like in every other place, use your common sense, don’t do things you wouldn’t do at home and you will be more than fine! Kosovo is really safe!
What to see in Kosovo
Kosovo isn’t the most spectacular country in the Balkans but it has its moments. The cities might be not the most beautiful you will ever see but chances you will fall for its cafes, vibe, landscape and people are very high. Kosovo really has a lot to offer to travelers! Below are my top places to visit in Kosovo:
Second biggest city in Kosovo and a picture perfect gem of the country (at least in the Old Town). If there is one place you need to visit in Kosovo it has to be Prizren. Have you seen the picture of the old stone bridge, the mosque and the lush mountains in the background? That’s Prizren! And in reality it’s even more beautiful! The Old Town is bustling with numerous cafes and restaurants, too many to count, cobbled streets are filled with tables ready for you to relax over an exceptional cup of coffee. Shadervan – the main square – seems to be always full of people, just hanging out, doing their businesses. But the highlight of Prizren is Kaljaja – the fortress with the most spectacular view you will see in Kosovo! It’s an easy hike up there from the Old Town and you are easily entitled to spend most of your day up there. Kaljaja, alongside with Shadervan, is the place to be in Prizren! Rumours say it’s the most beautiful during sunset – I wish I could confirm this but when I was about to hike up there the thunderstorm rolled over Prizren…
I’m really hoping to return to Prizren, maybe in August for Dokufest – a world famous International Documentary and Short Film Festival. But I’m also hoping to explore more of the city, to dwell into its rough backstreets with abandoned or falling houses. Prizren is so much more than postcards show!
One of the least beautiful capitals in Europe yet among the most interesting (and my favorite) ones! Pristina is vibrant, cool, chic, cosmopolitan in a way. The monuments you find there are rather boring (unless we talk about the National Library of Kosovo – probably the most amazing brutalist building I’ve seen, the one that started my love for this architecture style – yet Pristina makes you feel ecstatic. There is just something about this city that holds you tight and doesn’t want to let you go!
My story with Pristina was very similar to the my affair with Yerevan, Armenia. After the first visit I was more or less indifferent – it was fine but the city didn’t blow me away. However, shortly after I started thinking about Pristina more and more often, dreaming of return to get to know it better. And so I did! I’ve spent 4 days in Pristina, the city that can be „done” in 2 hours, and I’d return there in a heartbeat! My days were filled with some of the best cafes I’ve ever visited, great brutalist architecture, warm evenings, delicious food, good street art (including Mr.Chat I know from Sarajevo) and amazing people. If you’re into slow travel Pristina is a place for you!
The most challenging place to visit in Kosovo, the one that has been on my mind for a long time. The city is divided into the Southern (Albanian) and Northern (Serbian) part, with the ongoing tension between these two. I must admit I was slightly afraid to visit Mitrovica but, as always, it turned out there was nothing to worry about and it was only mi mind playing tricks. I’m kind of fascinated with divided city and Mitrovica was such an interesting place to explore. As soon as you cross the (blocked and protected by international forces, like Italian Carabinieri) bridge everything changes: alphabet, currency, license plates (on the Serbian side most of the cars don’t have any) or the places of worship. Even people look different. I can’t decided which side I liked more as Northern has one of spomeniks yet Southern had a great cafe with umbrellas. Politics aside, Mitrovica makes a perfect day trip from Pristina and for me it’s a must when you visit Kosovo!
A getaway to Rugova Canyon and Prokletije Mountains and home to Patriarchate of Peć – UNESCO World Heritage Site. But for me it was just a laid-back city with the fanciest coffee I had in Kosovo (for just 2€!), good street art and a decent bazaar. I didn’t even go to Patriarchate of Peć because coffee. It was a good place to spend a relaxing afternoon at but of all the places I’ve visited in Kosovo it’s the last one on my personal list. However, if mountains are your thing don’t miss Peja!
My biggest surprise in Kosovo! Gjakova was badly damaged during the war but after the recent renovation it’s blooming again! You can spend at least few hours in the Grand Bazaar only, an unique place with numerous craft workshops and cafes, the oldest and largest bazaar in Kosovo. The main lane, lined with cafes is decorated with artistic installations by local artist Mimoza Rraci and it looks just amazing. I dare to say it’s the most beautiful cafes area I’ve ever seen! But Gjakova is more than that, the whole town with the surrounding mountains is a lovely place to visit and another perfect day trip from Pristina or Prizren.
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Kosovo tourism – practical information
How to get to Kosovo?
Recently there are more and more low cost flights to the Balkans – you can fly directly to Pristina from Germany, France, Hungary, Switzerland or England (I paid 60€/return from Berlin to Pristina in May 2016) or you can get to Skopje, Macedonia and take the bus to Kosovo – it’s super easy! You can find the best deal at SkyScanner, that’s where I always look for flights too! BalkanViator is the best source of bus schedules in the Balkans, it never disappointed me! From Skopje buses to Pristina depart more or less every hour, the journey takes a little bit over 2 hours. In November 2014 and May 2016 I paid 5€ for one way ticket.
Public transport in Kosovo
To my great surprise the public transport in Kosovo was excellent. There are frequent and cheap buses between cities, there might not be the most comfortable ones but decent enough to survive the 2-3 hours journey. At the bus stations you will have no problems with finding the right bus as each destination has a dedicated platform – if it’s not written anywhere people will point you to the right place before you even ask them for help! Just keep in mind that sometimes the last bus leaves rather early, around 6pm. Here are the prices of tickets in May 2016: Prizren – Gjakova 2,50€; Gjakova – Peja 2,50€; Peja – Prizren 4€; Prizren-Pristina 3€, Pristina – Mitrovica 2€.
Where to stay in Kosovo
I stayed in Prizren for 2 nights (from there I did a day trip to Gjakova and Peja) and then in Pristina for 3 nights (with a day trip to Mitrovica). You can also stay in Pristina for your whole stay and do day trips from there – the country is really small and it’s 2 hours journey to each of the interesting place. I stayed at the hostel in Pristina that I don’t really recommend but here you can find some better options! If you decide to stay in Prizren here you can book your hotel (for some reason the one I stayed at is no longer available).
Further read on Kosovo
- Kosovo: The Bradt Travel Guide – the best travel guide for the country (Lonely Planet has only few pages on Kosovo)
- Kosovo: What Everyone Needs to Know
- Kosovo: A Short History
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