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Travels in Kosovo

Travels in Kosovo

View on hike to Prizren fortress Kosovo

History of Kosovo

The name Kosovo derives from a name meaning “field of blackbirds”. It is the smallest country in the Balkans, surrounded by several large mountain chains. It has a very young population, a quarter of which are under the age of 15.

It was part of the medieval Serbian empire before being ruled by the Ottoman empire for nearly 500 years, from the middle of the 15th century until the early 20th century. It then became part of Serbia and then the federation of Serbia.

View into Prizren from the fortress

in 1989 opposition to the Serb government grew amongst ethnic Albanians. their leader Ibrahim Rugova initiated a policy of non-violent protest. Tensions increased and the conflict escalated. The Kosovo Liberation Army came to prominence in 1996. They launched attacks on Serbian police officers and politicians. In 1998 the Serbian special police, later joined by the Yugoslav army tried to reassert control. Many atrocities were committed and large numbers of refugees began to flee the country.

The conflict was well documented by the international media. A “Contact Group” which consisted of the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France, Italy  and Russia made demands for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Yugoslav and Serbian forces from Kosovo. They also wanted international monitors to be allowed to enter the country.

The president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic outwardly appeared to accept these demands whilst actually implementing none of them. The KLA regrouped and launched more attacks. President Milosevic’s response to this was to introduce a policy of ethnic cleansing. Horrendous atrocities ensued. Despite efforts by the United Nations and the Security Council peace negotiations broke down.

The former president of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic

On March 24th 1999 NATO commenced airstrikes on Serbian military targets. President Milosevic’s response was to try to expel all ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, hundreds of thousands arrived in Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. the NATO airstrikes went on for 11 weeks and finally Belgrade was also targeted. In June a peace accord was  signed. Its terms included the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops, the return of 1 million ethnic Albanians who had fled Kosovo for other countries, as well as the 500,000 who had been displaced. Within Kosovo UN peacekeepers were deployed and it came under UN control.

Tensions continued. The federation of Yugoslavia broke up in 2003 and a federation of Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo was formed. In March 2004 anti-Serbian riots broke out in many cities, leaving 30 dead and 4,000 Serbs and other ethnic minorities displaced. In Feb 2008 Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Many countries around the world recognise Kosovo as an independent country. these include; the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, Japan, Italy and Sweden. Those that don’t include; Serbia, Russia, Argentina, Spain, Greece, China, India and Brazil.

In May 1999 Slobodan Milosevic was indicted for offenses against international law committed during the Kosovo conflict. He was then arrested in 2001 to stand trial for  the charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war cimes committed during the conflicts in the Balkans. The trial began in February 2002 but was never concluded. Milosevic was found dead in his prison cell on March 11th 2006.

I took part in an aid convoy to Bosnia at the height of the conflict there.


Statue and tribute to Bill Clinton in Pristina, Kosovo


Being the smallest country in the Balkans, it is possible to visit a lot of the country in a short time. The normal starting point is Kosovo’s capital Pristina. It is an easy, interesting place to start with a lovely old town next to a sweeping boulevard full of shops and outdoor cafes. Pristina also has a lively cafe scene and there are many funky coffee shops, restaurants and bars, I tried several of them. It is also an easy city to explore by foot.

Funky bar in Pristina Kosovo

On arrival I’d arranged to meet for beers with a local woman who has spent the last 3 years working for the UN in South Sudan. She was home visiting and was accompanied by an Egyptian friend who is doing his masters degree in Pristina. One of the best things about travelling for me is the wonderful and interesting people you meet along the way.

Mother Teresa Boulevard in Pristina, Kosovo

Things to See and Do in Pristina

The Newborn Monument

Newborn monument was erected when Kosovo gained independence from Serbia and its design changes every year.


sunset at the newborn monument in Pristina, Kosovo

The  Saint  Mother Teresa Cathedral

This very grand cathedral was consecrated in 2017. Thousands of Christians and Muslims gathered together for the consecration of the only cathedral dedicated to the Albanian born saint. The man appointed by Pope Francis to lead the ceremony was Father Simoni an Albanian priest. For 30 years the now 88 year old had been held in labour camps and regularly tortured under the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. During this time practicing religion was banned. Twice he was sentenced to death. In 2016 he was made cardinal of Albania.

Read more about Mother Teresa and about the dictatorship of President Hoxha in my Albanian post;


The cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa in Pristina, Kosovo

An Orhodox church in Pistina, Kosovo

Saint mother teresa cathedral in Pristina, Kosovo

Mother Teresa Statue

The main boulevard is also named after Mother Teresa. It is a lovely area to walk around and where you can also find the statue of Mother Teresa. The square also leads to Skanderbeg Square, the main plaza in Pristina. It is named after the Albanian freedom fighter whose statue dominates the square.

The statue of Mother Teresa in Pristina, Kosovo

Lovely message in Pristina, Kosovo

The Skanderberg statue in Pristina, Kosovo

Wave at the Bill Clinton statue

The Bill Clinton statue in Pristina, Kosovo

Bill Clinton is held in great esteem here in Kosovo for his help in the fight for Kosovan independence. There is Bill Clinton Boulevard, a huge banner of his face and a larger than life statue. They give him credit for the Nato bombing campaign which ended the conflict  here in 1999. There is also a clothes shop called Hillarys.

Statue and tribute to Bill Clinton in Pristina, Kosovo

boulevard named after Bill Clinton

The tribute to Bill Clinton in Pristina, Kosovo

Visit the National Library

This is the National library in Pristina, Kosovo. It has been described as the world’s ugliest building! It was designed by a Croatian  architect Andrija Mutnjakovic, it opened in 1982. There were already tensions in Kosovo and he looked for something to unify the 2 sides. He came up with the idea of using cubes and domes which are common features in Ottoman and Byzantine architecture. There are 99 domes of different sizes. You will either love it or hate it but either way it is worth a look. I think it looks better from a distance. In the war the Serbian army used it as their headquarters.


The National Library Pristina, Kosovo

Pristina National Library Kosovo

The ugliest building in the world in Pristina, Kosovo

It is in complete contrast to the building it sits next to.

Cathedral Church of Christ the Savior

Construction began in 1992 but it was never completed. Former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic ordered its construction in the mainly Albanian city to strengthen the Serb hold there. When war broke out construction stopped. It has never been finished and neither was it demolished. It can’t be agreed what should happen to it, so its ghostly presence haunts the city. Some locals still refer to it as the Milosevic church.

Old church in Pristina, Kosovo

Church of christ the saviour Pristina, Kosovo

Walk Around the Old Town

Wander around the old town and visit the Sultan Mehmet Faith Mosque built in 1461 and the old clock tower.

arches of mosque in Pristina, Kosovo

the clock tower in Pristina, Kosovo

The Sultan Mehmet Faith Mosque in Pristina, Kosovo

Where to Stay in Pristina, Kosovo

the most famous hotel is the Swiss Diamond Hotel , a luxurious 5 star hotel just off Mother Teresa Boulevard.

My budget didn’t stretch to this. Instead I stayed in a lovely family run guesthouse just across the road called the Sleep Inn

Where to Eat

All the locals I spoke to recommended one restaurant ‘Liburnia’. It was wonderful, a real secret garden, full of character. This is where I spent my last night in Kosovo. A good way to finish in this lovely, old restaurant. Beautiful place, full of character and fabulous food.

Fabulous food, Kosovo
The oven at the Liburnia restaurant in Pristina, Kosovo
The Liburnia restaurant in Pristina, Kosovo
The outside of the Linernia restaurant in Pristina, Kosovo

Outside Pristina

Prishtina Bear Sanctuary


Bear at Prishtina sanctuary
Prishtina bear sanctuary
About 25 mins drive outside of Pristina is the bear sanctuary. For me visiting there was quite an emotional experience. I worked as a volunteer at a bear sanctuary in Romania. It was a wonderful experience to get to know the bears and their characters. Their stories were horrific, including one who was blinded to prevent him from trying to run away. Many of these had similar sad stories, as shown by the photos of the conditions some were found in.
Reviews and book a visit
A bear in terrible conditions Kosovo
A bear before being rescued Kosovo
This sanctuary was wonderful and brought back lots of memories. It is in such a fantastic setting too. It was sad to read the stories of the individual bears and a couple were obviously still traumatised by their experiences. To see others though  relaxed and clearly enjoying their space and new surroundings was magical. It is a fabulous place and does lots teaching future generations about bears and other wildlife conservation. The sanctuary in Romania should also be visited, again over a massive area with forest and rivers.
A beautiful bear at Prishtina bear sanctuary
A contented bear at the sanctuary in Kosovo
A rescued bear at the sanctuary in Kosovo
Portrait of a bear at Prishtina bear sanctuary
A bear at the sanctuary in Pristina, Kosovo
Bear enjoying the sun at Prishtina bear sanctuary
View from Prishtina bear sanctuary


I caught the local bus for Pristina to Peja, it took one hour 40 minutes. The good thing about travelling with locals is that you pay local prices it cost 4 Euros.

Peja is nestled in the Accursed mountains. With a river flowing through the centre and with views to the mountains it is a pretty spot.

Peja in KosovoBeautiful views in Peja, Kosovo

The old bazaar is not the original. This was destroyed twice during World War 2 and again during the war in Kosovo. It is now a mix of ancient and modern.

A music shop in Peja bazaar, KosovoThe bazaar in Peja

I’d also been told about the local cheese market. As I love cheese it was a must visit. I got to sample lots of homemade cheese and came away with a bag full.

At the cheese market in Paja, Kosovo

There is also a lovely main square.

Square in Peja

As I had a full day hiking the next day I had a leisurely wander then relaxed in one of the bars and restaurants by the river. A lovely little spot for a beer and a cocktail.

Me having a cocktail and a beer by the river in PejaA beer with a view in Peja, Kosovo

The reason most people visit Peja is for the wonderful nature and hiking opportunities nearby.

The Rugova Valley

The following day I’d arranged to do a full day’s hiking tour. The 1st stop was at one of the oldest local bakeries, where we bought burek, fresh out of the oven. The  drive through the 25 kms of Rugova canyon is both incredibly dramatic and very beautiful. At times it has a depth of 1,000 metres. Created by the Pej glacier it left me awe struck. Flanked by the Accursed mountains, its forests still home to bears and wolves. The villages in the canyon were evicted by Serbia militia’s during the conflict and then burnt. Now villagers are starting to return. Previously they were farmers and pastures their animals on the slopes. Now as both local and foreign tourists begin to discover the beauty of the area, many are opening restaurants and chalets.

Driving through the Rugova canyonMe at the Rugova canyonThe road through the Rugova canyon

Driving through the Rugova canyon, Kosovo

One of the most popular stops is at the view of the old stone bridge.

The old stone bridge in the Rugova canyon, Kosovo

We stopped at the top of the mountain where we ate our burek.Breakfast on top of the rugova mountains Kosovo A beautiful breakfast view and a lovely start to the day.

burek-for-breakfast-kosovoBreakfast view in the Rugova mountains Kosovo

From here we began the hike to Lake Liqenat. The hike was through a forest in the Accursed Mountains with fabulous views all around. Wild blueberries grow by the sides of the path and wild flowers also abound

Hike through the forest KosovoWild flower in the Rugova mountains, KosovoWild berries Rugova canyonThe lake is at an elevation of 6,463 feet and marks the border between Kosovo and Montenegro. You can swim across it and cross the border, although being a glacial lake it may be a tad chilly! The colours are stunning, the greens of the forest and white of the clouds reflected on the blue lake. Wild flowers add splashes of purple and yellow. It was so peaceful, the only accompaniment the songs of the birds.

Leqinat lake in Kosovo

Apparently I am like a wild goat. We reached the lake in about half the normal time. The guide said I had a very fast pace, I thought I was taking it steady

Me at Lake Leqinat, KosovoReflections on Lake Leqinat, Kosovo

The Patriarchal Monastery of Pec

In a beautiful setting situated halfway between the city of Peja and the entrance to the Rugova canyon lies the Patriarchal Monastery of Pec. The red walls of the monastery provide a striking contrast to the green of the surrounding hills. it is a very peaceful and tranquil spo.t Built in the 13th century, it is now home to an order of 20 nuns who follow the Julian calendar .There is also a little gift shop where I purchased some of their homemade red wine.

The Patriarchal Monastery of Pec in KosovoThe Patriarchal Monastery of PecGardens of the monastery near Peja, Kosovo

A nun at the Patriarchal Monastery of Pec in Kosovo

Inside the church are some lovely, well preserved frescoes.

Inside the monastery at Peja, KosovoBeautiful frescoes in the monastery in KosovoMe inside the monastery in Peja, KosovoA fresco in the monastery at Peja

The White Drin River

The White Drin river is the longest in Kosovo. It originates in a cave before cascading over the 25 metre waterfall. When I visited  there was not much water, although it was still very beautiful and very clear. In the Spring with the melting snow the water pressure is very fierce. It is another lovely area for a hike through the park and is only 11km from Peja. The White Drin river and waterfall KosovoThe White Drin waterfall Kosovo

Me at White Drin waterfall Kosovo

The Sleeping Beauty Cave

This is the origin of the White Drin river and is reached by a path by the side of the waterfall and up a winding path through the forest. it was originally just used by locals and was subject to litter and grafitti until a project was initiated to preserve it. The path leading to it was dark and dangerous.  My guide for my hiking tour was part of that project and now overseas the running of the cave. Metal bridges were installed . 4 types of bat inhabit the cave and special lights were installed that do not interfere with their natural habitat.  The cave is at least 2 million yeas old. There is even a bats gallery which I was entranced by,

The Sleeping Beauty cave Kosovo

Bats fly overhead, glistening stalactites hang from the ceiling and new stalagmites form into all kinds of shapes and colours.  Digital mapping of the cave was carried out by teams from all over Europe and I was lucky enough to see the results.

Inside the Sleeping Beauty cave Kosovo

Wow, what a day -I’d been out for 8 and a half hours. I was now totally shattered, but had seen and learnt so much. I still had burek and the bottle of wine from the monastery. The nun said it is dry and strong, it’s bloody lovely. This is the Lake Liquenat. Everything was on such a big scale today.

Wine from the monastery in Peja, Kosovo

Where to stay in Peja, Kosovo

I stayed at a lovely family run place called the Stone Bridge Hotel . So friendly and helpful with great recommendations and a lovely rooftop terrace on which to relax.

My room at the stone bridge hotel in Peja, Kosovo

My room at the Stone Bridge hotel in Peja, Kosovo

Where to Eat in Peja

There are some fantastic bakeries for tasty snacks. One of the good things about staying with local families is recommendations for the best food. The Art Design restaurant didn’t disappoint. Great setting, fabulous decor and wonderful food.


Fantastic food at the Art Design restaurant in Peja, KosovoInside Art Design restaurant Peja

Hiking Tours

I organised my hiking tour with Outdoor Kosovo. They were absolutely excellent, so much knowledge and care and gave me a good price as I was travelling solo.



Prizren is situated at the foothills of the Sharr mountains with the Bistrica river running through the centre. Surrounded by rolling hills and overlooked by a magnificent citadel. It is very pretty with its mosques, churches, ancient hamam and old stone bridge. Although it didn’t much ffrom bombing during the war, during the further unrest in 2004 many buildings and cultural treasures were damaged or vandalised by rioters. Many ethnic Albanians left the city in the early 1990s. When the war ended in 1999 and peacekeepers entered the Albanians returned and in return the Serbs fled. 97% of Serbs and 60% of Romas left. Of the 20,000 Serbs who were here in 1999 only 20 remain.
Beautiful Prizren in Kosovo

Kalaja Fortress

Some of the best views are from the old fortress, high on the hill and it is well worth the hike. The path is well marked and there are scenic views en route. The path takes you past another famous landmark.

The Church of the Holy Saviour

Built in 1330, it was declared a monument of culture of extreme importance. It was badly damaged during the unrest and riots of 2004.

View to the Sharr mountains Prizren, KosovoView of the church of the holy saviour, Prizren, Kosovo
The beautiful church of the holy saviour, Prizren, Kosovo
The views of Prizen from the top of the fortress are spectacular.
View of Prizren, Kosovo from the fortressPanoramic Prizren from the fortressThe battlements of Prizren fortressView from Prizren fortress, KosovoCanon at Prizren fortress Kosovo

The Sinan Pasha Mosque

At the heart of the old town sits this very impressive mosque. It was built from marble taken from the 14th century monastery of Michael the Archangel.

The Sinan Pasha Mosque in Prizren, KosovoCourtyard of Prizren mosque

Mosque in the heart of Pristina

St. George’s Cathedral

It was built between 1856 – 1887. During the unrest and riots of 2004 it was looted and set on fire. It has since been renovated and has since been visited by Ban-Ki-Moon and Prince Charles.

Cathedral in Prizren, Kosovo

View of the cathedral in Prizren, Kosovo
The Church of Our Lady of Ljevis church was also badly damaged during the rioting. It was placed on the UNESCO in danger list. It remains closed

The Old Stone Bridge

The most famous bridge over the river is Ura e gurrit – the old stone bridge. Built in the 15th century it has been damaged many times and was destroyed by a flood in 1979. It was soon rebuilt, this bridge is under state protection.

The stone bridge in Prizren, Kosovo

Gazi Mehmed Pasha Hamam

The original Turkish bath was built from 1563 – 1564 and is well worth a look.

The ha mam in Prizren, Kosovo

Just Wander Around

Prizren is one of those cities best explored on foot just wandering around immersing yourself in the atmosphere.
Pretty Prizren in KosovoColourful house in Prizren, Kosovo
Bridge of locks, Prizren, Kosovo
Old houses in Prizren, Kosovo

Prizren by Night

Prizren by night is also very beautiful. With  the river running through the city spanned by the old stone bridge and the illuminated mosques, churches, and fortress. These sitting alongside funky bars and restaurants. A city of contrasts. With such a young population the city comes alive at night.
Prizren by nightPrizren mosque by nightThe church of the holy saviour illuminated at nightOutdoor bar in Prizren, KosovoGreat bar in Prizren, Kosovo

I stayed at the wonderful  Monarch Boutique Hotel. Some of the best photographs I took were from the balcony of my hotel room.

The view from my hotel balcony in Prizren, Kosovo


The old hammam in Prizren, KosovoView from my hotel balcony in Prizren, KosovoPrizren at night


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