Rugged mountains, deep canyons, and traditional villages. Sounds like your perfect adventure destination? It could be. If you’re willing to be among the first to start exploring a recently war-torn country.
Kosovo isn’t the most obvious vacation destination. The landlocked region—some would call it a country, while others still claim it’s a territory—in Southeastern Europe declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 after years of conflict. The last six years have been spent rebuilding, learning to self-govern, and coming to terms with the past. Finally, tourists, lured by the Ottoman-style architecture and the beautiful landscape, are starting to arrive. They’re being welcomed with open arms.
In the Šar Mountains, near the borders of Albania and Macedonia, you find sweeping alpine fields, rocky cliffs, lots of sheep, and the village of Brod. Gorani people live here. They are Slavic Muslims who speak Našinski and make their living as cattle and sheep herders. Brod has stone houses and a hillside graveyard. A mosque and a church share the same courtyard. And strong Turkish coffee is served with surprisingly sweet pastries.
You spend the day hiking to Mount Cule along the shepherds’ paths. You pass rushing rivers, lots of juniper, and brightly colored mushrooms. Wild blueberries are growing everywhere. Sheep dogs bark at you when you get close to their flock. A lynx or a pair of wolves might be watching you from the distance.
You ride a horse through the narrow canyons. Rocky walls rise straight up on either side of you. Cold water comes streaming down the mountain. Your voice echoes through the gorge. Back in Brod, homemade bread, Sharri goat cheese, a vegetable casserole, sheep’s milk yogurt, and fresh honey are spread out for lunch. Two-beat kolo music is playing in the background. It all comes with an uninterrupted mountain view.
Your stop for the night, Hotel Arxhena, is only a few kilometers away. A narrow, dirt road leads to a surprisingly modern hotel set on the mountainside. During the winter, a rope tow pulls you up the side of the mountain, so you can ski or sled back down. It may not be ski season, but it is trout-fishing season. Within minutes, you have a rod and a guide, and you’re heading out to another mountain-fed river. Kosovo is peaceful now.