If you’ve ever met anyone who’s been to Kosovo and Rugova, you probably know what sentence usually follows:
“I never expected it to be so beautiful.”
Kosovo’s lack of visibility on the global stage – as well as its status as one of the youngest countries in the world – means the country is barely known outside of the Balkan region.
In fact most people who find themselves in Kosovo likely just intended to pass by to see an off-the-beaten-path destination on their way to somewhere else, and instead what they found was a vibrant, magnificent country with deep-rooted history and sights like no other.
Although it is worth meandering around the busy streets in Kosovo’s cities, that’s not what this article is about. This article is about a place you probably have never heard of. A place that isn’t really written about in travel blogs. That place is Rugova – Kosovo’s fairytale mountain spot.
So, what is Rugova?
It’s stunningly beautiful, that’s what it is!
Rugova is a mountain region situated in the northwestern part of the country. Placed within “Bjeshkët e Nemuna”, which locals call the Accursed Mountains. They are also called the Albanian Alps, if you’d like a merrier name.
This region has been a national park since 2013. It is also an important winter sports region for the International Ski Federation. For regular, non-winter sports professionals there are beautiful hiking trails, skiing, mountaineering and paragliding opportunities, as well as wonderful spots for a high-altitude picnic. Some of the region’s best walks can be found in this fantastic book.
Because of its unique position as an under explored region in a barely-explored country, Rugova remains pretty undiscovered and completely unspoiled. Making it the perfect destination if you’re looking to go off the beaten track and find yourself in complete cultural and environmental immersion.
Things to do in Rugova
The Rugova mountains are blessed with a myriad of Earth’s most instagrammable places. There are caves, 30 meter waterfalls, glacial lakes (some at ridiculously high altitudes), mountain peaks and natural-made tunnels all around the region.
The Lumbardhi River, which splits the mountains in half and creates a valley and a canyon, is also pretty perfect too.
The highest peak in the region is Hajla, standing tall at 2,403 m (7,884 ft). Bogë is a small mountain village and holiday resort destination located near the Hajla peak. It stands at an altitude of about 1,300m – 1,400m. There are several chalets around if you want a proper and cheap winter getaway in the mountains. It’s the perfect place to ski or simply sit by a warm fire in your lovely new little abode.
Leginat is another great visit – this beautiful mountain lake stands at an elevation of 1,970 m (6,463 ft) and is famous all over Kosovo. It is located just above the village of Kuqishte. This spot is perfect for a family weekend or a romantic getaway with a significant other.
For the more adventurous types, there is also a via ferrata (climbing path) that starts 4 km (2.5 mi) from Peja, a city that stands at the entrance of the Rugova mountains. The via ferrata here is one-of-a-kind in the Balkan region.
And for the more spiritual types, there are several monasteries along the twisting roads of Rugova, most notably the Monastery of Decan. This 14th century relic sits in the midst of a dark forest. Monks still reside here, and produce goods such as wine and cheese.
Food in Rugova
Apart from the beauty of this mostly undiscovered mountain region, a lot of the appeal comes from another fairly obvious element – the food! This place can be hard to navigate if you’re vegan, but if you’re a meat and dairy lover, you’ve come to the right area.
For breakfast, perhaps you want to start with trilece. Trilece is a milk and cream pie you can order at any cafe as a lovely sweet companion to your Turkish coffee or tea.
You might want a snack during your morning treks, so try flija, a pie made of what is essentially a pile of thin pancakes with yogurt or kaymak (buttery cheese) filling.
For lunch, you’ll want to try some sarma – a dish famous all over the Balkans which consists of minced meat and rice mixed together with leafy greens and sauce on top. It’ll definitely help you get your energy back after all that trekking!
There’s also burek (meat-filled crumbly pastry), cevapi (Balkan sausages) and meat-stuffed peppers for those looking for even more fuel.
Why you should visit Rugova
Not many places in the world offer the strange and beautiful mix of skiing and rural spots, and ancient and cultural traditions that’ll give you a glimpse into the often unknown world of Kosovo.
Whether you prefer to walk around the old towns or up in the mountains breathing in the fresh mountain air, or maybe staying in a wooden cabin sitting beside the fireplace observing the valleys from above, Rugova has it all.
There’s aren’t many more picturesque places in this world than here too, and very few that are as affordable. So tell us, what are you waiting for?
Recommended for your trip to Rugova
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