A new and small country, Kosovo has had an interesting recent history. After being occupied by the Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans, Kosovo then was part of Yugoslavia and had to fight with the other countries to gain its independence and freedom. The Serbians, however, were not willing to part with this land, creating a large conflict. Approximately 95 percent of the Kosovo population are ethnic Albanians, descendants of the Illyrian people, yet Serbia still staked its claim to the land. Ethnic cleansing of Albanians began and people started fleeing the country, mostly to the neighboring countries, especially Albania. The UN and NATO got involved and started fighting against the Yugoslav and Serbian troops. Over half a million people of both Albanian and Serbian descent were displaced from their homes during this time. Eventually, after years of fighting, Kosovo declared its independence in 2008. This is supported by the UN and formally recognized by 112 of the 193 countries that are members of the UN. There is peace for now but still a long way to move forward.
Despite the recent war in Kosovo, the people here have moved on. You will find that it is now a fairly safe place to be in the major cities of Prishtina and Prizren. The locals, in fact, welcome and encourage people to come to their country because they are such a proud people. Do keep in mind that the war is a touchy subject with many of them and they don't like to discuss their experiences. It is a topic that should be approached with some tact and consideration.
Prishtina is the capital city and the economic heart of the country. Despite there not being a lot to look at in the way of touristic things to do, you will find a large number of really nice cafes, restaurants and bars here to hang out in. The locals really enjoy this as a pastime.
Prizren is the second largest city and the cultural heart of the country. It is here that you will find the old ruins of the castle on the hill, stunning architecture in the mosques and a chilled-out vibe of the river running through the town with all of the quaint bridges. They have a documentary film festival here known as Dokufest, which is incredibly popular with the locals and not to be missed if you can get there in August.
These are the only places where you can really find hostels right now as the country is still new and developing its tourism. There are only a couple of hostels here so you need to book in advance to make sure you get a hostel room or bed. Buses getting into and out of the country usually go via Prishtina if coming from Macedonia or Serbia and via Prizren if coming from Albania. Be cautious, however, if you are traveling through this region because it is not advisable to go from Kosovo into Serbia. Traveling from Serbia to Kosovo is fine, but vice versa is not recommended due to the conflict about Kosovo. Serbs still strongly contest whom the land of Kosovo belongs to, so some of the border patrol officers on the Serbian end have been known to rip pages out of passports with Kosovo stamps on them and deface passports. If the option is there, you are better off leaving via Albania, Montenegro or Macedonia instead.
Hi, I'm Globetrotter,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Kosovo hostels. Welcome.