Monday , July 26 2021

Mountaineering the Epic Peaks of the Balkans in Kosovo

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Increasingly mountain climbing is turning into my favorite exercise to do after I journey. That change is due to experiences just like the one I had when mountain climbing the Peaks of the Balkans in Kosovo. Not solely is mountain climbing an important alternative for some a lot wanted train, it has a means of displaying off locations I merely wouldn’t get to see in any other case. And mountain climbing within the Balkans in locations like Kosovo has the additional benefit of taking you locations that comparatively few different travellers get to see. No surprise then 

Now, whereas this mountain climbing journey didn’t take me proper across the whole Peaks of the Balkans route, it did at the very least present me why it’s so particular. In case you get pleasure from fantastic mountain surroundings, rustic countryside and serene quiet, then this can be a hike for you. What’s cool is that you would be able to tailor this multi-day hike to your journey plans like we did and nonetheless get hundreds out of the expertise. Right here’s what it’s like mountain climbing the Kosovo elements of the Peaks of the Balkans path.


The Peaks of the Balkans Path

Trail Rugova Mountains

As a result of it’s not one among Europe’s better-known mountain climbing routes, it’d most likely assist if I first introduce you to the Peaks of the Balkans mountain climbing path. This underrated route takes hikers by way of the Dinaric Alps of the Balkans in a circuit by way of Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. A full loop of the path covers 192km and is often traversed in 10 to 12 days. That implies that if you wish to embrace the complete hike in your journey plans, you actually need to put aside the time.

Trails of the Peaks of the Balkans usually run by way of distant and even uninhabited areas among the many ominously-named Accursed Mountains. Modest villages, mountain huts and lodges are sometimes the one indicators of civilization you’ll come throughout some days. As such, that is undoubtedly not an overland hike to undertake flippantly and also you’ll undoubtedly need to come ready. However even for those who solely do a small part of the complete route like we did, you’re certain to seek out it extremely rewarding and memorable.


The Trails in Kosovo

Hiking in the Balkans

Throughout the totally different sections of the Peaks of the Balkans route, there are 4 that run at the very least partially by way of western Kosovo, two of which that don’t cross any borders. The 4 phases are:

  • Doberdol (Albania) – Milishevc
  • Milishevc – Reka E Allagёs
  • Reka E Allagёs –Drelaj – Kucishtё
  • Kucishtё – Babino Polje (Montenegro)


Historically, when hikers do the complete route they’ve their paperwork able to cross the unmanned worldwide borders. By doing that upfront, they’re capable of full a full loop with out having any passport issues. However you additionally don’t have to fret about worldwide borders and passport checks for those who don’t depart Kosovo which is what we did. With just a few spare days in our itinerary, we determined to only stick with the paths inside Kosovo.

Accursed Mountains in Kosovo

After all, to keep away from any worldwide crossings we needed to get inventive with our itinerary. Earlier than we set out from Peja, the closest metropolis to the paths, we paid a go to to the Rugova Valley Vacationer Info Centre. A useful workers member supplied us with strategies on how we might benefit from our time within the area with out leaving Kosovo. Primarily, we’d cowl as a lot of the fascinating Peaks of the Balkans trails in Kosovo as potential, after which take an unofficial linking observe to attach all of it up.

Over three days we hiked elements of three totally different phases of the Peaks of the Balkans, with our personal little adjustments and inclusions alongside the way in which.


Mountaineering within the Rugova Valley

Hiking Hajla Kosovo

To begin our mountain climbing journey, we determined to ease our means in with a return hike from the village of Drelaj as much as Mt Hajla and again. This hike labored with our chosen lodging for the primary night time and would allow us to discover Kosovo’s Rugova Valley just a little. With our Rugova Valley hike we lined a 7km part of the Reka e Allagёs to Drelaj to Kucishtё route and really did it twice, because it was a return journey.

Alongside the way in which we travelled from mild farmland and forest to open plains and proper as much as the height of Mt Hajla at 2,403 metres elevation. We additionally bought to see one of many area’s distant villages and even sit down with an area household. The expertise of hiking around Rugova Canyon was an absolute blast and makes for a wonderful day hike for those who solely have someday within the space. The formal Peaks of the Balkans doesn’t really embrace Hajla however I consider some guided excursions do embrace it.


Mountaineering from Kucishtё

Liqeni i Kuçishtёs

After our hike to Mt Hajla and again, it was time to undertake the hardest hike of our journey. The aim was to take the path out of Kucishtё, cease shy of the Montenegro border after which re-join the Peaks of the Balkans path at Milishevc. Taking this strategy we’d be protecting the primary 6km of the Kucishtё to Babino Polje path, earlier than venturing off on our personal.

As we had been beginning the day in Drelaj nonetheless, we paid for our guesthouse proprietor to drive us over to Kucishtё that morning so we might begin recent from there. Upon arriving in Kucishtё, alongside the German tour group we’d had dinner with the night time earlier than, we set out onto forest trails.

Essentially the most distinguished landmarks on the early phases of this route are two lovely glacial lakes, Liqeni i Kuçishtёs and Liqeni i Drelajve. Liqeni i Kuçishtёs is the bigger of the 2, completely clear and backed by an imposing ridgeline. It might be probably the most lovely locations within the mountains, though Liqeni i Drelajve is kind of scenic as effectively.

Leaving the lakes, you’ll proceed to climb till you allow the forest behind and step up into the mountains. Navigating up right here is usually a bit tough because the signposting isn’t all the time clear, however the Jelenak go is the place you need to get to.  It’s there at 2272 metres that you simply’ll get pleasure from views out to Montenegro. Sitting amongst a subject of untamed flowers, it was the proper spot for lunch, earlier than forging our personal path.


Chopping Our Personal Path Cross Nation

Hiking in Kosovo

Heading down from the Jelenak Go, it wasn’t lengthy earlier than we arrived at some signposts. In a single course was the primary path resulting in the border of Montenegro, and off to the facet our small observe east. The signal pointed to each Milishevc and Lojza, the title of our supposed lodging for the night.

Having seen numerous different hikers round earlier that day, it was unusual to be off on our personal now. The path right here was faint however fairly simple as we skirted across the sides of the very best mountains within the space. Sadly, after some time, we lost the trail completely. Utilizing our navigation apps we had been assured we knew which course to go although, so we pressed on for fairly some time with out a clear path.

We did re-find the path once more after an hour or so, and left the open fields for forest. A path marker additional alongside tricked us right into a detour that took us down right into a valley unnecessarily, but it surely didn’t result in a lot of a delay. And so it was after a full days hike that we arrived at Lojza and stumbled into the proprietor of our guesthouse for the night.


Leaving from Milishevc Again to Peja

After a night of probably an excessive amount of home made raki, we got down to attempt to discover out means again to Peja. From Lojza it was a brief stroll up hill to Milishevc, the place we might then re-join the established Peaks of the Balkans path. The hike would take us alongside the primary 9km of the Milishevc to Reka E Allagёs part, ending on the roadside Rugova Camp.

Whether or not it was as a consequence of our foggy minds or a missed path marker, we had just a little bother really discovering the correct begin of the path. As a substitute, we relied once more on our GPS app to enterprise off the grime highway at roughly the best spot. A steep climb straight up the hillside rapidly took it out of us, however we knew that was the worst of it. Upon reaching the highest of the climb on the Lumbardhi ridge, we met with highland meadows and a small reservoir for the native cattle.

Then got here the descent, a whopping 1200 metres of it. From mountain pastures the path rapidly handed down into forest and our sweeping views had been misplaced to infinite greenery. Whereas it had kindly shunned raining on us through the hike, latent water on the observe meant for loads of mud the deeper we bought into the forest. Hours of descending by way of fixed thick forest in the end introduced us to the welcome sight of the Rugova Camp restaurant.

Having clambered all the way down to the Rugova Camp, we had two choices for getting again to Peja that didn’t contain strolling. We might both wait an hour or extra for the bus or hitchhike. We ended up hitchhiking back to Peja, which was a enjoyable little journey all by itself.


Lodging on Peaks of the Balkans

The route for Peaks of the Balkans passes by way of fairly distant areas at occasions, that means your lodging choices will be fairly restricted.  That is probably not the case in common locations like Theth and Valbonia in Albania, but it surely definitely is in Kosovo. Whereas there are some choices round Reka E Allagёs and Kucishtё, we solely discovered one choice in every place we stayed.

For out night time in Drelaj between climbing Mount Hajla and heading off for Kucishtё we stayed on the Shqiponja Guesthouse. It’s fairly a big guesthouse and comparatively up to date, with scorching water and an enormous household desk. Over close to Milishevc we stayed at Guesthouse Lojza, a comfortable family-run log cabin that’s nice worth. They even had a freshwater fountain with ice chilly beer in it for once you arrive. At each locations we arrived with out a reserving, which will be dangerous if giant teams are going by way of. Each have Fb pages which you’ll attempt to attain them by way of.


Journey Suggestions for Visiting Right here

On condition that the Peaks of the Balkans and Kosovo basically are a bit off the overwhelmed observe, it might assist if I present some private recommendation for visiting. That is undoubtedly a spot the place it’s worthwhile to come ready, so you should definitely pack correct mountain climbing gear. We stocked up on snacks and meals in Peja which labored out nice for our on the paths, and purchased pack lunches from our in a single day lodging. 

As for attending to this nook of Kosovo, Peja is certainly the simplest start line. From town’s bus station, there’s a non-public minibus service up into Rugova Canyon, stopping alongside the highway at Rugova Camp, Drelaj and Kucishtё. The 2019 timetable had two departures a day, with a 7am and 3pm bus up, 8:30am and 4:30pm bus again, and two further summer time companies. Alternatively, you possibly can take a taxi into Rugova Canyon and hitchhike your means out like we did.

Navigation whereas up within the mountains is one other factor to consider. Google Maps is fairly ineffective up right here, with many locations simply not displaying up in any respect.  We used OsmAnd and Backcountry to seek out our means round, which labored fairly effectively, even when we did get just a little misplaced at one level. Try to discover GPX recordsdata for the correct sections as that can at the very least provide you with a information of the place issues are.


Have you ever heard of and even walked the Peaks of the Balkans mountain climbing path earlier than? Does the thought of spending 10-12 days trekking by way of the Balkans attraction to you? Please share your ideas within the feedback under.

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Hiking the Peaks of the Balkans in Kosovo, via @travelsewhere

Hiking the Peaks of the Balkans in Kosovo, via @travelsewhereHiking the Peaks of the Balkans in Kosovo, via @travelsewhere

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