As you prepare for landing, look down upon Kosovo’s capital, Priština, and notice the dust-orange rooftops, scattered lush green spaces and snow-capped mountains that encircle the city. Kosovo’s communist history is well preserved in Priština’s architecture and design. One of the most popular slogans of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia was ‘Brotherhood and Unity’. As you drive towards The Emerald Hotel for check-in, spot the striking monument dedicated to this slogan erected in the city centre.
Renovated and ready to receive international guests, The Emerald Hotel is widely known as the best hotel in Priština and is an ideal location from which to discover the city. Neat, modern and comfortable, the hotel is situated just outside the city centre and the large soft beds are perfect for laying your head down after a long day of exploring.
Off the main road, tucked away with no signage whatsoever is Tiffany. A welcoming, intimate restaurant offering quality fresh food that strikes a balance between traditional and contemporary cuisine, Tiffany will treat you to the delicious flavours of the city. With its simple and modest interior, the food is the real focus at Tiffany. The restaurant does not offer any menus so be prepared to trust the experts and introduce your palate to dishes like stuffed peppers, sujuk and tave gore. After your meal, it’s time for a nightcap at one of the favourite local haunts.
From Tiffany, take a short walk past the terraces of Kafje E Vogel,and enter through the dimly lit entrance of Hamam Jazz Bar. A transformed old cellar, Hamam Jazz Bar is a buzzing nightspot in the heart of Priština and showcases a variety of emerging talented Kosovan musicians. With the likes of Rita Ora, Bebe Rexha and Dua Lipa all having their roots in Kosovo, you never know what up-and-coming talent you might stumble upon! Sink into the deep leather couches, explore the impressive cocktail list and sway to the live performances of the night.
The macchiato is said to have been invented in Italy but perfected in Kosovo. The pride and care that goes into making each drink is something to be celebrated. Start the morning at Soma Book Station – a local shop in the city centre where books line the walls and coffee is never in short supply. The first of its kind in Priština, SOMA was created as a hub for the newest trends in literature, music, design and artisanal culinary delights.
As the city comes to life in the morning, take a leisurely walk to the popular sights. From the architectural beauty that is The National Library of Kosovo, wander to the Carshi Mosque – the oldest standing building in the city. Although the mosque has sadly closed due to ruin, it stands as a symbol of the nation’s history. For a vivid glimpse into local daily life, head to the Bazaar. Make your way down the tiny streets, past stalls and vendors, and see colourful displays of fruit alongside cigarette merchants.
Revealed on the day that Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, The NEWBORN monument is repainted every year as a symbol of the country’s political hopes for the future. With the ‘N’ and ‘W’ knocked down, the current monument represents the country’s opposition to recent changes in global immigration policies.
For a welcomed break from the heavy traditional diet, find a spot at one of the many terraces that line the buzzing Kafje E Vogel for a tasty light lunch. Alternatively, around the corner is Fole. A recent addition to the Kosovan food scene, it is part of the youthful culture taking hold in the capital city. After lunch, it’s time to get on the road towards Prizren.
On the way to Prizren, stop at the Cave of Gadime to see one of Kosovo’s natural splendours. Known also as ‘The Marble Cave’, it is just over 1.2 km deep and is filled with extraordinary stalactites and stalagmites. Taking 30,000 years for just 1mm of the marble to form, the unique formations showcase a wealth of brilliant earthy tones making the cave a true national treasure.
After exploring the Cave of Gadime, take the gentle hiking trail to the Mirusha Waterfalls. Follow the rock path leading into the falls from above to get a stunning first glimpse of the cascading falls.
Through its most turbulent years, Kosovo was miraculously able to preserve its wine production in the heart of the Rahovec Valley. Stone Castle Vineyard pays homage to the history of wine-making in Kosovo by using traditional techniques while embracing newer methods. Before heading to your accommodation for the evening, stop in for wine tasting, a light dinner and a stunning sunset tour of the vineyards.
When you arrive in Prizren in the evening, you will be met with the beautiful sight of terraces twinkling in the distance. Turn off the main street and check into Classic Hotel. With rooms that look out onto the river, it’s a quiet spot to settle in for the night.
Follow the smell of freshly baked pastries up the marble staircase and onto the terrace of Classic Hotel. Feel the morning sun beat down on you while you sip on a freshly brewed macchiato. An idyllic place to prepare for the day ahead, take a moment to revel in the peace and quiet of the quaint town of Prizren.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš has had a tumultuous past. After substantial damage in recent years, it was placed on UNESCO’s danger list. It requires permission to enter but is well worth the effort to see the beautiful architecture and rich history that the building has to offer.
Dubbed Kosovo’s cultural capital, Prizren is de ned by its striking Ottoman architecture. To see the city in all its glory, head to the Kalaja Fortress. The medieval fortress is a symbol of the historical Serbian empire and the breathtaking view of the city below is well worth the hike to the top.
Before saying ditën e mirë to Kosovo, enjoy a delicious lunch at Ambient. Sit at one of the outside tables along the water’s edge and take in the relaxing views of the waterfall as you enjoy the fresh catch of the day!
The Plaza is a newly built hotel located in the heart of Tirana and is a stone’s throw away from all the major sites. With exceptional attention to detail, the owners of The Plaza have created a space fit for international travellers seeking a boutique hotel experience. With a warm twist on modern design, The Plaza has struck the perfect balance of elegant and homely.
For your first meal in Tirana, head to Era Piceri to get a taste of local life. Stroll through the trendy Blloku district, pass by the Pyramid and finish the evening with a casual dinner of meze and qofte – all accompanied by a bottle Birra Peja of course.
Warm morning light spills into the outdoor cafe at The Plaza Hotel. Sit back with a paper and a coffee, and hear Tirana begin to stir outside as you prepare to discover the gems of this colourful city.
Located at Skanderbeg Square are a number of national sites; The National Museum, The National Gallery, The Orthodox Cathedral and Et’hem Bey Mosque. The bustling square is the heart of Tirana and is a tribute to Albania’s national hero, 15th century military commander, Skanderberg. Stop in for a coffee at the café on the steps at the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet before venturing further into the city.
On the outskirts of Tirana is the Dajti Mountain National Park. Float up the alpine region on the cable car, and take in the stunning panoramic views as you ride to the top. Fresh air and delicious Mediterranean food await you at Ballkoni Dajtit, an open air chalet style restaurant that transports you from bustling streets of Tirana to a serene Albanian oasis.
The Blloku District is deeply entrenched in its communist history. Known as ‘The Block’, it was a restricted residential area for the elite members of the Albanian Politburo. After the fall of communism, it was reinvented into a meeting place for all Albanians and is now known as the best area in Tirana for markets, shopping, bars and cafés. At the centre of Blloku is SALT, a trendy and modern restaurant serving up creative cocktails. Stop in for an evening drink and get a sense of Tirana’s ever-evolving culture.
After drinks, head to Mullixhiu. A modern take on a rustic traditional restaurant, the restaurant offers classic Albanian hospitality with a tasting menu inspired by the slow food movement.
The plates are based on traditional Albanian cuisine and all ingredients are sourced from the farm of Mullixhiu’s sister restaurant in the north of Albania. After an appetizer, cheese and meat board, salads, sweet breads and quail with vegetables, be prepared for a final dessert course. They won’t take no for an answer so allow yourself to indulge in this unique culinary experience.
Take a morning stroll down Ibrahim Rugova to the trendy open-air Karlsberg restaurant for a classic chai and breakfast. Complete with a beautiful pleasure garden and views overlooking Tirana, the rooftop is a peaceful spot to start your day.
Pervading shadows of Albania’s past, nuclear bunkers are a common sight across the country. While many of the structures are now derelict, as the country has evolved, many have been adapted into, cafés and even galleries.
BUNK’ART is a nuclear bunker transformed into a museum and art space. Albania’s first serious attempt at discussing its silent past, it is a truly memorable attraction to visit. Eerie and fascinating, BUNK’ART is a place to get lost in the corridors and rooms that exhibit the shrouded past of Albania in the 20th century.
Say farewell to the bustling urban jungle of Tirana and head up north. For a complete Albanian culinary experience, an afternoon at Mrizi I Zanave is an absolute must. Like its sister restaurant, Mullixhiu, Mrizi I Zanave celebrates traditional Albanian food, participating in the slow food movement and advocating for sustainable farming. Prepare for a three-hour immersive experience indulging in the very best of Albanian cuisine.
The charming and knowledgeable staff detail each part of the dishes as they set them down on the table. They point to where the ingredients have been sourced from – “wild pomegranates from the field over there, olives from the trees just there and cheese made from the milk of those roaming goats”.
As the lunch draws to a close, savour every last sip of wine and breathe in the fresh rural air before driving down the dirt road as Mrizi I Zanave shrinks into the background. Once on the island of Sveti Stefan it will be difficult to pull yourself away from the tranquil Aman Resort; the ultimate trifecta of wellness, dining and adventure.
Spend the final days of your Balkan adventure between the yoga pavilion, Turkish baths and stunning swimming pools scattered across the 32-hectare estate of the Aman Sveti Stefan. Follow the cool stone paths down to your private beach and enjoy an afternoon of reading, napping and simply just being on the coast.
This seaside hideaway is the perfect base from which to go on day trips to explore more of Montenegro’s charm. Visit centuries old monasteries and churches, and sail the coastline with a picnic until you find the perfect secluded beach to settle down on. Travel to neighbouring medieval towns like Budva and Kotor, get lost between stone walls and stumble upon local handmade mementos.
Fresh fish straight from the Adriatic sea, meats, cheeses, wine and vegetables from Montenegrin farmers comprise every carefully created plate at the Aman Resort. Enjoy the local dishes as you sit under the stars in the open-air piazza.
Spend your nights in the grand rooms of the resort which sprawl across the peninsula. Inspired by traditional Montenegrin seaside homes, all rooms are individually decorated and designed for ultimate comfort and luxury.
Wake up to white linen curtains blowing in the sea breeze and enjoy the final moments in your Montenegrin villa on Sveti Stefan. It’s time to bid farewell to the breathtaking Balkans and head to Podgorica for your flight home . . .