The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel to the municipalities of Zvečan, Zubin Potok and Leposavic, and to the northern part of the city of Mitrovica. Please check with your relevant national government.
Europe's newest country, Kosovo is a fascinating land at the heart of the Balkans rewarding visitors with welcoming smiles, charming mountain towns, incredible hiking opportunities and 13th-century domed Serbian monasteries brushed in medieval art – and that's just for starters.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and while it has been diplomatically recognised by 111 countries, there are still many nations that do not accept Kosovan independence, including Serbia. The country has been the recipient of massive aid from the international community, particularly the EU and NATO. Barbs of its past are impossible to miss, though: roads are dotted with memorials to those killed in 1999, while NATO forces still guard Serbian monasteries. No matter what many people who've never been to Kosovo might tell you, it's perfectly safe to travel here. Despite this, Kosovo remains one of the last truly off-the-beaten-path destinations in Europe.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Kosovo.
Built in the early 14th century by Serbian king Stefan Dečanski, this monastery is in a beautiful spot beneath the mountains and surrounded by pine and chestnut trees. If you think the setting is attractive then you'll gasp in wonder as you push open the wooden doors of the church and first lay eyes on the treasures within. With its floor-to-ceiling, Biblical murals it's like stepping into an enormous medieval paintbox. There can be few more beautiful churches in Europe.
In a remote, forested spot beyond the village of Mramor, this sanctuary houses European brown bears that were rescued from captivity by the charity Four Paws. All the bears here were once kept in tiny cages as restaurant mascots, so although they're hardly out free in the wilderness, the spacious, semiwooded enclosures of today are a million times better than the conditions they were once kept in. You can learn more about the bears at the impressive new visitor centre.
This church and nunnery complex on the outskirts of Peja are a raw slice of Serbian Orthodoxy that has existed here since the late 13th century. Outside in the landscaped grounds, all is bright and colourful, but once inside the church it feels more like you're within a dark cave with magnificent faded frescoes covering the walls and ceiling. The entire complex dates from between the 1230s and the 1330s.
It's well worth making the steep 15-minute hike up from Prizren's old town (follow the road past the Orthodox Church on the hillside; it's well signed and pretty obvious) for the superb views over the city and on into the distance. The fortress itself is a little tumble-down but restoration work is currently underway. In the evening heaps of locals come up here and a slight carnival atmosphere prevails. In the white-heat of day, it can be quite lifeless.
Southeast of Pristina in the Serbian town of Gračanica is the ancient Gračanica Monastery, completed in 1321 by Serbian king Milutin. The monastery, which is set on large, grassy grounds, is one of the most attractive in Kosovo. You will first enter the monastery chapel through the main doors. The medieval-era paintings here are impressive enough but the real treat is saved for the smaller side, chapel, which is an enchanted cavern of vivid, lifelike murals.
This wonderful annex of the Museum of Kosovo is located in two beautifully preserved Ottoman houses enclosed in a large walled garden. The English-speaking staff will give you a fascinating tour of both properties and point out the various unique pieces of clothing, weaponry, jewellery and household items on display in each. There's no better introduction to Kosovar culture.
The 'imperial mosque', as locals call it, was built on the orders of Mehmed the Conqueror around 1461, and although it was converted to a Catholic church during the Austro-Hungarian era, it was renovated again after WWII and is now the city's most important mosque. The minaret collapsed during an earthquake in 1955; the one standing today is a reconstruction. It has some beautiful interiors, as well as striking painted ceilings over the main entrance.
Pristina's main museum has recently reopened after extensive renovations. Displays begin back in the misty times of the Bronze Age. There are some wonderful statues and monuments to Dardanian gods and goddesses, plus a large stone relief depicting a Dardanian funeral procession.
The top-floor of this Ottoman-era house, located behind a rather less-than-traditional petrol station, is filled with local crafts and furniture and has various displays illustrating life in Peja during the Ottoman period. The downstairs floor has a small and more interesting archeological section that does a great job of illustrating the depth of history in these parts. Labelling is poor but some staff members speak English, and when they're working, an animated guided tour is included in your entry fee.