Visoki Decani monastery; Shutterstock ID 50370370

Shutterstock / gopixgo

Visoki Dečani Monastery

Top choice in 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.

Despite the bucolic setting and beauty within, Visoki Dečani also speaks of humanity at its worst. Due to attacks from ethnic Albanians who'd like to see the Serbs leave, the monastery and the 25 monks living here in total isolation from the local community, are guarded around the clock by KFOR military forces. The country road to the monastery has watchtowers and checkpoints all along it and there are even several tanks defensively positioned around the complex. You will need to leave your passport or ID card with the soldiers at the entrance gate if you wish to enter the complex. Photography within the monastery is not allowed (photos of the exterior are permitted) and definitely don't try any sneaky pics of the military. Those guns are loaded!

It's on the outskirts of Dečani, 15km south of Peja (Peć). Buses go to Dečani from Peja (€1, 30 minutes, every 15 minutes) on their way to Gjakova. It's a pleasant 1km walk to the monastery from the bus stop. From the roundabout in the middle of town, take the second exit if you're coming from Peja.

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