Trekking through Kosovo, across its mountainous landscapes and to some of the Balkan Peninsula’s most remote peaks, just became a whole lot easier. On June 15, after two years of planning, walking, painting, and posting, the vertical signage and route markings for the country’s 120km section of the Via Dinarica hiking trail were officially unveiled. The ceremony took place, appropriately, on the trail with local and international mountaineers and dignitaries in attendance.
“For Kosovo, marking the Via Dinarica trail is very important, as it is the first milestone of creating and developing the digital hiking trail infrastructure,” says Arben Lila, the President of the Kosovo Mountaineering and Alpinists Federation, which supervised the project. The Via Dinarica “mega” trail connects the countries of the Western Balkans, in southeastern Europe, and runs nearly 2000km through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. This route also acts as a cultural corridor for travelers, who are provided access to some of the last remaining Old World mountain and shepherding villages on the continent.
The presentation of signs and markings instantly made Kosovo’s stretch of the Via Dinarica—categorized as moderate-to-difficult hiking—one of the more user-friendly paths in the Balkans. “This will enable the common people and families to hike and navigate alone to the different mountain peaks without any fear or need to be guided by a professional guide or association,” says Lila. “It will encourage the mountaineering community to mark and maintain the trail infrastructure fostering this way the rural economic development.”
The 120km clip—comfortably broken into seven days—follows the country’s western boundary, shared with Montenegro and then Albania to the south, as it traverses the Dinaric Alps. The hike starts due north of the city of Peja (the natural launching point) and ends near the village of Junik in the Gjakova district. Along the way, mountaineers cross untouched expanses between peaks punctuated by herds of sheep and glacial lakes. Trekkers stay in lodges, guest houses, homestays, and mountain hotels. To a large degree, travelers need only to carry midday meals because breakfasts and dinners are often served in the accommodations (lunches can also be ordered).
“Hiking along Kosovo’s section of the Via Dinarica is a great introduction to the country and the region,” says mountain guide Uta Ibrahimi, the director of Pristina-based Butterfly Outdoor Adventure, which leads tours along the trail. “For active people, the trail is perfect and challenging, but not technical. There are, however, several sharp ascents—depending on whether a hiker wants to summit a peak. Most importantly, the trail gets travelers deep into the most authentic spots in Kosovo—the mountains—where people and life are most real.”
By Alex Crevar