TRAILNOTES: Via Dinarica in Kosovo

Categories Trailnotes, White Trail

The Via Dinarica in Kosovo is an extension of the Via Dinarica White Trail. When I hiked the White Trail two years ago I had no idea about this Kosovo part, maybe it didn’t even exist yet. I don’t know. What I do know now is that its a super beautiful route that is definetely worth to include.

The trail is devided in 7 stages. There are heaps of springs, streams and lakes and at the end of each stage you’ll find a guesthouse. Generally they (guesthouse owners) don’t mind if you camp somewhere close, but you can easily squeeze some stages together when you avoid going down to the villages to sleep.

This hike is part of my trekking through the Balkans where I’m trying to connect all three Via Dinarica Trails. I continue counting days from where I left, that is the border between Serbia and Kosovo. Although the Via Dinarica (and thus the Dinaric Alps) stop at Koshare (or somewhere before), I went on to Prizren and Štrpce. This hasn’t been the most spectacular part, but I include it in this post in case others would like to know how I connected the Via Dinarica with the Macedonian Transversale.

Trailnotes of previous sections I hiked this year:

Hiking Kosovo notes

36. (part 2) Border – Orrobërd (3,3)
37. Orrobërd – Radavac (23,6)
38. Radavac – Hokaj (30,7)
39. Hokaj – Bogë (15,9)
40. Rest day
41. Bogë – Kuqishtë (13,2)
42. Rest day
43. Kuqishtë – Bogicevica (22,3)
44. Bogicevica – Gropa E Erenikud (24,1)
45. Gropa E Erenikud – Morinë (31,3)
46. Morinë – Restaurant E Jona (4,4)
47. Morinë – Zylfaj (33,6)
48. Zylfaj – Kushnin (20)
49. Kushnin – Prizren (23,8)
50. Rest day
51. Rest day
52. Rest day
53. Prizren – Kopana Voda (14,7)
54. Kopana Voda – Štrpce (20,6)
55. Štrpce – Ljuboten (20)

Border – Orrobërd – Radavac

The first steps into a new country always feel special. Not that I really noticed I crossed the border, but my GPS told I’m in Kosovo. Maybe because nothing changes it’s special. I don’t know, but it sure felt great to reach another milestone: I finished the Green Trail.

Right after the euforie, reality kicked in. Eva, it’s freaking foggy, you can’t see the terrain, let alone try to read it to find a way over the mountain tops. No. I couldn’t. Someone told me there’s a transferzala/mountain traverse all the way to Hajla peak, but I couldn’t even make it to the next unnamed peak. I had to face it, I had to go down.

Beleg Trail

And so I did. While searching for the most logical route and avoiding the dwarfpines, I bumped onto a marked trail. The trail to Beleg, but then from the Kosovo side. Thankfully I followed that trail down. Down to an open space, a saddle. The trail continued towards Montenegro, not where I planned to go. I had no idea if it would curve around the mountain and go to a mountainhut or descend all the way down to a parkinglot. Since it was heading towards a forest, I choose not to follow it. Had enough forests the last month.

A grassy track lead me to a makadam road. Left or right? I choose the latter, because it seemed to go in the direction of mountain hut Sejnova. It probably didn’t, but I will never know.

Hiked the Green Trail through Serbia
Made it, did it! Hiked the Green Trail through Serbia
On a road…

Orrobërd

A kilometer or three further I came across a sheep farm. Or well, a house with 140 sheep (and two dogs). I asked where the road was going. “Kaliçane”. Hmm, also not what I wanted. The man told me I could try to find my way around the mountain, but it was kind of late and he wondered where I would sleep. “In my tent”. His eyes looked worried. “But there are wolves here…”

I accepted the coffee and went inside. During the summer months he lives up in the mountains with his son. Together they take care of the sheeps, cut wood for the winter and calmy kill time together. He prepared a room for me, I didn’t mind. I would try the next day.

Jeep ride down

The next day was even worse. Misty, windy and cold. No way I would wait another day, but I also did not feel comfortable to navigate in the mist. The man and his son were going down and offered me a ride. Well what to say? I hopped on and enjoyed an almost two hour jeep ride back to civilization. From kaliçane I walked to Radavac, joined the tourists to see the source of the White Drin and found a camp spot in front of a restaurant.

So far so good. The people in Kosovo are extremely friendly and the mountains look promising. I might have cheated my way down, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t want to miss it. Hiking is one thing, it’s my thing, to let that go is difficult for me. At the same time these encounters are just a much part of the adventure. And I think the combination makes it one of a kind.

A whole lot of sheep
The jeep

Radavac – Rusolia – Hajla – Bogë

From restaurant Te Arrat where I camped I hitchhiked to the trailhead, about 10 kilometres further up the road right next to the border checkpoint. Thierry from Green Visions gave me the GPX tracks, but what I saw at tbe beginning of the route was way beyond my expectations. An information table with all the 7 stages, a map and a detailed description of the route. They’ve got some work done here!

Via Dinarica in Kosovo

“The Kosovo part of the Via Dinarica Trail extends for 120 km through the “accursed mountains” National Park in western Kosovo. The trail is composed of seven sections of medium difficulty with breathtaking views, high peaks and many mountain springs along the marked path. (…) The Kosovo part of the trail connects with the regional Via Dinarica Trail in Albania through Dobërdol reaching the highest peak of the Dinaric Alps, Maja Jezercë (2694m).” – Via Dinarica Kosovo

Rusolia Trail

Not even 100 meters on the trail and a lady invited me in for coffee. I thanked her and continued, I was too excited for the trail. At the first bit, cow tracks are misleading, after that the marks didn’t match my GPX track, but it’s obvious where to go: UP. Through a typical karst landscape of high grass and white stones I navigated myself to a canyon. Not sure if a canyon needs water to be a canyon, this one had not, but steep walls on both sides made it feel like a canyon.

Bears on the road

Close to, or right underneath Rusolia mountain my eye caught two fluffy creatures. I held my breath. Oh my! Bears. I almost bumped into two bears.

They were too busy playing with each other to notice me. Quickly I looked around to see where the mother was. Maybe one of them wás the mother, but they both looked small. Slowly I walked a bit backwards, started to talk and made some (not too disturbing) sounds. Nothing happened, they kept on playing.

The bear valley
Two bears

What to do?

I climbed on a boulder to have a better look. I even filmed them. Whatever I did they didn’t seem to notice me. I walked a bit closer and walked back again. Repeated that several times before the mother bear showed up. She climbed on a rock and lifted her head to look around. I saw that she saw me. I walked away slowly. I knew they would go, the only question was where to? Will they hide in a cave, walk “my route” towards the mountain pass or are they much better rock climbers then I expected? Probably the latter.

Although it was a bit tricky, I decided to climb up on the scree slope and traversed about 100 metres above my route towards the mountain pass. In the meantime I talked, I sing and tried not to fall. The bears were gone. I’m sorry that I interrupted their play, but also so so happy to have witnessed this beautiful moment. I smiled and smiled and smiled. Wow! What a great start of thet day!

Katuns & kids

Later I came across an Katun where I stopped for the coffee that was offered me. Unfortunately I don’t speak any Albanian, but it didn’t seem to matter. The kids (10 of them!) had great fun trying to lift my backpack and I, I still couldn’t stop smiling. Friendly people, beautiful mountains, fluffy bears and ánd SUN!

Hajla Trail

Hajla turned out to be a popular peak, guided groups (mostly Germans) walked across the ridge, weekend hikers came up from planinarski dom Shtedim and then there was me. Two Serbian guys made me coffee at the top and gave me oranges for lunch. Besides coffee and chocolate, fresh fruit really makes my day. So, another day was made.

I continued on the ridge, lost the trail in a dwarfpine forest, found another trail underneath Maja Dromodol and walked a stunning walk to Bogë. If you’re hiking the Via Dinarica White Trail, I surely recommend to extend it through Kosovo. Like I said, every step (except the bloody dwarfpine forest) is beautiful!

Hajla peak
A whole lot of kids

Bogë – Kuqishtë – Bogicevica

From Bogë I hiked to Kuqishtë, a short and somewhat boring day compared to the rest of the route. In Kuqishtë the Via Dinarica meets the Peaks of the Balkans trail, a way more popular route, especially among Germans. How come?

Camping was the only option, not only because of the Peaks of the Balkans hikers, this week the place was packed with Americans. In a way I like to disappear in a crowd, not being an alien for one day feels good. On the other hand crowds make me feel lonely. Maybe because in the end I’ll always be the alien. There’s no way to escape the fact that I am alone. It’s what I like, but I often wonder why it only bothers me when not alone.

Give me mountains!

The next day I met other Dutchies who took a day off. I decided to stay as well. Funny how great it can be to speak your own language. How you do have things in common just because you’re from the same country. Not that I automatically have a good time with every other Dutchie, but today I had.

Peaks of the Balkans

It turned out that they already had a bunch of trailbuddies who all hiked the Peaks of the Balkans trail and thus all slept at same place night after night. I joined them, tried to keep up with the military pace (which was far from their usual pace), but came to the conclusion that I’m definitely a slow hiker. I like to stop a lot, especially in the beginning of the day. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t matter where I stop, I can sleep everywhere.

The route was incredibly scenic, a dream of a path with lakes, pine forests and wide views. I love mountain passes, those big (windy) saddles maybe even more than the peaks. This was my day.

After 15K we went in different directions. I skipped the descent to Raski Dol and continued a bit along the border with the next stage. At Qafa E Bogiqes I pitched my tent. Although the Americans where fun to watch, I prefer sheep. Love watching sheep!

Apparently I was exhausted. Tried to read, but fell asleep before dark.

Where the Via Dinarica shares the trail with PoB
Qafa E Bogiqes
Qafa E Bogiqes

Bogicevica – Gjeravica – Koshares – Morinë

Another day, another beautiful hike. On the route from Qafa e Bogiqes to Gjeravica, Kosovo’s highest mountain, karst made place for granite. More of an Alpine landscape that also reminded me of the haute Pyréné. Probably has something to do with glaciers. This is Prokletije! Surrounded by pointy peaks I made my way up through the arena.

As you might know, I’m not a big fan of hiking up a peak and back. Hiking up and down a peak that’s in the clouds is something I don’t even consider. I just don’t see the point. I love views and I love the effort of a good climb, but I hate it to go back the same way.

Gjeravica Trail

When Gjeravica came closer, clouds started to pack together. Oh hello little peak devil, you’re still here. Patiently waiting on my shoulder to ruin every possible attempt to reach a top. Ah well, I already had such a wonderful day, I couldn’t really care. At the moment I turned away from the mountain it started to thunder. Glad I’m not up there.

In Gropa e Erenikut I camped in a garden. There should be a mountain hut, but I believe it’s pretty far of route. The hotel wasn’t exactly my kind of place. Hidden in the forest with too many men, standing way too close, asking too many questions without listening. I just wanted a beer. No, no food. No, no room. Just beer. Please.

Liqeni e Zemrës, Via Dinarica Kosovo stage 6: Gjeravica Trail
Liqeni e Zemrës
Hello Gjeravica

Koshare Trail

The last stage to Koshare started great. With the Albanian Alps on the right the path slowly descended. This was it, I realized. This was the Via Dinarica in Kosovo. Although my hike around the Balkans isn’t finished, these impressive peaks would soon disappear to the background. The trail went into the forest where a totally different feeling took me over. Traces of the recent war are visible in this part of Kosovo. Graveyards, memorials and mines. Impossible to not let that get to you. The memorial at Koshares isn’t finished yet, but nevertheless it makes you quiet. All those names, it’s so so sad and stupid.

To my surprise I found a path to Qafa e Padeshit. Followed that, improvised a bit, found an sheep track to an Albanian village. Continued on a unpaved road all the way back to the border checkpoint at Morinë. A long day. Long, beautiful and impressive.

Morinë – Gjakova – Zylfaj – Prizren

My plan was to follow the mountains on the border between Kosovo and Albania. They looked hikable. Even if there are no hiking trails, there must be roads. The problem was food. I needed to resupply and I needed to do that in a city, because I run out of cash. Once I arrived in Gjakova, I didn’t feel much for going back to Morinë and so I didn’t.

Pashtrik Trail?

From Gjakova I followed a road up, camped near Zylfaj and continued on a road towards Kushnin. Pashtrik is the most prominent peak around there, the others are covered with forest. Pashtrik it is, I thought. But no. Next morning there were clouds and rain and thunders. Seriously, why?

Didn’t feel much for waiting. It would have been nice to connect the Via Dinarica with Shar mountain through the mountains, but it actually is a project on it’s own. There are plans to create and sign this route, but for now it comes down to your own will to explore. Will and patience. Think in my case both were not strong enough. I turned around and hiked the road to Prizren.

Laku noć from Zylfaj
Laku noć from Zylfaj
First view on Sharr mountain
First view on Sharr mountain

Prizren

Prizren is definitely worth a visit. It’s a beautiful, old, vivacious town with mountains all around. And a campsite. I took a few days off here. Hanging on the couch, drinking coffee and trying to catch up with writing.

Prizren – Kopana Voda – Štrpce – Ljuboten

I started my day with a super strong coffee at cafe Park, the place where I’ve been hanging out a lot. It’s a nice quiet bar next to the river with a lovely garden, good music and excellent coffee. It sometimes feels weird to sit in a cafe and work. Write. But that’s what I like. Luckily the owner totally understood me and welcomed me as a regular customer. So thankful for this friendly place in a city that has been taken over by the yearly docu festival.

From the bar I walked my way up through Prizrens narrow streets towards a village called Novo Selo. A roadwalk, but a nice one. The view on Prizren is amazing. I’ll definitely come back to be a real tourist, but for now hiking was on my mind.

Kopana Voda

In Novo Selo I picked up a hikingtrail to Kopana Voda, a picnic area at a forester house. Because it was weekend, the place was packed with locals enjoying big meals. Of course there was enough to feed me as well. Although I had plenty of time to continue to Oshlak mountain, I stayed, chatted with the locals and filled my stomach.

It felt weird for them to leave me alone. A woman, alone. You know. For me this was a perfect camping spot. There was water, picnic tables, a flat place for my tent and even a toilet. As long as nobody would pay me a surprise visit at night, it was totally fine for me. “But you’re so exposed. There are animals here you know.” I know and I don’t mind. It was a one of the best nights. Beautiful sunset, bright sky. Quiet and peaceful.

Trail to the border & the Transversale
Sharr mountain 🙂

Oshlak Trail

Next day I followed the Oslak trail. Somewhat overgrown, a lot of forest and then a ridge hike. Clouds were chasing me, didn’t feel entirely comfortable, but I made it to Prevalac. From Prevalac I could go to Macedonia, but then I would join the transferzala at a random place. I wanted to hike that thing from begin till end, so I headed to Štrpce. I was too tired to explore the short cut, so I hiked the road. Roads. Boring but I couldn’t care.

If you look on Wikiloc you can find several tracks to make this section more fun. Many trailrunners upload their tracks there which has been a big help for me. This is how I found a beautiful route from Štrpce to Liqeni i Livadicës, the same as Strbacko jezero (?). After all those roads it felt like heaven to be on a trail trail.

Ljuboten

From the lake the trail goes up to the border. It follows the border on a brilliant ridge to Ljuboten. Ljuboten totally blew my mind. What a beauty. Think that’s where I’ll end my Kosovo story, at the foot of Ljuboten I realized again that I made it to a new country. A country where I’ve never been before.

Map of the Via Dinarica in Kosovo

Somewhere not in the near future I’ll upload my tours on Outdooractive and embed the map here. For now it’s a photo of the information points you find at the start of every stage.

Via DINARICA in Kosovo

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