A visit to area of the Accursed Mountains will enchant you in so many ways. Spectacular mountain scenery, exciting ascents and other gorgeous hiking routes are available to people of all ages, skills and stamina.
There are many historical landmarks and charming old settlements one can explore. This is one of the most diverse regions in Europe in a cultural and historical sense. It is a meeting point of many cultures and religions: Orthodox, Muslim and Catholic.
We have created this one-week plan to present you some of the best-kept secrets of this cross border area between Montenegro and Kosovo.
Arrival to Plav in the afternoon.
Visit to the Redžepagić Kula
The Redžepagić Kula is national cultural monument. It is one of the most painted old buildings in Montenegro. It represents a beautiful example of traditional local architecture and housing. Well-preserved artefacts vividly display local residents past lifestyle.
Walk around Plav Lake
Plav Lake is the biggest glacial lake in Montenegro. With the inflows of nearby springs and rivers, its fresh waters are changing every four days. In summer, swimming and variety of other water sports (kayak, boats, and paddleboats) are possible. Its beautiful scenery attracts visitors in all seasons. The lake is also a great spot for birdwatching. One can observe species specific for the region, such as mallard, pochard, coot, moorhen, great crested grebe, little grebe, grey heron, cormorant.
Traditional, home-made dinner at rural household Savić in the village Pepice at the foot of Visitor mountain, 7 km from Plav lake. The household produces its own tasty cheese, honey, jam and other local delicacies.
Blueberries and the Accursed Mountains
It is known that the Accursed Mountains are one of the largest natural plantation of blueberries in the world.
In honour of blueberries, manifestations are held throughout the cross border region. During July, the famous festival “Days of blueberries“ is held.
Visit to the Botanical Garden Velemun
The Velemun garden was established in 1993 on the local waste disposal. It’s a little oasis full of colourful native plants. Altogether, over 350 plants, 12% of total plant species in Montenegro, can be observed. Its passionate founder and owner has been collecting, preserving, displaying and labelling the plants with much love and care. He brought majority of them from the nearby mountains.
Hiking through the peaks of a glacier
Although the “Peaks of the Balkans” (www.peaksofthebalkans.com) are the most known hiking route attracting many visitors to the area, you can try an easy hike through the “Peaks of the Accursed mountains glacier” to get the right sense of the Accursed Mountains experience.
This newly launched circular trail merges with the “Peaks of the Balkans” route in one section. Local inhabitants have long used this path to walk from Plav to Vradište. After Vradište, the trail returns via Završ to the Ćuljuntra viewpoint, and descends to the centre of Plav, to Kula Redžepagića.
Somewhere in the middle of the trail, right after finishing the path that can be described as “path of fungi and medicinal plants” towards Budovice, rural household Feratović is a great stop for a hearty lunch.
Spend a night in a katun
To truly experience the Accursed Mountains, you need to spend a night under the stars in katun. Katuns are originally shepherds’ huts, but nowadays they are authentic lodges available to visitors around the Accursed Mountains.
We recommend the Katun PSK Hrid, Katun Gradine or Samel’s Cottage (Bajrovića katun) on the way to Lake Hrid.
There are excellent mountain guides we recommend: Ahmet Reković, Dino Mulamekić, Semir Kardović and Enes Drešković.
How did the Accursed Mountains got its name?
Several legends are connected to the name. A legend says there were three brothers who fell in love in a fairy, the most beautiful one. In fighting for her love, driven by jealousy, all three brothers died. The terrible news found its way to the mother who was devastated with pain and went to search for the fairy. At the end, she found her and cursed for the pain she has caused to the family.
Morning hike to Lake Hrid
This is a hike through the pine forests on well-marked walking trail. Several legends speak of the beauty of Lake Hrid. One of the most famous one is that magical fairies bathe in the lake. The lake is mainly accessible between June and November. The rest of the year is available to fairies only.
Lunch at the rural household Redžematović will restore your energy after this hike. There, you can also learn how to make cheese, help with the preparation of authentic dishes or ride a horse.
After that, it is time to move towards Gusinje and Vusanje.
Visit to Ali Pasha Springs
The springs are named after a famous commander Ali Pasha of Gusinje.
“In a beautiful, bucolic setting at the foothills of the Accursed mountains, these karst springs are an ideal spot for a picnic. Locals extol the health benefits of drinking the springs’ water, purportedly rich in therapeutic minerals. The springs are a five-minute drive – or an easy 25-minute hike – south of Gusinje.” (Srource: Lonely Planet).
Nested in a little valley, Eco katun Rosi is a nice place to spend the night.
Arrival to Grebaje Valley
Grebaje Valley is fairy-tail like Alpine valley, one of the most famous landscapes of the Prokletije National Park. A walk across the valley reveals several wonders of nature, as „Hollow Door“; rocky formation known as „Cat kissing a kitten“, and an eternal glacier.
In the National Park info centre, one can rent bicycles for a picturesque ride from Grebaje to Ropojana valley. Green nuances of the landscape are eye pleasing. The valley is surrounded by grey mountains reaching height to the sky.
In surrounding villages, there are several villager households where one can stop and dine tasty, traditional dishes. Household Bojović in Grnčar village is one of them, where you can try traditional dishes and a local specialty carrot jam.
The Grebaje valley is an excellent starting point for several mountain routes in the vicinity. For example, a magnificent well „Oko skakavica“, the largest well in the Accursed Mountains.
Volušnica trail is also an attractive option. It is one of the most known mountain routes in Montenegro. History lovers will enjoy searching for tombstones near the abandoned summer grazing of Volušnica. This ancient engraving depicts a struggle of man and woman with a wolf attacking their child. Archaeologists estimate it dates back to the Neolithic period.
Nature lovers might be particularly interested in a walk to Kotlova and to the lowest glacier in Montenegro. There, some endemic plants like Wulfenia blecicii can be observed.
A great place to stay in Grebaje valley is katun Maja Karanfil. Katun has accommodation and a restaurant serving traditional cuisine with a unique amphitheatre of the Accursed Mountains summits.
Evening relaxation in Grebaje valley. The valley is an ideal place for slow evening stroll, jogging or meditation.
Departure for Kosovo
Prior to border crossing, make a pause and have a cup of coffee in the old town of Rožaje in Montenegro. We recommend, if time allows, a short walk to the nearby mountain Hajle known for its beautiful, flowery meadows.
Visit to Dečani Monastery
Monastery Visoki Dečani is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and is one of the most amazing cultural attractions in cross-border area between Kosovo and Montenegro. It was founded in the first half of the 14th Century by Stefan Dečanski. Admirable high and decorated monastery walls, including other treasuries, are quite impressive.
“Kullahopping” is another unique experience one can try in Deçani. It relates to visiting kulas, traditional tower houses, in villages Drenoc and Isniq. Some kulas are specialized for certain activity, such as Mill kula or Osdautaj kula in Isniq.
The Osdautaj kula also offers accommodation and features a small museum of traditional costumes and agricultural tools. There, you can meet one of the last artisans, preserving unique local weaving tradition.
If you are a fan of historical artefacts, we recommend visit to the Kastrioti Ethno Museum in Deçani. For over 20 years, the passionate owner of this simple museum has been collecting precious historical pieces. Altogether, more than 1,000 objects are displayed, including a 5,000 years-old ancient stone artefact of a special value.
Lunch in Drenovci kula
Short walking through mountains surrounding Deçan, starting from Bjeshkë e Belegut.
Bjeshka e Belegut is 24 km away from Deçan, but is worth visiting. From there, you can walk to Krshi Bletea or even Maja e Madhe and enjoy the scenery.
This walking tour takes 2 to 3 hours. During summer, you can sleep over in one of the simple cabins in the mountain. Generous and kind shepherd families will provide you with a delicious organic meal. Unforgettable!
Accommodation in Deçani.
Exploring Mountains around Deçani Valley
After a hearty breakfast, it’s time to explore mountains around Deçani valley. The area is rich in biodiversity with a total of 750 plant species, of which 18 are endemic.
One of the best hiking trips starts from Zalli Rops to Qafa Bogiqe (2,090 m) which lies at the border line between Kosovo and Montenegro. From there, you can climb to the summit Maja Rops (2,501 m) and descend back. During this trip, you will hike a segment of the renowned Via Dinarica mega trail. This hike is 15 km long and it will take 6 hours. Another option is to cross the border and continue downhill to Katun Bogićevice in Montenegro.
For skilful mountaineers, hiking Maja e Gjeravicës is a must experience. With the elevation of 2,656 m, it is the highest mountain peak in the cross-border area between Kosovo and Montenegro and the second highest in the entire Dinarica mountain range. Several glacial lakes can be found near the summit, such as Gjeravica Lake, the highest mountain lake in Kosovo located just under the summit of Gjeravica peak. It is also known for salamanders which feast on flying insects. The scenery at the top of Gjeravica is spectacular.
Mountaineering guides can be found in regional tourism centres. There are several options to access Maja e Gjeravicës, one is from Deçani and the other is from Gropat e Erenikut. The route from Gropat e Erenikut takes about 4-5 hours, while the route from Deçani, in a total distance of around 14 km, takes 8 hours. There’s also an option of combining the two routes, by starting in Deçani and finishing in Gropat e Erenikut or the other way around.
Gjeravica is accessible in all seasons. One has to be in good shape and needs the appropriate gear. If a challenge is what you’re after, give Gjeravica mountain a try in winter.
Two other interesting hiking trips from Deçani valley are:
- Bjeshka e Prilepit (2,150 m) – Marijash – Shkallet e hajnave – Roshkodol, 12 km, 7 hours;
- Bjeshka Beleg (2,365 m) – Krshi Bletës – Maja Madhe – Bjeshka Beleg, 10 km, 6 hours.
In summer, you can spend the night in a simple hut in the mountains. Kind and generous shepherd families will provide a delicious meal made of organic food. Unforgettable!
Visit to Peja major attractions
Peja offers variety of attractions for culture and nature lovers.
Culture enthusiasts might want to start the day by:
- Visiting regional ethnographic museum, a renovated and reallocated home of Tahir Beg in Peja, one of the most beautiful medieval houses in the city.
- Visiting Haxhi Zeka Mill – the mill was the tallest building in Peja when it was built. It was the first mill in Kosovo and in the wider region, which had the most advanced electrical technology brought in from Austria. The mill initially used water for its power source, but soon switched to electricity.
- Meetings with local masters of traditional crafts.
Meeting a handicraft master who still makes traditional plis (a traditional Albanian hat) is a unique experience. The plis is a white woollen hat traditionally worn in Kosovo. Wearing this hat requires special care – it must be kept white at all times! The height of the hat varies region to region and is part of the traditional local costume. It is believed that the style originates from a similar one worn by the Illyrians.
Filigree masters – there is only a handful of artisans who maintain a centuries-old tradition of handmade filigree jewellery alive in Peja in Kosovo. Artisans spend hours curling fine silver threads into sophisticated necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets. Kosovo is one of rare places in Europe where this delicate lace-like kind of jewellery making tradition still exists. In the past, the area had its own silver mines and artisans had plenty of raw material to work with. Now, it is mainly imported, but filigree still holds special place in traditional wedding ceremonies.
If you are more of a nature lover or adventurer, you might want to spend the morning in the Rugova valley.
Rugova Canyon is a place of great natural beauty. It is considered to be one of Europe’s longest and deepest canyons, reaching a depth up to 1,000 meters. The canyon has been declared a protected monument of natural heritage due to its geological, speleological and botanical values. With numerous hiking possibilities, with amazing “Tibetan Bridge” (41 m of length and 60 m of height), a spectacular zip line and via ferrata, it is also one of the best destinations in Kosovo for nature lovers and adventurers. Visit tourist centre in Pejë for more information.
Departure to Gjakovë
A short drive through the Dukagjin/Metohija plain will take you to Gjakovë. The plain covers 35% of Kosovo’s total area. Several small rivers flowing along the valley provide water for irrigation. In combination with mild Mediterranean climate, this fertile land provides excellent conditions for wine making, growing of vegetables, chestnut and almond trees. Fruit orchards also adorn the area.
Recent world events related to coronavirus reminded us of the exceptional value of local food supply. At Jupa’s Restaurant, they will bring all local flavours to your table.
Walk through Gjakovë old town
You can start exploring the town by visiting its major cultural attractions, such as: the Tabaku Bridge and the Hadumi mosque complex, including its rich library.
Gjakovë old town is a great place for socializing. Either for a morning coffee, lunch or late-night stroll, the old town never disappoints. Locals are famous for their unique sense of humour. Stand-up Comedy Festival is taking place here in summer. Though it may be small, town Gjakovë knows how to make an impression.
Accommodation in the hotel Carshia e Jupave Inn
Hotel Carshia e Jupave is situated in the very centre of old town with magical mixture of old and new. Hotel has kept local, traditional character with a breath of warm modern design. This exclusive hotel is a perfect combination of art and design: not only in its interior adorned by precious works of art, but also its location so close to the heart of historically significant part of town.
Morning biking around Junik
Bicycles can be rented at Regional Tourism Centre Dukagjin in Junik.
Visit to Tekke of Alijjei – Halvetije Xhaferije Tariqa (Teqja Amë e Tarikatit Alijjei – Halvetije Xhaferije) in Junik
Tekke is a religious building of the Islamic Sufi brotherhood. It belongs to the Khalwati order (also known as Khalwatiya or Halveti). Sufis are recognised for inspiring whirling ceremonies, aiming to reach the source of all perfection through listening to the music, praying and spinning in repetitive circles. The whirling dance has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar system orbiting the sun.
The main public whirling ceremonies take place in January, March and August. In addition, small public whirling ceremonies are organized every Friday at noon.