The mountainous region of Peja/ Peć in western Kosovo is focused on transcending mass tourism by offering personalised experiences that blend local traditions with the rugged terrain. The region’s potential for tourism was identified years ago with investments taking place both in infrastructure and in human capital. Now there are visitors here who spend their time trekking, hiking, and biking.
Nature lovers choose to spend time in the Albanian Alps, whose name translates from local languages as the ‘Accursed Mountains’ – the mountain range shared between Kosovo, Montenegro, and Albania. A group of enthusiasts, some of whom have made this their livelihood, are proud to share their local riches with the rest of the world and are now reaping the rewards of this industry.
Where only the shepherds used to walk
The local mountaineering association, Gjeravica, found a partner in the European Union-funded cross-border project between Kosovo and Montenegro investing in marking existing and new trails for hiking and biking. “This project is hands-down the most successful intervention implemented on these mountain ranges in the last 20 years,” says Raif Gjikolli from Gjeravica. The association was involved in all stages of the project, advising on the proposed routes and marking them out. “We take pride in selecting the best routes that only the locals used to walk – such as the one from the city centre, where the altitude is at 550m, through pastures and past shepherds huts in mountain ranges at 1,800m altitude,” says Gjikolli, confirming the marking to be of international standard.
The routes go through picturesque parts of protected areas in both Kosovo and Montenegro. Outdoor enthusiasts can spend days criss-crossing borders, and intersecting with better-known regional mountain routes such as the Peaks of Balkans or the Via Dinarica.
Information brought together in one place
The marked trails cross borders but they keep to the natural flow of the massifs, and they guide visitors through outstanding views of the Accursed Mountains. The implementing organisations have received positive feedback from tour guides operating in the area where hundreds of markings have been applied alongside the 334 kilometres of hiking and biking routes.
Sokol Luta from Regional Development Agency – West, the implementing partner on the Kosovan side, explains that with EU funds 25 information boards have been installed, sources of water have been identified, and signposts now point the way to panoramic views. “The markings of the trails, and the accompanying activities, are in line with the local development plans and strategies to develop tourism in the region,” says Luta.
He adds that there was great cooperation between stakeholders on both sides of the border to improve the quality of the Accursed Mountains tourism offer, increase visibility, and ultimately present the cross-border area as a single attractive outdoor destination. As an example, the implementing organisations have collected and listed in one place – both as a website and a smart-phone app – all service providers in accommodation, gastronomy, and tour services. Alongside the digitalised trail maps, visitors are given the option to choose between organised tours, or independently discover the area.
About the project
The Accursed Mountains – Exquisite Outdoor Destination project was created with the aim of strengthening the cross-border zone between Kosovo and Montenegro as an outdoor destination. A network of approximately 334 km of hiking and cycling trails has been marked and offers connections between Kosovo and Montenegro. The entire border region is equipped with rest areas, viewpoints, and bicycle parking. This EU-funded project will stimulate economic development and create new employment opportunities.
Photo credits: Accursed Mountains Kosovo
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