Saturday, October 1, 2022

RUGOVA VALLEY KOSOVO

Rugova Valley is located in the heart of Dukagjini, in north-western Kosovo. It covers an area of 32.000 hectares. Its highest peak is Coursed Mountain, with an altitude of 2560 meters.

Among several characteristics that distinguish this valley, following are the most important ones

  • -Bistrica River, which passes throughout 12 kilometers of the valley
  • -Waterfalls that fall from a height of 30 meters
  • -Two lakes at an altitude of 1 800 meters above sea level and
  • -A number of caves

Rugova Valley is considered as an ideal place to spend a day or a couple of days, when you need to relax and get away from the daily routine and dynamic life in the city. It is a quiet preserved and unexplored region, and this offers a unique entertainment opportunity for the lovers of eco and rural tourism.

Rugova is 93 km from Pristina. The Lumbardhi River splits the mountain in half, creating a valley and a canyon (Rugova Gorge).

85% of the territory is covered by forests, 15% by pasture. The terrain is rugged with limestones and bluff slopes and deep-narrow erosive gorges. Mountain sites are with a slope of 15°-30° but occasionally they reach 45°-90°. The terrain is composed of various forms of numerous karst such as caves, natural tunnels, waterfalls, glacial lakes etc.

WHAT IT’S LIKE HIKING RUGOVA CANYON AND HAJLA IN KOSOVO

The idea that Kosovo is an awesome hiking destination takes a lot of people by surprise. It’s certainly not something I knew about prior to planning my first visit there. But with some epic mountain scenery and very few people to share it with, hiking in Kosovo really delivers. A perfect place to start is the Rugova Canyon in the northwest of Kosovo, which is exactly what we did.

Now, whenever an experience or destination really amazes me, it takes me a long time to share it. That’s not because I want to keep it to myself, but more that I want to do it justice. My time hiking Rugova Valley and the surrounding mountains was such a blast, full of good times and stunning scenery. All told, we spent three days hiking around the Accursed Mountains of Kosovo, which I was more than keen to do after hiking in Slovenia.

Rather than share it all at once, this post is solely about our time in Rugova Canyon and the hike up to the summit of Hajla, one of the higher peaks in this part of the Balkans. So, if you’re looking for a day hike while in Kosovo, here you go.

Rugova Canyon or Rugova Gorge (Albanian: Gryka e Rugovës; Serbian: Руговска клисура, Rugovska klisura) is a river canyon in the western part of Kosovo near Peja, in the Prokletije Mountains, close to the border with Montenegro. With a length of 25 km (16 mi) and a depth up to 1,000 meters, Rugova canyon is considered to be one of Europe’s longest and deepest canyons. It was created by the water erosion and the removal of the glacier of Peja. Peja Bistrica river cuts through the canyon.
In 1985, Rugova Canyon was declared as protected monument of natural heritage due to its geological, hydrological, landscape, speleological and botanic values.

The cave Gryka e Madhe (Great Canyon-cave) is located in the 8th kilometer of Rugova Canyon, in the left side, about 60 m above the Lumbardhi river, in the altitude 637 m.

Researches in this cave have started since 1993, by some Slovak speleologists, who randomly were traveling to Macedonia through Rugova canyon, even though this cave was known for local inhabitants since long time ago. The researches in the cave continued in the period 1966 – 2007, with a break time 1998 – 2001. During the last expedition research it is identified that corridors are to oval profile, homogeneous and to different dimensions, which have the character of a continuously underground canyon with high walls Rugova Canyon offers great opportunities for hikers, rock-climbers and cave explorers. In this canyon recently was built “Via Ferrata” or the “Iron Trail”, the first and the only in Balkans, which enables climbing rocks for each one of the curious passersby.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT FROM LEQINAT LAKE?

Leqinat lake (Albanian: Liqeni i Leqinatit or Leqinati or Liqeni i Kuqishtës) is a mountain lake found on the Rugova Valley.

This lake is well known throughout Kosovo and is visited by people going to the Rugova Canyon or by people climbing nearby peaks.Lake Leqinat is at an elevation of 1,970 m (6,463 ft). Lake Liqenat is just above the village of Kuqishte.

Camping in Rugova

On the Rugova map, there are a few official camping spots marked.  I have only been to the camping spot at Leqinat Lake, so I can’t vouch for the other spots.

You can certainly ask to camp in front of any of the restaurants or cabins in Rugova too.  Kosovars are known for their hospitality and will likely let you stay for free (maybe even use their bathrooms too!).

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