Canyon behind Restelica, Dragash in Kosovo

Beautiful canyon behind the village of Restelica where the path begins

Mountain shepherds, enormous Sharr Dogs, free roaming horses, pristine babbling streams and dramatic mountains are just a small taste of what awaits you in Dragash. Located in the southern end of Kosovo, Dragash is an oasis of untouched natural beauty and traditional villages sandwiched between the borders of Macedonia and Albania. Ignored by the Yugoslav government, the area never received development money for tourism despite its wealth of flora, fauna and cultural traditions. Luckily, this also spared the region the communist era concrete hotels and restaurants that mar similar regions in Kosovo. To help spur sustainable eco-tourism to the region and highlight an untouched wonder in the Balkans I’m helping to write a hiking guide to the Dragash Region funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The last hike was a steep climb from Brod to Mt. Cule.

Easy Hike from Restelica to Brod (or the other way around)

Restelica to Brod hiking map for Kosovo

Click the map for a larger version. The trail is not marked so be sure to print out a copy of the map.

STARTING POINT: Restelica (or Brod)

TIME- 2 ½ hours one way

STARTING ELEVATION- 1,492 meters

HIGHEST ELEVATION- 1,972 meters

DIFFICULTY- Medium

The villages of Brod and Restelica sit on opposite ends of a fork in the road that begins in the town of Dragash. Representing the southernmost villages at the end of their roads, and Kosovo, they are only about 10 km away from each other by the mountain trails but it takes more than an hour to reach the other village by car. Each village has its unique atmosphere and a hike through the mountain passes between the two is an easy way to explore both the surrounding nature and the character of the small villages dotting the Dragash region. Their isolation from each other has reportedly bred a healthy rivalry between the two villages. You will have to decide for yourself which town speaks closer to your own heart. No matter which you choose you are sure to fall in love with the surrounding mountains, sweeping grassy fields reminiscent of New Zealand, and a local population eager to host the rare visitor.

Restelica Kosovo

The village of Restelica

I would recommend starting your hike from Restelica as you start higher on this end and the pass is less steep to reach, allowing you to enjoy your hike down to Brod. This will also allow you to stay the night in Brod in the only hotel in the area, Arxhena. The hotel sits 3 km from the town of Brod on the way into the mountains. Their attempt to build an insanely steep ski hill has marred the surrounding beauty, but the staff is friendly and accommodating. Their lamb is delicious, fresh from the town of Brod, and don’t forget to try the salty Sharr cheese.

Starting from Restelica:

Enter the town until you reach a sharp left hand turn that switches back on itself. Follow this road up into the main part of town. Keep following the road until it turns right and leads you out of town to the South and then into a river valley (pictured at the beginning of the article). From here the walking path follows the river into the valley. After about 20 minutes you will come to a fork in the valley with a smaller river flowing into the larger from the left. Leave the path here and follow the smaller river up into the valley on the left. After about 100 meters a path will start on the left side of this river. Follow this up along the river to the pass that leads down to Brod. On the way up you’ll find a spring where you can refill your water bottles.

Locals in Dragash, Kosovo

Meeting locals along the path.

Axhgenia Hotel Brod

Hotel near Brod and the insanely steep walk down to it. Careful its slippery.

Just before the top of the pass there is a Sheppard’s hut where a lot of Sharr dogs live. Give it a wide berth just to stay safe as Sharr dogs can be very territorial. Once over the pass follow the mountains down to the left. You’ll be able to see a rocky cliff in the distance, head toward this. You will hit the old road towards Macedonia. At this point you can either walk down the steep, eroded ski slope towards Hotel Arxhena if you are staying there, or continue to follow the old road north and it will eventually bring you gently down into the town of Brod.

Starting from Brod

Just follow the directions above in reverse. If you are starting from the Brod itself it is best to turn right across the river just outside of town to begin your climb along the old Macedonian road. If you start from the Hotel you are forced to hike up the ski hill, which is hot, dusty and very steep. Be careful not to follow the well worn path towards the glacial lake in the south. Instead once you are just above the hotel turn west and head up over the mountains were the path is smaller and made by sheep. Don’t worry too much about the path at this point, just get up and over the mountain pass and you will see where to go.

Don’t forget to look out for the wild goats that live in the cliffs above Arxhena hotel. They come out in the morning and later afternoon. A small restaurant called Ramce by the river (before you reach the Arxhena hotel coming from Brod) is a perfect place to relax and search for the goats. Ask the owner for this binoculars. They also serve great lamb so stop by on your way back from hiking. Just remember to call in advance and they need 1 hour to prepare the lamb properly (tel 029-285-119). They are only open in the summer but the scenery, cold beer, goat viewing and fresh meat can’t be beat.

Todd mobbed by sheep in Dragash, Kosovo

Yes, this is when I was mobbed by sheep. They were more aggressive than the dogs on this hike!

If You Go

Hills and wild flowers in Dragash, Kosovo

Early summer is the best time for the wild flowers and deep green grasses

Driving from Pristina it takes about 2 1/2 hours to reach Brod by car. Drive to Prizren and follow the one way roads through the city taking a sharp left at the city center and following signs for Kukes and Dragash where you will take a right hand turn to leave the city. Continue on the road to Kukes for about 15 km until you come to an intersection with signs pointing left to Dragash. Turn left and follow this road into the valley for about 30 km until you come to the  town of Dragash itself.

Going to Restelica: Just after entering Dragash and climbing the hill to the beginning of the town take your first right hand turn. Follow the road for about 40 minutes until you come to Restelica, the last town along the road.

Going to Brod:  Continue through Dragash center following signs for Brod. The road after Dragash winds its way through the mountains for another 20 minutes until you come to Brod, the last town along the road.

If you have any questions about visiting Dragash just post a comment below. Or share your stories and tips for visiting this wonderful area of Kosovo.

If you do visit, please leave a comment below as I will be sharing your experiences with the Mayor and the communities to help encourage them and show them the value of their resources.

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31 Responses to “Hiking Dragash, Kosovo: Restelica to Brod”

  1. RobertNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Todd!
    Do you have some information about border crossing point southward Restelica to Fyrom Macedonia (Mavrovo region)??;
    have seen some photos showing there checkpoint buildings etc, but isn´t clear, if for local inhabitants only or also international…
    thanks for answer

  2. Just returned from an 18-day hiking trip in Southern Kosovo. The Dragaś Valley is the closest kept secret of the Cold War! It’s simply incredible. The people (Gorani & Albanian) are wonderful and the scenery is simply breath-taking! If there’s an end of the world in Europe (and I mean that in a positive sense) it’s the Dragaś Valley. Thanks for all your hard work Todd – much appreciated. R. O’C.

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      hey Richard, glad you had a great time!! If you are willing, I’d love to put up a guest post by you on your experience hiking the region for the 18 days. Where you went, who you met, impressions etc.

      • The pleasure would be all mine – thank you for the suggestion. Tomorrow I’m going hiking in the Polish mountains for 7 days on a “Survival” camp so please don’t be offended if I don’t reply immediately.

  3. Hi Todd, looking forward to the book. “unfortunately” I’ll be in Dragasz for 2 weeks in July but thank you so much for the invitation. Along with my wife and 4 kids I am Welsh/Irish but we live in the South of Poland. Beautiful mountains here so if ever you need a holiday please consider yourself part of the family! : ) Furthermore, my kids always love a good nutter! Richard O’C.

  4. Hi Todd, looking forward to the book. “unfortunately” I’ll be in Dragasz for 2 weeks in July but thank you so much for the invitation. Along with my wife and 4 kids I am Welsh/Irish but we live in the South of Poland. Beautiful mountains here so if ever you need a holiday please consider yourself part of the family! : ) Richard O’C.

  5. Incidentally, your photos really are quite incredible!! Please keep up the good work Sir. R.

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Richard, no worries, I’m glad you found the information useful. When you get to Kosovo do get in touch to see if I’m still here. I”ll be away for the summer from June 15th. The electronic version of the guide should be released end of May with a more comprehensive print version following towards the end of the year.

  6. Hi Todd, thanks for your prompt reply and please forgive my delay in thanking you – I really have no excuse. Any more news about your e-book? I would really like to devour it!! : ) Thanks again for everything. R.

  7. One other question if I may? How about fishing? Is it allowed and is there enough to survive on? Thanks.

    R. O’C.

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Richard, thanks for getting in touch. According to K-For the area is cleared of mines. Most places are safe, or reasonibly safe as we can never be 100% but if you stick to the areas where people herd sheep and travel on the paths you should be fine. There is one area just North of Mt. Koritnic where the locals say there are still mines in the forest. I have been advised to stay away. We should be coming out with a free e-book on hiking in Dragash for the Spring so well in advance of your trip.

      As for fishing there are no rules against it. There are fish but make sure you do it upstream of towns as the garbage disposal is not great. As for bears, my only advice is the normal bear advice. Carry a whistle, keep your food away from your tent etc. I have not seen a bear there before but I know people who have.

  8. Hi Todd, I’ll be hiking in Dragasz in July. Do you have any info. about where any land-mines are located so as to avoid those areas – I kind of like BOTH my legs! And any advice about how to avoid danger from the bears as I intend to live and sleep in the wild for two weeks. Thanks a lot.

    R. O’C.

  9. NeilNo Gravatar says:

    Hey Todd, I’m moving to Kosovo in three days and I’m wondering what sort of outdoor equipment I should bring. Is it worth it to bring my tent? Or is camping not a good idea? I love hiking and camping but I haven’t been able to find much in the way of guides. Is there a lot to do there? Safe? Thanks!

    • ToddNo Gravatar says:

      Hey Neil,

      Bring your tent and sleeping bag as there are not any stores that sell qualty equipment. I brought mine from the states. There are tons of places to camp and hike. It is generally safe but of course you need to be careful as there are some places that are still mined. I`m coming out with a free ebook on hiking in Dragash (complete with maps) in the spring. Its being put out by a UN project there. There are also two hiking clubs that you can hook up with. And of course get in touch when you arrive and I’d be happy to you out as much as I can.

      Cheers,
      Todd
      Todd´s recent [type] ..Petra Jordan Photo Essay- A Walk Through History

  10. Jeremy BNo Gravatar says:

    Todd, thanks for this post. I like hiking in the mountains and Kosovo looks like a beautiful place. Last weekend, I went hiking in Tahoe. It had been a while since I had gone and I forgot how enjoyable it can be. Your post is a reminder of that it’s one of the things I love about traveling – exploring the hidden gems and quiet places in nature.
    Jeremy B´s recent [type] ..Continentals Thanksgiving airfare sale- RT cheap flights for domestic travel

  11. NancieNo Gravatar says:

    Wonderful photos Todd. This looks like an amazing hike. Those sheep do look awfully friendly.
    Nancie´s recent [type] ..Wanderfood Wednesday &8212 Delicious Ramen in Fukuoka

  12. This is really very nice post. The pictures are posted here are awesome. The place looks green. Just feel lilllike heaven come on the earth. It is God creations. Thanks for sharing …………

  13. EgzonNo Gravatar says:

    Great Article, Dragash is a good place. There’s lots of good places for Hiking in Kosovo!
    Egzon´s recent [type] ..itookadeepbreath-calamity-physics-magicandwishes-via

  14. jennaNo Gravatar says:

    interesting post, i think it’s great that you are writing a hiking guide that will no doubt bring other people to what seems like a beautiful, and neglected area, tourism-wise.

    just one thing i noticed while reading your post, it’s “wide berth” and not “wide birth”, as it refers to the nautical version of the word.

  15. AliceNo Gravatar says:

    Nice article and great pics!
    The place was so green it was very stunning!

  16. I remember Brod well. I lived in Dragash for a year 2001-2 while working for the United Nations. I used to take my children up into the hills beyond Brod to swim in a stream which we dammed to make a pool. That summer was as hot as the winter was cold and we all enjoyed cooling off in what we called ‘Brod baths’.
    I remember the woman bent double shaping cow dung into little bricks, laying them out in the hot sun to dry for fuel in the winter. I remember the houses with roofs made from oil drums hammered into flat sheets. I remember the endless rolling green hills that stretched endlessly across into Macedonia.
    I remember it all as if it were yesterday. The friends, the hardships, the rugged uncut beauty of it all.
    Life was simple there and I would go back in the morning if I could.
    Maybe someday.

  17. ewaNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks so much for the post, it is really helpful, seems like we will be there in less than two weeks. One more question I have is about the hotel, we are very much so on the budget and so I was wondering what are the rates there approximately…

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      About 30 Euro per night/room. I think you can pack up to 3 people in a room. You can also camp by the river if you have the gear :) Have a great time and I hope the map helps. Please do come back and write a comment about your time in Dragash so that we can show it to the mayor and the people.

  18. Wow, I love the photos… what a dream to travel the world for a living (except, maybe, for the sheep).

    I’m doing all my travelling in the kitchen lately (I have a 13 month old and we want to wait until she can remember the trips).

    Safe travels to you :)
    Sasha @ Global Table Adventure´s recent [type] ..Fun Fact Friday- Cameroon with poll

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks Sash. Yes, the sheep are scary at time ;) For some reason they really liked the taste of my pants. A few weeks later in the same region a herd of cows followed and licked me for 30 minutes. I guess I taste good. Happy travels and cooking to you as well.

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