Hiking Kosovo Macedonia Mountains

Amazing view of the Mountains in Macedonia just over the border.

Winter is approaching but there are still a few weeks left of crisp clear hiking air awaiting you in the mountains of 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 implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and funded by the Finland government.

What better way to experience this traditional area than by hiking to the old pass to Tetovo, Macedonia. Not only can you walk the old smuggling paths trodden by horses burdened with heavy oil barrels during the sanctions placed on Yugoslavia, but the view into Macedonia with its dramatic mountains and sheer cliffs is unforgettable. The oil barrels from this period are still used to cover houses and storage areas in the region.

Old House in Brod, Dragash, Kosovo

Oil barrels are used as walls and roofs on many of the old houses in Brod

This hike is harder and longer than the others I have posted (Restilica to Brod and  Brod to Mt. Cule) but worth every second. For those less ambitious the first part of the hike is easy, nestled in a gorgeous river valley and makes an easy 1 1/2 hour round trip hike.

Old Macedonian Pass

Brod to Macedonian Pass Hiking Map

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: Brod, from the cemetery

ENDING POINT: Brod, the Mt. Cule hiking path

TIME- 7 hours (long hike); 1 1/2 hours (easy hike)

STARTING ELEVATION- 1,384 meters

HIGHEST ELEVATION- 2,265 meters

DIFFICULTY- Hard or Easy (it’s your choice!)

The path starts on the eastern edge of Brod. Enter the town from the Dragash road and turn left when the road ends. Follow the river up past the mosque until you reach the edge of town with the cemetery above to the left. Climb up the steep hill until you see the source of the river flowing out of the narrow gorge.

Follow the river and the gorge for about 40 minutes until you reach a large boulder towering over the river. From here climb up the hill to the right until you are above the boulder and you see a path that takes you to a flat area (perfect for camping) and a spring to fill water bottles further on. This is where the easy hike ends and the longer hike continues.

Valley Brod, Dragash

You guessed it. Climb up the right side of the valley just after this boulder.

Lush river valley Brod

The first part of the hike is green and lush

Macedonian Pass to Dragash

The end of the hike is quite the contrast.

Follow the path through the valley until it ends at a river. Cross the river and climb the mountain following a small goat path up to the left of a sharp peak and around it to the right and then up, up, up. Your goal is the top of the mountain so feel free to get there any way that makes sense. Once you reach the top, after a long and steep climb, you will see the top on your right. This is where you will see the old wagon tracks and the remnants of a stone rest house. Keep going up to the right until you reach a drop off and magnificent views of Macedonia where Mt. Tito pokes its sharp head into the sky (yup we climber Tito too!). From here you start your return to Brod by keeping  Macedonia on your left and the valley you hiked through on your right far, far below. Check back on soon for a video description of the whole hike as well as a video of hiking/camping tips for the Dragash region!

Shepherd at Sunset Brod

A shepherd and his flock at sunset

Make your way until your see the point of Mt Cule (see earlier hiking article) to your left and follow the contours of the path and mountain until you reach Cule. Be careful not to go down the steep mountain as it drops suddenly and is dangerous. Keep on the goat path with Cule on your right across a deep valley and it will bring you around the backside of Cule and eventually down to the normal shepherd paths that lead back to Brod. From Cule head down and cross a small river and you will see a clear path. Just head towards Brod at this point and you can’t go wrong. Remember part of the joy of hiking in Dragash is finding your own way, which is very easy as no trees obstruct your view.

If You Go

Brod Village, Dragash Kosovo

No trick photography here. It really is a beautiful place.

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. 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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8 Responses to “Hiking Dragash, Kosovo: Brod to the old Macedonian Smuggling Pass”

  1. KurtNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the info on your site.I live in Kosovo and use your information to help plan my weekend hikes. I did this hike last weekend 10.09.2011 and had a great time. The only problem I had was half way up the trail from Brod I lost the map and your directions. I remembered enough to get me to the pass. Following a trail or path can a guess at times since I would choose one that would fade away into the tall grass. Be on your guard when you get near sheep since the dogs like to relax under the shade of the Juniper shrubs unseen only to jump out barking. This hike turned into one of my usual forget the map and go to whatever spot looks interesting. Brod is easy to find your way back to since there are no trees to block your view.

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hey Kurt, thanks so much for coming back to the site and letting me (and Dragash) know how the hikes went. I’m in Kosovo now as well so we will have to meet up and go hiking at some point. In fact I’m heading down to Dragash this weekend to lead people on two hikes, camp out, launch the guide book, and hopefully find a new route or two to include in the expanded version I’m planning ;) And agreed on the dogs, you do need to be careful. But they are also incredibly beautiful…if a bit big.

      This path can be very tricky finding the correct path but as you said Brod is good for point and go. Hopefully the paths will soon be marked by local youth NGOs as we gear up to offer a better nature tourist experience.

  2. danielaNo Gravatar says:

    Hey todd, first of all thanks for this wonderful blog. I think we are doing this trail this Saturday – Sunday. Dont you by the way have GPS coordinates of the major turning points – landmarks on this trail? i do know how to read maps, but stilll, even from my experience from montenegro where some of the trails are marked, it is easy to get very “diverted” from the trail you want to actually take:-)
    thanks, Daniela

    • ToddNo Gravatar says:

      Hey Daniela, great that you are doing the hike! Enjoy and let us know how it goes. I’m sorry but at the moment I don’t have the GPS available to download as it is going to be part of a published book. Once the book is live I’ll be able to post the GPS tracks for people to download. If you e-mail me privately I’m sure I can help out better, but at the moment i am in the mountains in Japan with little internet access. us the contact form and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

  3. JeremyNo Gravatar says:

    I think I’d be signed up for the easy route.
    Jeremy´s recent [type] ..Traveler Spotlight – Random Qs with Ordinary Traveler

  4. FilipsNo Gravatar says:

    Hey! Great pics and information:) Thanks. How posible is hiking in Winter, example in february? Some times it looks like that only atraction in winter is ski resorts.

    Filips

  5. Hi Mate. Thanks so much for your comments. I was hiking in Southern Kosovo last year and I hope to return to the Dragas valley in July 2011. The local folk are wonderful! Kind, hospitable and they always have time to sit, drink and talk with you. I recommend it to everyone. The only real danger is the abundance of “Sharpinina” sheep dogs. But if you keep your cool and casually ignore them there shouldn’t really be any problems. Although a pepper spray does give a little extra confidence!

  6. This is exactly the sort of hike I like to do, where it’s relatively straightforward yet little trodden, and where both natural setting and local villages seem like something from a fairy tale. I’ve been wanting to travel to Croatia in the near future. Your hiking reports from Kosovo make me think I should turn it into a dual trip to include Kosovo. If and when I go, I hope you don’t mind if I contact you for tips & pointers.

    Great photos, Todd. While my favorite is the one of the village nestled in the mountains, I’m especially glad you showed the one of the house covered in old oil barrels – an interesting visualization of area history.

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