Europe's Youngest State
Former New York Times Balkans Correspondent and Political Tours' Director Nicholas Wood examines Kosovo’s fortunes amid scandal and debate over its recognition.
Tailor-made group tours available
Kosovo’s reputation appeared sullied in the immediate aftermath of independence as its government fought persistent allegations of corruption and its prime minister was tainted by an organ trafficking scandal. Since then the Balkans’ newest country has been on a drive to build its reputation, and seek closer ties with the EU. Relations with Serbia remain fraught, but much has changed in relations with Kosovo’s Serb minority south of the Ibar.
Aided by local experts, politicians, and analysts, our Kosovo Tour explores the origins of the conflict in Kosovo and looks at the enormous changes that have taken place since 1999. We also explore what the country has to offer in terms of its rich culture, cuisine, and even nightlife!
Participants number between 8 and 14 people.
Day 1 – Pristina
Arrival and Welcome
Optional guided walk around the capital, Pristina, before dinner. Frequently described as the ugliest city in the Balkans, it still has Ottoman-era houses and mosques. Since 1999 it has experienced enormous change, and is undergoing a construction boom. Dinner with tour experts and Political Tours staff.
Day 2 – Decani
Competing Historical Claims
Depart from Pristina to Decani – home to Kosovo’s most spectacular monastery built by the medieval Serbian King Stefan. An introduction to the medieval empire of the Serbs. Lunch in a Kula, an ancient fortified Albanian home: an introduction to medieval Albanian law and family structures. Prizren – The League of Prizren and 1872 Albanian aspirations for statehood. Dinner by the river and return to Pristina.
Day 3 - The 1990s and its Legacy
Gazemestan – From 1389 to 1989. The Battle of Kosovo and Milosevic’s rise to power. The Drenica Valley – Prekaz and the birth of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Packed lunch. Rural Kosovo today – profile of a rural Albanian village, its history, how people survive, the role of migration and the need for agricultural reform. 70% of Kosovars still live in the countryside. Dinner in Pristina plus guests.
Day 4: Intervention and Supervision
Pristina – briefing by UN officials: The war and its aftermath. Briefing by Nicholas Wood, Political Tours’ Director and former New York Times Correspondent: the March 2004 riots and how they reversed international policy on Kosovo. Briefing by international officials: “Supervised independence and the road ahead for Kosovo.” Mitrovica – the divided city. Divided since the end of the war, this city remains the focal point for ethnic divisions. Meetings with international officials. Walk across bridge to the Serb dominated north of the city. Meeting Serbian representative in the north. Walk around city. Talks with Serbian refugees who have come to live in north. Dinner in Pristina.
Day 5: The Economy
Briefing by local and international economists. Meeting with international investors. The obstacles to investment in Kosovo, local and international. Plus international community’s lack of development policy. Lunch with investors. Alternative visits to major locations of foreign investment.
Day 6: Gracanica
Government for all?
Gracanica. Meeting with mayor of newly created Serbian municipality. How well is Kosovo’s government living up to its post independence promises? Meeting with rival Serbian municipal authority, backed by the Serbian state. Lunch in Pristina. Meetings and briefings with government officials. Briefing by Kosovo NGO on corruption. Another view – Vetevendosja, Kosovo’s “self-determination” movement that opposes continued international supervision, and vocal opponent of the government and international community. Free time in Pristina followed by dinner.
Day 7 – The Future
What lies ahead?
Briefings with EULEX, the European Union’s Law and Order mission, and a visit to the courts. Kosovo’s European Perspective – talks by European Commission and government, and updates on the status of talks between Pristina and Belgrade. Briefing from representatives of non-recognising states. Dinner in Pristina.
Day 8 – Leave
Breakfast and travel to airport.
For those who would like to further explore Kosovo after the tour we can arrange stays in villages as well as excursions into the countryside and mountains.
How to make your Kosovo Tour booking
To confirm your booking you need to send a non-refundable deposit of 15% of the total holiday cost or £250 per person (whichever is the greater) made payable to Political Tours Limited.
If you are booking less than 8 weeks prior to departure the full cost of the tour is payable.
What is included in the Kosovo Tour?
The price includes accommodation in 3 star hotels in Pristina as well as all meals during the visit. All the accommodation includes private bathrooms. (Where there is a possibility of staying overnight in a village, local standards will prevail.)
How to reach Kosovo
There are regular daily flights between Pristina, and Vienna, Istanbul, Frankfurt, Berlin, London and Zurich. See Pristina Airport’s website for a full list of destinations. http://www.airportpristina.com/en/route-map.html.
Easyjet also flies to Kosovo via Geneva. A taxi from Pristina Airport to the city centre costs around 15 Euros.
Climate & Clothing Suggestions
Kosovo has a continental climate, and is surrounded by mountains to the South and West. It experiences extremes of temperature in both summer and winter. Temperatures can peak in the 30s during the summer months. Higher up in the mountainous regions you can expect temperatures to be a few degrees lower. Snow falls in Kosovo from between November to March and temperatures can drop to well below zero. Both spring and autumn can be rainy.
Passports, Visa & Health
All clients are personally responsible for ensuring that they have a valid passport, relevant visas and conform to the health regulations required by the countries that will be visited during the tour.
Foreign nationals presently do not need visas for Kosovo, and can stay for up to three months in the country. See the Kosovo government’s web portal for further information:
The health system in Kosovo is severely under-funded. Hospitals lack specialist equipment and there is a widespread shortage of medicines and other essentials. Many in the medical profession lack training in modern techniques and practices.
There are some outbreaks of Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) during the summer in rural areas Kosovo. This is a tick borne disease. In 2010 there were 84 suspected cases, and 18 confirmed. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the NaTHNaC or NHS Scotland’s Fit for Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
Crime is well below the European average in Kosovo; however some foreigners have been the target of street crime and break-in over the past decade. However tourists are safe to walk around the city. You are much more likely to be invited into someone’s home for tea or coffee than be the victim of crime.
The exceptions to this are when there are increased political tensions, and periods of civil unrest.
Currently the UK’s foreign office advises against all but essential travel to the north of Mitrovica. This is a key part of our tour as the city’s divisions are integral to understanding the broader political dynamics of Kosovo. Please consult the Foreign Office’s Travel Advice site below. http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/europe/kosovo.
You are also required to take out insurance that will cover travel to north Mitrovica or areas where the foreign office has recommended essential travel only. Please see the following section for more details.
Appropriate and adequate travel insurance is essential and is a condition of travelling with us. Your policy must include comprehensive medical cover including the cost of evacuation and repatriation from the remote destinations included in your tour in the event of illness or accident in addition to other medical requirements.
Please provide us with confirmation of the name of your insurance company, the policy number and the insurers’ emergency contact telephone number for use in a medical emergency no later than 8 weeks prior to the tour departure. If you fail to do so, we are entitled to cancel your booking and apply the cancellation charges shown below.
You must also ensure that the policy will protect you in the event that you travel to an area against the advice of the Foreign Office.
Hazards Inherent in Our Tours
It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office may have issued advice against all travel or all but essential travel in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. Where the FCO issues such advice, we may, as a result, cancel your tour or make changes so as to avoid the area concerned (see clauses 10 and 12 of our Terms and Booking Conditions). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice.
Our Cancellation Charges
If you feel you need to cancel a tour before departure we reserve the right to make the following charges.
Period before departure within which written notification of cancellation is received by us, and charges per person cancelling.
Up to 56 days Deposit
55 to 28 days 50%
27 to 15 days 75%
14 days or less 100%
On receipt of your booking form and deposit we will confirm your booking in writing, then approximately 8 weeks before departure we shall send you further information relevant to your tour together with a final invoice.
Please pay the invoice within 10 days of the invoice date otherwise we reserve the right to treat the booking as cancelled and apply the cancellation conditions as set out below. Your travel documents are dispatched about 7/10 days before the tour departs.
Booking Terms and Conditions
Full details of our terms and conditions can be viewed by clicking this link.
Books on Kosovo
Little and Silber, The Death of Yugoslavia: BBC 1996
An introduction into the break up of Yugoslavia, in particular Milosevic’s use of Kosovo on his rise to power: Penguin; 2Rev Ed edition (27 Jun 1996) ISBN-10: 0140261680 ISBN-13: 978-0140261684
Tim Judah, Kosovo: What everyone needs to know OUP USA
(23 Oct 2008) ISBN-10: 0195373456 ISBN-13: 978-0195373455
Tim Judah, Kosovo - War and Revenge
(Yale University Press, 2nd Revised edition (5 Nov 2002)
ISBN-10: 0300097255 ISBN-13: 978-0300097252
Anna Di Lellio, The Case for Kosova: The Passage to Independence
Anthem Press; 1st edition (1 July 2006) Language English ISBN-10: 184331245X ISBN-13: 978-1843312451
Noel Malcolm, Kosovo: A Short History
New York University Press, Revised 2002 ISBN-10: 0330412248 ISBN-13: 978-0330412247
Miranda Vickers, Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo
Columbia University Press, Revised 18 May 2001 ISBN-10: 0231113838 ISBN-13: 978-0231113830
Gail Warrander and Verena Knaus, Kosovo Bradt Guide
Bradt Travel Guides; 2 edition, 3 Nov 2010 ISBN-10: 1841623318 ISBN-13: 978-1841623313
Edith Durham: High Albania 1909
Widely regarded as on of the best introduction to customs in northern Albania at start of the 20th century Weidenfeld & Nicolson; New edition edition (19 Oct 2000) ISBN-10: 184212207X ISBN-13: 978-1842122075
Elizabeth Gowing, Travels in Blood and Honey - Becoming a Bee-Keeper in Kosovo
A wonderful account of a British woman's encounters with modern day Kosovo; Travels in Blood and Honey charts the author's journeys through Kosovo's countryside and its urban sprawl, its Serbs and Albanians, its history and heartache, its etymology and entomology, its sweet and its unsavoury.
Signal Books Ltd (22 April 2011) ISBN-10: 1904955908 ISBN-13: 978-1904955900
Balkan Investigative Reporting Network – Best provider of news and analysis in the region.
The Economist’s Eastern Approaches
Blog – includes Tim Judah’s thoughts on the Balkans.
B92 - Belgrade based independent news agency
KosovaLive - a Kosovo based news agency.
It is worth subscribing to PILPG’s Balkan Watch, a bi-monthly summary of news in the Balkans. For a free subscription send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following subject line, SUBSCRIBE BALKANWATCH. Their website is out of date, but the newsletter is still being sent out.
The European Stability Initiative - Kosovo Page – Think Tank that specialises in integration of the Balkans with the EU.
It also has a good country profile:
and links to recent reports by international institutions and think tanks:
Kosovo Stability Initiative – Kosovo based think tank; focuses on empirical research and analysis of socio-economic developments.
KIPRED – Kosovo Institute for Research and Development.
Kosovo based think tank that aims to promote and strengthen democracy and democratic values in the region.
Riinvest - Kosovo based research institute focusing on entrepreneurship and development.
Kosovo government website – Prime Minister’s office
Serbian Orthodox Church's Kosovo site
Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija - Serbian Government site.
For more in depth reading Chatham House also has a list of recent strategic and academic analyses.