The Rugova Valley, part of the Western Balkans’ Accursed Mountains group, is one of the most scenic parts of Kosovo. But few travelers make it out to this remote part of the country, and information on hikes in the region is scarce. While I didn’t end going on the hike I’d originally planned, I can confirm that hiking in the Rugova Valley is indeed possible as a day trip from Peja. Keep reading to find out how.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley

I first learned about the Rugova Valley from a friendly Kosovar who gave me a ride back to my hotel from Sarandë, Albania’s Blue Point. He lives in Germany and was telling me about how even German-language travel magazines were raving about Rugova.

And so I made sure to include it in my Kosovo itinerary. But I had little idea of the best way to go about hiking in the Rugova Valley, as online searches yielded little information. 

Some sites did, however, mention that the most exciting hike in the area is the one to Hajla Peak, just along Kosovo’s northern border with Montenegro.

Arriving in Peja, nobody at my hotel could give me much info, and so I walked over to the Rugova Valley Tourist Information Center to the west of the city center.

The friendly staff there explained that to do the Hajla Peak trek, a taxi to the starting point would cost 35 euro one-way! But there’s another hike that I could easily do by public bus, they explained.

Being on a budget and without a vehicle, I went ahead with their suggestion and made plans to hike to the Leqinat and Drelaj (or ‘Little Leqinat’) lakes.

Having done it, I can say that it’s a relatively easy and calming hike with beautiful scenery along the way. But frankly speaking, it’s not nearly as thrilling as the popular Valbonë to Theth hike, also in the Accursed Mountains but on the Albanian side of the border.

Be that as it may, if you’re already visiting Peja, the hike to Leqinat Lake is well worth setting aside a day for.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley

The Hike to Leqinat Lake

About this Hike

Lake Leqinat Hiking Route
The route as outlined on Maps.me

THE BASICS: Getting off the bus in the village of Kuqishtë (see below), the hike to Leqinat Lake takes a little over 2 hours. From there, it’s an additional 20 minutes to the second lake called Drelaj (or ‘Little Leqinat’).

Along the way, you will pass through a village with a well-known restaurant called Te Liqeni, which you can stop at either before or after visiting the lakes.

This hike could be categorized as ‘easy’ overall, with only one steep and strenuous section between the restaurant and the lake.

REACHING THE STARTING POINT: From Peja, take the 8:00 bus from platform 21 bound for Kuqishtë, making it back in time for the 15:00 return bus. The ride only costs a few euro.

The company that operates the buses is called Nikçi, and you can find updated timetables on their Facebook page

For several years, the buses used to leave at 7:00. And at the time of my visit, various people in Peja told me the outdated departure time. Therefore, it’s important to check online or at the bus station for the latest timetable.

RECOMMENDED APPS: The only app you need for this hike is Maps.me, a free app that also works offline. The hiking trail is marked clearly and the time estimations are pretty accurate.

WHAT TO BRING: Given the ease of the hike and the existence of a restaurant along the way, there’s little you need to prepare other than some decent shoes and perhaps a raincoat.

After a scenic ride from Peja, which lasts around 30 minutes, I was dropped off at the bus stop of Kuqishtë. Loading up Maps.me, I saw that the hike to the first lake would take around 2 hours and ten minutes.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley

Leaving the small bus stop, you should immediately see the road fork in two, and you’ll want to choose the flat road to the left. This will take you south for a while.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley
Hiking in the Rugova Valley

If there’s one major downside to this hike, it’s that about half of it requires you to walk along the road. I never like ‘hiking’ on roads, which always feels like cheating. And it’s never fun to repeatedly move out of the way for speeding vehicles. 

But in this case, there’s simply no other option. And traffic wasn’t altogether too bad, at least.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley

Hiking in the Rugova Valley is just one section of a much wider trail network called Peaks of the Balkans. This massive hiking route stretches out to 192 km in total, taking hikers through the Accursed Mountains of three different countries: Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania.

In total, the trek would take at least 10 days to complete, though it’s certainly possible to choose certain sections which suit you. Obviously, hiking with your own tent, sleeping bag, and of course, passport, is a must for this hike.

It seems to be popular, as during this short day hike, I spotted at least four other trekkers carrying huge loads on their backs. Clearly, they were in for a much longer journey than I was.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley

Speaking of international borders, you’ll realize that when looking closely at the Maps.me route, the trail to Leqinat Lake weaves in and out of Montenegrin territory at some points. 

But don’t worry: there are no border guards around here to hassle hikers, and you don’t need your ID as long as you’re coming as a day hike from Peja.

Before long, the climb will gradually get steeper. And the higher you get, the more impressive the views will become. As indicated by Maps.me, there’s also a lookout point you can check out by briefly walking off-road not long before you reach the next village.

While not the most impressive view you’ll see on this hike, it’s worth the several-minute detour.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley
Hiking in the Rugova Valley

After having walked about 90 minutes from the bus stop, you’ll finally get to leave the main road behind. But it’s not time to ditch civilization just yet. On the contrary, you’ll encounter a small but growing village, complete with brand new tourist villas.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley

It’s also here that you’ll find the restaurant Te Liqeni, which is reasonably priced and offers a great view of the surrounding mountains. But, anticipating rain at any moment, I decided to save it for the return trip.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley

While this is an overall straightforward hike, the trickiest bit is making your way out of the village. There are a couple of different alternate trails you can take, but you should eventually make it to a long grassy meadow. 

Hiking in the Rugova Valley
Hiking in the Rugova Valley

Continue heading south, and the trail will gradually get steeper, making for the most strenuous part of the entire hike. But this section is also one of the hike’s most scenic, offering clear views of the Accursed Mountains.

The origins of the nickname are a mystery. While their beauty is unmistakable, the rugged mountains simultaneously take on a rather ominous appearance. Furthermore, numerous local legends tell of hardships endured by those trying to make their way through this mountain range.

With dark clouds forming above me in the sky, my surroundings started to appear even more menacing than usual.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley
Hiking in the Rugova Valley

After half an hour or so of a steep ascent, I was finally rewarded with views of Leqinat Lake, one of the scenic highlights of hiking in the Rugova Valley. The tranquil lake sits at an elevation of 1,970 m and is named after the nearby Leqinat peak. 

Hiking in the Rugova Valley
Hiking in the Rugova Valley

Local families like to come here for picnics, while visitors can ride around on a small raft for 2.50 euro. While I’d read that some people also like to swim here, the water appeared quite shallow and muddy. 

And besides, despite arriving in the peak of summer, it was chilly enough for long sleeves given the altitude and cloudy weather.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley

In fact, just after my arrival, it started to rain. And so I took cover under a tree, finally getting into the snacks I’d packed for the hike. 

Luckily the rain subsided after about ten minutes, and I took advantage of the opportunity to make it to my final destination, Little Leqinat.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley

The hike between the lakes takes just about twenty minutes, but it’s one of the most striking sections of the entire journey, giving you clear views of a large valley in the distance.

It’s also around here that you’ll find a natural spring where you can fill up your water bottle.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley
Hiking in the Rugova Valley

Still managing to stay dry, I made it to Little Lequinat, also known as Derlaj, which only measures out to 100 by 40 m. As a local would later tell me, this lake is artificial. But its picturesque setting with snowy mountains in the background makes for a great finale to this day hike.

Resting my legs for a while, it began to rain again, and I decided to begin my return before ending up too soaked. Luckily, however, it stopped again after several minutes, and the weather would remain dry for the rest of the day.

Hiking in the Rugova Valley
Hiking in the Rugova Valley

Back past the first lake, I ran into a local Kosovar family who asked me how much farther until they reached the lake. About an hour later, after I had a light meal at the Te Liqeni restaurant, I was back on the main road when a car pulled over next to me. It turned out to be the same friendly family and they offered me a ride back down.

While I still could’ve easily made it on foot in time for the 15:00 return bus, I accepted their offer, as the walk from that point would be relatively uneventful. Passing the time at the bus stop with a book, the return bus arrived right on time.

Additional Info

Peja can easily be reached from other cities in Kosovo like Prizren (2 hr) and Pristina (90 min). Kosovo has an organized and well-functioning bus system (a pleasant surprise for those coming straight from Albania!) Buses leave on a set schedule, and most buses in Kosovo are larger coach buses as opposed to cramped minivans.

Peja can also be reached directly from Podgorica, Montenegro.

Additionally, there are a few trains per day running between Peja and Pristina.

Peja is a small city. But in regards to location, those getting around Kosovo via public transport should base themselves within reasonable waking distance from the bus station, which is about 15 minutes on foot from the city center.

As in Pristina, accommodation options in Peja are surprisingly expensive, especially when compared with neighboring countries.

After checking the options on both Airbnb and Booking, I went with the highly-rated Central Hostel. For three nights it cost me €48, or US$56, which was pricier than most of the other places I stayed in the Balkans.

While the location was great, my private room lacked its own bathroom. And most surprising of all, there was no AC or even fan, even during the peak of summer!

Although the heat was bearable with the windows open, the problem was that being in the center of town, things could get very noisy at night. In addition to traffic noise, people would sometimes gather and chat just below my window. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep great in Peja.

But with no cheaper options for a private room at the time of writing, Central Hostel is pretty much the only decent choice if you’re a budget traveler.



Booking.com

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