Mokna mountains: the hidden beauty of western Kosovo

by Albina Selmanaj13/08/2020 - 13:09

Residents and visitors that have been climbing the peaks of the Mokna mountains near Istog for years hope that interest in tourism in the area grows, and more people will be able to experience the unique beauty of this lesser known hiking hotspot.

Xhevahire Gusturanaj from Istog has been climbing the Mokna mountains for 11 years now. Her second home, nestled deep in the mountains away from the city, functions as a guest house between March and September.

Her home can be found a 30 minute drive from Istog into the Mokna mountains, through the villages of Sine and Radushe. There, sitting in the shadow of the fir trees is a wooden stan, in the corner of which stands a small table where Xhevahirja and her husband, Besnik, enjoy their morning coffee before starting another day of their life in the mountains.

Xhevahirja spends most of her time looking after their cattle and making milk, cheese and yoghurt for her family and their business. She spends the rest of her time with the tourists visiting the mountains, for whom she cooks traditional meals according to their request – while they are enjoying the beauties of the Mokna mountains, she finishes cooking and provides them with a place to spend the night.

“I wake up early in the morning, at six o’clock we drink coffee, then we relax, we take care of the cattle, milking them and preparing the cheese or maybe some fli,” says Gusturanaj. “I take care of the guests for the rest of the day, and when the evening comes we check on the cattle again.”

The couple explained that they moved to the mountains for better quality of life for themselves and their children. Recalling her fondest memories since moving to the mountains, Xhevahirja loved witnessing their children learn how different their lives would be in Mokna, missing the creature comforts they were used to in the city. 

“The best memories are from the first years we came here, when we had the children with us, we saw them playing soccer with neighbours, the girls playing with slingshots and shofaqok [hide and seek],” she said. “Now times have changed, the children have grown up and are working. Our girls are at university, so it is just the two of us left.”

The old road that brings you through the mountain range, surrounded by towering cliffs, takes you right to the heart of Mokna, where it seems that nature has taken its time to carve out the beautiful sights there. The greatest treasure of this mountain range is the water flowing from every edge of the rocks, which attracts even more mountaineers to settle there. Picturesque views are waiting around the corner of every road, including fabulous views of rivers surrounded by tall oak trees. At 1,700 meters altitude is Kerrshin e Berimit, from where you can see Lake Ujman, as well as the villages that surround it.

Photo: Albina Selmanaj.

Throughout the fields along the mountainside, the jingle of the bells of sheep can be heard,  accompanied by their shepherd, filling his pockets with blueberries. Dotted across the field there are people having a picnic, surrounded by the sound of children singing while their parents prepare the grill. 

But the lack of electricity and unpaved roads mean that the beauties this place offers can be enjoyed only by a small number of people. Most are people like Gusturanaj who have made this place their home and use the area to care for their livestock, alongside the few lucky ones who have discovered it. 

According to Zymer Selmanaj, a tourist who travels often to the Mokna Mountains, their unique beauty and the fresh air should be enjoyed by more people, adding that he believes the government is responsible for ensuring that tourists have the opportunity to visit the mountain range. “The state and the Municipality of Istog should use these natural resources for the development of mountain tourism that Mokna could provide,” he says.

In the future, developing tourism in this region should get easier: since 2019, the Mokna mountains have been included in the Via Dinarica trail, a nearly 2,000 kilometre hiking route that extends from Slovenia to Albania. The new route, which crosses through Mokna, also takes in mountainous regions near Peja and Zubin Potok in Kosovo, Rozaje in Montenegro and Tutin in Serbia.

The Gusturunaj’s have three guest houses for rent which can accommodate four people for €20 per night. The family can be contacted at +383 44 200 197 and speak Albanian and Serbian.

13 August 2020 - 13:09


Mokna mountains, Istog


Phone: 044 200 197

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