Mountain shepherds, enormous Sharri Dogs, free roaming horses, pristine babbling streams and dramatic mountains are just a small taste of what awaits you in Dragash. “I’ve lived in Kosovo for 9 months and I had no idea there was anything this beautiful,” said a friend as we stood in the middle of a wind swept mountain pass barely an hours walk from the road. Unfortunately, comments like this are all too common. This one was made by a woman who lived just a 30 minutes drive from where I led a small group on a hike through the sharp green Sharri Mountains in Dragash Municipality.
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. Unbelievably, over a decade after the NATO bombs ceased, the region is still relatively unknown as persistent rumors of crumbling roads and violent sharri dogs have conspired to keep the area isolated mentally if not physically.
I have spent the past few months hiking the mountains and valleys that make up Dragash and have fallen in love with the locals (populated mostly by the Gorani), the magical grass filled mountains and the traditional way of life. This is a region where cross border trade still takes place on the back of pack horses along old mountain trails. Dragash is easy to reach and accessible to all levels of hikers as the mountain trails are well worn from centuries of use. The difficulty is that there is hardly any information on where to hike, trail maps to plan your day, and markers to keep you on track.
To help remedy this I’m working with the municipality and the various towns to develop an Eco-tourism Guide to Dragash, funded and produced by the United Nation’s Development Program (UNDP). Not only will this great project enable me to keep doing what I love, hiking the mountains with only a GPS to guide the way and writing about it later, but hopefully it will increase the level of visitors to the region and improve the livelihood opportunities of the locals.
Sitting on top of Mt. Cule. Come and enjoy the view with me. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel.
To promote the area and help people get out hiking before the Guide is available I am hosting a portion of my hikes here on Todd’s Wanderings. As a special treat you now get to see me live in action as I have also started documenting the hikes by video. Most hikes will come with video compilations that show the route with exciting commentary (when the winds aren’t acting up and you can hear me). Check out my first post above from the top of Mt. Cule to see what I mean about the absolute beauty of the area.
If you want to follow in my footsteps this hike is steep but easy enough.
Mt. Cule Hiking Details
STARTING POINT: The Town of Brod
DURATION: 4 hours round trip
ALTITUDE: Brod-1384 meters; Mt. Cule-2220 meters
DIFFICULTY: Steep, but you can go as slow as you want There is nothing technically difficult about this hike other than the steepness.
The path starts from the southern edge of the town, across the river and up the hill from the community center. The town is not very big so just ask anyone in town for Cule (pronounced “Chule”) and they should be able to point you in the right direction. You will find a lot of shepherds trails but follow the main ones up the mountain and towards the rock peak to the southeast (that’s Cule!). There are no markers here so print out the map and follow it the best you can. The good news is that there are no trees and it is easy to navigate by sight alone.
After about an hour of steep hiking you will come to a stream. Cross it and follow it up the mountain. You will see Cule up on your left.
Yes, it’s that easy! Water, food, snacks can all be bought in Brod or the town of Dragash. Don’t forget to buy sharri cheese as it is a local delicacy, just watch out as it is very salty.
A word of Caution about Sharri Dogs (Illyrian Shepherd)
These beautiful dogs are only found in this area of the world. They are large and are VERY protective of the sheep they guard. It is their job after all. If you come across a flock of sheep or a shepherd’s hut, most likely there will also be Sharri Dogs around. A local shepherd gave me this advice:
Don’t worry too much about the dogs. They hardly ever bite humans, but you should keep your distance as they are protective of the sheep and their territory. When you are passing by just give them enough distance. They will bark, but don’t be afraid. Sharri Dogs are the best!
I’ve followed this advice and have not had any problems to date. Although I have had plenty of the dogs bark at me to their hearts content.
If You Go
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.or just say hello, I love hearing what people think.