Rugova Mountain – Rugova Gorge

Rugova Mountain – Rugova Gorge

The scenic Rugova Gorge near town of Peć /Peja/ is the steep canyon of over 300 meters high sides in Kosovo and Metohija, that would leave every visitor speechless. Although it is harsh mountainous area, the Rugova Gorge represents perfect mountain chain for climbing, various outdoor activities, with crystal clear and icy water springs all over the place…. Rugova Gorge is located at the foot of the gigantic Prokletije Mountains /Accursed Mountains/ on the river of Bistrica of Pec /Pecka Bistrica/, in Kosovo and Metohija, along the Čakor pass, near to the border with Montenegro, and makes the best road to the Adriatic coast. Precisely, Rugova Gorge is situated between Lumbardhit mountains and Pećka Bistrica river on the south, Hajla´s main mountain ridge to the north, Ahmica-Štedim mountain and Alagina Reka to the east and Glođija, Murgaš mountain area and Bogska Rijeka to the west.

In the First WW the Serbian Army was throwing its guns across the rocks on the entrance to Rugova Gorge, during the withdrawal over rugged Prokletije Mountains – the Albanian mountains in 1915 to prevent Austrians and Bulgarians troops to take them when they continued its fateful journey towards coldness and hunger. The Headquarters of the Serbian Army was forced to this unseen operation under the pressure of the large Austria-Hungarian, the German and the Bulgarian offensive, when realized about lacked communication and promised assistance of allies from Thessaloniki. There were three routes through the Albanian mountains which the Serb Army went along, one to Scutaria – the Shkoder, through Montenegro, via Ipek and Andreyevitza ; another via Lioum-Koula, Dibra and Elbasan to Durres-Durazzo ; and a third, taken by the Serbian King, the Government and the Headquarters Staff, via Lioum-Koula, Spas and Puka to Scutari – the Shkoder. Probably not since the crossing of the Alps by Napoleon had such a military expedition been undertaken as the traversing of the Albanian mountains by the Headquarters Staff and the remains of the Serbian Army. But Napoleon made his march after long and careful preparation, while the unfortunate Serbs began theirs when their army was in the last stages of destitution, without food, with uniforms in rags, and with utterly inadequate means of transport. According data of the Supreme command of the Serb Army, some 110000 solders and 2350 officers succeeded to arrive to the Adriatic coast of Albania. The result of the Albanian Golgotha, including victims caused as its consequences, is nearly 250000 dead, missing, killed or detained Serbs.

The first traffic connection along the Rugova Gorge between Murino and Pec across the Chakor pass – 1849 meters was constructed and opened in 1925 that was the highest road in Yugoslavia. The King Aleksandar Karadjordjevic personally opened this road on 17 September 1925 in the festive ceremony when a memorial plaque was put on the Chakor pass to mark the spot and also keep the memory alive on this event.

Rugova Gorge is one of the most prominent geological features of Kosovo and Metohija. The 25 km long wild Rugova canyon along the river of Pecka Bistrica near the border with Montenegro via Chakor pass, makes the easiest way to get to the Adriatic sea. Rugova Valley/Canyon is stunningly beautiful all year round and provides so much of sporting opportunities, like rock climbing, caving, mountain biking, para-gliding, and may more. The narrow Rugova Gorge along the Pecka Bistrica River which means ‘white water’, continues from Pec/Peja for about 12-km, with the Pec Patriarchate Medieval complex and raising peaks of up to 2522 meters so called Red Rock, then the valley opens up into beautiful mountain scenery stretching all the way to Montenegro. At about 8 km from Pec town there is a stunning waterfall about 30 meters high, and then at about 12 -km here is a so called Great Canyon Cave System 12000 meters in length, and 12-th on the world list of the highest caves, and still not explored to the end. The relief of Rugova Gorge is characterized by numerous peaks with the elevation of over 2000 meters above see level, canyons and gorges of the mountain rivers, numerous and picturesque coniferous forests and mountain pastures. The forest is full of beautiful fruits, orchids and butterflies in the virgin nature of Rugova Gorge which used to be shelter for KLA guerilla members during the War in Kosovo 1998. Many of them sit the the Kosovo Parliament. Hajla Mountain slopes descend to the Rugovska Klisura canyon. There are many springs from Hajla Mountain to this river, the most important is the Alagina River. Along the Rugova Gorge there are several hermitages that were used by monks of Pecka Patrijarsija.

The Rugova Canyon was declared a Protected Nature Monument in 1988. The city of Peć is located at the entrance of the canyon. Rugova Canyon is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kosovo, if not the first. Many say it is amazing canyon in the heart of Europe and a must see canyon.

While the territory to the north of the mountain ridge of Hajla belongs to Rožaje region of Montenegro and to wider Rashka/Sandžak area, southern slopes of Hajla in Kosovo and Metohija belong to the region known as Rugova. More precisely, Rugova Gorge is situated between Lumbardhit mountains and Pećka Bistrica river on the south, Hajla´s main mountain ridge to the north, Ahmica-Štedim mountain and Alagina Reka to the east and Glođija, Murgaš mountain area and Bogska Rijeka to the west. In the past the indigenous inhabitants of Rugova were proto-Serbs the Slavs, and over two-thirds of names of meadows, fields, springs still today bear the Slavic names, although there are no more Slavs living in this area for three centuries, persecuted by the Sqhips – the Albanian from the 17th century. Nowadays the population of Rugova is predominantly ethnic Albanians /Kosovars/ who live in 13 main settlements, the most of them are situated on southern slopes of Hajla. These 13 Rugova´s villages are: Mali Štupelj, Veliki Štupelj, Alagina Reka, Malevići, Drelje, Pepići, Kućište, Hađovići, Jošanica, Boge, Škrelje, Dugonjiva and Košutane. The houses of villages of Rugova /especially Upper Rugova/ sometimes reach the height of 1,600 m which is above upper forest line and already in pasture areas, covered with fields and meadows. Great choice of authentic specialties are served in restaurants in Rugova Gorge : homemade cheese, kaymak, yogurt, fresh trout… Above this height there are more periodical (summer) shepherd´s settlements known as katuns. People that settle on all slopes of Hajla are mostly Albanians, Montenegrin and Bosnians /South Slavic Muslims/. Many of them lived and still live of stock-breeding and forestry. But seasonal shepherds´ migration into periodical summer huts and settlements high up in the mountain are becoming more and more infrequent, and today this tradition is stronger just on southern Kosovo and Metohija side of Hajla Mountain where there are still more active seasonal dwellings for shepherds.