The good news: vacation calories don’t count. The bad news: this summer’s record-breaking tourist season might take some of the sweetness out of your gelato.
Summer 2023 promises overcrowded, overheated, and overpriced destinations all across Europe’s hotspots.
According to Expedia’s 2023 travel trends report released last month, travelers are focusing on “the biggest culture capitals of the world” and flocking to favorites like Lisbon and Edinburgh. Flight searches for the June to August period are up 25%, while many airlines are forecasting price increases of 30% compared to previous summers.
Altogether, it’s not a pretty picture for travelers planning a summer trip to Europe.
So if you don’t love the idea of getting packed like sweaty sardines into a Venetian alley or blowing an entire year’s travel budget reenacting Emily in Paris, what can you do?
The lesser-known town of Prizren, Kosovo offers a relaxing and affordable European holiday this summer.
Why Prizren, Kosovo Is A Top Destination This Summer
Prizren is the true hidden gem of the Balkans.
Nestled in the southwest mountains of Kosovo near the Albanian and Macedonian borders, this under-the-radar storybook town promises a picturesque Europe holiday.
With minimal crowds, affordable prices, and plenty to do, Prizren is a true goldilocks destination.
No Crazy Crowds
Prizren is one of the best-kept secrets in Eastern Europe. Even in the peak June to August season, you won’t find its cobblestone streets overcrowded. In fact, travelers are unlikely to see any large tour groups at all.
The exception to this southern Kosovar town’s peace and quiet is the Docufest film festival every August. Still, the festival’s visitors feel that the high-energy creative environment is worth sharing this fairy tale location with a few more people.
Prizren is one of the cheapest cities in Europe.
Even in the summer season, you can find a lovely 4-star hotel room for two for $40 per night. Rental cars start at $15 per day and parking at $5 per day. Buses to and from regional cities like Tirana and Skopje range from $8-15, while taxis around the city cost $3-8.
Nice multi-course meals average $9, or you can enjoy simple local street food like burek and pide for $2. Since cappuccinos are only a dollar, you can enjoy as many lazy coffees by the river as you like.
Nightlife is just as inexpensive. A pint of local beer will cost you less than $2. Local Vranac wine from Kosovo’s Rahovec region goes for as little as $4 a glass and is absolutely worth every penny.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Balkans without dirt-cheap rakia. Kosovar versions of this strong homemade liquor are usually made from grapes or walnuts. Expect to pay $1-2 per shot, depending on quality. (Even though this stiff fruit spirit is deceptively served in a shot glass, remember: sip, don’t shoot.)
Some of the rakia on your trip may even be free! It’s a customary welcome drink, so hosts and tour guides sometimes offer it out of hospitality.
Best of all, Prizren’s historical sites and attractions are completely free.
Lots to Do
- Explore the picturesque Prizren Old Town. This was the historical heart of Kosovo during Ottoman times, and remains a cultural and social center today. Take a stroll down the picturesque cobblestone streets on both sides of the Old Stone Bridge and take in the view.
- Enjoy local specialty dishes like Tavë Prizren (baked lamb and vegetables with rice and yogurt) or Krempita (custard tart).
- Visit Sinan Pasha Mosque, Our Lady of Ljeviš Church, and Church of St. Savior. These beautiful historical sites are free of cost and crowds. There are plenty of other small mosques and churches all over the city to discover and find your own favorite.
- Climb up to Kalaja Fortress at sunset. Only a 30-minute walk from the river, Prizren’s 5,000-year-old citadel has the absolute best view in the city. Locals suggest bringing a picnic of regional Sharr cheese, fresh baked bread, and seasonal fruits to enjoy on the grassy areas all around.
- Trek the Sharr Mountains. Only an hour west of Prizren, this national park has everything from day hikes like Oshlak to more challenging multi-week treks stretching into Albania.
- Visit Mirusha Falls. This chain of a dozen waterfalls and pools is a great way to cool off in the summer. A car is required since there are no bus routes here. Google Maps isn’t quite accurate on the trailheads yet, so the best route is to start at Mirusha Hotel and ask for directions.
Easy To Get In and Around
Prizren is easily accessible by bus or car from the airports in both Skopje and Tirana (2.5 hours). These smaller airports shouldn’t be too crowded this summer compared to other European capitals.
Lufthansa, LOT, Austrian Airlines, and Air Serbia run regular flights from the US to these cities.
Lots of great Balkans destinations are just a few hours' drive from Prizren:
- Theth-Valbonë trek
- Lake Ohrid
Prizren is the best solution for travelers trying to beat the crowds and high prices of this record-breaking travel summer in Europe.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.