Kukës is a city in the Republic of Albania. The city is the capital of the surrounding municipality of Kukës and county of Kukës, one of 12 constituent counties of the republic. It spans 8.2 square kilometers (3.2 sq mi) and had a total population of 16,719 people as of 2011. By air distance, Kukës is located 98 kilometers (61 mi) northeast of Tirana, 75 kilometers (47 mi) to the east of Shkodër and 34 kilometers (21 mi) to the south of Gjakovë and 30 kilometers (19 mi) to the west of Prizren in Kosovo.
Geologically, the terrain of the surrounding area is dominated by mountainous and high terrain. The city sprawls across the Luma Plain within the Albanian Alps between the banks of Lake Fierza and the hills of the northernmost Korab Mountains and westernmost Shar Mountains. At the confluence of the Black and White Drin, the Drin River originates close to the city’s territory.
Kukës traces its history back over a thousand years. The region that nowadays corresponds to the city territory was inhabited by several ancient Illyrian tribes, as most of Albania. Numerous tombs from the Illyrians has been identified at Këneta and Kolsh nearby the city. The residential estate served as a stopping point on a branch road leading to the Via Egnatia, which connected Durrës on the Adriatic Sea in the west with Constantinople on the Marmara Sea in the east. In modern times and due to the close proximity to Kosovo, the city achieved worldwide recognition during the Kosovo War as thousands of Kosovo-Albanian refugees crossed the border and found security in the city.
The city was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in regard to hospitality and for embracing thousands of refugees during the Kosovo War. It was the first time a town was nominated for the prize. In 2017, the city applied for the 2018 European Green Capital Award to become Europe’s Green Capital.
The old Kukës was located at the confluence of the White Drin and Black Drin. In 1976 the town was submerged beneath the Fierza Reservoir, which is held back by a dam. The new town (Kukësi i Ri – “New Kukës”) was built in the 1970s in the plateau nearby which is 320m over the sea level. Kukësi i Ri is surrounded by the artificial lake of Fierza and it looks like a peninsula from the above. It is linked with the other parts of the country by three bridges. On the east it faces the snow-covered mountain of Gjallica, 2468 m above sea level.
Illyrian tombs were found at Këneta and Kolsh nearby Kukës. It was a small Roman settlement, a stopping point on a branch road leading to the Via Egnatia, and a minor Ottoman market center and trading post on the road to southern Kosovo. It was there (Qafa e Kolosjanit) where Albanian resistance stood up against retreating Serbian army in 1912.
Kukës attracted international attention during the Kosovo conflict when 450,000 Kosovo Albanian refugees crossed the frontier and were housed in camps in and around Kukës. This led, in 2000, to a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. It was the first time a town was nominated for the prize.
There is a mosque and a closed alpine-style hotel, part of an attempt to establish a tourist industry there. OSCE maintained a villa there.