Top 4 National Parks You Must Visit in Serbia
Are you interested in visiting the Balkans? Well, in the west-central Balkans lies an almost forgotten land called Serbia, whose mountains, crystal clear lakes, and plains will trigger your imagination and enlighten your soul. Set on a quest and discover Serbia’s unique flora and fauna, breathtaking views, mountains, and rivers, and enjoy the much-needed escape you’ve been yearning for so long.
Here are the top 4 Serbian national parks you must include in your Balkan tour.
Đerdap National Park
Located on the border between Serbia and Romania, stands the biggest and longest gorge in Europe. The majestic gorge, also known as the Iron Gate, stretches for one hundred kilometers along the Danube. It consists of a whole chain of gorges; Golubac, Gospođin Vir, Sip, and Kazan. Once you enter the Iron Gate, on the Romanian side you will see the colossal rock carving of Decebalus, the last king of Dacia, who fought against two Roman emperors to keep the independence of his country. Furthermore, on the Serbian side of the gorge, you will see a relic honoring the Roman emperor Trajan, and the construction of a military road in the second century.
The ideal place to start your eastern Serbia tour would be the Golubac fortress. It is located at the entry of the Đerdap gorge and is considered one of the most preserved and romantic medieval buildings in Europe. It was built in the 14th century and features nine rectangular towers.
The name ‘’Golubac’’, which is also the name of the town 4 km away, can be translated as ‘’Dove City’’ or ‘’ Pigeon City’’. Although there is no exact historical proof, there is a certain myth about why the fortress is called this way. Namely, a local Turkish Paša was deeply in love with a Serbian girl called ”Golubana”. However, she was in love with another Serbian man and rejected all his proposals and gifts. To punish her, the Paša imprisoned ‘’Golubana’’, chained her to the rock above the river, and left her to die.
The name of the fortress is written in many different languages on medieval maps; Golubac, Galambas, Galambocz, Colombazo, Columbaz, Columbarum, Taubersburg, Tawbenstein, Peristerin, Giwerdzinlik. Interestingly, in every language, the name refers to a pigeon. So, there might be some truth in this myth after all.
The second legend regarding the fortress has to do with the Byzantine princess Jelena, the wife of despot Đurađ Brankovic. As she was in a foreign land and longed for her home, she drove her sadness away by keeping pigeons.
In the end, there is probably a much more simple reason why the Golubac fortress got its name, and it is because it is shaped like a pigeon’s nest. Still, the name remains a mystery and the Golubac fortress will continue to trigger the imagination of visitors, and remain a topic for scholars and historians.
Interestingly, in this part of Serbia, there are still many superstitions and beliefs. But don’t let us tell you everything. Book an Iron Gate private tour and let them take you through the mysterious world of Serbian pagan heritage and Vlah Magic, that has survived to this day.
Tara National Park
Now, we’re going to head west, to the inner chain of the Dinarides. Here lies national park Tara, which is Serbia’s most forested mountain and the lungs of the entire region. With its rivers, gorges, crystal clear lakes, and spectacular forests, Tara is a natural paradise that you must include in your long-awaited Serbia tour.
According to legend, the mountain was named after the supreme Illyrian god ‘’Tar’’, who chose this place to spend his life and build his throne. So, let’s see why Tara is a place worthy of a god.
If you love hiking, Tara has got you covered. The most popular trail is the two-day hike that starts at Mitrovac, then goes through Predov Krst, and takes you back to Mitrovac. Also, If you’re the adventurous type, we recommend you rent a cottage and explore the forest trails of this majestic mountain.
You should know that there is over 290 km of marked hiking trails on the mountain. It all depends on your capabilities and preferences and you can choose from easy, moderate, and difficult.
What makes Tara national park particularly great, is the conservation and diversity of forest life. The mountain is one of the most diverse when it comes to plants and trees, with over 2000 species. Also, some species such as Serbian Spruce (Pančićeva Omorika) .only live in this location.
Ten kilometers from Mitrovac, you will find lake Zaovine. It is a crystal clear lake that will relax your mind and bring out the best in you. Also, if you love fishing or swimming, lake Zaovine is the perfect place to do so.
The Lake might impress you quite a bit, but that’s not all. Above the valley of the, ‘’Beli Rzav’’ river stands a monolith rock created by the abrasion of the Pannonian sea called ‘’Ravna Stena’’ or ‘’Grad’’. In the middle ages, this used to be a Byzantine fortification. Today, it is a bird nesting area for the famous Serbian Peregrine Falcon.
Still not satisfied, well Tara has even more to offer. There are many rivers in the area, however, there is one that dominates all, the river Drina. It is famous for its strong rapids, and spectacular meanders through canyons, and that all means river rafting. Drina rafting is probably the most unique of its kind in Serbia. The festival begins every third week of July and it is also accompanied by some interesting competitions such as fish soup making and bridge diving.
Once you’re done with river rafting, head to lake Perućac and maybe rent a small floating house and relax for a few days. The Lake was created after a dam was built on the Drina river to power the mighty hydroelectric power plant ‘’Bajina Bašta’’. The dam itself is something worth seeing. It is a 91 m high concrete giant which was built in 1966 and is a great example of the architectural style of former Yugoslavia.
If you’re into fishing, you should know that Perućac is a fisherman’s paradise. The lake is rich in species such as the famous Danube huchen, European chub, catfish, and carp. You don’t even have to be a professional. All you need is to bring your fishing rod, buy a local license, and let the fish come to you.
Another hidden gem you shouldn’t miss in this area is the ‘’Vrelo’’ river. The river is 365m long and is one of the shortest rivers in Europe. The river emerges from a strong karst spring at the altitude of 234 meters and creates dozens of crystal clear waterfalls and streams that run down the cliffs. The beautiful sight of the river Vrelo is truly something just like a fairy tale. It represents the real untouched beauty of nature and is the ideal place to relax your mind and collect yourself.
People in this area regard the river Vrelo as a mystical place, and many legends and stories are surrounding it. One legend, in particular, tells how girls from surrounding villages came to the river to bathe, and wash their hair. As it is 365 meters long, each of them would get married in a year. Another legend tells a story about a woman who came to this place to ask the river to send her a loved one, she would marry. She would toss a ‘’Dukat’’(gold coin) every time she visited the river, and in the end, her wish came true.
Fruška Gora National Park
Let’s head north to the province of Vojvodina, and explore what northern Serbia has to offer. Just a few kilometers from Novi Sad stands the former island of the Pannonian Sea‒National Park Fruška Gora.
In ancient times, the Romans knew Fruška Gora by the name Alma Mons, which means fertile hill. According to legend, grapevine from Italy and Greece was brought here by Marcus Aurelius Probus in the third century. Today, the vineyards of Fruška Gora offer mostly Western European vines such as Chardonnay, Rhine Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and some indigenous variants such as Portogizer, Sila, Probus, Morava, and many more.
The region is a paradise for wine lovers. There are more than 150 wine cellars to choose from in Sremski Karlovci, Erdevik, Rakovac, Neštin, Irig, etc. Bottom line, no matter what winery you choose, you can’t go wrong.
The National Park covers 2500 hectares of unique flora and fauna. The park is home to about a thousand species of plants, and together with plants in the larger protected area, the number exceeds a figure of 1500 species. Because of this high diversity of plant life, Fruška Gora can be compared to much higher and bigger national parks in Serbia.
When it comes to animal life, the park is home to 23 species of amphibians, 60 species of mammals, and 200 species of birds. If you’re lucky enough, you will be able to see some significant predatory bird species such as the eagle, dwarf eagle, and steppe falcon.
If you’re a hiking addict, you should know that the Fruška Gora has an extensive network of hiking trails. The longest trail is the famous marathon footpath that passes through many villages and mountain lodges. Conveniently, marks for this long trail can be seen on trees, in form of a white circle with a red heart in the center. Just follow these signs and relax, because sooner or later, you are bound to end up in a village or a mountain lodge.
The mountain’s highest peak( Crveni Čot) rises 539 meters above sea level. Sure, it may not be very high. But once you experience the breathtaking view of the river Danube, and all the beautiful fertile plains surrounding the mountain, you will realize that Fruška Gora is something everyone should experience on their Serbia tour.
Fruška Gora is also home to religious, cultural, and historical objects of great value and importance. The mountain’s valleys were once home to 36 orthodox monasteries, that were built by the Branković family to continue the old governing state traditions of the Nemanjić family. Sadly, only sixteen of them remain, due to many conquests and wars. Nevertheless, the ones that have survived are in perfect condition and are medieval jewels that you shouldn’t miss on your Fruška Gora tour.
Stara Planina National Park
Now, we’re going to take you to eastern Serbia, to a part of the Balkan mountain range that gave the name to the whole peninsula. The Balkan mountain range, or Stara Planina(Old Mountain), is an extension of the Carpathian mountain range. It begins at the peak of Vrška Čuka on the border between Serbia and Bulgaria. The mountain extends 560 kilometers, first along the border, then across central Bulgaria, all the way to the Black Sea. The mountain is called ‘’old’’ for a good reason. It is a place of vast pastures, forests, authentic villages, and unique folklore.
The whole region hides many secrets and cultural resources, which is reflected in the spirituality of the mountain’s population. Traces of ancient Roman culture, prehistoric ruins, mysterious individual sacral objects, and medieval monasteries, you name it, Stara Planina has it all. The nature of this land is wild, untouched, and undiscovered. Embark on a journey to this mysterious land, and see why Stara Planina is one of the most important Serbian national treasures.
One of the main attractions of this beautiful mountain is the abundance of waterfalls. The biggest waterfall in this region, Kopren, is located at the highest altitude in Serbia(1,820 m). The length of the measured flow is 148m, whereas the height from the beginning to the end is 103.5 m.
The mountain offers an abundance of activities for nature lovers such as endless hiking, trekking, canyoning, paragliding, and winter sports. Babin Zub(old woman’s tooth) is one of the highest peaks on the mountain. It rises 1780m above sea level and has a unique morphological form, which is the reason for such a hilarious name. Namely, it features characteristics of vertical cliffs, and one of them resembles an old tooth. The cliff itself is 200m high and is very popular among experienced climbers.
The ski center on Stara Planina is also named after its highest peak(Babin Zub) and offers 13 kilometers of ski tracks of various difficulties. The Ski center offers slopes in Konjarnik, Sunčana Dolina, and Markova Livada, which is lit for night skiing.
One of the things you will notice in this region is the authentic east Serbian cuisine. From Pirot cheese, and mouth-watering roasted lamb, to belmuž and peglana kobasica. Everything in this area is delicious. People from this area have preserved traditions and dishes from ancient times, making it one of the most authentic cuisines in Europe.
Now it’s time to end our journey and let you decide which national park you are going to visit on your Balkan tour. Remember, whether it’s east or west, north or south, you can’t go wrong with national parks in Serbia.