Serbia is home to stunning natural landscapes, rich culture, and tremendous history. You may already be familiar with some of Serbia’s more well known features such as the Nikola Tesla Museum, or that it’s the birthplace of a total of 18 Roman Emperors. Or perhaps you have tasted their famous fare, including their mouth-watering flatbread and sauerkraut. But did you know Serbia is a world-class destination for outdoor recreation? Find out why with these five reasons to explore Serbia.
This story was created in partnership with Explore Serbia. All photos are courtesy of Explore Serbia.
1. Djerdap National Park
Also called the Iron Gates, Djerdap National Park is the largest geological feature of its kind in Europe. Located in the Carpathian Mountains on the border of Serbia, this breathtaking gorge has a storied past. It’s here that Roman soldiers made a path through the terrain, providing great strategic and economic significance for the Roman Empire. Today, Djerdap National Park is a playground for visitors from around the world who come to recreate within the Iron Gates.
Hiking, biking, and kayaking are all five-star options within the 60-mile long gorge. Hikers and bikers will enjoy traveling past endemic fauna and flora that has not changed for millions of years. In fact, many of the plants found here (including the beautiful Djerdap tulip) survived the Ice Age! Keen kayakers may locate otters, or the intermittent jumping sturgeon.
After your active pursuits, be sure to take a historic tour of some of the park’s highlights, including the archaeological site of Lepenski Vir (dating back to 6700 BC). In addition, Golubac Fortress is an ideal place to learn about the more recent history of the region. Plus, it’s known as one of the most photogenic medieval buildings in Europe. Afterwards, don’t forget to stop by Kapetan Mišin Breg for a bite of local fare. Uninterrupted views of the Iron Gates below make for the perfect picnic.
2. Tara National Park
This stunning, forested national park lies within the Dinaric Alps. With two visitor centers (Kaluderske Bare and Mitrovac) and year-round access, it’s easy to see why Tara National Park is a favorite destination for both Serbs and international travelers.
Nearly 80 percent of Tara is covered in spruce, fir, and beech trees, creating a sensation of being in the Pacific Northwest zone of the United States. But one look at Drina Canyon tells you otherwise—you’re most certainly in a region unlike any other! The third deepest canyon in the world, this limestone monument is home to many rare species such as black hornbeam and black pine. Towards the edge of the canyon, the rock-covered surface makes way for rain and beech forests. Brown bears and chamois, a charismatic goat-antelope animal native to Europe, are often spotted in Tara National Park.
Spend your time hiking on any of the 180 miles of trails or biking on nearly 50 miles of pathways. For those who prefer to explore by water, an all-day cruise is a fantastic option for taking in the sights and wandering the city of Visegrad. Here, history enthusiasts will enjoy the Mehmet-pasha Sokolovic Bridge; a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the fifteenth century. Those seeking a dose of adrenaline may enjoy a guided canyoneering experience deep within the crevasse of the canyon. It would certainly be difficult to see and do everything in Tara National Park in one visit, but we wouldn’t blame you for trying.
3. Fruška Gora National Park
Once an island in the Pannonian Sea, Fruška Gora National Park is now a lush destination for the history lover: over 16 monasteries dot the landscape here. Add this unique cultural aspect to the numerous vineyards producing wine in the region today, and Fruška Gora is a must-visit!
Approximately 46 miles long, Fruška Gora National Park was the first designated national park in Serbia in 1960. This small area is packed with vibrant ecosystems: thriving oak, hornbeam, beech, and basswood forests abound. Fishing in one of the numerous lakes is a popular pastime, while hikers are rewarded with glimpses of rare endemic orchids. Keep your eyes peeled for the Imperial Eagle—one of the most endangered species in the world.
We recommend timing your visit to the park during one of the many festivals that take place during the fall, including Karlovac’s Wine Festival or Exit, one of Europe’s favorite music festivals. After all, combining your outdoor experience with local culture is a fantastic way to get a real feel for a new country!
4. Kopaonik National Park
Known for being the largest ski center in Serbia, Kopaonik National Park is a wonderland for wintertime visitors. Alpine and Nordic skiers and snowboarders alike will all rejoice at the amount of terrain here. In the summer, Kopaonik is an excellent place to get acquainted with many of Serbia’s endemic species.
Known as the “Sunny Mountain,” Kopaonik National Park is located on a section of the Kopaonik Mountain Range—the largest range in Serbia. This region was well known to Romans and prior civilizations, who were drawn by silver deposits found in the landscape. Today, travelers enjoy a different kind of precious resource—the 200 days of sunshine that grace the slopes. Skiers who like to diversify their vacations will love visiting the mausoleum of Josif Pančić, a Serbian naturalist, and the archaeological site called Nebeske Stolice, which was once a Christian basilica. A number of other historical monuments dating back to the twelfth century are located in the area.
Summer visitors may partake in a hiking or cycling tour, or even go horseback riding. Paragliding and river rafting are available for those with a taste for adventure! After your active pursuits in Kopaonik National Park (at any time of year), rejuvenate tired muscles in one of the many spas in the area, heated by local thermo-mineral springs.
5. Stara Planina Nature Reserve
Not only can you ski in Stara Planina; this is one of Serbia’s best summer places for hiking. This vast nature preserve is essentially the Balkan Mountains, a 340-mile range connecting Serbia to Bulgaria—all the way from the city of Zajecar to the Black Sea. Home to quaint villages, mountain pastures, and forests, this is perhaps the most bucolic of Serbia’s five national parks. Surprisingly, then, this is also where Serbia’s highest mountain–Midžor–is found at 7,000 feet above sea level. Photographers and climbers won’t want to miss the peak of the mountain, called Babin Zub, which features a distinctive cliff that some say looks like an old tooth (hence the name, meaning “old lady’s tooth”).
Farther down the banks of the mountains, lakes and streams teem with brown trout, pike, catfish, and carp. Hikers watch your step—rare herbs and mushrooms grow in this region and make plant identification a great way to spend the afternoon. Aside from the natural wonders, the friendly hosts who welcome visitors from around the world make this an especially memorable place. Here, folklore and customs are very much alive and offer an extra special perspective into the culture of Serbia. Plus, the food is delicious. Sample the flavors of the countryside with local specialties like staroplaninsko jagnje (lamb) with local cheese, senokoški. Homemade rakija (brandy) will wash your Serbian adventure down nicely!