If you are following me on Instagram (@gmr83), you have probably noticed that I was in Serbia last week. This was the most off the beaten path place that I have ever been to, and although I barely did any research about the country and didn’t know what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by what it has to offer.
I don’t think I ever felt so close to nature as much as I did there. The energizing feeling you get from the fresh smell of pine trees, the beautiful vistas, the roaring waterfalls, and the sense of solitude are difficult to describe. Nature has a special way of showing you how small you are in the scheme of things.
All this would not have been possible without my Serbian guide, Grada, who is not only a passionate nature conservationist, but is also very knowledgeable about history and preservation. You can reach him at [email protected] to book a custom made tour.
Now that I visited the country, I think there are many reasons to visit but here are some that I think stand out.
- Coffee Shop/bakery culture: The Serbs are a very outgoing people and it is very common to see places and streets crowded even on weekdays. To serve this outgoing-ness, Belgrade is home to some of the cutest and coziest coffee shops and bakeries you have ever seen, and they are literally on every corner so you won’t have to walk a lot to find them. My personal favorite is Mandarina Cake Shop in Belgrade. Food Tour Belgrade and Belgrade Walking Tours are two good sources to check for customized and even free tours within Belgrade. Fellow Dubaiite Luciana has a good guide on beautiful places to eat in Belgrade.
- Raspberries: Who doesn’t like raspberries?! Well, Serbia is the world’s second largest producer of raspberries in the world after Russia, thus making raspberries an important element in Serbian food, whether it is in jams, juices, alcoholic drinks, or just eaten raw. You can even find raspberries growing in the wild on the side of the roads, which makes for a good snack during hikes and road trips.
- Waterfalls: Waterfalls are abundant in Serbia and most of them are easily accessible by car or by foot. For ideal viewing, try to come around spring time so that the waterfalls have more water following the end of winter and the melting of the snow.
- Uvac Gorge: Easily one of the most amazing sights that I have ever seen. Located in southwestern Serbia, the Uvac Special Nature Reserve is distinguished by the presence of 104 bird species. After seeing this view from above, you can go down by car, take a boat ride around this majestic canyon, see vultures in the wild, and explore an ice cave — all in one day.
- Hiking: There are countless hiking paths in Serbia. In many areas the forests are so dense, that there are fallen yellow leaves from previous years that haven’t moved. Every walk we took was rewarded with beautiful views, a canyon, and/or a waterfall.
- Caves: The many canyons and gorges in Serbia make natural homes for caves, many of which are unexplored to this day. I managed to visit one — the ice cave in Uvac Gorge, which was absolutely mind blowing. The cave is only accessible by boat and you are allowed to enter only with a guide. The formations of the rocks inside as well as the sheer size of the place are unbelievable.
- House on The River: You have probably seen pictures of this place but didn’t know where it is — well, it is also in Serbia! The tiny house stands on an exposed rock in the middle of the Drina River, near the town of Bajina Basta. It was built in 1968 by a group of young boys who needed a place to sunbath, and was swept away by floods several times since then but was reconstructed every time. You can also take a boat ride around it if you wish to do so.
- Architecture: Serbia is a melting pot of Turkish and Austro-Hungarian influence and this is evident in how architecture changes based on which area you are in. My favorite places for spotting architectural trends were Subotica and Novi Sad which I thought looked a lot like Barcelona and Bruges respectively.
- Fortresses/monasteries: Serbia is home to a large number of fortresses and many of them are well preserved or are being renovated. It is also very common to see monasteries built within fortresses since they often functioned as independent cities. True Nomads has an excellent guide on fortresses in Serbia.
- Wine: Unbeknowst to me before this trip, Serbia also produces wine — really good wine! There are also wine routes you can follow and explore the country at the same time. Vinopedia is a great source of info on Serbian wine. If you fancy something stronger (like with 40% alcohol and above) you should definitely try Rakija while you are there.
- Tara National Park: Serbia is home to Tara National Park, the size of which is about 220 square km with altitudes varying from 250 to 1,500 metres above sea level. The national park consists of a group of mountain peaks with deep picturesque gorges between them. Many different species of wildlife live in Tara, including brown bears, chamois, roe deer, lynxes, otters, and wolves.
- Museum of Aviation: This is a gem for World War II buffs! Located right next to the airport, the museum owns over 200 aircraft including US aircraft that were shot down during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. I recommend you come to the airport an hour early to your check in and visit this place which is only a 5-minute walk from the airport.
Have you been to Serbia? What are your favorite things?