Explore the mountains, villages, vast meadows and spas of a country where the local people warmly greet the few tourists who visit the countryside during the season. Join us on this hiking trip for culturally curious foodies.
Price: By request
Level of Activity:
Duration: 8 days
Seasons: May to November
Join us on a hiking trip to Serbia, a country very rarely visited by hikers, especially outside of the capital Belgrade. It is a country where people are extremely hospitable – they might even invite you to have a drink of rakia, a local brandy, in their garden while allowing you to pick fruit from their trees or vineyards.
The lack of promotion and advertising makes Serbia a paradise for hikers like us, and we will be visiting stunning villages, beautiful spas and almost deserted mountains, where villagers do not see many foreign hikers.
Twenty-eight Roman Emperors were born in the Balkans, and one of the greatest, the founder of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) and the first Roman Emperor who converted to Christianity, was born in Nis, a Serbian town that we will be visiting during this trip. Nis has the oldest church in Serbia, dating from the 4th century. It also has a charming promenade, with many traditional restaurants serving local dishes, and this is where we will start our culinary experience of food tasting in Serbia.
During this trip we will be based in Vrnjacka Banja for three nights. The town is centred around thermal spas and was built in the Austro-Hungarian style, to mimic the famous spas of 19th century central Europe. Aside from enjoying the benefits of the thermal spa, we will visit a nearby village, where we will have picnic lunch with a local Serbian family. People in Serbia talk about food with real passion and are really proud of their cuisine. Once you taste the food you will understand why. We are also going to visit a local sculpture gallery in a village that proudly hosts international sculptors every two years.
Our next base is the town of Bajina Bashta. The cultural heritage of this region, both recent and ancient, is very rich, with Neolithic settlements dating back to 5000 BC and several Roman settlements dating from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, as well as Ottoman buildings. The town served as a main trading centre on the route to Bosnia, which is just on the other side of the mountain. Racha Monastery, 7 km south-west of the town, is considered the most significant historical treasure of the area, and this is where our hike on day 5 starts. Built by King Dragutin in the 13th century, the monastery was the centre of the transcription and illumination of medieval religious manuscripts in Serbia.
Our last stop on this trip is Belgrade, which literally translates as “White City” and is often described as adventurous, outspoken and audacious. The city has a long history dating back to the 4th century BC, and Celts, Romans, Austrians and Ottomans all settled there when conquering the city at various points over the last 25 centuries. While it hurtles towards a brighter future, its chaotic past unfolds before your eyes: socialist blocks are squeezed between art nouveau masterpieces, and remnants of the Habsburg legacy contrast with Ottoman relics. “Kafana’s” coffee houses, sidewalk ice-cream parlours and smoky dens all find their rightful place along Knez Mihailova, a lively pedestrian boulevard flanked by historical buildings all the way to the ancient Kalemegdan Citadel, the crown of the city. We’ll spend time at Skadarlija, the Bohemian headquarters of the city, and enjoy the bars dotted along the river Danube.
Day 1: We will arrive in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia and after a short break we will have a packed lunch before we head towards the Serbian border. In the late afternoon, after a three-hour drive, we will visit Nis, the third-largest city in Serbia, which dates from the 3rd century BC. We will be staying in Nis on the first night of this trip, in a hotel in the centre, close to the city fortress built by the Ottoman Turks in the early 18th century.
Day 2: We embark on a full-day hike. After a two-hour transfer to Mount Rtanj we will start a 15 km (9.3 mile) hike, ascending 1,000 m (3,280 ft) to the highest point, Peak Rtanj, at 1,560 m (5,118 ft), and then descending 750 m (2,460 ft). After the hike we will be transferred to Vrnjacka Banja, a town with a mineral-water spa, which will come in very handy after a day of challenging hiking.
Day 3: We will spend the whole of the next morning relaxing, with the option of a massage and swimming in the thermal waters before we head to a local village for a late picnic lunch with a Serbian family. This will not be just a meal, but a culinary experience to remember, as all of the ingredients used come from the farm owned by the family. It will also be our opportunity to find out how ordinary people live in Serbia.
Day 4: Today we have a challenging hike ahead of us, heading to Mount Zheljin, which is rarely visited even by locals. This mountain is 20 km (12.4 miles) away from Vrnjacka Banja, so we will start our hike after a short transfer. The walk is 20 km (12.4 miles) long, with a total ascent of 1,150 m (3,773 ft) and a descent of 1,000 m (3,280 ft). The peak of Zheljin is 1,785 m (5,856 ft) high and, with its location in central Serbia, it offers a stunning 360-degree view of the country. We will have a picnic lunch and then head back to Vrnjacka Banja in the evening, where we will have dinner in one of the many authentic Serbian restaurants.
Day 5: We leave Vrnjacka Banja to go for another full-day hike, in an area between Mount Ovchar and Mount Kablar, where the river flows in a spiral shape. There will be a stunning view from the top of both mountains after a fairly challenging climb. The hike up Mount Kablar is 8.5 km (5.3 miles) long, ascending 600 m (1,968 ft) and also descending 600 m. Mount Ovchar has a less steep hike, 10 km (6.2 miles) long with 500 m (1,640 ft) of ascent and descent, so if we are fit enough we can do both and admire the stunning views of the valley from different angles, before heading down for dinner in one of the many restaurants by the river. This is another challenging day of hiking, so our riverside dinner will be a welcome break before we head to our next stop, Tara Mountain, where we are staying overnight.
Day 6: We will be doing a full-day hike ending in the town of Bajina Basta, situated on the river Drina. The cultural heritage of this region, both recent and ancient, is very rich, with Neolithic settlements dating back to 5000 BC and several Roman settlements dating from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, as well as Ottoman buildings. Today’s hike is a circular one – 18 km (11.2 miles) long with a total ascent and descent of 1,000 m (3,280 ft). Aside from the monastery we will pass by three stunning viewpoints and a waterfall, and we will end the walk at a restaurant with a view of a house in the middle of the river.
Day 7: We will have a half-day hike on the hills around the river Drina, offering us stunning views of the river canyon. After lunch we head to Belgrade, the Serbian capital. Belgrade has 1.7 million inhabitants, which makes it one of the larger cities in the Balkans, and it is one of the four European capitals which lies on the river Danube. We are staying in Belgrade overnight, and we will be going out in the evening to check out the nightlife along the river Danube, which is dotted with authentic restaurants and bars.
Day 8: We will have a tour of central Belgrade in the morning, with lunch in the famous Bohemian quarter, Skadarlija. In the afternoon we head to the airport to catch the flight.
The price of this trip depends on the number of participants and the length of the tour.
What is included?
• 7 nights B&B – Accommodation: hotels and huts
• all transfers – minivan and driver from and to airports for the recommended flights, as well as local transfers, in accordance with the programme
• English-speaking certified mountain guide
You must arrange your own:
• Insurance (you can only join this trip if you produce insurance details prior to the trip). Make sure your insurance covers the type of activities you’d like to do during this holiday
• Travel to Macedonia and back from Serbia (airfare)
• Lunches and evening meals in restaurants
• Personal expenses for drinks or souvenirs
• Other optional activities and visits
This trip starts in Skopje and ends in Belgrade. We can adapt the trip according to your choice of flights.