Balkan’s Epic Natural Gems on the Verge of the Unknown
Today’s guest post comes from the beautiful and thoroughly under rated Balkans, as adventure travel writer and frequent Travel Tramp contributor Roxana explores a land on the verge of the unknown in her guide to this ancient and untouched region of the world!
Southeastern parts of the Balkans are a carefully hidden secret among the true adventurists that love to embark on a journey to the unknown. This stretch that lies between three countries, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, is dense with varying topography and unbelievable vistas.
Most of these parts are covered in ancient mountains sculpted by eons of winds which would, if only they could talk, tell you a story of tumultuous history that began before the time of Romans (but that’s a whole other tale for another time).
In order to fully enjoy all of the epic natural gems of this region trapped in the whirlwind of continental and Mediterranean climates, you’ll have to break your trip down on several days.
Day 1: The Journey Begins In Serbia
Your journey begins on a mountain in Serbia, one of the off the beaten path countries of South Europe. Even among Serbians, Tara is a less visited mountain than its more popular counterpart Zlatibor, which makes it a perfect place for adventuring. You can start off by visiting Banjska Stena, a high vantage point that overlooks Drina river gorge, and literally see the changes in the topography of mountains as the river flows across the grass covered mountains of Bosnia and Serbia into more rocky, steep mountains of subtropical and Mediterranean Montenegro.
Tara is covered in dense conifer forests and its highest peak stands at 1500 meters above sea level. You can rent a house on the banks of beautiful Zaovine Lake and make a barbeque dinner with your friends. The rentals in this region are very cheap but beautiful.
Day 2: Beyond Borders
Your journey continues beyond borders. As you start going south from Tara mountain, you will soon hit Zlatibor, where you can spend most of the morning enjoying its spectacular meadows and beautiful grasslands. Most of the restaurants around offer substantial meals with traditional Zlatibor cheese, which you simply have to try. As well as something called komplet lepinja a freshly baked bread with soft cheese, eggs and prosciutto.
Not long after that, as you continue southwest down the trail of the Dinaric Alps (the entire mountain range belonging to this region is part of this mountain chain), you’ll soon hit the border with Montenegro or Bosnia and Herzegovina. Whichever way you choose to go, make sure to find a place to sleep that night before you embark on further hiking and mountaineering sessions.
Day 3: The Hidden Gem Of The Adriatic
Montenegro is a hidden gem of the Adriatic Region. Most of its northern parts are covered in spectacular mountains that can easily serve as a backdrop for a Tolkienesque fantasy epic. Between those mountains runs a winding river that has cut in its path over millennia and now runs through two countries – Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina – and the name of this river is Tara (eponymous with the mountain).
If you’ve entered this region from the north, your rocky road around this river can begin at Djurdjevica Tara Bridge, which is located at the crossroads between Mojkovac, Zabljak and Pljevlja. This legendary construction was designed in 1937 while this region was still part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and it was the biggest vehicular bridge in Europe. As it stands 564 feet (172 meters) above the Tara River, it is a perfect spot for bungee jumping.
Day 4: Rafting On The Tara River
A Rafting experience on the Tara River is not the most laborious or risky endeavour for experienced adventurers, but it offers unforgettable visual splendour.
One of the most suitable places to start off the Tara adventure is at Scepan Polje, a location that lies on the border of Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The trail begins at the confluence of the rivers Tara and Piva, as they merge to create the legendary river of Drina, the same river you’ve overlooked on Banjska Stena on your first day of the visit.
If you are a history buff to boot and enjoy everything a river brings to you, catch a moment to visit the Bosnian fortress of Soko, a spectacular medieval ruin. In order to fully savour everything the Tara River has to offer, this experience can also be broken down on more than one day.
Day 5: The Longest Canyon In Europe
Did you know that the Tara Canyon is the second longest in the world, right after the Grand Canyon? It goes on for 49 miles (about 78 kilometers) and it is 4265 feet deep (about 1300 meters). If you are keen to go canyoning, don’t miss canyons Nevidio (the most popular one) and Skurda. Rikavac is a fantastic place for beginners, though none of them are as challenging as they are beautiful.
If you’ve done most of Tara adventuring a day before, you can take a trip to Kotor Bay, one of the most geographically unique bays in southern Europe that resembles a Scandinavian fjord. The water in the bay is usually really pleasant during the summer, so why not take a dip? Or you can go back to the north of Montenegro and visit Zabljak, the highest town on the Balkans that lies on a plateau of Durmitor Mountain at 4776 feet (1456 meters) above sea level.
The rose of winds that spreads above this region tells a story of historical turmoil, natural beauties and great heroism from times long past. The plethora of activities this crossroad between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia has to offer is overwhelming, and it can take a lot more than five days to enjoy every detail. Once you’ve got to know this hidden gem of Europe which, more than anything else, truly resembles a sandbox region of a fantasy video game, you’ll wish to return again and again, and maybe even never leave.
Roxana is a travel enthusiast and lifestyle consultant from Sydney and she loves to write about her adventures. She is all about the healthy lifestyle, loves to run with her husband and dogs and has fun cooking exotic meals for her family. Being a typical Aussie, she often hits the waves and loves beaches and sunshine! You can find out more about her writing at highstylife.com or by following her on twitter.