The charm of Tara: Discovering the most beautiful mountain in Serbia

September is the perfect time to escape the city’s heat and noise with a relaxing trip to one of Serbia’s most beautiful mountains.

Summer is almost over and you may already be feeling trapped in your office again. However, if you still long for natural relaxation and outdoor peace while the weather is still pleasant, mid-September is perfect for an idyllic weekend getaway at Tara Mountain.

So, what is there at Tara other than stunning views?

Quite a lot, actually.

The mountain has something for everyone: lakes, rivers, hills, mountain biking, hiking, impressive history, delicious homemade food and drinks. Additionally, day tripping is also an option as the mountain is within easy reach of other attractions and interesting cities, such as Visegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Tara Mountain was proclaimed a National Park in 1981 and is especially famous for the proliferation of Serbian spruce, a unique species discovered in 1875, and named for the Serbian botanist who found it, Josif Pancic.

Tara Mountain is full of accommodation possibilities. The two largest and oldest hotels, Omorika and Beli Bor, are both still state-owned, albeit a little neglected. They are located near each other and both offer magnificent views of the hills and forests, as well as pools and sport courts.

However, if you prefer something more isolated and wild, you can rent one of the beautiful rustic cottages that dot the mountain. Built in typical mountain style, these hideaways perfectly capture the spirit of 19th and 20th century mountain living.

There are plenty of booking websites offering apartments and cottages but it pays to comparison shop. Cottages generally run around a reasonable €25-€30 per night, depending on the number of guests (pay attention that it is per night, not a per person price). Make sure to book early as the mountain is quite crowded this time of the year.

Beware when using your cell phone: Bosnia is really close across the border and it might easily go roaming and the company can charge you more for using it.

One of the most beautiful parts of Tara is the small village of Mitrovac, located 20km up and down the hills from the main road. There is a big children’s resort in the village, and Mitrovac is full of basketball and football courts as well as other treats for kids.

The tiny village centre consists of a small cafe where you can have your morning coffee and talk to locals, a tourist information office offering bike rental, a post office and a small supermarket.

On Sundays you can spot an elderly woman selling homemade cheese and kajmak – a local cheese cream everyone here rightfully brags about. Homemade rakija, Serbia’s famed fruit brandy, and local honey are also available.

Not far from Mitrovac lies the artificial Zaovine lake, built between 1975 and 1983. Many people fish in the lake and, if the weather allows, you can even go swimming. Its water is crystal clear but can be quite freezing so think twice before jumping in.

Tara Mountain is also rich in hiking tours and scenic viewpoints. One of the most famous viewpoints is Banjska stena and it offers a spectacular view of the Drina river and another artificial lake, Perucac.

It takes around two hours to walk there from the Mitrovac centre, and tours trek through woods and over steep hills but are definitely worth checking out. All hiking trails are properly marked along the road and easy to follow.

If you prefer bikes, you can rent one for rsd150 [less than one euro] per hour or rsd600 per day [around €5] at the nearby tourist information centre. Tourist information officers can give you detailed advice on the best biking routes and things to see while cycling.

Apart from beautiful forests, meadows, lakes and viewpoints, you can also visit the nearby village of Kremna, famous for its prophecies of 20th century events, allegedly written by the illiterate peasants Milos Tarabic and his nephew Mitar. Their village Serbian Orthodox priest, Zaharije Zaharic is said to have recorded their predictions. Both Tarabices died before 1900.

Some of the most interesting are the ones predicting WWII, the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and conflicts in the Middle East.

“All of Europe will be under the rule of the crooked cross. Russia will not be involved until the aggressor’s army attacks her. At that time, Russia will be ruled by the ‘red tsar,” one of the prophecies reads.

But, if you are not into walking, hiking, fishing or reading the Tarabic’s grim prophecies, you can always lay a blanket on the grass, and enjoy the nature.

Among its many offerings, Tara Mountain is simply a wonderful place for relaxation and silence in natural surroundings.

Located 180km from Belgrade, Tara Mountain is near the town of Uzice in western Serbia and is within easy reach of the city. Locals claim it is easily accessible by car even during the winter snows; local and national bus lines operate daily.

For more information on the timetables, you can visit raketa-ab.com and www.lasta.rs. One way tickets cost around €15 one way.

(Balkan Insight, BIRN, 21.09.2016)

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