My top 10 travel tips for Mount Tara and the Drina River

If you ever have the chance to travel to Serbia and love nature then why not visit the Tara National Park and the beautiful river Drina.
Banjska Stena on Mount Tara with view from a height of 1074 meters onto river Drina

Tara Mountain

Tara National Park was first established in 1981 and originally covered 191.75 km2 or 74.04 sq miles of ground and with altitudes varying from 250 to 1,591 m (820 to 5,220 ft) above sea level it is one Serbia’s favourite hideaways during the hot summer months to escape the heat.

On the 5th of October 2015, the government of Serbia adopted a new law dedicated to the protection of national parks which enlarged the Tara National Park to 249.92 km2 , which is almost 97 sq miles. This was achieved by adding to it the protected area around Zaovine lake.

Tara mountain features dense forests which cover a total area of approximately 160 km2 (or 62 sq miles). It is said that these forests belong to the best preserved and well-kept in Europe. With 83.5% of the territory blanketed by forest, Tara is the most wooded area of Serbia and thus deservedly nicknamed the “lungs of Serbia”.

Some of the areas of the forests have been purposefully left unattended for centuries. These areas eventually developed their own micro climates, similar to temperate rain forests.

Flora and Fauna of Tara

Tara’s woodland mainly consist of beech trees, which are the oldest trees in the forest, followed by spruce and fir and is home to an ultra rare endemic species the Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) which was discovered in 1875 by the Serbian botanist Josif Pančić .

Because of its rarity and scientific importance, the Serbian Fir has been placed under national protection as it can only be found on two locations on the mountain; the canyon of the ‘Mileševka’ river and on the ‘Zvezda’ massif.

Butterfly on Tara

Tara mountain counts over 1,200 plant species, some of which are endemic to the region and as many as 600 species of fungi, many of which are edible. There are even two species of edelweiss flowers which only grow on Tara.

Apart from rare plants and trees there are, of course, many species of wildlife that live exclusively on Tara. There are at least 135 bird species which have made their habitat on Tara. These include; the golden eagle, the griffon vulture, the peregrine falcon, the Eurasian eagle owl and the black grouse.

Then there are  protected mammals such as the brown bear, otter, chamois, roe deer, lynx, wolf, jackal, wild boar and marten.  It is claimed that 80% of all the Serbian brown bears live on this mountain.

About the river Drina

Drina river Valley

The river Drina is formed by the convergence of the Tara and the Piva rivers. Both flow directly into Serbia from high up the Montenegrin mountains. The Drina river itself is 346 km (215 miles) long and empties into the river Sava which itself ends its course in the river Danube, right in the heart of Belgrade where both rivers meet.

The river Drina is not navigable, at least not by any large powered vessels. The most likely type of boat you’ll ever likely to encounter on this river is either a rubber dingy, occasionally equipped with an outboard motor, or a canoe.

Drinska Regatta

Perucac lake, start of the Drinska Regatta

Every year in the month of July an event takes place like nowhere else on earth. This is the Drinska Regatta, a crazy gathering with as many as 20.000 participants floating gently down the river in dingys, metal and wooden rowing boats, rafts and even inner tubes of tractor tires. The starting point is the at the location of the Perućac dam. This event is supported by bands, food and a lot of raki. Make sure to book your accommodation well ahead of time.

Drinska Regatta

What to do while visiting this part of Serbia

There is much to do in Western Serbia, especially if you love the outdoors and have a taste for adventure.

  1. Hiking trails are properly indicated

    Walking/Hiking. The Tara Mountain boosts many nature trails, some short and some (too) long. I personally have walked some of the most amazing nature trails on this particular mountain. My favourite is a 12Km round trek from the resort of Mitrovac to Banjska Stena. The walk is pleasant, one that takes you through dense forest to Banjska Stena (meaning; Banjska Wall or Rock) one of Europe’s most amazing view points. The walk itself is easy because most of it is on level ground. After 6Km you get your reward, a priceless view of the Drina river from a height of over 1000m! You can see far into Bosnia & Herzegovina as well as into Montenegro. To get instructions on how to get there click here. Other trails on mount Tara you can find on this page.

  2. Raca Monastery

    Monasteries. Serbians mainly practice, just like the Greeks, the Romanians, the Russians and a few other nations Orthodox Christianity and so you’ll find many monasteries dedicated to this religion. If it interests you to discover the main differences between the Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church then you find out by clicking here. Despite their differences they do not discriminate and everyone from all religious backgrounds are welcome to visit most monasteries. One of the most beautiful, famous and accessible monasteries in western Serbia is the Rača Monastery, about 7Km from Bajina Bašta.

  3. Trio Lux resort River Rafting on Drina

    Rafting on the Drina. There are various organizations, clubs and commercial enterprises dedicated to organizing rafting excursions. Some of the best are located on the Bosnian side of the river Drina. Here are some suggestions; Tri Vodenica apparently comes highly recommended. Then there is this agency, which seems to have years of experience taking people down the river. Should that not suit you then try out Trio Lux Resort. I did such a trip a few years ago, which was organized by some local scouting club, and can tell you that the experience was definitely exhilarating but in no way dangerous. The rubber raft I went on was large enough to hold at least 10 persons. We would all wear life vests and sit on the edge. One tip: These trips are often preluded by some heavy drinking (of alcohol). Please make sure to empty your bladder before you set ‘sail’ because, as I found out at my peril, there will no opportunity to do so while you float down the river 😉 Should you like to participate in such undertaking but don’t want to cross over into Bosnia you could contact this company which operates out of Bajina Bašta (pronounced Bah-ji-nah – Bash-ta)

  4. Inside a vintage carriage of the Šarganska Osmica

    Šarganska Osmica (pronounced; Shar-gan-ska  Os-mit-sa, meaning Shargansk’s Eight), is one of Europe’s best preserved nostalgic railroad rides. Build in 1921 and finished in 1925 by Franz Ferdinand’s Austrian Hungarian empire, this railroad still makes use of its original vintage carriages which are pulled by ex-communist era engines. The trip starts in ‘Mokra Gora’ a place on the south side of Tara mountain. The ride ‘snakes’ 13Km in a ‘figure of 8′ across and through a mountain range going nowhere in particular but stopping at some iconic old fashioned stations. Definitely a lot of fun for both railway enthusiasts as well as folk like me who just want to experience some good ol’ nostalgy. This site will give you some insight into its history and accessibility. Unfortunately it is written in the Serbian language but if you use the ‘Firefox’ browser, like I do, then you can download the ‘Google Translate’ add-on which will be able to translate the site for you. Alternatively you can download an app for your phone from the ‘Play Store’.

     

  5.  
    Vintage Carriages that you’ll encounter on a trip with the Šarganska Osmica Railroad

    500 liter barrel of Raki
  6. Distilleries are famous around the town of Bajina Bašta. I suggest, if you like this sort of thing, to visit the distillery ‘Podrum Dodic‘ in Rogačica. Their raki is top shelf quality and the value for money is excellent. At the time of this writing a 70cl bottle of excellent plum raki sells at 500 Serbian Dinars (4 US$). Their most expensive variety, raki made from quince fruit, sells at 1200 Serbian Dinars.
  7. For a perfect photo opportunity one must visit the ‘House on the River‘ (see feature image). The story goes that; once upon a time in the west.. (Yes, I know its corny but the river Drina is Serbia’s most western, excuse the pun, river) ..some swimmers decided they needed a place to rest, so they build the foundations for this house in 1968. Several times the house was destroyed by floods and storms. Every time it was rebuild it became stronger and stronger. Today it even has concrete foundations. You can read the full story here.
  8. Then there is the shortest river in Serbia; Reko Vrelo (meaning; River Vrelo) starts with a waterfall and ends with a waterfall and is all of 365 meters long, thus aptly dubbed the ‘Year River’. There is ample parking next to this river and the last time I was there, I spotted some rare ‘golden’ trout. The mouth of the river is an 8 meter waterfall which discharges the river into the river Drina. A nice restaurant, going by the same name as the river, literally sits on top of the waterfall. Watch the video here. As far as I know this place is still government run. A tell tale sign is that the waiters conventionally wear traditional black and whites. Let that inspire you because the food is good and given its unique its location it is surprisingly cheap to have a meal or just a drink. Absolutely worth a visit.

    The so called ‘year’ river because its total length is just 365 meters. Dandelions growing on the river bank.
  9. Perucac lake, start of the Drinska Regatta

    While you’re there you might as well carry on down the road towards Perućac Lake, an artificial lake created in 1966. The lake was created by damming the Drina River then harnessing its flow to power the Bajina Bašta hydroelectric power station. On top of the lake there are various floating establishments which offer refreshments as well as a chance to stretch out on the decks where you can relax, sunbathe and even take a dip into the lake. If you’re fit you can swim into Bosnia to the other side. Make sure to pack your passport into a waterproof case though.

  10. Since we’re on the topic of lakes, an other artificial lake named; Zaovine Lake, is located right on south side of Tara mountain. The lake covers a massive 15 square kilometers. There are spots along this lake where it is possible to swim but most of the land surrounding the area is privately owned. Still, if you can’t find a spot to swim then there are many opportunities to hike, to picnic and to enjoy peace and quiet (a rare commodity these days).

    Zaovine artificial lake on mount Tara
  11. When traveling by road from Belgrade to Bajina Basta, Tara or Drina you will most likely choose to take route 170 from Valjevo, a small city about 90Km from Belgrade. There are plenty of things to do in Valjevo itself, including a visit to one of Europe’s cleanest rivers, namely the river Gradac. the route from Valjevo takes you over meandering and picturesque mountain roads. Just before you reach the small hamlet of Rogačica you’ll reach one of Serbia’s most amazing vantage points from which to enjoy exquisite views. This point is called; the Gate of Podrinje. It isn’t so much a ‘gate’ but more of a platform (which you can see in the left corner of the picture below). A bonus is that there are always vendors who flock their locally produced honeys, jams, sweets and raki. These people know the area very well and are therefore perfect sources for information.
Gate of Podrinje on a cloudy and rainy day

I wish you fun and an exhilarating time. let me know how you got on and should you, yourself, have tips to share then please do so freely by posting a comment on this site.

Enjoy!

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