If you're planning a trip to Serbia, you couldn't have chosen a better location. This country is known for its hospitality, a practice that's a testament to its Slavic roots. Its ancient culture is one of the world's most influential and with strong representation in a variety of sectors, including science and industry. Many who think of Serbia sometimes associate it with images of war and destruction from the late 20th century.
However, sophisticated travelers will see that it has moved beyond its turbulent past to become one of the most energetic countries in Eastern Europe. There's something for foreigners to appreciate in Serbia, from the rich vegetation in the wetlands next to the Sava river to the distinctive Serbo-Byzantine architecture with influences from Roman and Ottoman styles. If you're looking for an unforgettable getaway, it's a good time to plan a trip before more people learn about this gem.
St George’s Church at Oplenac was founded by Peter I of Yugoslavia back in the early 1900s. The Byzantine-style church has a marble exterior with five copper domes, each containing slim arches that make the building look compact and unassuming. Inside, however, the church houses about 1,500 frescoes composed of about 40 million pieces of jewel-like Murano glass. These mosaics cover the nave and the crypt, which contains the remains of Peter and other members of the Karađorđević dynasty.
Located near the city of the same name, the oldest rocks in the Vršac Mountains date back some 260 million years to the Paleolithic period. There are several peaks within the range, including Fox Head and the highest point in the range, Vršac Peak. There are a couple of old monuments there, such as Vršac Castle, and along with the odd fox or deer, there are at least 120 different bird species.
On Serbia’s eastern border with Romania and along the Danube is Đerdap National Park. The plants in this park have been around since the Pliocene era, which is over 5 million years ago. The hiking trails provide opportunities to enjoy the panoramic views of the Danube, and you can also visit neighboring towns, like Golubac for some sightseeing.
Constructed by the Ottomans, Ćele Kula, or Skull Tower, was made to be an intimidating lesson after the First Serbian Uprising in the early 19th century. The bodies of the rebels were mutilated, and some parts were sent back as proof of success. The skulls, however, were embedded in the tower as a warning against future rebellions. At last count, there were over 950 skulls spread across 56 rows.
The founder of the Nemanjic Dynasty, Stefan Nemanja, established this sacred site in 1196. Studenica is a Serbian Orthodox monastery that’s a mix of both Romanesque and Byzantine architectural styles. One of the things that makes it so special is that it houses two churches: Kraljeva Crkva and Bogorodičina Crkva. Kraljeva Crkva, King’s Church, has a number of priceless artistic masterpieces from the 13th and 14th centuries, while the Bogorodičina Crkva, Church of the Virgin, contains Stefan’s tomb.
Roman emperor Galerius Maximianus built Gamzigrad-Romuliana in the city where he was born, Zaječar. This palace complex contains baths, temples, and other buildings built for public use. The walls were strong enough to be effective as fortification to protect against attacks, while the buildings had intricately carved columns and decadent frescoes. The abandoned palace remains of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are open from April to November.
During the time of Napoleon, Austrian rulers used Petrovaradin Fortress to hide their valuables. In the centuries since, the structure has changed hands a few times, but it experienced significant reconstruction in the 18th century. These days, the second-largest fortress in Europe is now used as the venue for the EXIT international music festival.
Its name translates to Devil’s Town, and legend has it, these stone formations are petrified guests who dared to attend an incestuous wedding. Whatever the story, these approximately 200 stone formations are unmistakable landmarks with nearby springs and ravines that also have ominous names. Even on a cloudy day, Đavolja Varoš offers a compelling and spectacular view.
One of Serbia’s oldest national parks, Fruška Gora in Novi Sad was one of the country's first wineries that was started by the Romans. It is home to more than a dozen Orthodox monasteries that visitors can appreciate. Fruška Gora is one of the most beautiful and peaceful hiking spots with the natural forests that are home to hundreds of medicinal plants, making the surrounding greenery even more special.
During the Second World War, over 5,000 soldiers lost their lives fighting against the German occupation of the capital, Belgrade. The Kosmaj Monument is a freestanding brutalist structure that was built during the 1970s by an unknown artist. It's an unmistakable landmark on the mountain that looks like a futuristic star standing in tribute to them and their fight against fascism. In addition to that, you can amble through the groves to the Tresije Monastery, a medieval architectural beauty that has the hearts of the people of Kosmaj.