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Feature 30 Jun 17

Sun, Sand and Scenery: Serbia's Summer Escapes

From the sandy shores of the Danube to outdoor treks in delightful countryside, there are plenty of summertime activities and sights to see to make a great holiday trip without leaving Serbia.

Siri Sollie
BIRN
Serbia
Bela Stena. Photo: Wikimedia/Djus

Bela Stena: Sandy Danube beaches

Known to most Belgraders, but not frequently visited, are the sandy Danube beaches at “Bela Stena” (White Rock) near Pančevo, some 10 kilometres northeast of Belgrade.  

The island is a hidden pearl located on the eastern bank of the River Danube, and some might argue that the most beautiful sandy beaches on the Danube are located here. The island can only by reached by boat, but if you don’t have access to your own, there are organised shuttle boats that leave from the marinas in Visnjica and Pancevo during the summer months.

What makes Bela Stena special is the long sandy beaches that are quiet and tidy, in contrast to some of the more frequently visited river islands in close proximity to Belgrade, for example Ada Ciganlija and Lido in Zemun. Because of the green vegetation covering the island, there is also plenty of shade for cooling off on hot summer days.

The water at Bela Stena is relatively shallow, however, the Institute for Public Health measured the water quality in the Pančevo district in mid-June and sadly reported that the quality of the water this year is too low to recommend swimming in the Danube here.

Despite this, the area is a beautiful place for rest and relaxation, with plenty of shady trees offering places to unwind.

If you would like to make a weekend out of it, you can find several summerhouses at which you can spend the night. You will also find a selection of restaurants at which you can enjoy a pleasant meal.

Beach Life on the Rzav River

The natural features surrounding the Rzav river provide anyone wishing to go “off the beaten track” with memorable outdoor activities in the wilderness. The area, located in the Zlatibor district, close to the towns of Pozega, Arilje and Ivanjica, features deep valleys, ravines and gorges. 

They say that the river is the cleanest river in Serbia, and it supplies the locals here with drinking water. You can find as many as eight beaches on the riverbanks of the Rzav.  Zuta Stena (Yellow Rock), Zelena Plaza (Green Beach), Bosa Noga (Bare Foot) and Urjak are some of the beaches located just three kilometres from the centre of Arilje.

The beach resorts here will satisfy even the most demanding of guests in terms of the wide range of bars, restaurants and necessary equipment for bathing and recreation on offer.

The temperature of the river is 18 – 24 degrees Celsius during the summer months. While it is a little cooler than at the seaside, it is difficult to imagine a more beautiful place to enjoy your summer holiday.

There is also a campsite at the Zuta Stena beach, where one can enjoy sports facilities at the campsite, with playgrounds for kids, including slides and trampolines.

The Zlatibor district is also known for its caves and hiking trails, as well as Visocka Spa, located in close vicinity to the beach – a natural spring of hot waters, allegedly with healing properties.

The Drina regatta is one of the most popular events during the summer months in western Serbia.   Photo: Flickr/Trip & Travel Blog

Alongside the Beautiful Drina

Once you see the Drina river for the first time, it is difficult to forget its startling beauty and deep green colour. The place most worth visiting along this river is called Bajina Basta (Garden of Bajin), and is also located in the Zlatibor district, but slightly further south, as it comprises part of Tara National Park. The name refers to the vast orchards and vegetable gardens which once belonged to a Turkish feudal owner in the area.

However, while beautiful, the Drina is not quite as good for swimming or bathing, as it is comparatively quite cold and the tough streams can be somewhat unpleasant. Bajina Basta is however, astonishingly beautiful and during the summer you can enjoy the Drina regatta, which is held every summer from July 19 to 23.

This is one of the most popular events during the summer months in western Serbia, and the four days of festivities include a wide variety of activities. For more information visit www.taratours.rs.

Not too far from Bajina Basta lies Zaovina lake – one of the most beautiful lakes in Serbia, despite technically being artificial. It is very popular among the locals.  Located in the Tara National Park, the area is known as a picturesque oasis and it is possible to rent summer houses nearby. For more information about the accommodation and travel information, visit: www.tara-planina.com .

The Hidden Secrets of Fruska Gora

If the Zlatibor district and the Tara National Park seem too far away from the capital, there are certainly closer choices for those who want to visit some of the hidden natural gemstones in Serbia.

Fruska Gora is a nature reservoir located in Vojvodina region, and you can reach the area by car in a mere hour and a half from the capital. Nature here is clean and undisturbed, and the area has a lot to offer its admirers.

While there are many lakes in the area, one in particular is known for its clean and beautiful green water: Besenovo lake, located in the Sremska Mitrovica municipality. Its water allegedly has healing properties because of its high mineral content.

The lake is also known as Beli Kamen (White Stone) because of its white rocks that are reminiscent of the Mediterranean seaside.  The area might be for the more adventurous as it is a little bit “off-piste” and there are no restaurants or similar facilities. However, it is the perfect place for camping for those who want to spend one or more nights away from civilisation. Despite this, the village of Besenovo is not too far away.

Another destination, which is well known to locals, but less frequented by foreigners, is Cortanovci on the Danube river, close to Sremski Karlovcima. Cortanovci was a popular river resort during the 1970s and 1980s, and Belgraders travelled to the area for their weekends and holidays. Cortanovci is popular among fishermen and it is possible to enjoy a fresh and local riblja čorba (fish soup) at the local restaurants along the river. The area is characterised by its small and charming weekend houses, surrounded by an old forest that was once part of the Roman Route. Traces of the Roman heritage are still visible in the area. 

Cortanovci is easily accessible by train. The Novi Sad train from Belgrade stops in the middle of the forest (station Cortanovci Dunav), and it is just a one-hour train ride from the capital.

For more information about the area and other gems of Fruska Gora, visit: http://fruskac.net.

NOTE: This article has been amended on July 1 to include the Institute for Public Health report that the quality of the water at Bela Stena this year is too low to recommend swimming in the Danube.

This article was published in BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy.

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