Belgrade’s artificial lake is very quiet over the winter and spring, but in summer it almost becomes the capital’s capital. No spot in the city will have a larger density of people than Ada Ciganlija, as Serbs descend on the lake for sports, relaxation, partying, or a weird combination of the three. Bars ring the lake from start to end, and the beating of the sun is soothed somewhat by the cool waters and cooler atmosphere.
If Ada Ciganlija represents the more hectic side of the Serbian summer, Sićevo Gorge is probably the dictionary definition of its antithesis. Located between Niš and the border with Bulgaria, the gorge is separated in two parts, both of which offer quite fantastic natural beauty. The villages that dot the countryside produce some of the finest wine in Serbia, a tasty way to end a sunlit day of nature ogling.
On the edge of the mighty Danube lies Golubac Fortress, an imposing 13th century construction that has been attacked by many but conquered by few. The irritating local fly population has had the most success, but a little preparation means you can easily avoid these pesky mites and enjoy Serbia’s most photogenic fortress, which is no small claim in itself.
Vojvodina is a largely flat landscape, but Fruška Gora stands tall as the squarest peg in that most round of holes. A vast area of forested land, the famous National Park is as green as Serbia gets. The relentless onslaught of flora is broken only by some of the nation’s most tranquil and picturesque monasteries, and a tour of these charter houses makes for a fine way to take in one of the most gorgeous parts of the entire continent.
Sticking with national parks, Tara is undoubtedly the jewel in Serbia’s sparkling crown. The high points of Serbia’s nature are found here, whether it is the mountain itself or the stunning Uvac Canyon. Couple these with unmatchable views and an impressive variety of fauna, and you have a summer destination that is still as popular with local people as it has ever been. If you ask a Serb where you should visit during the height of summer, don’t be surprised if Tara is the answer.
Serbia’s second largest city is growing in popularity all the time, and for good reason. Novi Sad plays host to EXIT Festival in the summer, but there is more to the town than a mass of drunken tourists and a line-up that seems to be less exciting with every passing year. A gorgeous town centre is accentuated by numerous beer gardens and cafe terraces, and the Petrovaradin Fortress makes a fine place from which to while away a sunny afternoon in state.
A two-for-one here, which can easily become a three-for-one with the addition of the Šargan Eight railway. Drvengrad is a small village in the mountains that came from the mind of Serbian film director extraordinaire Emir Kusturica, a visage of wood and tradition that is as peaceful as it gets. Mokra Gora has been the setting for numerous stories and movies, not least Kusturica’s underrated Life is a Miracle (2004). As far as bang for your buck goes, it doesn’t get much better.
Also known as the Iron Gate, this huge stretch of the Danube creates a natural border between Serbia and Romania, its neighbour to the northeast. Water is unsurprisingly the dominant feature, and the cooling winds of the river make for a pleasant summer destination and then some. The dramatic cliff faces add tension to the peaceful scene, all of which are home to unique attractions in their own right.
It is nigh on impossible to settle on one monastery as being Serbia’s best, but if we found ourselves forced at gunpoint to decide, then Studenica would probably get the nod. We’d also have to question how we’d found ourselves in such a position. Situated just outside the historic city of Kraljevo, Studenica is a marvel of Serbian architecture that has as much value in a historic sense as it does an aesthetic one.
If there is a list with the words ‘Best Serbian Destinations’ in the title, then you can bet your bottom dinar that Sremski Karlovci must be a part of it. Serbia’s prettiest village is an essential visit no matter the time of year, but the extra dose of vitamins provided by our closest star seems to add a spring to the step of the locals. The village square comes alive, and the real energy of the Serbs puts on its Sunday best in order to impress.
Belgrade’s most iconic spot becomes a hive of activity throughout summer, as the locals put up with temperatures pushing the 40s in order to socialise, celebrate and more. The historic park hosts plenty of events and festivals throughout the warmer months, but just as much value is offered by a stroll and an ice cream before taking in the city’s most romantic sunset. There’s plenty of shade too, although make sure that ice cream doesn’t melt before you get there.