Novi Sad is the second largest city in Serbia, but the shadow of Belgrade isn’t the only issue it has to deal with when it comes to tourism. The town is surrounded by stunning spots that demand just as much attention, although most will have to do with day trip status from the capital of Vojvodina.
If we’ve said it once, and we’ve said it a million times: if you only go to one village in Serbia, you would be wise to make sure that village is Sremski Karlovci. The town is less than half an hour away from Novi Sad by car, with many buses travelling between the city and Belgrade stopping off there. There isn’t much signage when you enter Karlovci, but you’ll know you are there because of all the magnificent architecture.
Once the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Habsburg Empire, Sremski Karlovci has long held a position of spiritual importance for the Serbs in this part of the country. Life in the town revolves around the main square, but the sights extend to the hills around town. It was in Karlovci that ‘peace’ was signed between the Ottomans and the Habsburg rulers in 1699, although ‘peace’ is used in a fairly liberal sense there.
Vojvodina is largely flat, which goes a long way to explaining the importance of the land and the financial benefits of setting up your farm in these parts. There is always an exception to the rule however, and the rolling hills of Fruška Gora tick that particular box when it comes to Serbia’s northern region.
A huge national park just outside Novi Sad, Fruška Gora is famous for many reasons. The first of these is the mountain itself, the so-called ‘Jewel of Serbia’, a national park that is 90% forest. Those trees hide countless flora and fauna, although those who have tried to count have reached impressively high numbers.
Then there are the monasteries, dozens of which are also hidden within the greenery. Serbia takes its monasteries very seriously indeed, and life still thrives in these tranquil homes of worship and piety today. Krušedol and Grgeteg are arguably the best, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.
There’s the wine, too – oh the wine. There is an abundance of wine makers in these parts, making Fruška Gora the perfect spot for anyone looking to unwind in the hills with a glass of the fine stuff.
Novi Sad’s northern neighbour is the biggest pretender to the throne in these parts, and the bigger city should take heed of the warning. Subotica is a gem in its own right, an architectural wonder that displays as much Hungarian influence as it does Serbia. Expect plenty of multi-lingual signs in these parts.
Lake Palić is nearby, a sizeable body of water that is as peaceful as it is excitable during summer. Countless summers and picnickers make their way here during the winter months, and that many simply can’t be wrong.
Is Sombor’s main square the prettiest in Serbia? The squares in Sremski Karlovci, Novi Sad and others may well take umbrage with such a statement, but it is easy to see why Sombor’s might get many votes.
Life in Sombor revolves around four streets named after Serbian dukes, with all of the finest sights located on these thoroughfares. The Town Hall and the Town Museum deserve praise, but the square really does take the biscuit. The journey from Novi Sad takes less than two hours by bus.
A slightly left-field option, but the famous city of Vukovar is an hour and a half away from Novi Sad, just over the Croatian border. The city made headlines in the second half of 1991 for all the wrong reasons, as the 87-day siege carried out by the Yugoslav People’s Army left the entire town flattened.
Vukovar has since been rebuilt, but the bitterness from the war is going to take a lot longer to heal. Serbo-Croat relations are frequently in the news, whether about the rights of the Serbian language or the people themselves. Much of the city is a monument to the brutal conflict, making it a visit that’s as harrowing as it is vital.