Novi Pazar is truly unlike any other city in Serbia. The centre of the country’s Islamic population, the so-called ‘New Market’, is surrounded by some of the most historical spots in the nation, along with a variety of iconic churches, monasteries and quite frankly unbelievable flavours.
Where it all began. Some 11km west of Novi Pazar lies the remains of a fortress called Stari Ras, ostensibly where the Serbian state got its start way back in the 9th century. One of the first capitals of medieval Serbia, Stari Ras was abandoned as early as the 13th century but its importance cannot be overplayed. This was the centre of trading routes at the time, and this advantageous position meant the locals could prosper while continuing to build the state. Little remains in the modern age, except a few walls and a palpable sense of history.
Serbia is a country full of inspiring yet tranquil monasteries, and Sopoćani is undoubtedly one of the most impressive. Built close to the site of the Stari Ras fortress, Sopoćani came into being in the 13th century before being extended a century later. The Ottomans burnt the place down in the 17th century, but life returned to Sopoćani following the wars of the 20th century. Today it still gives a peek into a tranquil Serbian past of monastic existence.
We’re always a little reticent to throw the winner’s cap at individual attractions, but every now and then we’ll make an exception. The meanders of the Uvac river represent the pinnacle of natural beauty in Serbia, which is no small statement. These are bends designed by a deity with attention issues, hairpins unlike anything else on the continent that are matched for drama only by the cliff faces and impressive birds that fly in and around the water. They are just a short ride from Novi Pazar, so be sure to head out west for something truly magnificent.
Known as the ‘roof of Serbia’, Kopaonik is the biggest mountain this part of the country. It also happens to the most the popular when it comes to winter recreation, with Serbs heading here in droves for a spot of skiing and more. Serbia’s greatest naturalist was particularly fond of the mountain, and Josif Pančić was eventually laid to rest on one of its peaks. Don’t make similar plans however, instead stick to night skiing and untouchable vistas.
Another stunning monastery, Đurđevi stupovi is located a short drive away from the modern city of Novi Pazar. It sits on a mountain above the town, although it isn’t just its location that attracts reverence and respect. This is one of the most unique monasteries in the country when it comes to architecture, along with the incredible frescoes that wait within its walls. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, and rightly so.