Starting with a village of less than 2,000 people not far from Aranđelovac, Orašac is one of the most idyllic hamlets in the country. The First Serbian Uprising started here with the famous Orašac Assembly, where some 300 Serbian leaders convened and decided the time was right to fight back against the Ottomans. No such violence is found today, conflict replaced by a pleasant atmosphere and one of the most impressive school buildings in the country.
Mount Avala lies at the northern tip of Šumadija, a small yet imposing mountain that looks over Belgrade like a protective big brother. The views from Avala are impressive to say the least, and the big hill becomes a mightily popular spot during the summer months. There is no better spot in the country to spread out a rug and enjoy a picnic. Be sure to bring a bottle of rakija along to enhance the experience (but don’t drink it all yourself).
Serbia is a country full of monasteries as historically important as they are visually arresting, and there aren’t many more impressive than Žiča. It was here that the kings of Serbia were traditionally crowned, and the crown was considered fragile until the leader in question had been to this sacred spot. The monastery still functions today, oozing tranquility to go with the alluring image of the bright red buildings.
Serbia might be better known for its rakija when it comes to alcohol, but don’t sleep on the nation’s growing status as a wine destination. Fantastic vintages are cultivated from north to south, and some of the best can be found in and around the little village of Župa. They have been making wine in these parts since the 12th century, even gaining that much sought after French seal of approval. Head to Župa and try a bottle or two, before taking some home to impress your friends (or just drink, of course).
A mountain famous for its long history of mining, Rudnik is just as interesting a place to visit if you have no interest in extracting minerals from the ground. Located not far from the little town of Gornji MIlanovac (once the cleaning city in Yugoslavia, don’t you know), Rudnik offers magnificent views over the wider Šumadija region. The best are are found from Cvijićev vrh, but the peak named after Jovan Cvijić might be a little too high for most.
Undoubtedly one of the finest pieces of art in the entire country, the interior of the Church of St. George is the sort of piece that needs to be seen to be believed. When you enter the church you see the usual frescoes all over the walls, but there is nothing usual about them here. The entire interior is one huge mosaic, millions of tiny coloured pieces painstakingly put together to create a truly impressive work of art. The church also serves as the mausoleum for the Karadjordjević family, the historical cherry on top of this most enjoyable cake.
The Ibar river runs through the middle of Šumadija, and the famous city of Kraljevo is arguably the best place to experience it. The King’s Town offers plenty of sport and activity along the banks of its life source, just a short walk away from Kraljevo’s famous main square. Rafting on the river is available nearby, for those looking for something a little more up-tempo.
Serbia can be a fairly chaotic place at the best of times, but luckily the country is full of tranquil spas offering a little slice of peace in the madness. Bukovička Banja is one such place, although it hasn’t always been about rehabilitation and restoration. Magnificent gala balls were once the order of the day here, but the mineral springs are now put to more apt use. There is also a magnificent French Park, as if things weren’t relaxing enough.
Lovingly referred to as a prehistoric house, Risovača Cave is one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in the entire country. It was discovered way back in 1938, but 12 years passed before its size and importance were identified. Exploration soon followed, and a whole host of fossils were found hiding within. Don’t be shocked by the Neanderthal family huddled around a fire — they aren’t real. Or at least we don’t think they are…