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Belgrade’s nightlife might get all the press, but those willing to travel outside of the bars and clubs in the capital are almost certainly going to be blown away by the nature on offer. Serbia is a land of valleys, mountains and more, and the country is also home to no small amount of lakes and rivers. Some of the former are manmade, but that should never be held against a body of water. Each tells its own story of course, and some have even had Nobel laureates champion them.
We’ll start with the most famous body of water in the Balkans. The Drina River forms much of the border between Serbia and Bosnia, and was catapulted to international fame with the publishing of Ivo Andrić’s Nobel Prize-winning The Bridge on the Drina in 1945. The river is actually the longest tributary of the Sava, but its speed and character demand attention all of its own.
The curves of the river have actually made their way into modern lexicon, and someone looking to solve an impossible problem is said to be attempting to ‘straighten the Drina’. The river has informed songs, stories and more, and no body of water is closer to the hearts of Serbs.
From the hand of God to the plans of man. Ada Ciganlija was once a river island, but it has since been changed into a man-made peninsula that many refer to as the ‘Belgrade Seaside’. That became an official advertising slogan in 2008, but it didn’t take a permit to make it a fact. Ada was largely neglected until the late 1950s, but it has new life today as one of the busiest summer spots in the Serbian capital.
Second only to the Volga when it comes to long rivers in Europe, the Danube may well take precedence over its Russian superior when it comes to famous waterways on the continent. It flows through more countries than any other river on the planet, with 10 states touching base with the river. Serbia is one of those states (obviously), the river running right through Belgrade before meeting the Sava. The capital makes the most of the river of course, and it is full of boats offering excellent food and the nightlife that made Belgrade famous.
If the Danube is the great river of Europe, then the Sava can be considered the equivalent when it came to Yugoslavia. The river connected three of the state’s capitals in the shape of Ljubljana, Zagreb and Belgrade, and it still plays a major role in the lives of people living in the Serbian capital today. The Sava meets the Danube in the centre of Belgrade, providing one of the most romantic sights in all of Europe.
Far away from the hustle and bustle of Belgrade lies the Uvac River, responsible for arguably the most majestic natural sight in Serbia. The meanders of Uvac are as iconic as it gets when it comes to water imagery in the Balkans, a set of vicious bends surrounded by foreboding cliffs and lush forests. This is Serbian nature at its most inspiring.
Situated just north of Subotica on the border with Hungary, the story goes that Lake Palić was made from the tears of a shepherd who lost his golden lamb. While we don’t want to cast any doubts onto that mythical tale (the use of the word ‘mythical’ may do that for us), you shouldn’t expect to see a lamb with a golden fleece around here. What you will see is delightful waters and plenty of visitors, providing a welcome break from the relaxing spas in the surrounding area.
Is it artificial? 100 percent real? Does it really matter? Regardless of its origins, Vlasina Lake is another magnificent body of water in Serbia. It is the highest lake in the nation too, and is actually home to two delightful permanent islands. There are also a number of floating islands that have captured the imagination of locals and foreigners alike.
That is a promising name, and the Silver Lake lives up to those hopes. An oxbow lake on the right bank of the Danube, the lake is just a short ride away from the magical Golubac Fortress, making it a hugely popular tourist destination throughout the year. The Silver Lake is known as ‘Serbia’s sea’, although the landlocked status of the nation should tell you how legitimate that claim is.
A collection of six artificial lakes near to the town of the same name, the Bela Crkva Lakes contain some of the most unpolluted water in all of Serbia. ‘Unpolluted’ means bathing time, and as such, it isn’t shocking to see masses of folk cooling off in the H2O throughout the hot summer months. This is where the Serbian version of the Loch Ness Monster can be found (or not), so those looking to carve themselves a place in history need to pack their biggest fishing rods and get to Bela Crkva.
A veritable fisherman’s paradise, Perućac Lake was in the news for all the wrong reasons during the ‘90s, but the tide has since turned for this artificial lagoon on the Drina. Named after a nearby village, the lake was created in 1966 when the river was dammed to create the Bajina Bašta Hydroelectric Power Plant, and the reservoir has since gone from strength to strength. Modern energy aside, it is a very popular fishing spot in summer, hence the utopia reference at the beginning there.
It might be known as the most polluted river in Serbia, but the range of attractions alongside the Ibar deserve mention nonetheless. The lower course of the river created a number of gorgeous valleys, in which many famous Serbian monasteries were built over the centuries. Studenica, Žiča and Gradac monasteries are here (among others), along with a host of spas and natural springs.