The flat plains of Vojvodina might tell a different story, but Serbia is an immensely mountainous country. The nation has more than 130 peaks standing over a thousand metres, four of which stretch double that into the sky. Eight mountains stand tall over the rest, both in terms of sights and national importance.
There is something out of this world about Mount Tara. Its slopes are covered in dense forest, hiding one of the region’s most impressive national parks and veritable bevy of natural wonders. The Drina River is responsible for the ravines that seem to come out of nowhere, not to mention the breathtaking gorges that absolutely deserve such an adjective.
This is Serbia’s most forested area, garnering it the nickname the ‘Lungs of Serbia’, although the prevalence of smoking in the nation does make you worry for the state of those lungs. Don’t forget to look up every now and then, and you may well catch a glimpse of a griffon vulture or peregrine falcon.
Many Serbs will head to the slopes during the winter months for a spot of skiing, with Kopaonik taking the vast majority of those intrepid travellers. This is the largest ski resort in Southeast Europe after all, but there is a lot more to this mountain than pistes and slaloms.
Kopaonik is Serbia’s largest mountain range, stretching 47 miles from north to south, and as such, it contains vistas that are every bit as stunning as you would expect. Flora fans are going to be in their element here too. The highest peak of the mountain is named after Serbia’s greatest botanist, the fabulously moustachioed Josif Pančić. Pančić is buried in a mausoleum on the peak that takes his name.
Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina is an overwhelmingly flat stretch of land, but one mountain sticks out like the sorest of thumbs across the level ground. Fruška Gora is the secret dreamland of the north, as thick greenery conceals a number of tranquil monasteries, each containing some of the finest religious art in the country.
Fruška Gora is also home to a number of great tourist farms. Known individually as salaš, these are great spots at which to rock up and enjoy a hearty meal and no small amount of rakija, before falling asleep in front of some of the most relaxing views in the area.
Mountains don’t get more memorable than this. Your average hilltop will have a bumpy surface, a fairly anonymous peak that stretches across the landscape in an attempt to accentuate its vastness. Not Rtanj — not by a long shot.
This difficult to pronounce mountain in Eastern Serbia has a peak that is almost a perfect point, leading many to believe that it is the work of aliens. Hordes of people actually flocked here ahead of the Mayan Doomsday prophesy in 2012, believing they would be saved by the mountain’s mystical energy.
Belgrade isn’t a city that needs looking after, but Avala certainly gives the impression of being an overbearing big brother looking over the White City from afar. Avala is a major tourist destination for Serbs all year round, and the summer months will see many Belgraders head to the TV Tower, and more go for a delightful afternoon picnic. The mountain is also home to the Tomb of the Unknown Hero, one of the most poignant World War I memorials in the country.
Sports, health, nature and the rest, Zlatibor ticks almost all of the boxes listed in the ‘Awesome Mountain’ section. Tourism kicked off here in 1893 when King Aleksander Obrenović established a health resort, and 98 years later, it took on its current moniker. This is one of the most visited mountains in the country, although the numbers are helped by the many who come to gawp at the incredible Uvac Canyon.
Keen Emir Kusturica fans will be familiar with Mokro Gora, as the mountain and its surroundings played a keen role in Kusturica’s 2004 classic Život je čudo (Life Is a Miracle). The mountain is home to the famous Šargan Eight railway and gorgeous Drvengrad, Kusturica’s delightful village creation. There are plenty of natural sights to enjoy here, but it is the focus on historical restoration that has made the Wet Mountain so popular in the country.
This list comes to an end with the grandfather of Serbian mountains, the aptly named Stara Planina. The name means ‘Old Mountain’, but the range is also frequently referred to as the Balkan Mountains, giving a clear view on its regional importance. Snow covers the range for the majority of the year, and the extreme weather conditions mean natural curiosities are inevitable.
A couple of cliffs always catch the eye, including one that famously resembles the tooth of an old lady (the cliff is called Babin zub for good measure, meaning ‘Grandma’s Tooth’). Stara Planina is arguably the most beautiful part of Eastern Serbia, the perfect combination of lush greenery, vivid waters and the majesty of erosion.