Over the last few days I have been blogging about a few of my favourite moments of our family road trip in Serbia & Montenegro but there are many things we have wedged into our schedule that have not made my posts but rank as unforgettable experiences.
In an ideal world travel should be about taking time to immerse yourself in a country and give it the time required to learn more than you might otherwise glean from the comfort of your armchair. A road trip also offers the freedom to stop when the mood or the scenery takes you.
However, when we designed this summer's road trip I did have a sort of hidden agenda and that was to explore the possibilities of what sometimes gets described as adventure tourism or more precisely in my mind as the scope for enjoying the outdoors. And with this kind of agenda comes a certain pressure to "tick things off". It is not the kind of tourism I like, if truth be told, so we have tried to manage our time to ensure we allow ourselves the possibility to truly discover and not simply to pass through, as if speeding down the hallways of an art gallery.
That said... here are a few amazing adventure experiences that I have not written about, so far and that really deserved a bit more time. I have grouped them together because they are all relatively close.
1. Tara National Park, Serbia.
I mentioned this briefly in my post; Following the Drina. The park lies to the north of Kremna and is bordered by the river Irina which runs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It covers an area of 22,000 hectares of gorges and mountains that rise to an altitude of 1500m. I was told in the last few days there are around 70 brown bears here, although it seems like a lot for this park. Anyway, there are many signs indicating their presence and we came across recent bear scat on the main track to Banjska Stena.
The options for hiking in this area are really good although it is not highly developed in terms of foreign tourism... but I guess that makes it even more attractive right now.
2. Rafting on River Tara, Montenegro.
This Tara is the river Tara. Whilst being in the area we couldn't pass up on the chance to indulge in this unforgettable experience. We spent a morning on an organised trip rafting down the limpid waters of the river Tara in Montenegro. Although it was pretty tame on the stretch we did (intentionally as we had a 5 year old with us) it was astonishingly beautiful, being carried down this cold mountain river which carves its way deep in a vast canyon.
Earlier in the year when the snow melts it must be exceptional, but even now in the middle of summer, there are options for a more adventurous full day of memorable white water rafting. A must for any water fan.
3. Zip-lining - Djurdjevica Tara, Montenegro
We stayed at Vučiji Krš, a small guesthouse / hostel-style accommodation which also offers a zip-line that runs for over a kilometre across the canyon. My wife, who is infinitely braver than I, can vouch for the kind of thrill this offers - see below!
I don't think I have ever seen so many happy faces as those that braved this 1050 metre adrenaline ride!
4. Sopotnica Waterfalls, Serbia
This is not even in our guidebook! These falls which are sort of divided into three parts; upper, middle and lower, are located near the town of Prijepolje in southwestern Serbia. Not only are they beautiful, with abundant greenery and a nice hike up the side to a number of viewpoints, but they are also in a rural location that genuinely feels untouched by foreign tourism (did I mention they are not in my guidebook?).
We had the pleasure of staying very close by in a charming mountain hut; Planinarski Dom Sopotnica. The other residents were a group of student naturalists from the University of Novi Sad which offered my 5 year old daughter the wonderful opportunity to learn a little more about insects and she came away once again convinced she is going to be a scientist! They were very pleasant, patient and altogether great role models for young girl.
5. Uvac Special Nature Reserve, Serbia
The river Uvac is a tributary of the Lim and, the spectacular meanders which are central to the nature reserve were born when a hydro electric dam was built, flooding the valley. Now they are home to a large population of Griffon Vultures as well as many other bird species including Golden Eagles.
Although hiking is limited because the sides are steep and thickly wooded it does mean that wildlife flourishes. The reserve houses a large and complex cave system including Ledena Pećina (Ice Cave) which extends for several kilometres into the mountainside and is accessible from the water.
Obviously there is plenty of water to paddle on in order to discover this stunningly rich habitat. The reserve is situated near the town of Nova Varoš.