Tara National Park: My Favorite Place in Serbia



We spent four glorious days in the Tara National Park. The park is in the Dinaric Alps, a limestone mountainous area with deep ravines, rocky outcrops, turquoise rivers, and thousands of tall pines. It is only a three-hour drive from Belgrade and we rented an apartment in Kaluđerske Bare (Monk Pond), a small town inside the park. The peaks get up to around 5,000 feet and the park is located on the border with Bosnia i Herzegovina.

The kids had a wonderful time and each day we went hiking. The views are spectacular and the kids just love running in the meadows and picking up sticks and rocks under the towering pine and beech trees. I love the mix of farmland and wilderness of the park. The distinctive haystacks and Serbian traditional wooden farmhouses with green meadows of rolling hills, make for a idyllic, bucolic setting. I am also impressed with the amount of old growth trees all over the park. Big trees are one of the few things I feel spiritual about, and the mountain air, the quietness, and green, really refreshes my psyche.

I am trying to instill in my children a love for wilderness and an interest in natural history and ecological field studies. We identified many flowers, insects, birds, and trees and descriptions of these can be found on my Serbian Nature web site.

This was the first time we spent significant time inside the park. In previous visits, we stayed outside the park in the town of Mokra Gora. We will definitely go back.

Pljevlja, Montenegro

The city of Pljevlja, just across the border of Serbia in neighboring Montenegro, reminded me of the Višegrad of the Ivo Andric’ novel, “Bridge over the River Drina.” We visited the city over the Labor Day weekend attending a friend’s wedding. It is the third largest city in Montenegro and is located in a wild, beautiful region of canyons, rivers, and forests.

There was a relaxed, dusty feel to the city. Most impressive were the two Islamic minarets and the old Ottoman cemetery next to our hotel. The Ottoman Turks ruled Pljevlja for centuries and these are their legacy. There name for it Taslidža, which referred to the rocky landscape. Owen thought the country should be called Rock Negro, as they are everywhere. In Andric’s novel, the novel starts in the Ottoman times and ends with the arrival of the Austrians to the dusty river town of Višegrad. Pljevlja felt like that city after the Austrians had left. We visited the large Hussein Pasha’s mosque which dates back to 1569. It had been beautifully restored, but looked abandoned with uncut grass and a street dog sleeping on the front steps. The old Ottoman cemetery next to our hotel also had very long grass and looked like no one ever visited it.

The city today is mostly ethnically Serbian, politically Montenegrin, and it looks Bosnian. It sounds like it should be part of Yugoslavia with this mix.

The renovated but empty - Husein Pasha's Mosque

This is my favorite part of the Balkans, the region of Tara as I call it. It encompasses the Tara River and has snow-capped mountains, river canyons, pine forests, and lots of wildlife. So far we visited Mokra Gora in Serbia and now Durmitor and the Pljevlja municipality. I hope to explore Tara more.