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Devil's Town & The Danube

Uncover the hidden gems of Europe's best-kept secret

    • Price £ 1,725 I
    • Please contact us for flights from your nearest airport
    • Single sup. £ 320 I
    • Duration : 9 days
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INTRO


Starting in Belgrade, Serbia’s buzzing capital, teeming with cafés, bars and restaurants, wind your way through this often misunderstood country. Learn about General Tito’s legacy and explore Serbia’s more controversial recent past. Visit the ghoulish Skull Tower of Nis, and ponder the influence of the Ottomans on today’s Serbia. Take a boat out on the Danube, overnight in a monastery, samples wines with locals and wander the eerie landscapes of Devil’s Town.

Travel writer Adrian Mourby travelled with us on this trip. Read his article from the Independent on Sunday here

DATES

  • 29 Apr 2017 to 07 May 2017
  • 09 Sep 2017 to 17 Sep 2017

If these dates do not suit you but you are interested in this tour, please contact us for alternative dates.

HIGHLIGHTS

Café culture of modern Belgrade

Serbia’s ancient yet living Orthodox monasteries & churches

Bizarre landscapes of Devil’s Town

Ghoulish Skull Tower

Drinking with locals in the rustic wine cellars of Rajac

Vast plains of Vojvodina

WHAT'S INCLUDED

Airport pick-up & drop-off
Ground transport
Accommodation
Entrance fees to sites
Breakfasts and some meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
Drivers and guides

PLACES VISITED

Belgrade - Studenica monastery - The Monastery of Sopocani - Niš - Devil’s Town - Mediana - Rajacka Pimnice - Tekija - Srebrno Jezero - Novi Sad - Kovacica - Sremski Karlovci - Fortress of Petrovaradin
Belgrade
Studenica monastery
The Monastery of Sopocani
Niš
Devil’s Town
Mediana
Rajacka Pimnice
Tekija
Srebrno Jezero
Novi Sad
Kovacica
Sremski Karlovci
Fortress of Petrovaradin

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ACCOMMODATION



Contact us for a full accommodation list.

ITINERARY

Day 1 : Belgrade
Arrive into Belgrade. Transfer to hotel. Overnight in Belgrade.

Day 2 : Belgrade - Borac - Studenica
Short tour of Belgrade. Drive to Topola, Borac and Studenica. Overnight in Studenica.

Day 3 : Studenica - Sopocani - Novi Pazar - Prolom Banja
Tour of Studenica, Sopocani, visit Novi Pazar, St. Peter's church and Kapaonik. Continue to Prolom Banja for overnight.

Day 4 : Devil's Town - Nis
Visit Devil's Town, then continue to Nisš to visit Mediana, the Fortress and Skull tower. Overnight in Nisš.

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ITINERARY

Short | Detailed | PDF

Day 1 : Belgrade

Arrive into Belgrade. Transfer to hotel. Overnight in Belgrade.

Arrive into Belgrade airport. Pick up at airport by a Travel The Unknown representative, transfer to a comfortable hotel in Belgrade city centre. Overnight in Belgrade.

Meal plan : n/a


Day 2 : Belgrade - Borac - Studenica

Short tour of Belgrade. Drive to Topola, Borac and Studenica. Overnight in Studenica.

After breakfast you will take a short walking tour of Belgrade including Kalemegdan fortress. Then drive to the stunning Topola Royal Mausoleum, before continuing to Borac to find its famous Hidden Church. Lunch. Start your journey south, stopping off en-route for a sumptuous dinner in a converted antique house. Arrive at the medieval Studenica monastery. Overnight in Studenica monastery.

Meal plan : Breakfast & dinner


Belgrade has been the capital of Serbia since 1403, when Despot Stefan, son of Prince Lazar, moved his palace here. Walk through the elegant Republic Square and pay attention to its architectural monuments, such as the National Theatre and the National Museum. Stroll along Knez Mihajlova Street, the main shopping street and meeting place, to see a few other masterpieces of Belgrade architecture. 

Borac is a small village in Central Serbia set in a beautiful pastoral setting amid vineyards and gently rolling hills. The most remarkable thing here is the 14th Century “hidden church” with three sides sheltered by a cliff face and the fourth concealed by hundred year old limes trees. Not until you are practically on top of the church do you see it. The graveyard nearby is also worth a quick visit. 

Studenica monastery, a UNESCO Heritage site, was founded by Stefan Nemanja, the Grand Prince of Serbia from 1166 to 1196, and one of the most famous and beloved figures in Serbian history. It is considered to be the crowning achievement of medieval culture and art in Serbia. The monastic complex consists of the fascinating Church of the Virgin (1183 - 1196), the Church of SS Joachim and Anne (also known as the King's Church) and the Church of St. Nicholas, a simple single-nave building. The monastery circle contains monuments constructed over a period of 130 years, and several Serbian rulers had a hand in their construction. 
At the start of this period, the young Serbian feudal state under Stefan Nemanja was consolidating its independence, and by King Milutin's reign it had reached the height of its political, cultural and economic power. The strengthening of the medieval state and of its ruler's might is naturally reflected in these monuments.


The fortress of Kalemegdan, which is the symbol of Belgrade, is where the River Sava flows into the Danube. The visit to the fort will start with the Upper fortress area. It includes well-preserved artillery structures dating from the mid-18th century, as well as a medieval fortification - an acropolis with original or partly reconstructed ramparts, gateways, towers and the excavated ruins of a 15th century castle. A few Turkish monuments and some ancient Roman remains also lie in this area. In this section of the fortification complex you’ll see the elegant 18th century Baroque Clock Tower and the Roman Well. Our tour of the Eastern Ward includes the Rose Church of Our Lady, along with a panoramic view of the Lower fortress and its monuments - the Nebojsa Tower, the Baroque Gate of Karl VI and the remains of the medieval metropolitan palace.

Day 3 : Studenica - Sopocani - Novi Pazar - Prolom Banja

Tour of Studenica, Sopocani, visit Novi Pazar, St. Peter's church and Kapaonik. Continue to Prolom Banja for overnight.

After breakfast, a short tour of Studenica monastery, then head on to the ancient Sopoćani monastery, followed by the Muslim-majority town of Novi Pazar. Take a wander through the old town, visit the bizarre Hotel Vrbak for a quick drink. Lunch in a local restaurant. Visit St. Peters 9th century church. Stop off in the mountainous region of Kopaonik for a short walk or coffee break. Drive to the spa village of Prolom Banja for dinner and overnight in a family home.

Meal plan : Breakfast & dinner


The Monastery of Sopocani was built in 1260 by King Uros I as the resting place for the ashes of his parents and his own tomb is now in its vault too. Its mural paintings rank among the most magnificent and beautiful in European medieval art. The monumentality of Sopocani frescos, the harmony of colours, and the refinement of expression were all responsible for it being granted a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The unique quality of these compositions, mostly from the 13th century, testifies to the vitality of Byzantine art at a time when Constantinople was in the hands of the Crusaders. 

Novi Pazar is one of the few Muslim-dominated towns in Serbia today. Minarets puncture the skyline and the call to prayer bellows from a multitude of directions five times a day. Groups of men huddle in the numerous coffee shops that line the town's streets, and women are conspicuous by their relative absence. The town itself boasts a 15th Century Turkish fortress, a beautiful 16th Century mosque and 15th Century Turkish baths as well as the bizarre communist-era architecture of Hotel Vrbak, which has to be seen to be believed. 

The Church of St Peter, built in the 9th century on the foundations of an Illyrian cemetery and an early Christian basilica, is an example of early Christian architecture. A religious centre of Serbia for several centuries, it is the seat of the Bishop of Raska, and is decorated with frescoes, mainly 13th-century. 

Among Serbian mountains, Mount Kopaonik is unrivalled in its natural beauty and mineral wealth. It is also a National Park extremely rich in its variety of rare species of flora and fauna including wolf, deer, foxes, and hares. Its birds include rock partridge, scops owl, red-backed shrike, wood lark, horned owl, falcon, partridge, eagle, and red crossbill. Deciduous forests and native coniferous woodland make up most of the forested land in the park. 

The Prolom Banja (meaning "spa") is located in the south of Serbia, on the wooded slopes of Radan Mountain. It is primarily known for its natural Prolom water, one of a rare group of waters with a high balneological value. Prolom spa has several springs of thermal mineral water, with temperatures ranging from 26 to 31.5 degrees Celsius. Prolom water has a pleasant taste and no smell, so it is also recommended to healthy people as drinking water of an exceptional quality. It is believed to help treatment of kidney and urinary tract diseases, digestive tract diseases, skin diseases, peripheral blood vessels diseases and extra-articular rheumatism. 

Day 4 : Devil's Town - Nis

Visit Devil's Town, then continue to Nisš to visit Mediana, the Fortress and Skull tower. Overnight in Nisš.

After breakfast we drive to Devil's Town for a visit. We continue to Nis to visit Mediana, Nis fortress and the famous Skull Tower. Overnight in Nis.

Meal plan : Breakfast


Niš is the second largest town in Serbia and is most famous as the birthplace of Constantine the Great. It is situated in the Nišava valley, near the spot where it joins the Južna Morava River. This is one of the most important Balkan and European traffic lines along which people, goods and armies moved. Known as the 'Via Militaris' in Roman and Byzantine periods and the 'Constantinople road' in the Middle Ages and the period of Turkish rule, these roads still represent major European traffic arteries. Niš is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans, and has been considered a gateway between the East and the West since ancient times. There is abundant archaeological evidence that Niš was inhabited even in prehistoric times. The city was named after the Nišava River, which was called Navissos by the Celtic inhabitants of the town. Each new conqueror gave the town a new name: Roman Naissus, Byzantine Nysos, Slovene Niš, or German Nissa.

Devil’s Town ('Davolja Varos' in Serbian) is a unique geographical phenomenon. Nominated as a UNESCO natural heritage site, the area consists of bizarre rock formations where water erosion has left cone-like pyramid structures of reddish rock, capped with a mysterious 'black hat' stone that can weigh over 100kg in some instances. Pyramids are continuously formed and destroyed, leading locals to believe that this is the result of devils fighting each other for power. Local legend has us believe that the eerie sound of the wind whistling between the pyramids is that of the devils trying to communicate. Devil's Town also boasts two springs of extremely acidic water (pH 1.5) with a very high mineral content (15 g/l). The content of some minerals is a thousand times as high as in ordinary drinking water. Davolja Varos is a true wonder of nature.  
 


Mediana is a royal property with a luxurious residence in the suburb of old Niš, known as Naissus. Constantine the Great (280 - 337 AD) was born and raised in Naissus. He ruled the Eastern Roman Empire from 306 to 337 and he consolidated the frontiers of the Empire by imposing a firm organization on the army and the civil administration. As a powerful emperor, Constantine did not forget his birthplace. He erected a majestic residence in one of the luxurious suburbs of ancient Niš in Mediana, where he often resided and attended to state affairs. Historical records testify it was in Naissus that he passed several laws in the years 315 through 334.

The history of the Skull Tower of Niš: At the beginning of the 19th century, during the Second Serbian Uprising, it was crucial that the Serbian state liberate Nis from the Turks. The battle lasted the whole day and the Turks eventually overran the main trench on Čegar Hill after this fierce fighting. The Serbian General, Steven Sindelic, realising he was on the point of defeat, blew himself up alongside 3,000 Serbian soldiers and about 6,000 Turkish soldiers. The Turks built the grisly Skull Tower ("Cele Kula" in Serbian) with four walls - each containing eleven rows of seven Serbian skulls - as a warning against further Serbian resistance. Many of the skulls were removed - at great danger - by Serbian families and buried, but many remain there to this day. In 1892, a chapel was built over the skulls, which now protects the 58 remaining skulls.

Niš Fortress is a complex and very important cultural and historical monument that dominates the urban nucleus of the city. The existing fortification is of Turkish origin, dating back from the first decades of the 18th century. It is known as one of the most significant and best preserved monuments of its kind in the Balkans. 

Day 5 : Rajacka Pimnice

Visit the wine cellars and unique graveyard of Rajacka Pimnice. Continue to Tekija for overnight.

After an early breakfast, leave for the scenic village of Rajacka Pimnice. One of the many highlights of this trip is to join the locals in their rustic wine cellars. Enjoy delicious Serbian cuisine and fine Serbian wines. Visit the unique graveyard nearby. Afterwards, drive west along the Danube to Tekija. Overnight in Tekija homestay.

Meal plan : Breakfast & lunch


The wine cellar village of Rajacka Pimnice, near the actual village of Rajac, consists of 270 stone and wood cellars built between 1750 and 1930. Far off the tourist map, this quaint village is a fantastic opportunity to taste (and buy) the delicious local wine, eat traditional regional food and meet the friendly locals, who are not averse to a glass or two themselves! For those inclined to explore further, Rajac’s unique 3rd century graveyard with its highly unusual gravestones is also worth a visit. 



Day 6 : The Danube region

One hour boat trip on the Danube (weather dependent). Visit Golubac fortress. Continue to Silver Lake. Afternoon free. Overnight in Silver Lake.

Breakfast followed by a one hour boat trip on the Danube (weather-dependent). Witness rugged cliffs, shimmering waters and views of Romania. Afterwards, drive on to the imposing Golubac Fortress with its nine towers, followed by Silver Lake (Srebrno Jezero). Have a relaxing lunch and take a dip in the mighty Danube. Afternoon to yourself. Overnight in Srebrno Jezero.

Meal plan : Breakfast


The mighty Danube river is of huge importance to Serbia today and throughout its history. This impressive and beautiful river can be explored by boat (weather-dependent), travelling through the narrowest part of the river at only 300 meters across and flanked by cliffs of up to 600 metres on both the Serbian and Romanian sides. The imposing Golubac Fortress is a particularly impressive stronghold along the Serbian bank of the river. Take a dip in Silver Lake, a body of water formed by the Danube and popular with locals. 



Day 7 : Kovacica - Novi Sad

Leave for Novi Sad. Cross the Danube via ferry and visit the town of Kovacica en route. Overnight in Novi Sad.

Leave Srebrno Jezero for Novi Sad, travelling along the Danube. Cross the Danube on the ‘Dereglija’ ferry on your way into Vojvodina. Visit the town of Kovacica en route. Overnight in Novi Sad. 

Meal plan : Breakfast


Kovacica is a small town widely known throughout Serbia thanks to its art galleries and ‘naïve art’, the term being a reference to the fact that the artists - mainly women - have little or no formal art training or education.

Day 8 : Novi Sad - Sremski Karlovci - Fruska Gora

Enjoy a tour of Novi Sad and visit the fortress of Petrovaradin. Continue to Sremski Karlvoci and Fruska Gora. Drive to Belgrade. Overnight in Belgrade.

Breakfast. Enjoy a tour of Novi Sad, which will include the Fortress of Petrovaradin. Continue to Sremski Karlovci and the monasteries at Fruska Gora. Later, drive through the flatland of Northern Serbia back to Belgrade. Overnight in Belgrade.

Meal plan : Breakfast


Sremski Karlovci is a picturesque Baroque town that used to be a Serbian religious and educational centre in the 18th and 19th centuries. Enjoy the Baroque-style fountain from 1790 and Karlovci High School. This site dates back to the end of the 19th century and contains decorative elements reminiscent of mediaeval Serbian buildings. You can also visit the Patriarch's Palace, once the most imposing building in the whole region, as well as the Cathedral from the mid-18th century.

Novi Sad is one of Serbia's biggest cities and is the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Vojvodina. It is a modern, lively city with many growing businesses. At the same time, it maintains a beautiful flavour of its past. Walk through the centre of Novi Sad to visit the main Orthodox Cathedral and the main Catholic Cathedral, then continue walking along the famous Dunavska street.

Visit the Fortress of Petrovaradin, once called 'Gibraltar on the Danube'. This Austrian artillery fortification is situated above the river and represents the second largest structure of its kind preserved in Europe. Built by Austrians in the 17-18th centuries at the spot of former Roman, Byzantine and Hungarian settlements, the fortress plays a very important role in the life of the town even today, as many cultural events are organized there. It also features 16km of underground tunnels.

Day 9 : Belgrade - Departure

After breakfast you will be transferred to Belgrade airport for return flight.

After breakfast you will be transferred to Belgrade airport for return flight. 

Meal plan : Breakfast


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