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Devil's Town & The Danube

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

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

Highlights

· Café culture of modern Belgrade

· Dining on the Danube

· Serbia's ancient yet living Orthodox monasteries and churches

· Bizarre landscapes of Devil`s Town

· Vast plains of Vojvodina

· Ghoulish Skull Tower

· Drinking with locals in the rustic wine cellars of Rajac

Intro

· 13-Sep-2014 to 21-Sep-2014

· 02-May-2015 to 10-May-2015

· 12-Sep-2015 to 20-Sep-2015

For alternate dates or private trips please contact us

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
  • Climate Care contribution
  • Places visited
    • Belgrade
    • Topola
    • Borac
    • Studenica
    • Devils Town
    • Nis
    • Rajac
    • Tekija
    • Srebrno Jezero
    • Novi Sad
    • Sremski Karlovci
    • Fruska Gora
    Blog Payment Questions

    Other tours Accommodation

    This tour uses a selection of hand picked accommodation ranging from confortable, historic three star hotels to really unique accommodation such as the Studenica Monastery.

    More

    Itinerary

    Day 1

    Arrive into Belgrade. Transfer to hotel. Overnight in Belgrade. Meal plan: n/a

    Day 2

    Short tour of Belgrade. Drive to Topola, Borać and Studenica. Overnight in Studenica. Meal plan: B, D

    Day 3

    Tour of Studenica, Sopoćani, visit Novi Pazar, St. Peter's church and Kapaonik. Continue to Prolom Banja for overnight. Meal plan: B, D

    Day 4

    Visit Devil's Town, then continue to Nis to visit Mediana, the Fortress and Skull tower. Overnight in Nis. Meal plan: B

    Day 5

    Visit the wine cellars and unique graveyard of Rajacka Pimnice. Continue to Tekija for overnight. Meal plan: B, L


    For full itinerary, click on one of the links below

    Highlights

    · Café culture of modern Belgrade

    · Dining on the Danube

    · Serbia's ancient yet living Orthodox monasteries and churches

    · Bizarre landscapes of Devil`s Town

    · Vast plains of Vojvodina

    · Ghoulish Skull Tower

    · Drinking with locals in the rustic wine cellars of Rajac

    Testimonials

    I have been extremely well looked after and am grateful to Dejan for showing me his wonderful country.

    Adrian Mourby, Travel writer



    Blog

    Other tours
    Itinerary

    Day 1

    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

    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 Borać 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: B, D

    Belgrade has been the capital of Serbia since 1403, when Despot Stefan, son of Tsar Lazar, moved his palace here. The elegant Republic Square boasts architectonic monuments such as the National Theatre and the National Museum. Knez Mihajlova Street is the main shopping and meeting place, and contains a few other masterpieces of Belgrade's architecture such as the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and nearby in a 19th century quarter you will find the 'Question mark sign' Inn, Princess Ljubica's Residence (now housing a permanent exhibition of original furniture), the Patriarchy and the Orthodox Cathedral. A cosmopolitan and historic city sitting at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers Belgrade also sits comfortably between the past and the future. From the medieval fortress of Kalemegdan and its intriguing history on the frontier between East and West, to the city’s teeming cafés, excellent food and the best nightlife in the Balkans, Belgrade has something for everyone. Learn about life under Tito and Milosovic and how modern Serbia is preparing itself for a new era.

    Kalemegdan Fortress is situated at the confluence of the mighty Danube and Sava rivers. The Upper fortress area 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 older, ancient Roman remains also lie in this area. In this section of the fortification complex we will see the elegant 18th century Baroque Clock Tower and the Roman Well. 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.

    Borać 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.

    Day 3

    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: B, D

    The Monastery of Sopoćani 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 Sopoćani 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

    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: B

    Devil’s Town ("Đavolja Varoš" 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”, a stone that can weigh over 100kg in some instances. Pyramids are continuously formed and destroyed, leading locals to believe that this was 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) - content of some minerals is a thousand times as high as in ordinary drinking water. Đavolja Varoš is a true wonder of nature.

    Nis is the second largest town in Serbia. This city 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, one of the most important Balkan and European traffic lines along which peoples, 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. Nis is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans, and has from ancient times been considered a gateway between the East and the West. There is abundant archaeological evidence that Nis was inhabited even in prehistoric times. The city was named after the Nisava 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 ‘Nis’, or German ‘Nissa’.

    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 Nis 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 Nis - At the beginning of the 19th century it was crucial that the Serbian state liberate Nis from the Turks. In 1809, the strong Serbian insurrection army of 16,000 soldiers, created six trenches for defense near Nis. The Turks attacked the main trench on Čegar Hill. The battle lasted the whole day. As one witness stated, "the Turks attacked five times, and the Serbs managed to repulse them five times. Each time their losses were great. Some of the Turks attacked, and some of them went ahead, and thus when they attacked for the sixth time they filled the trenches with their dead so that the living could proceed over their dead bodies and they began to fight against the Serbs with their rifles, cutting their enemies with their sabres and knives”. 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 three thousand Serbian soldiers and about six thousand Turkish soldiers. The Turks built the grisly Skull Tower ("Ćele 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 fifty eight remaining skulls.

    Nis 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 from the first decades of the 18th century. It is known as one of the most significant and best preserved monuments of this kind in the Balkans.

    Day 5

    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: B, L

    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

    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: B

    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

    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: B

    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

    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: B

    Sremski Karlovci is a picturesque Baroque town which was a Serbian religious and educational centre in the 18th and 19th centuries. There, you will enjoy the Baroque-style fountain from 1790 and Karlovci High School. This site dates from the end of the 19th century and contains decorative elements reminiscent of mediaeval Serbian buildings. You will 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 the biggest cities of Serbia and is the capital of the region of Vojvodina. It is a modern, lively city with many growing businesses, but, at the same time, it maintains a beautiful flavour of its past. You will have a walking tour of the centre of Novi Sad to visit the main Orthodox Cathedral, the main Catholic Cathedral, and then continue walking along the famous Dunavska street.

    Visit the fortress of Petrovaradin, built in the 17 and 18th centuries and 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 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.

    Day 9

    After breakfast you will be transferred to Belgrade airport for return flight. Meal plan: B

    Itinerary

    Day 1

    Arrive into Belgrade. Transfer to hotel. Overnight in Belgrade. Meal plan: n/a

    Day 2

    Short tour of Belgrade. Drive to Topola, Borać and Studenica. Overnight in Studenica. Meal plan: B, D

    Day 3

    Tour of Studenica, Sopoćani, visit Novi Pazar, St. Peter's church and Kapaonik. Continue to Prolom Banja for overnight. Meal plan: B, D

    Day 4

    Visit Devil's Town, then continue to Nis to visit Mediana, the Fortress and Skull tower. Overnight in Nis. Meal plan: B

    Day 5

    Visit the wine cellars and unique graveyard of Rajacka Pimnice. Continue to Tekija for overnight. Meal plan: B, L

    Day 6

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

    Day 7

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

    Day 8

    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. Meal plan: B

    Day 9

    After breakfast you will be transferred to Belgrade airport for return flight. Meal plan: B

    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
  • Climate Care contribution
  • accommodation_img

    This tour uses a selection of hand picked accommodation ranging from confortable, historic three star hotels to really unique accommodation such as the Studenica Monastery.

    Places Visited
    • Belgrade
    • Topola
    • Borac
    • Studenica
    • Devils Town
    • Nis
    • Rajac
    • Tekija
    • Srebrno Jezero
    • Novi Sad
    • Sremski Karlovci
    • Fruska Gora
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    SW15 2RS United Kingdom

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