Devil's Town & The Danube

Serbia

Culture

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

9 days £1,725 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

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

TOUR 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
  • The town of Kladovo
  • Vast plains of Vojvodina
  • Soak up Belgrade's cosmopolitan atmosphere

Places Visited

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

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
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : 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

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Day 2 : Belgrade - Borac - 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. Start your journey south, arrive at the medieval Studenica monastery for dinner. 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.

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

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. 

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Day 4 : Devil's Town - Nis

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. 

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Day 5 : Rajacka Pimnice

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 Kladovo. Overnight in Kladovo. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Kladovo is a town situated  in the Bor district of eastern Serbia. Positioned on the banks of the Danube River and surrounded by beautiful hills, the town is home to the biggest gorge in Europe. The geography of the region supports its main industries of hydro-electric power and agriculture. Kladovo tells a very rich cultural story and has been shaped by the many different civilisations that have occupied the town throughout history, including the Celts and the Turks.
 


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. 

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Day 6 : The Danube region

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. 



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Day 7 : Kovacica - 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.

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Day 8 : Novi Sad - Sremski Karlovci - Fruska Gora

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

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. 

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.

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Day 9 : Belgrade - Departure

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

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation Title

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Moskva

The 4* Hotel Moskva was built in 1906 and is one of the most important architectural gems of the Serbian capital. All the rooms are equipped with stylish furniture, a mini bar, a cable TV, air conditioning and free wireless internet. Rub shoulders eccentric artists, enthralled poets and proud intellectuals at Hotel Moskva's cafe (the Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić even had his own table here), try the traditional “Moskva šnit” at the famous on-site pastry shop or dine at the on-site award-winning Restaurant “Tchaikovsky”. There is also an on-site Spa and Wellness Centre with a range of treatments. 

Visit hotel's site
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Monastery Guesthouse

The guest house at the Monastery Studenica is small and simple but the chance to stay within the grounds of this great site make staying here worthwhile. There are two sections - one building overlooks the monastery and the other the Studenica River. The rustic bedrooms and balconies show a glimpse of the stunning views across the Serbian landscape.

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Hotel Radan

The Hotel Radan offers comfortable rooms with twin or double beds. All of their rooms include private bathrooms, cable television and wifi with rooms above the ground floor featuring a terrace to admire the views over Prolom Banja.

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New City Hotel

New City Hotel is situated in central Nis. The hotel has been designed and decorated in a contemporary style. The spacious en suite bedrooms are fitted with modern facilities that include air-conditioning and wifi. New City hotel restaurant serves a breakfast buffet, along with a lunchtime and evening à la carte menu which offers a combination of national and international dishes. 

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Aquastar Danube

The 4* Aquastar Danube Hotel has modern rooms which all look over the Danube River. They are air-conditioned and equipped with direct phone line, satellite TV, internet connection, mini bar, safe, hair dryer and shower cabin.

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Borovi

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Hotel Centar

Hotel Centar offers modern, comfortable and simple 4* accommodation in Novi Sad city center near the central pedestrian zone and most of the city sights and monuments. All rooms are equipped with modern appliances. 

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Extensions

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Reviews

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

Adrian Mourby (Travel Writer) , Devil's Town & The Danube, Serbia

I had the pleasure to be on the "Archaeology of Serbia" trip in May, which although only 8 days long was packed with fascinating insights into the complex history of the land. Not (yet) on the main tourist routes, there are many sites dating from stone-age, through Roman times to the many monasteries of the Middle Ages, some of which retain beautiful frescos, despite a turbulent history. The people here are friendly and the food served in hearty portions, plenty for meat lovers and vegetarian alike. I thoroughly recommend visiting Serbia before it becomes mainstream.

Nigel Denney , Archaeology of Serbia

Have just returned from a wonderful holiday in Serbia with David Lindo, the Urban Birder, and local wildlife expert, Milan Ruzic. Truly a privilege to have been with leaders whose knowledge of birds - their identification and calls - was quite outstanding; their sense of humour would also take some beating. Serbia - a birdwatching destination with more bonuses than the average City banker.

Dennis Buisson , Northern Serbia - Owls & Raptors, Serbia

Simply, a wonderful experience. There`s a special kind of relaxation that`s achieved when you know that you have none of the stress of organizing a trip, driving, navigating, travel, booking, etc. Thanks so much for an excellent experience.

Milojko Dobrijevich , Festivals of Serbia, Serbia

Enjoyed travelling with Travel the Unknown. They were most helpful and filled in as much as possible on our trip.

Declan Cloonan , Archaeology of Serbia

The Balkans is a fascinating part of the world to visit with such complex histories. Wonderful scenery, great food, terrific variety of accommodation and especially loved the vineyards and wine tastings! Albania was such a surprise package! So much more than we anticipated and so much to see and do in this small country. Stunning scenery and roads generally better than we expected. Go before the rest of the world discovers this gem.

Laurel & Paul Smallwood , Balkan Odyssey & Albanian Odyssey, Balkans

We were looking for a land tour in the Balkans and contacted Travel The Unknown. The staff were very responsive in setting up a private tour schedule for us that proved to be perfect and reasonable in cost. We have just got back from our travels and can say that it was certainly a good choice The itinerary was varied and interesting and the accommodation well chosen. The quality and price of the food and wine in the region were an added bonus. Our drivers/guides were friendly, helpful and very knowledgeable. They went out of their way to accommodation our interests and preference.s Highly recommended!

Raymond & Janet Sterling (USA) , Tailormade Balkans

Thank you so very much for organising our trip. It went swimmingly, Dejan is super cool, the house was fab, the people lovely and strange, the rakjia insane. Memories of river swimming, spit roast pigs and lambs, urns of beans and cabbages, gallons of cheap beer and craze-inducing rakia with a massive dose of incomprehensible contemporary Serbian music , a modern take of Balkan brass orchestras, some tiny glimpses into Roma life, and rackety fair rides, along with beautifully grown organic vegetables and perfect skinned youth ...with not so many tourists. Plus a sand blast of the fascinating Balkan history with which the Belgrade fortress bulges, a clean and safe city … I`m a little overstuffed with roast pig but am thirsty as ever to find out more about the Roma and their music. All that history was what I found the most fascinating. Crazy stuff!

Cerys Matthews , Tailormade Guca Festivals Tour

I am delighted to see that Travel The Unknown have started to run tours to Serbia - it is time that someone did as the country has plenty to offer for all tastes. Looking at their itineraries for both North and South Serbia, it is clear that they manage to visit some of the more out the way places and lesser known sites that few know about. They offer a good degree of variety too, and their tours should give potential visitors a really good taste of this often overlooked destination.

Laurence Mitchell (Author of Bradt Guide: Serbia) , Tailormade Serbia

Was well thought out and the experience was absolutely GREAT!!!!!!

Gerald & Ann Diamond , Tailormade Serbia
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