Festivals of Serbia

Serbia

Culture | Festivals

Eat, drink and be merry in Europe's forgotten gem

8 days £1,495 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

Discover Serbia’s premier festivals - the Trumpet Festival of Guca, and Belgrade’s Beer Fest, as well as the cultural delights of Central Serbia. Spend a night at the beautiful Orthodox monastery and UNESCO heritage site of Studenica, wander the surreal landscape of Devil's Town and explore the eerie Skull Tower of Nis. Inhale the crisp mountain air of Kopaonik National Park and experience the warm welcome of the Serbian people.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Visit the Guca trumpet festival
  • Overnight in Studenica monastery
  • Explore Kopaonik National Park
  • Bizarre landscapes of Devil’s Town
  • Discover the ghoulish Niš Skull Tower
  • Ghoulish Skull Tower
  • Live it up at Belgrade's Beer Fest

Places Visited

Belgrade - Guca - Studenica monastery - The Monastery of Sopocani - Novi Pazar - Prolom Banja - Niš - Devil’s Town - Mediana - Topola

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
Image 3

Day 1 : Belgrade

Arrive into Belgrade airport, where you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is free. Overnight in a comfortable hotel in Belgrade.

Meal plan: n/a

Image 3

Day 2 : Guca

After breakfast we leave Belgrade to drive south-west to the small village of Guca (pronounced "Gucha") where we will visit the most famous folk festival in Serbia. At 3pm we will attend a concert of the winner of the Festival of Trumpeters in front of the House of Culture. Overnight in Guca.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The village of Guca in the Dragacevo district, a peaceful and colourful part of western Serbia, has gained world fame owing to its Assembly of Trumpet Players, the largest trumpet event on the planet. The love of the people of Dragacevo for music, especially for the trumpet, began under the rule of Prince Milos Obrenovic, who ordered the formation of the first military band in 1831. From then until now the trumpet has reigned here uninterrupted while woodwind instruments, in keeping with the customs, warm the soul of its population. The sound of the trumpet traditionally accompanies every major event in Serbia's rural and small-town life: births, baptisms, weddings, family patron saint days, farewell parties for those joining military service, state and church festivals, harvesting, reaping, and also departing this world. Appropriate music is played on each occasion, thus preserving the spirit of the existing tradition. The music is very diverse: from indigenous melodies and kolo (a quick-rhythm chain dance), marches and characteristic southern Serbia cocek dances, to more contemporary songs, but always taking care to honour old harmonies. This music has won over the hearts of not only the local population, but also visitors to the area. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 3 : Sopocani - Novi Pazar - Studenica

After breakfast we will take a scenic route through the mountains to visit Sopoćani monastery. We continue and stop for coffee and a short walk through Novi Pazar. We continue to Studenica monastery for a visit and overnight.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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 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. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 4 : Kopaonik - Prolom Banja

After breakfast, we will drive along the scenic valley of the river Ibar and then we will ascend to the top of Mount Kopaonik. We will have some free time at the top before coming down on the other side of the mountain to Prolom Banja. Overnight in a comfortable hotel in Prolom Banja.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 5 : 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. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 6 : Topola - Oplenac - Belgrade

After breakfast we drive to Topola to visit the town and the Royal tombs at Oplenac. Later we return to Belgrade to visit the beerfest. Overnight in a comfortable hotel in Belgrade.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Topola sits in  the hilly Šumadija region,  the heart of central Serbia known as the cradle of Serbian uprisings against Ottoman rule in the 19th century. It boasts the Residence of Karadjordje (now a museum dedicated to the leader of the First Serbian Uprising); the Church of Our Lady, built by Karadjordje (1811-1813); and two stone towers which are left from what was once a mighty fortification. Nearby is St. George Church, built after WWI by the King of Serbia, Petar I, on top of Oplenac. This church is unique among all the monuments in Serbia, with columns made of marble, an iconostasis of local marble and stunning mosaics covering almost 3,500 sq. meters, which include 725 scenes and 1,500 human figures that chart the history and the extent of Orthodox Christianity in Serbia. 

Belgrade Beer Fest is an annual festival of beer in Belgrade, Serbia. Started in 2003, the festival is held annually over 4 to 5 days as a showcase event for various beer producers. In addition to domestic and foreign brews, the festival features live music performances each evening. It has quickly grown in size and popularity: in 2004, it attracted over 75,000 foreign visitors to Belgrade and in 2005 it was the second most visited festival in Serbia with 300,000 visitors. In 2010 the festival attracted about 900,000 visitors. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 7 : Belgrade

City tour of Belgrade including Republic Square, Knez Mihajlova Street, Kalemegdan Fortress and more. Optional visit to the Beerfast. Overnight in a comfortable hotel 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. 

The Fortress of Kalemegdan, which is the symbol of Belgrade, is where the River Sava flows into the Danube. The Upper fortress area includes well-preserved artillery structures dating from the 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. The Eastern Ward features 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.

Read more
Image 3

Day 8 : Belgrade - Departure

After breakfast transfer to Belgrade airport for your return flight.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Extensions

Archaeology of Serbia (8 days)

Follow the path of countless invaders

Balkan Explorer (20 days)

Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro & Bosnia

Archaeology of the Balkans (19 days)

Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians & Ottomans

Highlights of Serbia (10 days)

Historic monasteries, striking valleys and Roman ruins

A Taste of Serbia (6 days)

Discover the unique culinary heritage of Serbia

Festivals of Serbia (8 days)

Eat, drink and be merry in Europe's forgotten gem

Balkan Odyssey (15 days)

Discover Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro & Bosnia

Serbia's Remoter Trails (8 days)

Hiking and cycling in remote Southeast Serbia

Belgrade & Vojvodina (4 days)

Discover Europe's coolest capital and the history & nature of Vojvodina

Devil's Town & The Danube (9 days)

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

Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerald & Ann Diamond , Tailormade Serbia
More reviews