Updated: May 26, 2020
If you have not visited Tara Mountain and National Park in Western Serbia yet, this article may help you to embark on an adventure and discover all its values and scenes that fascinate every visitor.
1. The natural rarities of Tara
The vast forests (80% of the national park is covered by coniferous and deciduous forests), clear lakes and challenging canyons, unusual rivers, rare plant and animal species and magnificent lookouts make Tara one of the most beautiful mountains in Serbia. With an area of about 25,000 hectares, Tara National Park provides shelter for 1,156 species of plants, 58 species of mammals and 140 species of birds, including extremely rare and relict ones.
Tara is unique in its habitat for an heirloom spruce species named after a prominent Serbian botanist, Joseph Pancic, who discovered it in 1875 in the village of Zaovine. The Pancic spruce is several tens of millions of years old and, as it is very resistant to external influences, survived the Ice Age by finding its refuge in parts of Tara Mountain and the canyon of the Drina River. The study and transplantation of Pancic’s spruce throughout Europe followed. It is also highly regarded as a decorative species, and because of its appearance it is considered the most beautiful conifer of Europe.
Another relic species found by the same botanist is Pancic’s grasshopper, which is characterized by wing stiffness, the inability to fly and its varied colors; it can be green, brown, gray and red.
Another highlight of Tara is the brown bear, which has found its refuge in the dense forests and rough terrain. About 50 bears are located in Tara, all of which are monitored by the NP Rangers. The exact number of bears is hard to determine given the proximity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the bears’ tendency to migrate to both sides of the Drina River and Lake Perucac. The NP Tara Service is responsible for the feeding of brown bears in special feeding areas, which are especially important during periods of food shortages in nature.
The brown bear is considered the largest predator in Europe, can grow up to 2.5m and can weigh up to 300kg. He is an omnivore who mostly feeds on plants, berries, and fruits but also hunts animals. For the last few years it is possible to go on a bear watching tour organized by the park service. You can see how the tour looks here.
Tara is also known for the hundreds of Chamois, a type of goat-antelope, in the National Park. The appreciation of this species is evidenced by its image on NP Tara’s logo. It inhabits hard-to-reach areas of the park, mostly rocky cliffs of the Drina, Derventa, Raca and Brusnica canyons. Its fur is yellow and reddish in summer time but turns to darker shades of gray in winter. It can grow up to 130 cm in length, 80 cm in height and can reach 45 kg in weight.
The park also protects a large number of other mammals and amphibians, fish, reptiles and birds.
This site is located in the nature reserve "Red stream", a few minutes walk from the center of Mitrovac, The Red Stream Reserve owes its name to the stream that flows through the red loam soil and takes on a red color during heavy rainfall. Rainforest trees are preserved here. At the center of the reserve is a site that has not yet been overgrown with peatland forest and is characterized by a soft base layer. Due to the impermeable geological substrate, water is retained in the surface, and with lower temperatures and a lack of oxygen, peat is formed and thickens by 1 mm per year. We call this Meadow rug.
Photo: NP Tara
2. Breathtaking lookouts
Tara is famous for its many vantage points, remote places that provide a unique and unforgettable view of the countryside, some of the most picturesque in Serbia. The most beautiful are Banjska stena, Crnjeskovo, Biljeska stena, Osluša and Sjenic.
One of the most popular and most visited lookouts on Tara is at 1065 meters above sea level, located 6 km from the center of Mitrovac (two tracks, 9 and 9a, are mapped). A dirt road makes this lookout easily accessible. By car you can approach the lookout at 800 m, leave the car in the parking lot (where you also have drinking water from a fountain) and continue on by foot. For the last 200 meters you are led by a forest path…and then the magic begins! From this vantage point there is an unparalleled view of the Drina River Canyon, Lake Perucac and the Osat area of Bosnia (known for its log cabin builders). If you see a photo of Tara somewhere, it is probably taken from this lookout. There is a guardrail as well as rest benches.
If you continue on, the rocky road leads you to another vantage point from which you can see the dam on Lake Perucac as well as the continuation of the Drina River below the lake. From this lookout you can use binoculars for free and enjoy the details of the landscape. The name of the lookout itself comes from a spring that existed at the foot of the lookout until it was flooded with the construction of the dam and Lake Perucac. It is interesting to note that in this place in the 19th century was a Banja spout, a separa (now covered with vegetation) that lowered timber to the Drina River so that it could travel further to the Sava River and on to Belgrade by rafts.
Tip: If you decide to hike from Mitrovac instead of driving, visit this lookout early in the morning to avoid the hustle and bustle of cars. Also, in the morning, the view from the vantage point is the most beautiful because of the angle of the sun's rays.
This lookout area is located 6 km from the Predov krst hiking center and is marked trail number 14. The view extends to Lake Perucac and Drina Canyon from a slightly different angle, and here you have great views of Pancic's spruce. This is the place where the famous Serbian film "Birds that Don't Fly" was filmed.
Photo: NP Tara
Not far from the center of Kaludjerske Bare, just after a short hike through the forest on the way to St. George's Scythian, one reaches the Crnjeskovo Rock. The view from this vantage point is the Bajina Basta (the municipality where most of the national park is located), the Drina River valley and the Raca Canyon. From here one can also see the 13th century medieval monastery of Raca, which was the center of the Raca school of transcription endowed by King Dragutin Nemanjic.
Photo: NP Tara
At 7 km from Mitrovac, on the part of the European hiking corridor E7, is the Osluša lookout from which you can enjoy the view over the Drina river valley and landscape of the Povlen mountain. This lookout is also known as a paragliding adventure field and it is located on the "High Tara" bike route.
This vantage point is actually on the mountain Povlen, located on the road that connects Valjevo town with Bajina Basta town and Tara National Park. It offers a magnificent view of the Tara River and the valley of the Drina River. It is an ideal place for a break if you reach Tara this way from Belgrade.
3. Clear lakes, challenging canyons, unusual rivers…
The limestone composition of Tara causes a low density river network, which means that water is not retained and causes springs to appear. The most famous springs are Perucac and Ladjevac. The Perucac spring creates the 365-meter-long river (which is why it is called The Year) and a 10-meter-high waterfall that flows into the Drina. Be sure to plan a coffee or lunch break here as a restaurant is located just above the waterfall. Next to the waterfall is the old watermill, a unique cultural monument.
The Drina River
At Scepan Polje town in Montenegro, the merging of the Tara and Piva rivers creates the Drina (which is also called Zelenika because of its characteristic color, in Serbian zelena means green). The Drina is the natural boundary of Tara National Park in the northwest and north. Before the three large dams (Visegrad, Perucac and Zvornik) were built, the Drina was a typical wild mountain river that flooded its banks. The most beautiful part of the Drina stream is its canyon in the Tara NP, which in some parts reaches a depth of up to 1000 m. A landmark of the Drina river is mladica, a trout fish also known as “the Drina beauty” and “Queen of rapids”. Another highlight is famous House on the rock.
The Drina is the ideal river for an active summer vacation, from swimming and fishing to easier adventures such as rafting and kayaking.
White Rzav River
A tributary of Zaovinsko Lake, the White Rzav river owes its name to its white stone base. It is an extremely cold river that merges in Vardište village with the warmer Black Rzav, then flows further to Visegrad and ends in the Drina River near Andric town. White Rzav is very attractive for canyoning, overcoming various obstacles such as trees, waterfalls and rocks through techniques of jumping, swimming, rope climbing and hiking. While enjoying the amazing scenery, cascades and waterfalls and unique vegetation of Tara, keep an eye out for a very rare and legally protected species of runolist, also know as edelweiss, that can be found on the cliffs of White Rzav Canyon.
In the village of Perućac is a 460 meter dam that was created along the 50 km long lake in order to build a hydroelectric power station and produce electricity. The feeling of cruising the canyon is unforgettable. It is possible to cruise the entire length of the lake on the route from Perućac to Visegrad and back in one day. The views are amazing! What’s more, Perucac is a true paradise for bathers, especially those who enjoy swimming in steam-warmed water.
Formed as a reservoir for Lake Perucac, Zaovine Lake is a unique example of a reversible hydro-reservoir. Connected by pipes to Perucac, water is pumped at a 600 m height difference. When the need for electricity production is higher and the water level is lower, water is brought back to Lake Perucac. The water in Zaovine lake is noticeably cooler than in Perućac lake, which is owed to its higher altitude. It is a true destination for lovers of fishing, kayaking, boating and swimming on the wild beaches. The Lazići Dam divides this lake from a smaller one, Spajići Lake, which is also part of the reversible system.
Interesting: Zaovinsko lake is the deepest lake in Serbia (110 m)
4. Hiking and biking routes
There are about 300 km of hiking trails of different physical and technical requirements on Tara mountain. Over 30 marked trails lead through forests, meadows and lookouts and are sure to satisfy hiking enthusiasts. Most often it moves from Kaludjerske bare, Mitrovac or Predov krst.
The large hiking trails are also ideal for mountain biking lovers, with 3 bike routes marked:
Tara – Zlatibor 47.5 Km
High - Tara (Sljivovica - Borjak - Beserovacki Bars - Lokvica - Osluša - Sokolina - Rustine - Sljivovica) 28.8km
The Empress Tara (Kaluđerske bare - Good Field - Hot Field - Tankosin Tomb - Mitrovac - Site - Lake Perucac - Perucac) 42km
Photo: Tourism organization Tara-Drina
5. Cultural and historical heritage
Although the main values of the park are natural ones, Tara is not scarce in cultural heritage.
The most important and attractive cultural and historical value in the territory of the National Park is the monastery of Raca. The monastery was built in the second half of the 13th century by King Dragutin Nemanjic. Throughout its history, the monastery was demolished twice to its foundations. Its present appearance is from 1835.
Raca Monastery plays a very important role for the Serbian people: it was the center of literacy after the Great Migration of Serbs in 1690. Raca’s monks laid the foundation for the Serbian alphabet and literature in the new century. During WWII, the monastery housed the "Miroslav's Gospel", the oldest Serbian book written in the 12th century.
Photo: Tourism organization Tara-Drina
Interesting note: It is believed that king Peter the Second Karadjordjevic spent the night in this monastery during his retreat to Niksic in 1941.
Other cultural monuments include the Mramorje site in Perućac with very well preserved tombstones, the Solotnik site with the remains of a 15th century manor castle not far from Solotusa and the Gradina site with the remains of fortifications dating from the 6th to 7th centuries.
Interesting note: On the southern slopes of Tara, in the village of Kremna, there is a memorial house of the famous Prophet Tarabić family that you can visit and get acquainted with the predictions of the most important member in the family, Mitar Tarabić.
The mystery of the name?
Opinions and legends about the origin of the name Tara are very divided, dominated by two legends. According to the first, Tara is named after the ancient deity Tar who chose the mountain for his home, while the second legend relates to the Illyrian tribe of the Autarians who once inhabited the present-day area of the central and western Balkans. There is also the opposite view that the tribe is named after the Tara Mountains and the river of the same name in Montenegro. The word “Tara” is also related to Hinduism, meaning the goddess Star (the wife of the Great Sage and Master of the Gods), and the narrowest massif of Tara bears the name of “Star”. In Kurdish Tara means “veil” and so on.
Whatever version you choose as yours, I hope this text has inspired you to visit Tara mountain. If you would like us to organize this experience, please contact us.
And of course, keep our parks and nature clean and safe.
See some of our Tara tours below: