Mountains, deep gorges, clear lakes, and spectacular viewpoints – this is Tara National Park
An unexpected natural paradise, Tara National Park was the highlight of our Balkans Road Trip. It was our second stop in Serbia after the nearby village, Mokra Gora. With scarce online information and just a handful of pictures on Instagram about Tara National Park, we didn’t know what to expect here. We were stunned by the remote natural beauty and variety of sights that we encountered here.
Tara National Park is in the west of Serbia and touches the border of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It is the location of the Tara Mountain of the Dinarides, the internal Dinaric Alps. The River Drina that originates in Montenegro creates breathtaking gorges here.
The best part about Tara National park is that it is heavily forested. In fact, 83.5% of the area in Tara is forested and for this reason, it is also known as the lungs of Serbia. With many mountains, hiking trails, rivers, meadows, lakes, waterfalls and forest – there is a lot to see in Tara National Park.
If you enjoy hiking, then you’d be happy to know that Tara National park has many trails. The most popular hiking trail is a 2-day hike that starts at Mitrovac, then goes to Predov, Krst and again back to Mitrovac. If you get a chance, then spend a week up in the mountains and explore the nature trails. You can also rent a cabin and stay inside.
The best way to experience this natural paradise is by renting a car and driving around – but literally, every signboard is in Cyrillic. I’d recommend you pick up the park brochures from the tourist office and have them mark important landmarks for you on the map. That’s what we did after being lost for a few hours because even Google Maps showed us the directions in Cyrillic.
This park is massive in size. You will see a few villages with traditional houses inside the Tara National Park. Koziji rid on Crni vrh at 1591 meters about the sea level is the highest point here. This post will guide you so that you can figure out what to see there and how
What to see in Tara National Park
Zaovine Lake is on the border of Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. The Zaovine village is next to it and one can even rent a place to stay here.
Zaovine Lake is massive and we drove around it for a while as we tried to figure out how to get close to it. It took us a while, but we eventually figured out a way to walk to the edge of this lake. We saw a few locals swimming inside and one even had a little boat. That’s all the encouragement we needed before jumping inside the blue water.
Swimming in Zaovine lake was the best thing that we did in Tara National Park. It was a hot summer day and the water helped us cool down. We also saw one boat here and some people fishing.
Banjska Stena Viewpoint
Banjska Stena is the most visited spot in Tara National Park and there’s a reason for it. It is breathtaking and is just 6 KMs away from Mitrovac so is easy to reach.
At 1065 meters above the sea level, Banjska Stena is a panoramic viewpoint from where you can see the canyon of Drina River, Perucac Lake, and steep cliffs. You can also see the beginning of the nearby Bosnia.
In order to reach Banjsta Stena, you have to first arrive at Mitrovac. From here, you can drive straight for 2 KMs and you will see signboards for Banjska Stena. Thankfully here the signboards were in English. You can either take your car very close to the top or just hike to the top. The hike will take you around 1.5 hours to reach up.
When you reach the top, you will see an area to sit with a few wooden benches. We had heard that this spot is usually crowded but San and I were alone when we went. We were here just before the sunset and loved the tranquil spectacle of nature.
We could see the bend of the river Drina in the middle of the mountains and the steep canyon. It looked even better as the color changed when the sun began to set.
There are many other viewpoints in Tara National Park and the tourist board mentions 4 other panoramic viewpoints – Crnjeskovo, Osluša, Vidikovac Sjenič and Bilješka Stena. We didn’t go to the other 4 but if you go, please show us your photos!
Carpet Meadow is not just a place to see, but an experience that’s unique to Tara National park. It is a part of the park’s natural reserve Red Creek and is not far from Banjska Stena.
This meadow is airy and it gives a feeling of walking on a soft carpet because the feet slightly sink in. It literally just breathes under the feet as you walk on it. It happens so because of water preserved under the first layer of soil and many peat layers.
Do not disturb the Carpet Meadow by digging the ground or poking a stick inside. It took years to reach its current state. It is easy to reach Carpet Meadow from Mitrovac. It is at the entry of Nature Reserve Red Creek and is an educational trail.
There is a dam that’s created on Drina River where it bends and the result is Perućac lake. You can see this river from the famous Banjska Stena viewpoint. However, in this point, I’m talking about another viewpoint where you can see the Perućac lake on one side and Drina curving like a snake on the other.
This spot on the picture is an unmarked viewpoint on the road that goes towards Mitrovac from the river Vrelo. The road here was broader than the normal, so it was easy to stop here to admire the view.
Rača monastery and Hiking Trail
Rača monastery is 7KMs away from Bajina Bašta town in Tara National Park. This medieval monastery was built in 1282. There is a 2KMs long hiking trail that starts from here, it is called Raca hiking trail.
Raca hiking trail goes up Raca river and ends at Ladevac thermal springs and Racanska Sljivovica preserve.
Lonely House on River Drina
The Lonely House on river Drina is one of the most photographed spot in Tara National Park. It is near Bajina Basta and is also called the Drina house. It gained popularity after it was featured on the National Geographic in 2012 as the photo of the month. There is a restaurant that overlooks the Drina River House where you can enjoy a meal.
This house was once a spot where a few boys took a rest from their swim. They enjoyed the spot so much that they built a house here the year after.
River Vrelo – the Shortest River
The Vrelo is called “the shortest river”, I’m not sure if it is the shortest in Serbia or the world. It certainly did not look like a river to us, but more like a stream. Rover Vrelo’s length is only 365 meters because of which, it is also called Godina (the Year).
There is a lovely waterfall at the end of this river that goes into the Drina river. Sadly the natural beauty of this 26 feet high waterfall has been spoiled by a restaurant that’s on top. It is called Restoran Vrelo and it is literally on top of the waterfall.
Entrance Fee for Tara National Park
We did not see even a single spot which could have been the official entrance. We never had to pay anything anywhere, except when we drove from Tara National Park to Mokra Gora and then to Bosnia border. At that moment we paid a small fee that was less than 1 euro per person.
How to Reach Tara National Park
If you’re driving to Tara National Park by car from Belgrade, the journey will take you 3 – 4 hours, depending on the traffic. You will have to cross Uzice, Zlatibor and then you can stay in the nearby Mokra Gora for a night or two. You can also reach Tara National Park from Montenegro or Visegrad in Bosnia & Herzegovina very easily. This park is literally on the border.
If you’re not renting a car, then you can also get on the train that goes from Belgrade to Bar. The nearest station to Tara National Park is Braneško Polje. Unless you’re very adventurous, don’t mind getting lost and have a lot of days on your hand – I’d recommend a rental car. Renting a car in Serbia isn’t expensive. You can find the car rental costs here for your needs. If you’re thinking of doing this trip on your camper van, then be sure to read our guide to exploring Europe on a van.
Important Info and Safety Tips
Tara National Park is one of those places where I highly recommend you visit the tourist information center as soon as you enter. It is so because most of the signboards are in Cyrillic and it is very important to pick up the updated information when you’re in the wild. They will help you book a place to stay inside if you need one. The tourist office closes at 5 pm, so arrive before that.
As a general rule of thumb, be careful of your surroundings when you’re hiking. Don’t hike when it is dark because of the brown bear sightings in Tara National Park.
Green pupavka, the most dangerous mushroom in Europe is found inside Tara National Park. The scientific name is Amanita phalloides and is also called the Death Cap. Just half of it is enough to kill an adult human. Be careful.
Where to Stay in Tara National Park
Here are some top rated places to stay in Tara National park:
Most of the listings above are full fledged apartments with kitchen, living room and toilets. One of our favorite things about traveling in Serbia was that it was very easy (and affordable) to find full apartments for a day or two, instead of just regular rooms. Because of this, we always had the flexibility of making our own meals instead of eating every meal outside.