The only part of Serbia associated with a higher level of caution is the towns and wider area on the border to Kosovo, where political tension is still very much present.

Entertainment at the Guča Trumpet Festival.
Many of those countries involved in the now western Balkans region, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) have or are still healing from their wounds and welcoming visitors with open arms.
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By Air
Visit Novi Pazar and see a destination in Serbia that’s often overlooked.

It is easy to move around Serbia from Belgrade city and map out a round trip that brings you back to the capital. 

Serbia Travel Guide  – What to Know Before You Go

Understand the Complex History of Serbia

This Serbia travel guide shows you how to see a country in revival alongside the best places to visit in Serbia, whose nature wilderness and centuries-old past is far more reflective of its persona than the modern history we know. 

From the airport, you can take a 30-minute minibus A1 to Slavija Square (around 2 Euro) or bus 72 to Zeleni Venac Square (less than 1 Euro). A Taxi takes half the time but is more expensive, and will cost approximately 15 Euro. Make sure to use the official ‘Taxi Info’ service counters and get a paper receipt to give to the driver. 

Why Travel to Serbia? 

Even if you are not a trumpet fan, the sheer amount of performers lighting up the town with all manner of these distinct low hums and beats will forever reverberate in you. Guča is where a distinct cultural festival instinctively brings people together.
Around two hours south of Belgrade and north of Uvac is the village of Guča, known famously for its annual trumpet festival, which is exactly why you must head there.
A journey through Uvac Special Nature Reserve along the Uvac Gorge.

There are various local bus companies that service connections between the cities, smaller towns and nature areas. Lasta Beograd and Stup Vršac are two prominent bus companies in Serbia that get you to both popular destinations and lesser-known sights and places of interest. 

Getting to Serbia

Uber doesn’t operate in Belgrade but CarGo is the leading car ride app in Serbia that serves the same purpose and works in the same way. 
In Serbia: historically preserved urban hubs flaked by rolling hills and mountains.
The train lines are more limited but connect Belgrade to Novi Sad and Subotica and Belgrade to Nis. The service is much better utilised by those holding Eurail passes. 
A country in a rebuild, that deserves the right kind of attention now.
Visa for Serbia
The warm welcome from locals in Serbia.
Much of it remains misunderstood to potential travellers in the wake of relative peace.
As an area of the continent now thriving and paving a solid path for tourism, more and more people are travelling here to understand it better and soon find there’s more to it than its troubled past.
Just one hour south of Belgrade and you will find yourself in bounteous landscapes with the foundations of good terroir – Serbia’s winemaking area of Topola, boasting award-winning vineyards that produce regionally characteristic sweet wine, such as the Aleksandrovich Winery and its superb ‘Triumph’ series. Close to the vineyards is the hilltop five-domed St. George’s Church in Oplenac – a mausoleum of one of Serbia’s dynastic families. It features a marble floor and a spectacular mosaic wall images and icons. 

Getting Around Serbia

CarGo in Belgrade 
The vineyards of Topola – Serbia’s Wine Country.

Belgrade is your base for Serbia travel and the well-established starting point for spending days and weeks travelling across a country with good transport and tourism infrastructure. Serbia is no post-conflict wild west, although you will find yourself getting lost within its untouched and little-known nature-filled hinterlands.

Novi Sad’s preserved cultural heritage makes it as much a city showpiece as Belgrade. So much so that Novi Sad has been nominated as the European Capital of Culture 2021.
Give yourself a least an hour prior to departure to arrive and purchase tickets at Belgrade’s bus station in Savski Venac – it’s a large area with two terminals and you’ll need some time to navigate and find your bus. 
The House on the River Drina – one of Serbia’s most iconic places.
The Kadinjača Memorial Complex in honour of those who lost their lives during WWII.

  • Belgrade to Novi Sad by bus takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes and costs 5 Euro / 588 Serbian Dinar. >> Buy tickets.
  • Novi Sad to Subotica (in the north) takes 1 hour 50 minutes and costs 7 Euro / 824 Serbian Dinar. >> Buy tickets.
  • Belgrade to Nis (in the south) takes 3 hours and costs 11 Euro / 1294 Serbian Dinar. >> Buy tickets.

Three hours south of Belgrade is Bajina Bašta – a village in south-western Serbia close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s also the perfect starting point to visit Tara National Park, where you can see the famous postcard-perfect scene that is House on the River Drina. Once a refuge for sailors and swimmers in an area of crashing waves, it’s become one of the main symbols of the area.
The shoulder seasons of March to May and September to October are the best time to visit Serbia. This time of the year sees more comfortable temperatures outside of the hot summer months of June to August – optimal when wanting to cover a lot of ground.
Serbia by Train
Clamber the Petrovaradin Fortress for city views across the river.

Not Staying in Official Accommodation? You Need to Register

To see it differently. Under the glare of former headlines, Serbia is shouting about its stunningly beautiful country flanked by mountainous plains, mixed with historically preserved towns and cities.
The only area where an opportunist took his chances (pretending to be a police officer) was Novi Pazar – a lesser-known town and not used to tourists. While unnerving for myself and my male friend who was with me, we caught on to the fact that other people at the coffee shop were a part of the act and insisted he come to the hotel with us if he wished to see our ID. He soon backed down.
Kadinjača Memorial Complex is 90 minutes east of Tara National Park, on the highway that connects Bajina Bašta with Užice. It’s a striking memorial in honour of the Workers Battalion of Užice, who died here fighting against the Germans in November 1941 during the Battle of Kadinjača. It is both a burial ground and an exhibition space with the intent of piercing emotion. Huge, white stone sculptures sharply contrast with the soft rolling hills, and another stone stands isolated, depicting a large bullet hole.

Best Time to Visit Serbia

St. Georges Church in Serbia has one of the most beautifully painted interiors.
Mokra Gora is well known for Drvengrad – Serbia’s traditional wooden village and timber town elevated on a plateau between Tara National Park and the mountainous Zlatibor. Quaint and with bygone historical reference as a living village, Drvengrad was actually built as a film set for the Serbian drama, Life is a Miracle by Emir Kusturica, and was never deconstructed when the movie wrapped. 

Is Serbia Safe for Tourists and Visitors?

READ MORE: Nature in Serbia – Pristine Land You Never Knew Existed.

Guča’s Trumpet Festival turns into an all-night-long revelry.

None of these things disappeared during the war. They were simply shrouded, ready to be unveiled when the time came for a new beginning – in a Serbia that even if somewhat still politically fragmented, is both safe and open for exploration.
East of Zlatibor and around three hours south of Belgrade is one of the most historically important Orthodox monasteries in Serbia. The earthy red 13th-century Žiča Monastery was built by the first King of Serbia, Stefan the First-Crowned, and became the coronation church for all Serbian Kings on his orders. It was declared a Cultural Monument of Exceptional Importance in 1979.

Best Places to Visit in Serbia – Where to Go

Belgrade – The Reviving Capital

Serbia Travel Guide – The Balkan Country in Post Conflict Revival
Life in the valley town of Novi Pazar.

A decorated public square in Novi Pazar.

Continue further south from the Uvac Nature Reserve and you will get to the valley town of Novi Pazar, nestled snugly within the Golija and Rogozna mountains. Off the grid from the main cities and surrounding nature are smaller towns, each with their distinct flair, and which help build a bigger picture as to the religious, cultural and artistic diversity of Serbia.

The future is positive for a country so tangled in political fragmentation. To travel in Serbia is to remember there is more to it than the image shadowed in atrocity and devastation.

Novi Sad – The Capital of Culture

Views over Lake Ribnica in Zlatibor, Serbia.
Many people visit Guča for its famed Trumpet Festival alone.

Like most visitors to Serbia, Belgrade was my first stop. My tip is to give yourself as much time here as possible – at least four days ideally. Not knowing what to expect outside of the fortress and historical monuments, I was thrown headfirst into a cosmopolitan city of artistic revival that hummed amongst pastel coloured classicism.  It was everything I was hoping it would still be as a focal Balkan capital. Belgrade may be tinged with structural damage and underlying economic issues, but it is the vibrant, tenacious and determined heart of a new Serbia. 

The timeworn splendour of riding the Sargan Eight narrow gorge railway.

Once a Kingdom on par with Rome and Constantinople, then occupied as part of the Ottoman Empire, it later co-founded Yugoslavia with other South Slavic peoples following World War I. Yet, it is the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s and the devastation that followed, that many remember most of the region.

On the Southern fringes of Tara National Park, you can start an adventure that eliminates the need to take another bus. An alternative look at Serbia’s natural scenery includes riding the Sargan Eight narrow gorge railway further south to the Mokra Gora. 

Canyon walls and walks.

Valjevo and Nature Preserve

A highlight is the 18th-century Petrovaradin Fortress, divided into Upper and Lower towns. Climb up through the arched gateway passages to the symbolic clock tower with opposite time hands (large shows hours and small shows minutes). From here you can look out over the Danube and get a bird’s-eye view of the grid streets of the Lower Fortress town, whose crumbling Baroque architecture retains stories of old in their fading facades.
Svetozar Miletic Monument in Novi Sad’s Freedom Square.
A foreigner not using official accommodation nor staying with a private individual must register his or her stay and change of address with the local police station within 24 hours of arriving at the place of residency or of the change of address. A place of residency is where a foreigner intends to stay for more than 24 hours.”

Air Serbia has direct flights connecting a host of European, US and UK cities to Serbia’s capital, Belgrade. The main airport in Serbia is Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport (BEG).

The terroir of Topola and Serbia’s underrated wine cultivation.

Bajina Bašta and Tara National Park

Continue 30 minutes south from Mokra Gora and journey through the mountainous valleys and open-air spa region of Zlatibor, which is more than its ski resort reputation. In spring and summer, this area is a stunning circuit of hiking trails. 

Escape to the Zlatibor region.

Kadinjača Memorial Complex

Continue further south from Zlatibor and visit the mountain park and biodiverse Uvac Special Nature Reserve. The highlight is winding through the magnificent bends of the Uvac Gorge on a slow motorboat. 

Yet, that should be of no reflection on the Serbia of today; of the Serbian people rebuilding their country and mending the cracks, just like their neighbours. Many potential visitors can’t disconnect from the fact that conflict only ended in 1999 (with a peace agreement in Kumanovo, Macedonia), yet it should be noted that also equals many years passed.

I got off-track and wild in Valjevo – a city that is 90 minutes southwest of Belgrade. But the city wasn’t the main reason for visiting – the adjacent spindle of a nature reserve connected to it was. We trekked through the 50km long Gradac River Gorge (Klisura Reke Gradac) that runs through the steep slopes and high rock formations of the Canyon. 

Ride the Sargan Eight Railway to Mokra Gora

For example:
Strolls in old Belgrade.

It’s no secret that during the early 1990’s – that saw the individual wars of independence and nationalism take place – Serbia exercised more power in the political decision making, thus becoming more heavily involved in the devastating Yugoslav Wars. It is something many could discuss and argue about for hours and which still is contentious today. Kosovo, a disputed territory of Serbia, still has yet to be formally recognised in Europe as an independent state.

The hidden timber town of Serbia.

Visit Zlatibor and Serbia’s Mountainous Region

That’s not to say summer in Serbia should be avoided. Good time spent on or along the Danube River, in Serbia’s many gorges or at higher elevation in the Carpathian and Balkan Mountains ranges, is a way of life to escape the urban heat. The famed EXIT music festival is also in July.

In Topola, visit the St. Georges Church in Oplenac.

Serbia is considered a safe country to travel to and requires general caution and using your instinct like any other destination. Belgrade, in particular, feels just as vibrant and built up as any other European capital. I never felt on guard in Serbia, and nor did I encounter any issues as a female traveller. Mostly we were welcomed by locals, eager to show you the other side of their country.

Uvac Gorge and Nature Reserve

The elegantly detailed city centre, marked by the “Square of Freedom” within sits the City Hall, Catholic Cathedral of Mary’s Name and the monument of Svetozar Miletic is a stroll for the senses. Houses and palaces in candy colours, side streets full of museums and art galleries, small passages (like Zmaj Jovina and Dunavska) invite you to explore before you land in the pumping café and bar-lined Laza Telečki street –  the sundown meeting place.

The film set props of Drvengrad – Serbia’s traditional wooden village.

Serbia transport and road infrastructure.

See Žiča Monastery – The History of Serbian Kings

Classical architecture in Belgrade city centre.
Sundown in Novi Sad city centre.
Serbia is simply what it always once was – a natural wilderness undiscovered, and a sum of its centuries-old past that is more than the modern history we know.

Novi Pazar – See the Religious Diversity of Serbia

READ MORE: Travel to Belgrade – The Defiant Heart of a New Serbia
One of those is Serbia.

Serbia by bus

Swing with a view over the Uvac Gorge.

However, for those who don’t drive, there are excellent public transport options. 

Visit Topola – Serbia’s Wine Country

Trekking through the Gradac River Gorge in western Serbia.

Long-distance buses and trains connect Belgrade to mainland European capitals, including Budapest, Vienna, Sofia, Bar and Zagreb.

You can check here if you need a visa for Serbia, based on what passport you hold.

Since car hire is easy to arrange from the airport and within Belgrade, and with highways connecting neighbouring countries, many travel around Serbia by car. 

When Yugoslavia was initially founded, it was made up of a group of South Slavic Christian and Muslim nations, although the latter is now a minority in the country. Novi Pazar is a predominantly Muslim town that shows a different side to Serbia, with heavier cultural and visual touches of the east. It’s small and appears nondescript at first sight, but wander its streets and accept the invitations from locals to try warming bread from the bakery, and sip coffee at their house. Smiles soon overcame language barriers, in an area of the country that wrestles with a bad reputation and an almost isolation in its Muslim identity, despite not being off-limits.

Guča – Trumpet Festival Centre

Enjoying the great outdoors of Serbia should be factored into your visit in a country that is 75% mountainous and thus scattered with rolling green, protected nature parks, canyons, rivers and lakes. But where do you start? 
Climb Belgrade Fortress for history and city views.

Things can be a little tricky if you’re staying with a local friend or an Airbnb. According to the Serbian tourism website, foreigner registration and whose responsibility that is broken down as follows. 

Picturesque Novi Sad.

The stunning Orthodox Bishops Palace in Novi Sad Serbia.

Travelling to Serbia With New Eyes

See Serbia from a different perspective and change your perceptions.
Travel to Serbia might still raise a contentious debate. Over 18 years ago, ethnic conflicts were still tearing apart a region of Europe that was formally the country of Yugoslavia. An ethnic divide amongst six republics fighting for independence and control raged for 10 years from 1991, leaving a chunk of the continent – a country of South Slavic nations established in the aftermath of World War I – dissolved and economically damaged.
My travel to Serbia trip was created in conjunction with the National Tourism Organisation of Serbia for the #MySerbia campaign travelling with locals for a deeper insight into the country. All opinions remain my own. 

The bullet hole sculpture at Kadinjača Memorial Complex in Serbia.

Serbia is not yet a part of the EU, but there is a visa-free entry for visits of up to 90 days to the Republic of Serbia for those residing in or holding passports or valid visas from countries of the Schengen area and EU member states, as well as Canada and the US. It also applies to many other countries too. 
“Serbian organisations and individuals providing accommodation to foreigners against payment, as well as locals hosting visiting foreigners, must register the foreigner’s stay with the local police station within 24 hours of the commencement of the accommodation arrangement, or of the foreign visitor’s arrival.

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