Zlatibor Mountain, Serbia—A Perfect Getaway

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

I like, love, adore and enjoy traveling.

(Which shouldn’t come as a surprise since you’re reading what I imagine to be a travel blog.)

Yet so it happened that I’m mainly traveling abroad. It’s more available than ever, and the world is so big and beautiful and waiting for me to discover it and see in person everything I’ve been longing for since… well, forever.

It’s easy to end up seduced by the very world and forget about what’s in my backyard.

Well, not literally. (Though there is a cherry tree and I should pick some while they’re still good.)

I’m talking about Serbia, my home country.

photo: Mirko

If you’re from abroad, chances are you have only heard of it but don’t actually know anything about it. And maybe if you do, it just never happened to be on your wishlist of countries to visit. I understand. Italy, UK, France, Greece… these are the places you plan visiting in Europe. These are the countries you know about. And they’re great too.

But so is Serbia. We just suck at branding ourselves. (But forgive us, we have a pile of other problems.)

It’s been literally years that I’ve been planning to do a series on what to visit in Serbia besides Belgrade, its capital. Apparently, people are flocking into Belgrade and loving it. And I love that, I’m proud, I love Belgrade and find it really nice that other people are loving it too. 

But Belgrade is not all we got. We got more.

Serbia is the home of inexplicably beautiful wild nature. Rivers and canyons and mountains and valleys. Animals and people that coexist in the nature. Villages that you could have only seen on TV. Homemade food that will satisfy the most delicate palate.

Apart from the food, though, there are many people in the country whose traveling experiences are similar to mine—at least that’s what prevails in the young generation. I have to emphasize, though, that due to economic and social situation, not many young people actually have a chance to travel at all. But those who do rarely opt for a mountain resort or a spa here. 

I’m guessing we crave for faraway places because we know what it feels like to struggle for basic things in life. When we were kids, our parents’ monthly wages were enough for two pounds of fresh meat

(Yes, let that sink in.)
(And no, I’m not joking or exaggerating.) 

So now we have the opportunity, we want to see Rome and London and Berlin and Paris and Ibiza and Thailand. I understand that.

But rarely do we know the gems Serbia hides. We’re just not that into exploring our own country. And honestly, that’s a shame. I know there are so many things I haven’t seen yet, and want to. 

And then there are those I want to keep coming back to.

Like Zlatibor mountain, that I visited a month ago for the third time.

Being a kid from the plain where you can easily drive for six hours without any change of scenery, I’ve always found mountains beautiful and interesting. Zlatibor, however, stays my favorite for now. Okay, it may partly be because of nice people and nice memories made there, but this is not the only reason.

Zlatibor is super relaxing if you need a break from the hectic city life.

On the other hand, if you cannot imagine calm weekend nights with no excitements, it offers clubs as well.

If you want to recharge batteries by endless walking in the nature, Zlatibor has got you covered. (Also, make sure to charge your phone beforehand because you’ll want to capture all the amazing Zlatibor views!)

If trekking is more likely to empty yours, no worries—how about a wellness & spa experience? 

And I cannot possibly leave out the food. I have praised Serbian food on various occasions on this blog. Being in Western Serbia, Zlatibor offers specialties of the region as well. My favorite are the variety of smoked beef hams, duvan-čvarci (people with a sense of humor have called it pork chips, and you don’t really need to know what they are, nor would you care once you taste them) and komplet lepinja. More on that one below. 

Knowing all this from my past experiences and longing for a short trip, I opted for a long weekend on Zlatibor in the beginning of May. I stayed in Zlatibor Mona Hotel—hey, even budget travelers deserve to be pampered once in a while ;)—and had a wonderful experience. 

So here’s why you should definitely consider this mountain resort for your next vacation.

1. Your experience will be completely tailored to suit your needs. 

photo: Mirko

I was hesitant about this sentence above because I know it sounds like a copy for a luxury hotel. But it’s not like that here, and you don’t have to have a lot of money to experience things you enjoy, or do something else for the first time. As I said above: if you’re into light walk and relaxing and eating delicious food, you’ll enjoy not more or less than those who are more on the active side and always looking for new adventures.

2. As for the adventures… there’s an abundance of those!

For example, you can ride a kayak.

I’m not the one searching for adrenaline rushes, but I do love trying out things I’d never done before. Actually, the kayak ride on the Radoinjsko Lake, brought to us by the Extreme Summit Team, wasn’t that much of an adrenaline rush.

The lake is calm and soothing, and as someone who loves water in all forms, I really enjoyed the ride. Especially when me and my friend actually rode well and synchronized. A great experience followed by griffon vultures flying over our heads—birds that only inhabit this region of the country.

photo: Mirko

3. …or do something crazy like climbing a rock that seems sky high.

Again courtesy of Extreme Summit Team, a team of great and fun and helpful guys who do much crazier climbs on a regular basis. Yours truly appreciates standing on solid ground and feels dizzy after looking down from, say, 5th floor balcony. So why did I do this, you might wonder?

photo: Mirko

Legit question.

photo: Mirko

But I believe that you can only grow by (watch out, a cliché coming) stepping out of your comfort zone. Free climbing, using just your hands and feet, felt super scary, and at some point I think I forgot I was actually secured by rope—I felt true fear of falling down, and I was like okay, I don’t want this to be the end of me, it would be pathetic. (I’m a drama queen, it cannot be the end of you, promise!) So I got all the way up eventually. The view over the lake was indeed beautiful. But I would never do that again. And yet, I’m super proud of myself for having done it this one time.

4. …or visit some other sights around the mountain.

Sirogojno Old Village is a unique example of a whole village being a museum, also famous for woolen clothing being exhibited in Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Moscow, Rome, at Fashion Fair in Lyon and Crafts Fair in Munich. Or Stopića Cave, with its tubs made of limestone that has been deposited for ages. 

Seriously, there’s so much to see, which comes quite in handy when you want to keep coming back without it being boring. 

5. You can enjoy the wonderful Inspirium Spa&Wellnes Center at Zlatibor Mona Hotel.

This was my favorite part of staying at Zlatibor Mona! As I said above, I really like water. The spa has one larger pool for swimming—not a very deep one, which was a bit surprising, but it feels nice to touch the bottom if you get tired, haha. (Don’t mind me and my poor form!) There are also two smaller pools with hot water, though I would add a cold one too to get that blood flowing! ;) 

Sporty types can enjoy a small gym, but I skipped it because I’m a barbell girl and there weren’t any. However, I did sweat—in a different way, though. Inspirium offers two saunas—a bio sauna and a Finnish sauna—and a Turkish bath. If I tell you that I lived in Finland for a while, you’ll know just how much I love this part of the Finnish culture! I really miss being able to visit sauna almost daily, so I always jump at an opportunity to visit one.

6. You can just walk and immerse yourself in the nature.

This is more of a reminder to myself for the next time, because I always spent short amounts of time on Zlatibor and never really walked as much as I would have wanted. But the mere sight of the pine wood is beautiful, and walking in it and breathing in its smell and fresh air is so different from our usual city walks. And so needed!

7. You can ski in the winter.

During winter Zlatibor becomes popular winter resort. I’ve never visited it during this time of the year (heck, I never even skied!), but I do know that it’s the choice of ski lovers who care more about skiing and vacation than being seen in a posh resort, that Zlatibor isn’t. (Thank god! It means I can wear whatever and nobody bats an eye. ;))

8. You can and should eat everything.

Okay, so I’m a lover of hotel breakfasts and dinners. On the first night I made a mistake of letting my hungry eyes choose food without taking my brain into consideration, so I ended up full on appetizers. (And staring longingly into a friend’s plate where main courses lay in all their beauty!) Whether you’re a devoted fitness junkie or a gourmand, you would be happy with the food I saw at Zlatibor Mona. I, however, ignored the cereals, yoghurts and salads and went after pastries and lean protein. So. Much. Good. Food!

If you’re staying somewhere else and eat in the center, there are ton of options too. But believe me when I say this is the meat region. (As is the whole country.) You won’t starve if you’re vegetarian, but unfortunately, your meat eating companions will enjoy more. 

If you’re not vegan, I urge you to try komplet lepinja. It’s a calorie bomb, but a super delicious one! I could explain what it is, but then it may make you hesitant to try it. (No meat, however!) So you just need to taste if yourself and then enter Heaven. Though I would recommend eating it in its birthplace, Užice, a town you will probably pass by on your way to Zlatibor. People of Užice tend to give you pitying looks if you say you’ve eaten komplet lepinja somewhere else. My own palate is not that sensitive, but the komplet lepinja in Užice is truly great.

9. Zlatibor is a great choice for every budget. 

Whether you are a frugal backpacker or someone who likes to splurge, you won’t have to compromise here. (Worth noting: splurge in Serbia is probably a lot cheaper than somewhere in the West, so you’ll get great value for your money.) Even hotels offer more affordable deals, and then there is a number of private b’n’bs. This is probably one of the reasons Zlatibor is many people’s favorite, but certainly not the only one. Refer to my previous points. ;) I would love it to become favorite of people from abroad too, because it truly deserves it.

How to get to Zlatibor:

Zlatibor is 230 km away from Belgrade, which is around 4 hours by coach or less by car. Buses leave several times a day from the Belgrade Coach Station—you can check the timetable here. 
You can also reach Zlatibor if you’re flying into Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, instead of Belgrade. The road via Višegrad is 180 kms long.

What's your favorite destination in your own country? I'd love to know!

The post was the result of a collaboration with the Zlatibor Mona Hotel. However, all opinions are my own. 

Featured photo: Mirko Kuzmanović 

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