In a corner of western Serbia, the river Drina forms a natural enclosure for the densely forested hills of Tara National Park. And although its small size makes it fairly easy to move around, the park’s many hills and valleys offer enough variety to satisfy anyone’s need for a good few days of exploration. As detailed online information is hard to find in English, I created this guide to hiking Tara National Park. Let’s hope you will find it useful!
Level of difficulty
Hiking in Tara National Park is not a very demanding endeavour. The park is quite busy with both tourism and logging efforts, due to which most paths consist of well-maintained dirt and gravel roads or even asphalt. The further north you go the more you will encounter smaller hiking trails, but in most places, you will have a very easy time covering distances. Elevation differences on most hiking trails are not exceedingly challenging; the average elevation gain sits around 500-600 meters.
However, it is recommended to carry a good map or a GPS device to help you find your way. The roads and trails in Tara National Park are numerous, and trail markings are not always present at every crossing or fork in the road.
All in all, you do not need to be very fit to walk most shorter trails. To go on a multi-day hike you need to be fit enough to carry your supplies uphill for the better part of a day, and so your fitness level should be above average when attempting to cover a longer distance.
Direct, daily bus connections operate between Belgrade and Bajina Bašta. Alternatively, a bus connection from Belgrade to Bajina Bašta via Užice is also possible. From Užice it is possible to find connections to other towns and villages around Tara National Park. There are no direct train connections from Belgrade to towns near the park.
If you are arriving from Bosnia-Herzegovina, you should aim to cross the border checkpoints at Skelani or Done Vadište.
In terms of accommodation, there are numerous guesthouses, apartments, hotels and hostels available in and around Tara National Park. Mitrovac, Bajina Bašta and the area around Solotuša are ideally suited as a base from which you can explore the park.
I can highly recommend staying in either the Mystic River Hostel in Bajina Bašta or the Mystic Forest Hostel in Mitrovac. Owned by the same local company, both hostels are comfortable, clean and come with excellent cheerful service! In addition, the newer Mystic River Hostel is stylishly decorated, offers a sunny garden and even has a small fruit orchard!
Food and supplies
While any large supermarket will satisfy your food supply needs, specialised outdoor equipment can be hard to find outside Belgrade. Especially items like instant hiking meals or screw-on camping gas canisters seem to be rare finds in Serbia. I would recommend you do your shopping in your home country or Belgrade.
Bringing a multi-fuel stove is a good idea when hiking or camping in the Balkans. Should you really need a gas stove cartridge, you can search for an outdoor supply store in Belgrade. Hardware supply stores might also carry these gas cartridges. Note that screw-on cartridges are rare, but ‘piercing’ cartridges can be bought in most larger supermarkets. Therefore, buying a cheap ‘piercing type’ stove could also be a solution here.
As it cannot be omitted from any hiking guide, here’s a list of must-have gear when hiking Tara National Park!
I will list only what I consider to be the essentials for a multi-day hike here; I’ll leave it up to you how much extra gear you want to bring.
- Comfortable hiking boots or shoes. The trails in Tara National Park are not very challenging and mostly consist of broad, even roadways. No special footwear is required, just make sure your shoes are suitable for long walks.
- Comfortable backpack. The fewer items you bring, the smaller your pack can be. Just make sure to leave enough room for food and water!
- Lightweight tent(when camping).
- Season-appropriate sleeping gear(when camping). A sleeping bag and whatever item you prefer to sleep on. Just make sure to prepare for the season’s nighttime temperatures!
- Season-appropriate clothing. Light and fast-drying in summer, carry an extra warm layer in spring or autumn. Rainproofs come in handy in all seasons.
- Cooking gear and fuel(when camping). Unless you plan on eating cold rations for a few days, bring something to heat up your food or make tea with!
- Water reservoir or water bottle. Either get a lightweight water reservoir for your backpack or a large drinking bottle of at least one litre (33 oz). In summer, temperatures can get quite high, so bring enough! I always bring a lightweight water filter for those occasions where I can’t trust the water quality.
- Map or GPS (and navigational skills). Although the trails in Tara National Park are well-marked, the myriad of roads and trails can get a little confusing at times.
- Medkit and basic first-aid skills. As with any multi-day hike, a certain degree of self-reliance is always a good thing. Make sure you bring something to send out emergency signals with as well, just in case.
- Sunscreen. Just in case.
- Swiss army knife or multitool. Don’t leave home without it.
- A (phone)camera. For those memorable views.
Tara National Park has a well-maintained network of over 30 official trails. Most of these are shorter routes, intended for those looking to visit a specific viewpoint or other points of interest in under 3 hours. These trails can, of course, be combined to create longer routes.
Check out my list of hiking trails in Tara National Park to see digital maps and learn more about some of the park’s longer hiking trails!
An official trail map can be bought from the tourist information centres in Bajina Bašta, Mitrovac and Gaočići. This paper map costs 200 Dinars.
Camping in Tara National Park
While there are no official campgrounds in Tara National Park, you are allowed to camp with your tent in most areas. Note that with ‘allowed’, I mean it is unofficially allowed if you set up your tent away from protected zones and don’t leave any trace of your presence. Check official maps in local tourist information centres for an overview of these protected areas.
Officially, wild camping is not allowed in Serbia. But like in many Balkan countries, as long as you camp away from public places or get a local’s permission to camp on their land no one will bother you.
A good place to camp is on the south shores of Lake Zaovine, on a little stretch of land halfway along the dam road. The hills around the lake also feature plenty of grassy meadows and clearings where you can pitch a tent or two!
Apart from the fact that you should consider these protected areas, you should also consider the local bear population. As of 2020, an estimated population of around 30 brown bears make Tara their home. As the national park is relatively small, your chances of encountering a bear are therefore higher. During the day, these encounters are really rare, but when camping out you should take care to never store your food in your tent and eat and prepare your food at least 200 metres downwind from your tent site.
There are numerous feeding and observation sites all around the park, so make sure not to camp near these places! Your best bet would be to camp near a village or to ask permission to camp on a field near a farm.
Taking a bus from Belgrade to Bajina Bašta will set you back around 700-1000 RSD. Taking a detour via Užice will cost you roughly the same amount. Taling a taxi from Belgrade will be the most expensive option, and could cost anywhere upwards of 15000 RSD.
Of course, hitchhiking is an option too! Carry a tent or bivvy bag to see you through the night, as it will probably take you more than one day to reach Tara.
Food, drink and accommodation
Serbia is not a very expensive country. Basic food items and drinks are cheap (less than 400 RSD) and readily available in mini markets and supermarkets. Accommodation prices vary between levels of luxury, with hostel dorm beds costing around 1000 RSD a night and hotel rooms upwards of 3500 RSD.
If you’re travelling in a group, you might want to check out one of the many self-catering apartments in the region. This type of accommodation is quite popular among domestic tourists, and can be very affordable for groups of 4 or more.
Travelling while insured is always a good idea. As always, I recommend World Nomads for their easy-to-use website and great coverage that includes hiking up to 6000 metres.
As conditions may vary for your nationality or itinerary, always make sure to thoroughly check your insurance plan!
Note that I do not get anything for promoting them! This is an honest personal recommendation. I just think their insurance plans are perfect for adventurous world travellers like us!
And this concludes this Practical Guide on hiking Tara National Park. As always, I’m available to answer any questions you might have! Send me an email, contact me on social media or feel free to leave additional tips or questions in the comments below!
See you on the Trail!