According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the international tourist traffic this year decreased by 70%. At the same time, according to the Tourism Statistics (https://ekec.ru/statistika/), the attractiveness of trekking trips has doubled. And this trend seems to continue in the near future.
Trekking appeared long ago. The medieval pilgrims went on pilgrimage tours covering long cross-country distances. In 1998, the Routes of Santiago de Compostela - or Way of the Way of St. James - (Latin: Peregrinatio Compostellana), the most famous pilgrimage tour in Europe, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The pilgrims’ route from France to Spain, about 800 km long, is still popular today. Rather, it was popular. The COVID-19 pandemic in the centre of Europe prevented the use of traditional trekking trails this summer. And trekking enthusiasts switched to less famous places. The demand for the trekking tours in Serbia and Montenegro, Albania and Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina grows steadily.
The Balkan trekking routes attract with enchanting landscapes, mild climate, excellent environment, low population density and low prices. If the trekkers from central Europe have yet to appreciate all the beauties of the Balkans, the locals have long enjoyed the mountain trails in their countries.
So, in Serbia alone, the length of the mountain trails is almost 6,000 km! This type of travelling is so popular in the country that a specialized magazine Planinarski Glasnik (Mountain Newsletter) is published for trekkers. The country has its own Serbian Trekking League (Treking-Liga-Srbije), as well as the Mountaineering Association of Serbia (Planinarski Savez Srbije) uniting about 15,000 mountain tourism enthusiasts. Trekking is taken seriously in Serbia and there is a special law regulating this tourist activity. The mountain trails in the Prokletije Mountains and the Dinaric Highlands (Denarii) are laid and marked in strict accordance with the rules and are carefully recorded. The website of the Mountaineering Association of Serbia (https://pss.rs/planinarski-objekti-i-tereni/tereni/?tip=evropski-pesacki-putevi-u-srbiji) regularly specifies and updates the data on the trekking trails in the country. In addition to numerous local paths, there are two international trekking trails in the Republic of Serbia: E7 - going from North to South, and E4 that goes around the eastern border of the country. Interestingly, the E4 ‘loop’ was not originally planned to be in Serbia: the trail was supposed to go through Romania. But the eastern neighbour did not take the project seriously, so, the European Ramblers Association (ERA) decided to make part of the E4 trail in Serbia.
The paths go through the most picturesque places like the national parks and protected natural areas. Today, there are five national parks in the country, each features its own attraction. So, the Djerdap National Park attracts with a hundred km long rocky gorge, along which the Danube River flows down at a great speed. And the Kopaonik National Park named after the mountain range where it is located, is famous for its mineral springs. It is very pleasant to relax in a hot spring after strenuous mountain trekking, only those who have experienced it can understand this pleasure! Here, at an altitude of 1,500 m, you can admire the Jelovarnik Waterfall, the largest in Serbia. It is surprising that such a unique waterfall was discovered in 1998 only! This is a good reason to walk through such unexplored places, is not it?
You can also see the ‘Wood Golem’ in Serbia. Not a ‘Clay Golem’, but a real wood. ‘Golem’ is the name of the virgin forest in the Sharr Mountains (Šar Planina) National Park. In addition to rare species of flora and fauna, the Reserve is famous for its glacial lakes. And admirers of the old world and antiquity like these places for their more than thirty ancient monasteries and temples.
The Fruška Gora National Park stretches for 80 km along the Danube. It is also beautiful with its centuries-old forests, healing waters and ancient monasteries. Sometimes, it is called ‘Serbian Jerusalem’. Lake Ledenci (Ledinačko jezero) is a very young attraction of the Park as it appeared several decades ago in the map of Serbia instead of a quarry where stone was mined. When the production was over, the site was reclaimed and the former industrial zone turned into a beautiful lake - a popular outing destination and the place for selfies.
And finally, the Tara National Park with its nearly 300 kilometres of marked mountain trails. The famous Serbian spruce (Picea omorika) grows in the Park. These endemic trees reach enormous sizes and some trees are 35-40 metres high. In the same Park, there is another attraction famous for its size, the ‘Vrelo’, the smallest river in Europe. It’s exactly 365 metres long. That is why it is listed in the Guinness Book of Records and has the second name, ‘Godina’, which means a ‘year’ in Serbian as the river’s length corresponds to the number of days in a year.
This year, the number of days is slightly different from the standard - like the year itself. There are few days left before a new year comes. Hopefully, all the troubles of this 2020 leap year will remain in the past, and the travel enthusiasts will be able to plan their vacations without being afraid of any viruses and restrictions.