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Road trip - Serbia and Bosnia

Hello,

I am planning a road trip across Serbia (4 days) and Bosnia (4 days). The starting point will be Sofia. We may spend 1-2 days in/around Bulgaria upon return (time permitting).

We are interested in villages, mountains and natural scenery. Museums, memorials and cities do not excite us much. We will be visiting major cities (Belgrade and Sarajevo) but more as a pit-stop rather than making it our base. We will have a rental car.

The destinations that I have under consideration (keeping distances in mind) are these:

Serbia
Niš -> Kuršumlija -> Štulac -> Koracica -> Belgrade -> Družiniće -> Zlatibor District -> Bajina Basta

Bosnia
Tjentište -> Studenci -> Mostar -> Jezero -> Konjic -> Sarajevo

Which of these are a must-visit? I know that all of these are probably not doable in my given number of days. How should we modify this list based on my travel preferences listed above?

Thanks
TYM

Posted by
1893 posts

Unlike most in the RS forum, I have been to Bosnia-Herzogovenia (Mostar, Sarajevo) and Serbia (Beograd, Novi Sad). I have not been to many outlying towns.

1) You have 4 days and 8 cities for Serbia, 4 days and 5 cities for B-H. That means that every single day you will be driving for 2-3 hours (min), taking 1 hour to unpack, and then have time for whatever tourism you are interested in. That's not a trip I would enjoy. What is the point of your trip?

2) You should cut your trip to at most 3 locations, or find a way to add 30 days for the number of destinations you have. Even 38 days is too few for 13 destinations.

3) Do you speak Serbian or read Cyrillic? Serbia is very underdeveloped touristically, and you are less likely to find English speakers in small Serbian towns. Mostar, Sarajevo, Beograd, Novi Sad - you will find English speakers. The smaller towns, less so.

4) Begin with a planning map that includes Sofia. Put each city/location in, and the travel time (from google maps). My estimate of 2-3 hours may be low. Some of these places are doubtless remote with possibly bad roads.

5) One approach that might work would be to set up in a base and do day trips.

Posted by
9 posts

Unlike most in the RS forum, I have been to Bosnia-Herzogovenia (Mostar, Sarajevo) and Serbia (Beograd, Novi Sad). I have not been to many outlying towns.

Good to know that, and I thus believe that your constructive recommendation will be useful for me.

1) You have 4 days and 8 cities for Serbia, 4 days and 5 cities for B-H. That means that every single day you will be driving for 2-3 hours (min), taking 1 hour to unpack, and then have time for whatever tourism you are interested in. That's not a trip I would enjoy. What is the point of your trip?

The list of cities/places is not a conclusive one. I came across these during my research and listed them down for further opinion from this forum. I am open to suggestions to delete/modify these. As I said in the opening paragraph, "We are interested in villages, mountains and natural scenery. Museums, memorials and cities do not excite us much". So that's the purpose of my trip.

2) You should cut your trip to at most 3 locations, or find a way to add 30 days for the number of destinations you have. Even 38 days is too few for 13 destinations.

As they say, YMMV. No number of days are ever enough for any country. You may spend 30/38 days and still leave unsatisfied. For me, time is limited - I am not a backpacker and have to return to my job. I am trying to maximize the 8-10 days vacation that I have, hence seeking suggestions on which places should be visited to get a flavor of these two countries.

3) Do you speak Serbian or read Cyrillic? Serbia is very underdeveloped touristically, and you are less likely to find English speakers in small Serbian towns. Mostar, Sarajevo, Beograd, Novi Sad - you will find English speakers. The smaller towns, less so.

I neither speak Serbian nor read Cyrillic. Is that going to be a deal breaker to even plan a trip in these countries? I have traveled to many countries without knowing the language and it didn't pose any challenge. As for directions, I am relying on Google Maps (as I have done in the past), to be supplemented by asking locals, if the need arises.

4) Begin with a planning map that includes Sofia. Put each city/location in, and the travel time (from google maps). My estimate of 2-3 hours may be low. Some of these places are doubtless remote with possibly bad roads.

That's exactly what I did. I plotted the list of places on Google Maps, got the driving time and distance and that's the sequential route (indicated by arrows) that you see in my opening post.

5) One approach that might work would be to set up in a base and do day trips.

I did think of that, but it doesn't seem possible because both Belgrade and Sarajevo are pretty far from other places. Day trips wont be feasible or will just be extremely tiring.

Unless of course you can suggest day-trip worthy places near Belgrade and Sarajevo? By that I mean 1-2 hour driving distance one way.

Posted by
9 posts

I happen to have a copy of 52 weekends in Serbia sitting next to me as I happened to transit through there a couple weeks ago and picked it up. Would be curious to hear how you chose this list of obscure locations most of which do not appear in this booklet, itself a list of obscure locations designed to highlight the best of each region.

I found these online during my travel research (some of these were in Atlas Obscura IIRC). I guess the book that you have lists most "popular/common" tourist locations, which doesn't excite me and my partner. We are more interested in country-side, offbeat experiences and nature rather than cities and over-tourist-ed spots (i.e. memorials/museums/churches etc.)

Posted by
9 posts

I think you misunderstood. I didn’t mean over touristed for Serbia or Bosnia. I meant that in general “memorials/museums/churches” are most visited in almost all European countries. So I’ll want to avoid such spots.

Posted by
1893 posts

I ask about Cyrillic, because in Serbia, that's found pretty often - Serbia is Cyrillic-primary. On the highway, signs usually show Cyrillic & Latin. In towns, you will find Cyrillic only. So, to find a "restaurant" in France, Italy, etc, you look for "restaurant". In Serbia, especially in smaller places, you may be looking for "пектопан". So a little familiarity with Cyrillic may be helpful. If you were a little familiar with the alphabet, you can sound things out. Sometimes, words are Western transliterated into Cyrillic.

I suggest that you choose a base from which to do trips. That's the best way to limit your moves. You don't need to choose Beograd or Sarajevo as your bases. Pick a different city, closer to your interest areas. Moving from base to base leads to a frustrating trip, as each move consumes 1/2 day, even for close locales. You need to pack, travel, find hotel, unpack. On the RS forum, the standard advice is a minimum of 2 nights at each locale, and that's often too much.

Will you have your hotels arranged in advance? For a short trip like this, I would definitely do that.

My wife and I enjoyed Serbia and B-H. I have family connections, but the country is interesting and people are receptive. You will not find many other American tourists on your trip.

Posted by
16606 posts

I don't rent cars in Europe, but the comments of others have convinced me that ViaMichelin.com's driving-time estimates may be more reliable than Google's. If you zoom way in on ViaMichelin's maps, you'll see the roads deemed especially scenic highlighted in green.

I had a one-night stopover in Nis in 2015 to break up what would otherwise have been an interminable bus trip from Sofia to Podgorica, Montenegro. The city is developed enough to have a Best Western hotel (I'm guessing patronized primarily by business travelers), but I doubt that it sees many tourists. I remember walking out of the bus station and being in a non-European-feeling area of money-exchange kiosks and fast-food stalls. I didn't see a great deal of the town, but the other areas I encountered didn't feel so quirky. On balance, I think you'd be happier with a somewhat smaller place. Nis has a population of about 250,000 people.

The historic area of Novi Sad (historic city not too dar from Beograd) had what I'd call a hippie vibe. I don't remember whether I thought the folks in that area were mostly Serbian or foreigners. It wouldn't surprise me if the town is a regular stop for Western Europeans of college age.

As of 2015 Serbia felt less focused on attracting western tourists than its neighbors--though I haven't been to Albania or Macedonia. I don't think you'll have huge difficulties there, but you shouldn't expect the man on the street outside Beograd and Novi Sad (or the gas-station employee) to speak English. The folks who made a serious effort to learn English in school are probably the same ones who've moved to the largest and most touristy cities. In the more out-of-the-way places, I think the best you can hope for in most restaurants would be inclusion of Croatian, which uses our alphabet. I have a high tolerance for visiting places whose languages I do not speak, and I studied Russian in college, so I'm not the one to comment on whether you will feel uncomfortable in Ssrbia.

Of your other tentative targets I've only been to Sarajevo and Mostar, and not recently. I haven't even heard of the other places, so I suspect they're rather obscure.