This European National Park Is A Must-Visit For Fun Outdoor Adventures

Surrounded by EU states, the five remaining republics of the former Yugoslavia yet to gain access to the Union still retain their air of mystery and adventure. Of these countries, Serbia still has something of an image problem left over from the conflicts that followed the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991. Still, it has much to offer the open-minded traveler. Its people are part of the attraction; Serbs are generally very forthcoming and befriend strangers quickly. Beyond the Brutalist architecture and crazy driving in the exciting capital, Belgrade, Serbia is rich in natural beauty. With its majestic hills, valleys, mountains, and rivers, there is always somewhere new to discover for lovers of the outdoors, and it is also home to the gorgeous Djerdap National Park.

Situated in the northeast corner of the country where the great Danube River forms part of the border with Romania, the entrance to the parks is less than a two-hour drive from the concrete mayhem of Belgrade, with over 500 square miles of forested area to explore. Although human activity has existed in the area for thousands of years, it is sparsely populated nowadays, providing a home to diverse wildlife, including bears, lynx, wolves, and eagles. It has also been a popular tourist destination since the '70s and was designated as a national park in 1974. Djerdap National Park was also recognized for its beauty and importance by UNESCO, which listed it as a Geopark in 2020. 

Outdoor adventures in Djerdap National Park

Although the Djerdap National Park is spread over a wide area, the Danube is naturally the primary focus for activities, including kayaking, fishing, and swimming. Kayaking is a great way to embark on a river adventure and take in the spectacular scenery from the water, including some sights only visible from the river. While it is possible to rent kayaks and strike out on your own journey, it is recommended that you take a guided kayaking tour with experienced guides to get the most out of it and stay safe.

Another way to take in the views without much effort is to cruise. A range of itineraries is available, from an hour jaunt to a full day floating along the Danube from Belgrade, alongside the national park, and terminating in Kladavo with its beaches and fine medieval fortress. 

The park has many trails for hikers and cyclists to explore. Cycling is a good way to get around the park, and bikers can pick up the Serbian leg of the EuroVelo 6 along the Danube, a continuous cycle route that connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Black Sea. Hikers can take their own route or join organized tours and benefit from a professional guide's insight into the park's nature and history. Tours can be arranged with transport from Belgrade, ascending 768 meters to the peak of Veliki Strbac, for panoramic views of the river and the entire region.

Manmade sights in Djerdap National Park

Although the main attraction of Djerdap National Park is its glorious natural surroundings, there are also some fascinating archaeological and historic sites to check out. The most striking is the imposing Golubac Fortress, which looks like something from "Game of Thrones." The stronghold commands a stretch of the Danube that leads into the park's most famous natural attraction, the Djerdap Gorge. Nicknamed the Iron Gate, it is the longest and deepest gorge in Europe, running for about 62 miles and flanked on either side by high cliffs, creating a vista that might have inspired symphonies. Further downstream by the hydroelectric dam at Novi Sip is another popular historic site, the impressive ruins of the Diana Fortress.

The park is dotted with small settlements, and a small range of accommodation is available if you plan to make it more than a day trip. Camping Asin is a small campsite located near the banks of the Danube with basic facilities, and there are a few private guesthouses in the village of Dobra. For a wider choice of lodgings and amenities, the larger towns of Golubac and Donji Milanovac are popular with tourists. Both have beaches and several restaurants to choose from, with most offering traditional Serbian fare, such as Pljeskavica and Cevapi. With its riverside terrace and white tablecloths, Kafana Zlatna Ribica in Golubac shoots for a modern take on these classics and serves fresh grilled fish.