I have lived in Serbia for about 12 years now. The main reason I decided to move here is because I love the people – they know how to enjoy life. Despite having soaring unemployment, the cafes are always full and the parks alive with young people drinking beer from 2-liter bottles with their friends.
Another reason I love Serbia is because the country is beautiful. There are some amazing national parks, plus tons of green nature spaces that are completely off the radar. However, it can be a bit difficult to actually enjoy these green spaces since there isn’t a camping culture in Serbia like in other countries.
I’ve gotten a few emails from travelers who want to go camping in Serbia. So, I figured it is time to write this post answering their questions.
Serbians Don’t Go Camping!
Serbians make BBQs.
They go hiking.
They’ll even go rafting.
But you won’t find many Serbians who go camping (even the same Serbians who go rafting and hiking!).
Instead of camping, outdoorsy Serbians will join a hiking club. Then they go on guided hikes with the club. These hikes are organized very frequently, especially in the summer months.
Usually a hike will go something like this:
- Meet as a specific point very early in the morning (by early, I mean around 5 or 6am)
- A bus takes the group to the location
- Lunch at a local restaurant or picnic-style lunch
- Hiking all day
- Return to the bus and go back to meeting point, usually arriving back very late at night
Sometimes the events will be multi-day with sleeping in cabins or a mountain home (more on these mountain homes below). The price for joining the hikes is very reasonable – usually around 10-20e (includes transportation and guide). With some events, you may need to pay the early fee to join the hiking club, which is usually around 5-10e.
One good place to find out about these hiking events is the Serbian mountaineering group on Facebook. The posts are mostly in Serbian language though.
Campsites in Serbia
Until recently, there were hardly any campsites in Serbia. Now that Serbia has gotten popular with tourists, a lot more campsites have opened up.
That still doesn’t mean you’ll find a lot of campsites in Serbia though!
I have never been to any of these campsites, so I can’t speak to how the services are. From what I’ve been told and seen online, most of the campsites are really terrible. Many are just big parking lots for RVs and are terrible for tent camping.
Some of the campsites are actually just the homes of villagers who have a lot of property. It seems they figured out that camping is popular with those “weird” tourists and decided to call their yards a campsite. One woman I talked to said she had a good experience in one of these villager-yard campsites – it’s just not what you’d expect from a typical campground.
Wild Camping in Serbia is Easy and Wonderful!
You can pretty much put up your tent anywhere in Serbia and wild camp. (See this post for the wild camping laws of every European country).
Obviously, there are some exceptions. For example, it is illegal to camp in the beautiful Tara National Park. I suspect it is because there are some bears in the park, and most Serbians don’t respect nature enough to do things like hang a bear bag.
I did, however, set up a tent just outside of the Tara National Park boundaries and didn’t have any issues. Likewise, I’ve set up a tent in many wild places around Serbia.
There are some things you need to know before wild camping in Serbia:
1. Don’t expect port-a-potties on the trails
In countries where there is a culture of camping, you’ll find potties on the trail for hikers and backpackers to use. I have NEVER seen one of these in Serbia.
Please be respectful and DIG A HOLE WHEN YOU GO TO THE BATHROOM! I don’t want to see shit and toilet paper on the otherwise beautiful trail!!!!
2. Locals will be confused and may invite you home
Since no one in Serbia goes camping, locals get confused when they see campers. They assume that you must be too poor to pay for accommodation and invite you home. When you are a woman camping with a small child, they get particularly confused and bring you food and water!
This is one reason why I love Serbians, but it can be annoying when you try to explain that you intentionally are sleeping in a tent.
3. Trail maps are hard to find and trails aren’t well marked
Another problem with wild camping in Serbia is that you will have a hard time finding trail maps – especially for areas which aren’t national parks.
The website Staze i Bogaze is your best resource for maps. Unfortunately, these are usually satellite maps and not contour maps. Relying on these is tricky!
4. It helps to have a water filter
On many trails in Serbia, you can find “izvor” (springs) which have water which is supposedly safe to drink.
These springs are few and far between. And, if you aren’t familiar with the area, you might not be able to find them! It is best to carry all the water you need with you. I use the Sawyer Mini water filter so I can filter water from any water source. Read my review of it here.
The Best Solution for Camping in Serbia: Planinarski Domovi
So how do you go camping in Serbia? The best solution is probably to go to a planinarski dom (which translates to “mountain home”).
The various hiking/mountaineering clubs in Serbia each have their own mountain home. Some of the mountain homes are really nice. Others are incredibly basic. Most of them do have electricity, potable water, and proper toilets/showers.
How do you stay at a mountain home?
Technically, you are supposed to be a member of a mountain club to stay at the homes. However, I’ve stayed at several without being a member.
It usually costs about 200-600 dinars per night for a bed in the home. There are usually around 20-30 beds in a home, with around 2-10 beds per room. Rarely you’ll find a mountain home with a private room.
You’ll need to bring your own food and probably a sleeping bag (wool blankets and sheets are sometimes provided).
The mountain homes are taken care of by a “domar.” The domar can help you with maps of the area and info about trails.
Here’s the problem: Some mountain homes are not open year round. You will need to call the domar to see if the home is open and available (hiking clubs sometimes organize events and take up the entire home, so it might not be available).
You can find a map of planinarski domovi here.
*You can pitch your tent in front of a planinarski dom for free! Even if the dom isn’t open, you can still pitch your tent in front – you just won’t have access to the water or bathroom inside.
Getting Rescued in Serbia
At Serbian National Parks, you won’t find those check-in/check-out services like in many other countries. So, if you get lost or injured, you can’t expect a forest ranger to come looking for you!
There is a nonprofit group that does rescues in Serbia though. They are called Gorska Sluzba Spasavanja (GSS). Apparently, they help over 1,000 people on the ski slopes every year and do about 50 rescue interventions every year. So, while I personally have never had any experiences with them (knock on wood), it seems like they know what they are doing.
If you find yourself lost or in trouble, you can call them. They do rescues all over Serbia, but have dedicated numbers for the most popular nature areas in Serbia.
- Kopaonik: 063 466 466
- Stara planina: 063 466 461
- Zlatibor: 063 466 467
- Belgrade station: 063 466 465
- Kruševac station: 063 466 468
- Boljevac station: 063 466 463
- Niš station: 063 466 484
- Novi Sad station: 063 466 469
*You can also just call the police, and they will contact GSS for you.
Camping Stores in Serbia
Since there isn’t much of a camping culture in Serbia, there aren’t many stores with camping gear. It might be best to bring your gear from home. If you do need something, you can check out these stores:
- Intersport: This store has a lot of very affordable camping/hiking gear. I got my tent there for less than 50e and it has held up over many trips. But it is also very heavy.
- Iglu Sport: This store has a lot more professional-level gear, and the price reflects it. I went there for my camping stove and fuel for it. My backpack is also from there. The store is located in Belgrade city center.
- Gora: If you need really high quality gear (and are willing to pay for it), this store is the best option. Their website sucks but you can check out what sort of things they have here. The actual store is located in New Belgrade.
- Fishing Stores: While there aren’t many campers in Serbia, there are lots of people who go fishing (mostly retired old men). You can find lots of fishing stores, and they often have gear like flashlights, tarps, rope, and bags.
Other Notes about Camping in Serbia
- Wild Animals: There are bears in some parts of Serbia, as well as other dangerous wild animals like foxes, wolves, and boars. Be cautious! Always hang a bear bag when camping in the wild. Even the non-dangerous animals can end up eating your food if it isn’t hung properly.
- Beware of Vipers: Serbia has two types of venomous snakes. The first is Vipera berus (in Serbian, šarka). The other is Vipera ammodytes (poskok). They are especially found in Eastern Serbia in rocky, high areas. Be careful where you step!
- Everything You Carry In, You’ll Need to Carry Out! Just because most local Serbians are not respectful of nature, it doesn’t mean you should be. Dig a hole when going to the bathroom. Carry all of your trash out. And, if you want to be really nice, pick up any trash you find on the trails. 😉