How hospitable are the locals in the Balkans? THIS much! (Description of three events in a single day)

Traveling through the country is always multifaceted; we experience it ourselves, and we are surrounded by nature, settlements, locals, animals … After our last experience in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, we believe that meeting people – locals who have been cultivating the Balkan soil for decades, is a more important component than in the case of traveling through more touristic countries. Using the example of one day, we will describe why we think so.

“Whenever you want! If it’s at 7:00 a.m., let it be at 7:00 a.m.,” answered the owner of a house in Sjenica, in which she rents out a few rooms from this year, when asked when we can have breakfast. When I went to prepare the bikes for the next trip in the morning, at 6:40 she was already walking from one kitchen to another (outside) kitchen. Inside she was putting different kinds of cheeses and pickled vegetables on plates, outside she was frying ‘uštipci’ (a kind of fried bread) and fresh green peppers, and under the tablecloth, freshly baked homemade bread was cooling. At 6:58, the table was so full that we couldn’t finish it. But she wrapped up some uštipci, cheese and some dried meat for us to go on our way. Here, we had lunch.

Early in the afternoon, there were signs of a storm coming from the west. We were late with the day’s plan, a little earlier we found ourselves on a path we wouldn’t have liked to see under a five-and-a-half-meter van. Slowly, it worked. But the scene before the rain is fantastic; we are on a high plateau, the Albanian and Montenegrin mountains can be seen in the distance, covered with snow, and we are in the screaming green mountains, overgrown with juniper and pine and spruce. We MUST take some photos and videos here! We stop near a lonely house, prepare the camera and walkie-talkie and start working. If I wasn’t really in a hurry because of the coming rain, I would first go and ask if I could park at the house, but … A minute later, when the cyclists were already moving away, a lady greets me from the porch and asks if we want coffee. Oh, please, thank you!

By the time the shots are finished and the bikes are stowed back in the van, the house already smells of strong coffee, and there is sparkling water, some candy, and slices of dried beef on the table. We talked about life in these remote places, about where the five daughters moved to, how they are waiting for a better road and how many cyclists pass by here. They refused to accept the payment.

In the evening, just a few kilometers before our last checkpoint of the day, we wanted to see the possibility of accommodation in a small village. An elderly man was outside making rakija and called his son from the house to ask for information about rooms. After a short conversation right through the windows of the van, we decided to stay right here, in the village. And here – again, in a few minutes, in addition to the promised clean beds, the table was full of homemade goodies, bread, meat, and fresh vegetables. And of course, glasses for rakija as we finished driving for the day.

You guys are just great. We will be back!

Photo gallery:

Serbia’s Section of the Trans Dinarica Cycle Route is Complete

The Serbian stages of the new Trans Dinarica Cycle Route have been researched, laid out, and are now ready for cyclists to discover more about this beautiful Western Balkan country.

Trans Dinarica Cycling Route - Serbia, Uvac river

Starting near the town of Tutin, in the far south of Serbia, the route pedals through the mountainous Sandžak Region and then continues north and west past UNESCO sites and protected areas such as the Tara National Park along the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina. From Tutin, Serbia’s Trans Dinarica heads to Novi Pazar before heading northwest to Sjenica and the Special Nature Reserve Uvac. The trail then rolls toward the resort town of Zlatibor and the beautiful, ethno-architecture tourism center in and around Mokra Gora, perched in the Dinaric Alps. The route finishes its Serbian section along the banks of the Drina River in the town of Bajina Bašta.

The Serbian stages of the Trans Dinarica include seven main stages (with several alternate possibilities) and nearly 350 kilometers with around 800 meters of daily elevation change. The route travels across both paved and unpaved stretches — providing both seasoned and new cyclists diversity and access to communities throughout the region.

The Trans Dinarica is the first and only cycle route to connect all eight countries of the Western Balkans. The route — linking Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia — visits national parks, UNESCO sites, villages, and diverse points of interest. A cultural corridor as well as a bicycle itinerary, the Trans Dinarica provides a way to discover the region and its traditions with slow-travel intention. The route creates a main backbone bicycle trail for the entire Western Balkans and encourages local travel operators to utilize the Trans Dinarica as a responsible tourism engine.

The process of the Trans Dinarica’s creation in Serbia actually began in early 2022 when the GoodPlace team, a Slovenia-based NGO that creates sustainably minded trails and routes, began working with country experts to create a virtual blueprint. The next step was to test this blueprint “on the ground” to make sure, among other considerations, that all the stages — surfaces, inclines, distances — met the team’s high expectations of safety and navigation ease. After traveling to Serbia in May and June 2023, the route is ready to be enjoyed by cyclists.

Live from Serbia’s section of Trans Dinarica: We love it. Honestly.

Dear cyclists, adventure lovers … and Western Balkans devotees:

It is with great pleasure that — after many months of office research, studying maps, dissecting the terrain, browsing through memory, and coordinating routes and sites with local experts — we are officially working from the field along the Trans Dinarica Cycle Route: the first cycling route to connect all eight countries of the Western Balkans.

Our trail development fieldwork began along the Serbian and Bosnian sections of Trans Dinarica, and, after a few days, we can report the following brief impressions:

  • Although we have all visited Serbia many times, the country, its south and west, stunned us. It’s hard to say what’s more exceptional: the nature or the hospitable locals.
  • The Trans Dinarica is exactly what we wanted: bicycle exploration of these incredible countries on forest paths and quiet roads as possible, and at the same time getting to know the local culture, history, and cuisine.
  • The type of tourism mentioned in the previous point (yes, even cycling is tourism) is exactly what the Trans Dinarica intends to present: An authentic, pure, original, enriching, inspiring window into beautiful culture.

Keep up with us for more updates on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We also invite you to sign up for our email newsletters, in which we will inform you about the continuing development of Trans Dinarica. The final result — a cycling route through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Serbia — will be ready in 2024.

We can’t wait to see you on the Trans Dinarica.

Gallery from the last few days: