Is it possible to describe and present the beauties and mystery of a mountain by suggesting just a few destinations to showcase the full diversity of flora, fauna, terrain, network of rivers and brooks, the wealth of cultural and historical heritage?
For sure it is not, but a good tip will tickle one’s curiosity, where number ten is certainly far behind the actual number of unique sites that Stara planina can boast of.
Therefore, take this presentation of Stara planina (Balkan Mountains) with reservation, and consider each of the below-listed monuments of nature as an intro to your personal exploration of this area, since Stara planina produces a life-long binding effect, you will be coming back to it, and rest assured, a human life is barely enough for a single complete tour of this mountain beauty.
1. The canyon of the Temštica and Toplodolska rivers
The canyon of the Temštica and Toplodolska rivers from hydropower plant Temac to the confluence of the Zaskovačka and Toplodolska rivers (at the place called Vojna). A fascinating encounter of water and red sandstone, completely intact area of a mountain river populated by trouts, crustaceans, halcyons and otters.
It is especially enticing to follow the river and canyon along the route of the old road Topli Do – Temska, a several-hundred-years-old traffic route with just as much visible moss of time and the effects of nature.
2. Midžor – the highest peak of Stara planina
Midžor, the highest peak of Stara planina, several hours of climbing away from Topli Do wherefrom three or four different paths can be taken, each appealing and dramatic in its own stead. It offers a passage through the last remaining wildwoods of Serbia, Rakitska gora and Javorska river.
3. The waterfalls of Topli Do
A visit to the waterfalls of the Topli Do area. Autumn and summer are the best seasons for visit due to greater quantity of water in the torrent tributaries of the Toplodolska river. Owing to a large number of waterfalls, these sites require at least three days to be properly explored. Hiring a local guide is highly recommended.
4. The Bratkova strana peak
The Bratkova strana peak. A less heard of central mountain range commanding a 360-view of the largest part of the mountain. It offers an amazing bird’s eye view, from Midžor to Srebrna glava. From glades and meadows, to the endless pastures above inaccessible precipes, conifers and last remaining habitats of grouses, bears and lynxes. This peak can be accessed from several sides, each being highly attractive.
5. Vrtibog, the legendary plateau, the highest pasture of Stara planina
Vrtibog, the legendary plateau, the highest pasture of Stara planina, in close proximity to Bratkova strana. This is the place which the cattlemen of Stara planina waged wars for and the origin of one of the best cheeses of Stara planina. Arbanaški kladenac (well) and the remains of an old dairy farm, an infinite stretches of wavy grass at more than 1,300 m above the sea level.
Arbinje, centennial beech and juniper wood alongside the Dojkinačka river bed, a corridor for accessing Vražja Glava, Tri Čuke, Kopren and the Tri kladenca waterfall. A mixture of water, rocks, woods, with some of the coldest fresh water springs in Serbia. Hladna voda, Belčin dol are just some of the nooks and crannies of this wildwood pocket, one of the last remaining in this region.
Vrelo (Fountain), a holiday-homes settlement offering a couple of restaurants and accommodation facilities. Its name is derived from the nearby Veliko and Malo kraško vrelo (better known as Jelovičko and Brloško vrelo). Vrelo is the starting point for the ascent to Rosomački vrh, the way to Arbinje and Široke luke, large forest compounds situated by the Jelovička and Dojkinačka rivers, a sort of a traffic hub of Gornji Visoki.
8. Monasteries at Vrelo and the Rsovci village
The monasteries at Vrelo and Rsovci village, a cave shrine nearby Rsovci, a pine tree of undetermined age at close proximity to the village. The vicinity of the Vladikina ploča gorge and the Vladikina ploča cave spice up the charm of these sites. It should be noted that the access to these sites is highly demanding in terms of physical agility and fitness.
9. Slavinjsko grlo on the Rosomačka reka
Slavinjsko grlo on the Rosomačka river, a captivating sight of water erosion of limestone, several hundred meters away from the centre of Slavinje village.
10. The Kamenička or Sekonoška river
The Kamenička or Senokoška river, the entire stream to Jelov do and the Srebrna glava peak. It is possible to climb the plateau of peaks whose difference in height ranges from 50 to 100 m, which makes walking possible along the very crest of Stara planina for dozens of kilometres.
All the aforementioned sites are just a small portion of what Stara planina has to offer. They just give you a glimpse and, if you take this advice, can arouse your curiosity to start exploring further. Stara planina is sometimes gentle, and sometimes harsh, everything you experience there you have to multiply by four, every season offers a new view, winding down one and starting up another story about the mountain, people, life and nature.