Hiking through the Uvac Special Nature Reserve in Serbia

Uvac River Hike - Trail through gorgeous scenery

With a smile on his face, the man who checked us into our guesthouse in Sjenica reported that we were the first guests from the USA. Couple that with the vast majority of the license plates we passed being domestic from Serbia (unlike all of the other Balkan countries we’ve visited on this road trip), and we understand why so little information about the Uvac Special Nature Reserve is available in English.

This region, and even Serbia in general, seem to be further off the beaten path than other picturesque locales in neighboring countries. This is one of the reasons we were excited to visit!

The main draw in this southwestern Serbian area is the Uvac Special Nature Reserve, and more specifically, the Meanders section of the Uvac River. Our goal was to hike to the viewpoint to overlook the curvy limestone cutouts, but doing research online beforehand was confusing and time-consuming. We hope that this post makes things clearer for future travelers.

Uvac River Hike - Panorama from the Molitva Viewpoint

The panoramic viewpoint at Molitva, overlooking the Meanders of the Uvac River

Getting to the Trailhead

Although Nova Varos is the biggest town close to the Uvac Special Nature Reserve, we used Sjenica as a base for exploring the region as it was closest to the trailhead of the Molitva viewpoint hike.

To reach the trailhead, which starts at the camp at the base of the Uvac River, there’s a 2.3 km gravel road which starts about 7 km north of Sjenica (coordinates: 43°19’33.7″N 20°00’13.2″E) at the village of Krstac.

We read conflicting reports of the gravel road, where some people said it was fine and others mentioned it was rough. Our experience is that it was both. After turning from the main road, the loose gravel road is rather steep, but luckily, it’s also wide enough for 2 vehicles to easily pass each other. At the top of this first hill, the road forks, and you’ll want to take lower route on the left to make it to the camp.

After this fork, the road narrows and passing vehicles becomes more difficult, albeit somehow possible. We found it easiest to find a safe place to stop and let any oncoming car pass us. That seemed to work well for them, too.

About 300 meters from the camp, you’ll come to a crossroad before the route bears left down to the camp on river. This is where we decided to park the car and walk the rest of the way. This last section of the gravel road was too steep and too full of potholes for our liking.

Uvac River Hike - Gravel road with potholes

The potholes of the gravel road leading to the camp

Hike to the Molitva Viewpoint

Once you reach the camp, the trailhead is around to the right. Go past the restaurant and follow signs to the toilet (“Toalet”). The beginning of the 5km hike to the Molitva viewpoint is just beyond the wooden outhouse.

Uvac River Hike - Trailhead from the camp

The trailhead of the hike to the Molitva viewpoint

The hike itself is gorgeous. At the beginning, you walk through birch trees, providing you with the only shade you’ll encounter on the route. You’ll pass through meadows of tall, soft grasses, spotted with wildflowers of yellows, purples and white. If you’re lucky, you may get a chance to meet some horses, sheep and cows. All the while, you’re meandering alongside the green waters of the Uvac River.

Near the start of the hike, the trail forks and if you go left, you’ll come to a suspension bridge crossing the river. The bridge sways in the wind and bounces with your steps, so taking a side jaunt to visit it is well worth it.

Uvac River Hike - Suspension bridge

The suspension bridge over the Uvac River

From its start, the trail progressively climbs 247m in altitude to reach the Molitva viewpoint (1247m), but it’s not like summiting a single mountain. Instead, the hike has numerous ups and downs, so be prepared for that.

Uvac River Hike - Ligeia on the trail

Ligeia on the Molitva viewpoint trail

Uvac River Hike - Limestone cliff face

Rugged limestone cliff face along the hike to Molitva

Part of the hike takes you through private property. There are signs directing you along the way, so keep an eye out for “видиковац” (viewpoint). Although nowhere along the trail is its name signposted in Roman letters or anything referring to “Molitva”, it would be pretty difficult to get lost, as the path is quite well trodden.

Uvac River Hike - Signpost for the trail

Sign directing hikers to “видиковац” (viewpoint)

Uvac River Hike - Cow saying hello

Hello, there!

Uvac River Hike - Trail through gorgeous scenery

Beautiful rolling hills along the hike

When the sun comes out, the water shows off its bright green color, which complements the darker greens of the trees on its surrounding mountains.

Uvac River Hike - Beautiful view of the river

The bright green waters of the Uvac River

The Uvac River has carved out a winding course through the karst limestone rock. The constant current has eroded some sections away completely to leave an island in the middle of its flow.

Uvac River Hike - Part of the Meanders

Carved limestone island

Once you reach the Molitva viewpoint, you get the best vantage of the Meanders section, and tourists taking a boat ride appear tiny from so high up.

Uvac River Hike - Meanders with a boat

Can you spot the boat?

Griffon Vultures

Also, while you’re hiking, keep an eye out for some of the griffon vultures soaring overhead that call the reserve home. Thanks to conservation efforts, the population of these once-endangered scavengers is on the rise.

Uvac River Hike - Griffon vulture in the Uvac Special Nature Reserve

A soaring griffon vulture

Adult griffon vultures, nicknamed “King of Birds”, can have a wingspan of 3 meters. They’re strict scavengers, using their keen eyesight to spot a carcass the size of a rabbit up to 3.5 km up in the air.

Uvac River Hike - Griffon vulture on cliff

A griffon vulture on the cliff

They scavenge in groups, spreading out up to 3 km as they soar along the air currents. If one of them spots a dead animal, they change course and circle, which notifies the other vultures that a meal awaits.

Although feeding on carcasses sounds gross to us, vultures serve a very important role in the ecosystem. By breaking down decaying carcasses, they help to prevent the spread of disease.

Given its beautiful scenery and wonderful hiking opportunities, the Uvac region of Serbia will definitely become more popular to international tourists in the future. Because of this, we highly recommend visiting before it becomes a destination that’s more part of the beaten path.

Have you hiked the trail to Molitva?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.