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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.