Serbia Road Trip: Sensational Self-Drive Itinerary
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Serbia Road Trip
You may have preconceptions of what it is like to road trip through Serbia — we certainly did. We worried about how safe it would be and whether foreign visitors would be welcome.
You can put that idea to rest. Our Serbia road trip was full of stunning scenery, interesting history and oodles of helpful and friendly people. Road-tripping in Serbia is the perfect way to explore this landlocked country, either on its own or as part of a larger Balkan road trip.
Serbia, once part of Yugoslavia, has beautiful mountains, and historic cities and as of now, remains off the tourism radar. It is home to the UNESCO-listed Djerdap National Park and its historic capital city, Belgrade, sits at the meeting point of two major rivers, the Sava and the Danube.
Nikola Tesla, the famous engineer and physicist, was born here and another son of Serbia, with more recent fame, is Novak Djokovic, one of the world’s top tennis players.
However, Serbia still suffers from 60% youth unemployment with many of its talented youth leaving Serbia to live and work elsewhere, a phenomenon termed, Brain Drain. Perhaps, as Serbia attracts more tourism, this will help buoy economic recovery.
We spent a year travelling through Europe in a campervan, and have to say that the Balkan people were some of the most amiable that we came across.
Information You’ll Find in this Serbia Road Trip Post
Stopovers and motorhome sites in Serbia for this road trip
Advice on driving in Serbia
An interactive map with places to visit on a Serbia road trip and motorhome overnight spots
Handy tips to make your motorhome tour of Serbia as stress-free as possible
Serbia Road Trip Interactive Map
How to Use This Interactive Serbia Map
To use this map, expand it using the square symbol on the top right-hand side and you will find the key on the left-hand side. By clicking each location you will find extra information.
For example, each of the Campervan overnight stops on the Map has a web link to Camper Contact where you can view the facilities available, the price, opening times, and useful user reviews on each Serbia motorhome campsite.
Orange motorhome icon = Motorhome overnight stops
Purple location icons = Places to visit
Where to Road Trip in Serbia
We entered Serbia after road tripping through Bosnia-Herzegovina and began our Serbian road trip wild camping in a car park in Gornja Koviljaca. We hadn’t been able to find the campsite we were heading for — not the first time on our Europe trip, I must admit.
Actually, we thought we were wild camping, but we had in fact found the campsite and just didn’t realise it! It wasn’t until I wrote this post, and looked for the camper site we were trying to find that I found out. It was a free park for us but usually, you’d be required to pay …Whoops.
Our Serbia Road Trip itinerary:
Our 5-day Serbia Road Trip:
River Danube and Derdap National Park
Iron Gate Gorge
Decebalus Rck Sculpture
Nis Skull Tower
Driving into the outskirts of Belgrade and passing the stark apartment blocks was a reminder that rule under Communism didn’t end that long ago. It came to an end in 1990, when Serbia was still part of Yugoslavia. It wasn’t until 2006 that Serbia became independent.
Below, we’ve listed some of the best sites to visit in Belgrade but there are plenty more to see if you are in Belgrade for longer than a day.
The main attraction in Belgrade is its Fortress, Kalemegdan which has been destroyed and rebuilt over 40 times over the centuries. A sign of Serbia’s turbulent past.
Belgrade is known locally as Beograd (white city) because the fortress was built on a white ridge overlooking the converging rivers below.
From the ramparts of the fortress, there are fantastic views across the Danube and Sava Rivers and the surrounding park, Kalemegdan Park, is the largest and prettiest park in the city.
Trg Republic Square
Trg Republike is the main square of Belgrade, a popular meeting place. You’ll also find the National Museum, National Theatre, Prince Mihailo Monument and Tourist information around the square.
Indeed, it was at Republic Square that we met our guide for our Free Walking Tour of Belgrade. We’d recommend taking part in a free tour, or booking a guided tour, to appreciate the history of the city and to hear first-hand accounts of what life is like in Serbia.
Sitting proud upon his horse in the centre of the square is the Prince Mihailo (Michael) Monument, considered a monument of great cultural importance. It was set up in 1882 in honour of the liberation of Belgrade from the Turks. Mihailo Obrenović (1823-68), the Prince of Serbia, played a monumental part in freeing Serbia from Ottoman (Turkish) rule in 1867. However, his assassination in1868, cut short his reign.
Interesting Fact about Statues on Horses:
If the horse has one leg raised it shows that the rider was assassinated
With two legs raised, the rider died in battle
With all four legs down, and none raised, the rider died of natural causes
The National Museum in Trg Republik is finally open for visitors after being closed for 15 years, for supposed renovations. It displays artifacts and art representing Serbia’s history and culture.
Note that the museum is closed on Mondays and entrance is free on Sundays.
Skaradlija (Bohemian Quarter)
Skaradlija (or Skadarska Street) is the Bohemian area of Belgrade and dates back to the 1830s when it was known as the Gypsy Quarter, and not surprisingly this was due to the number of gypsies living there. Later, artists, poets, writers and musicians frequented the area and it is now filled with colourful facades, cafes and quirky shops.
Sava Temple is one of the largest orthodox churches in Europe and was built, in the main, from donations, including funds from President Putin of Russia.
The Temple is an impressive building, built on the site where St. Sava’s remains were burnt on a stake.
St. Sava was the original founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church. St. Sava died in 1235, but as an insult to the Serbs, in 1594, the Turkish rulers, who ruled over and persecuted the Serbians for five centuries, brought the Saint’s coffin to Belgrade and burnt it at the stake. St. Sava was the original founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
In 1885, ten years after the Serb’s liberation from the Turks, the idea came to build a church on the site. However, the first stone wasn’t laid until 1935 and then, due to communist rule and wars in the interim, construction on the temple wasn’t resumed until 1985. It finally opened its doors in 2004, but the artwork and mosaics are still being completed.
The inside consists of massive spaces with ceilings and walls glimmering with intricate artistic murals and mosaics. An incredible and enormous building.
The Question Mark Kafana
The Question Mark restaurant is the oldest kafana (traditional restaurant) in Belgrade. In 1892, the kafana was called, ‘By the Cathedral’, but the church authorities banned the name and the ‘?’ was only meant to be a temporary name. However, the name has stuck.
We recommend stopping here for a spot of lunch and sampling the local Serbian cuisine.
After leaving Belgrade, we suggest driving along the scenic gorges of the Danube and visiting Golubac Fortress. Built in the 14th century, this medieval fortress consists of a palace and nine towers.
There are various ticket prices depending on how much of the fortress you want to explore. Visiting the towers does need a good level of fitness as the stairs are steep and narrow. Its scenic location, on the edge of the Danube and surrounded by the Djerdap National Park, makes for some stunning views.
Djerdap National Park
The Derdap National Park (also known as Djerdap and the Iron Gates) became a UNESCO geopark site in 2020. The park stretches for 100km alongside the banks of the Danube, beginning at the medieval Golubac Fortress and ending at Novi Sip. The scenery is stunning along this route and there are plenty of parking spots for photo opportunities.
Make sure you don’t miss the huge 40 metres high rock sculpture of Decebalus built into the opposite side of the gorge, the Romanian side of the Danube. This is the face of the last King of Dacia (87-106 AD) and is the tallest rock sculpture in Europe. It took 12 sculptors, 10 years to complete this incredible carving which was completed in 2004.
Nis Skull Tower (Ćele Kula)
One of the most interesting places to visit in Nis is the Skull Tower. For us, it was a particularly moving experience, which I shall tell you more about in a moment. But first, let’s find out why it exists at all.
A small innocuous-looking chapel sits in the middle of a park in the centre of Nis. A 15 feet tower, embedded with human skulls, is entombed within. Originally the Nis Skull Tower held 952 skulls, but over time many have perished and as of 2022, only 58 remain. They are reminders of the brutality of the Ottoman Empire occupation in the early 19th Century.
At the Battle of Cegar, in 1809, outnumbered by advancing Turkish (Ottoman) forces, the Serbian rebel leader, Stevan Sinđelić, refused to surrender and set off an explosion killing not only himself, but his men, and many of the attacking Ottoman Army.
As a deterrent, to other Serbs thinking of rebelling, the Turks decapitated the Serbian rebel’s bodies. They stripped their scalps, stuffed the skulls with cotton and shipped them back to the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II.
He then ordered the building of the tower in Nis, which consisted of 14 rows of skulls facing out from the four sides of the tower. Sinđelić’s skull was placed at the very top.
But what made our visit exceptional was the ceremony we accidentally interrupted.
We hadn’t checked its opening times and on arrival at the church, saw a sign saying it was closed. We went into the park anyway to take some photos from the outside. On the off chance that I might be able to get a glimpse inside, I tried the door handle, fully expecting it to be locked.
A tall gentleman in full military uniform opened the door. I apologised, realising we were interrupting something but he ushered us inside.
About 15 servicemen were crowded into the tiny chapel, all standing around the central skull tower. Almost as soon as we entered, they began singing.
It was an incredibly moving experience. The song rebounded off the walls of the tiny chapel, echoing across the skulls in the tower. The group of men included representatives from all arms of the Serbian military, and even though the words were foreign to us, the sentiment was clear.
I started recording, but then I felt it might be disrespectful, so I stopped and just listened instead. I wish I’d kept recording the song at least. The part of the song I did capture is included in this short video – it’s only 26 seconds long but gives you a taster of this incredible experience.
After driving 153 km from Nis, we based ourselves at a camper stop in Mataruska Banja, at Okanik Sports Centre (a popular winter ski resort). There are steep windy roads around the area but several interesting sites to visit.
The attractive 13th-century Zica Serbian Orthodox Monastery is just 3km from here and approximately another 50km further along, is the UNESCO-listed Studenica Monastery.
On the road from Mataruska to the Studenica Monastery, at about the 17-kilometre mark, you’ll see the ruins of the Maglic Fortress, high on the hill. These are the ruins of a 13th-century castle and fort that once guarded the only road to the valley and protected the Studenica Monastery.
If you are in the area at the beginning of July, each year the “Merry Ride’ festival takes place in the River Ibar. From the foot of the Maglic Fortress, all manner of boats and floats make their way along the River Ibar from here to Kraljevo.
Planning Your Serbia Road Trip
If you are travelling from Bosnia-Herzegovina, it’s easy to join this road trip anywhere in Serbia. However, if you are starting your road trip in Serbia then we would recommend beginning your trip in Belgrade.
If you are a city lover, then before travelling east towards the Djerdap Gorge, we would suggest you head north to Serbia’s second city, Nova Sad.
Depending on time and insurance requirements you may also wish to take a detour into neighbouring Romania or Bulgaria. Our motorhome travel insurance wouldn’t cover us in those countries for some reason, so unfortunately we still have them on our list of countries to visit.
The Serbia road trip route we took before returning to Bosnia Herzegovina was as follows:
Gornja Koviljača to Belgrade — 154km (3 hours)
Belgrade to Brza Palanka via Iron gate Gorge — 272 km (5 hours)
It helps to have a sense of humour when road-tripping through foreign countries. We created a tension-defuser tactic early on in our road-tripping days and when things are going amiss, we often morph into our driving personas of Lady Penelope and Parker. It gives us a laugh and reminds us to go with the flow.
Serbia Campervan Rental
On our travels through Europe, we found that the Motorhome Republic was able to negotiate a much better deal than we could get when we tried going to the motorhome rental companies ourselves – and they did all the hard work! We are now affiliated with them because we were so impressed with them.
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Also, remember to check as to what campervan accessories come with the motorhome and whether the price includes them.
Winter tyres and snow chains if you’re driving between 1st November to 1st April.
Driving in Serbia requires adjusting the beam pattern to suit driving on the right so that the dipped beam doesn’t dazzle oncoming drivers. You can purchase inexpensive beam deflectors to adjust the beam.
Main headlights or dipped headlights must be on during day and night
Horns must not be used in built-up areas, or at night unless there is imminent danger
Trams have priority over all other vehicles. Priority must also be given to cyclists using cycle tracks
Serbia Toll Roads: The main motorways connecting to Belgrade have tolls. To avoid them you can program your navigator to avoid tolls and you can also use https://www.tolls.eu/serbiato plan your trip and find out the costs of tolls which are collected at the toll gates and can be paid with Serbian dinar, euro or credit card
Speed Limits are as follows unless otherwise signposted and on dry roads
120 -130 km/h (80 mph) on motorways
80 km/h -100 km/h (50 mph) outside urban areas
50 km/h (31 mph) in towns and cities.
Emergency Number: 112
Handy Information for Road Tripping in Serbia
Currency: Serbian dinar
Thank you = Hvala (HVAH-lah)
Good day, hello = Dober dan
Yes = Da
No = Ne
Serbia uses the Cyrillic alphabet, but also the Latin alphabet (universal script) on most signs
Water is safe to drink from the tap
Serbia Road Trip … That’s a Wrap
Serbia was a complete surprise, and in the future, we want to go back and spend a more leisurely time road-tripping there. Five days was just enough to get a feel and a taste of what this country has to offer but we need more time to explore its mountains and National Parks.
Have you been to Serbia — what are your favourite nature spots? Let us know for our next road trip through Serbia.
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