Higher altitude: A winter holiday on Kopaonik Mountain, Serbia
January 1, 1970
Did you know that the largest ski-resort in Southeastern Europe is based in Serbia? The National Park of Kopaonik on the southern edge of the border boasts 25 ski-lifts, making it difficult to conquer all the slopes even in the space of a week. Ideal for adventurous ski-ers and snowboarders, this place will leave you wanting more.
The Kopaonik mountain range was once the centre of the Serbian medieval state, with fortresses built and scattered across the region. It was also a place where battles were fought against the Axis powers during World War II. Kopaonik is rich in history as well as perfect for winter sports, offering various options for those there to ski, and those who are spectating.
Learn how to ski or snowboard
There are plenty of opportunities to learn how to ski or snowboard, or advance your skills with the professional instructors available from the different schools. Many schools offer packages for 2 or 4 lessons per day from 1 day or week-long passes, with lunch and insurance included.
Renting ski gear is also available from the 8 different stores in the centre of the ski-resort.
To ride on the slopes, you will have to purchase ski passes, and the following pricelist is available to help you decide how long you want to stay!
What can you do apart from skiing and snowboarding?
If you’re like me, not very experienced in the world of winter sports and prefer a relaxed approach to your holiday, there is still plenty to see and do.
You can enjoy the snow
There are many rides and activities you can enjoy on the ski-field. You can go bob-sledding, tubing, sledding, jetskiing, riding on the zipline, or the chairlifts. Don’t forget to make a snowman or start a snow fight!
Chill out in the hot spas
Relax in the spas available in hotels and accommodations which range from 1400 – 6000 RSD to use for the whole day, or if you are pressed for time you can also pay to use spas with thermo-mineral water for 30 mins for a minimum of 200 RSD.
In small alleys, around the centre, and out on the roadside you can find stalls selling authentic food, drinks, and clothing. From traditional knitted clothes to dry meats and cheeses, and home-brewed rakija, if you want authentic Serbian souvenirs, this is a great place to find them.
Go on a day tour
If you get a little tired of the mountain top, you can take a day tour and explore the history of this region of Serbia. Visit medieval monasteries and churches, UNESCO heritage sites, try wild fruit and wine, and indulge in the ethnic specialties of Serbian cuisine. The tours take you across a vast area of Southwest Serbia and last approximately 8 hours.
In the centre of the ski-field you can find nightclubs such as ‘Caffe Club Bomardier’ or ‘Vrh Club’, however if you are interested in the hidden bars of the mountain, you will have to take your car and explore the different roads around the ski-field. For a guaranteed great night out with frequent live music is ‘Rtanj B’ located on one of these side roads. You’ll have to ask the locals for directions.
But you may also decide to time your visit for the main event. Since 2016, Kopaonik ‘Music Week’ has attracted many visitors (including myself) to see the best Serbian pop-stars in concert. In 2018, a variety of artists performed during 8th – 18th March, although the dates vary from year to year. But prepare to shell out around 35 Euros for a ticket (and more if you want to reserve a table), in an atmosphere where you’ll want to dress to impress.
Food to warm the belly
After a day of enjoying the snow, you’ll crave a hearty soup, gulash, or a cup of mulled wine – the mountain range has plenty of choices to satisfy your appetite. For a chic and quiet atmosphere to enjoy food and coffee, go to ‘Maglić’ restaurant. For traditional meals try ethno restaurant ‘Kljunac’ in the centre, or down the hill ‘Komita’ which serves up the best gulash I have tasted (and I love my gulash). For a restaurant with a view, take the chairlift to ‘Pančićev vrh’ to enjoy ‘Vrh’ one of the newest joints on the mountain.
If you happen to be in a bit of a rush to your ski lesson or back home on the bus, you can pick up hot dogs, cream buns, and coffee from the stalls on the ski-field.
There are 2 supermarkets in the centre of the ski-field area. Also dotted around many of the apartments and hotels are small convenience stores called ‘AS Market’.
Getting there, getting around, and places to stay
The main bus station in Belgrade takes you directly to the ski-field. A return ticket to Kopaonik will cost you around 2500 RSD, with a journey of about 5 – 6 hours. If you have a car, it’s going to be much easier for you to explore this vast area as well as stop to see some of the more historic sites in the nearby towns.
The best and most expensive places to stay are located in the centre of the ski-field, such as ‘Grey Hotel’, ‘MK Resort Grand Hotel’ and ‘Hotel Angella’ boasting 4 and 5 stars – book your spots in advance of the ski season to get the best deals. However, there are plenty of apartments to rent all over the mountain. Accommodation such as ‘Zoned’ includes regular shuttle transport to the ski-field, and ‘Milmari Resort’ includes use of the ski-bus (more details below). I stayed at a lovely and inexpensive apartment called ‘Dobrićin Konak’ which conveniently has the bus stop for the ski-field right outside its doorstep, as well as the bus stop to take you back to Belgrade.
If you didn’t come by car, to get around the place you can purchase ski-bus passes for 3, 5 or 7 days. A daily return ticket for the journey is 250 RSD. The buses come every hour, the first bus leaving at 8.30am and the last returning at 5pm from the centre.
Taxis are also available at a price between 600 – 900 RSD for a one-way trip. Don’t count on being able to walk to the ski-field – in the winter there is little space for pedestrians to walk up and down the mountain due to the paths being very narrow with snow heaped up on the side.
An unforgettable holiday experience set in the beautiful mountain ranges of Serbia, I know I’m definitely coming back for another dose of winter fun next season – I hope you will be coming too!