Early springtime mud fun in the mystical eastern Serbia
April 15th to 22nd 2017
April 1st to 7th 2018
The Homolje mountains are a place where green pastures and rich forests on steep slopes were home for shepperds for centuries. And the hidden valleys, like a maze well tucked away from civilization, inspired people to resort to magic and sourcery, so it's full of legends. But one of the strongest local traditions is that of gold panning in the rivers! So the locals will teach us that art, in the midst of touring caves of breathtaking beauty (also known as places of hidden gold), and conquering demanding offroad trails that surpass everything that you can expect in those, seemingly tame and pastoral hills. Embark on a unique early springtime 4x4 adventure!
Duration - 7 days (April 15th to 22nd 2017, April 1st to 7th 2018)
Price - 560 € per vehicle + 350 € accomodation per person
Approximate length - 800 km
Technical difficulty - moderate to hard
AT tyres minimum, MT recommended
Coverage of the tour area(precise tracks available to participants)
Day zero – meeting and arrival in Ždrelo spa
Upon gathering in Belgrade (the capitol of Serbia) in early afternoon, we’ll drive together in a convoy towards the Ždrelo spa, which will be the starting point of our Easter tour early next morning. There we’ll get our rooms in the spa hotel, and spend the rest of the evening enjoying the hot pools surrounded by early springtime landscape.
Day one – The main ridge of Homolje mountains
This will be a long, but very rich and exciting day, which will take us through the most attractive parts of Homolje. We start of with the legendary Trest forest, a place where mud is guaranteed even in the driest days of mid summer. In late March, it will be a real feast for “all we need is mud” enthusiasts, and a real test for your rigs. Those who dare to take the harder variation will probably have their winches busy too! After conquering Trest, we’ll climb up on Štubej, the highest peak of west Homolje, before making a short break for the visit to the Ceremošnja cave and lunch at the nearby ethno-restaurant. The day is far from being over! The long ridge of Homolje mountains brings us a wide range of exciting challenges, including the ascent on the magnificent Zdravča scenic viewpoint. From there we descend towards the Debeli Lug village and Majdanpek, the heart of the gold panning and mining region of north-east Serbia.
Day two – Gold panning day
We start the day by a visit to Rajko’s cave, a place where, according to the legend Rajko, a local Robin Hood, has hidden the treasure that nobody ever found. But the cave, with all the natural jewelry, is a treasure itself, a must see! After the cave, starts our 4×4 roundtrip of the mountains around Majdanpek, thoroughly covered by thick “jungle-like” forests. We’ll visit the attractive Starica peak before we plunge into the technically demanding “gold river” valleys, ending up in the village of Debeli Lug for a traditional ethno-lunch in the local tavern. After lunch we’ll move over to the Todorova river where we’ll spend a few hours having gold panning lessons by a legendary local gold panner, who’ll also tell you very exciting stories about his quest for gold around the world.
Day three – the gold mine and Stol (Gornjane ring)
Before we move out of the golden realm, there is another exciting and unique adventure to start day three with – a guided tour of the biggest Serbian gold mine, on the outskirts of Majdanpek. You will have the exclusive opportunity to drive through a huge no-access zone, seeing the gigantic dampers closeup (only one of their tyres weighs 3 tonnes and costs 40.000 Euros!), and the incredible scenery of the mine, which is something between the surface of the moon, and the purest part of Saharan desert. Yes, of course, you’ll get the opportunity to play in the fine sand by the acid lake, practice your sand drifting skills, but be careful not to dip into the lake! After the mine tour we’ll be escorted to the far side of the mine area, from where we’ll continue a dynamic offroad tour towards the Gornjane ring of mountains. We’ll have early lunch in an ethno-restaurant in Blizna, where we’ll again have an opportunity to try local delicacies, after which we’ll start a picturesque journey towards Stol mountain. We’ll wind up the day by reaching Bor lake, along the old mining railway line, now turned into an offroad trail.
Day four – A roundtrip of eastern Homolje
This will be a pure offroad fun day, where we’ll have a dynamic ride through a maze of forest trails of the eastern part of Homolje mountains, visiting several attractive peaks and viewpoints (the exact list depends on the weather conditions and possible existence of snow on the spot). We can again expect quite some mud and tricky stream and river crossings. At the end of the day we will return to Bor lake, where we’ll spend another night in the exqusite four star hotel.
Day five – Lazar’s cave and eastern Kučaj
Upon departing from Bor lake our first stop will be the famous Lazar’s cave, with a lengh of aroud 12 km the biggest cave in Serbia. After a half hour visit to the cave we’ll drive up northern slopes of Lazar’s canyon, stopping by for a 15-minute hike to visit an attractive scenic viewpoint, after which we’ll continue into the heart of Kučaj mountains. We’ll visit the Mikulj monastery, and the possibility to climb up on top of Mikulj peak on wheels will be highly dependent on the ground conditions. We continue through the vast forests and plains of Kučaj, stopping by for a little big of mud gameplay on Velika Brezovica, before proceeding towards Balašević hotel under Rtanj.
Day six – Southern Kučaj
Our quest around the forests of Kučaj continues, but with a short trip to Samanjac ridge first. From there we’ll visit the Grza spring, and than enter a maze of tricky forest trails to reach Sisevac, a nice spa resort at the western outskirts of the Kučaj range (a new chance to enjoy the thermal pools after the ride).
Day seven – closing the circle
From Sisevac, the route of the last day takes us to the unique Prskalo waterfall, as well as towards Valkaluci forest, the very geographical centre of Kučaj mountains. From there we’ll attempt to cross the main ridge and descend back to “civilization” through Vinatovača rainforest and down the attractive Resava canyon, ending up in the offroader’s village of Lipovica, where we’ll have our farewell lunch on the Milanović ranch. Just several more kilometres, and our early springtime quest of eastern Serbia is over – we’ll reach the paved roads, and head towards the highway and our homes.
Eastern Serbia is an area where hotels are hard to find – being a wild camper’s kingdom, it isn’t easy to find comfortable accomodation spots, and plan attractive daily 4×4 rounds at the same time. But we managed to do just that, and provide the very best of hotel accomodation eastern Serbia has to offer for you! We’ve chosen three and four star hotels, and four out of five of them offer thermal pools and welness facilities, so you can get extra relaxation after your daily 4×4 rounds in the wild. All but one of them are outside of urban areas (only the Golden Inn hotel is in the centre of the small gold-diggers town of Majdanpek), and they are surrounded by beautiful scenery. These images depict the contents and comfort level they will offer you.
Throughout the facilities you can count on wi-fi internet access, plenty of parking space is available, and everywhere we have delicious cuisine with local specialties from eastern Serbia. During the tour most of the days we will have lunch at local restaurants, and on two days we’ll have lunch packages for picnic in the wild.
Equipment of your vehicle for Homolje Gold Rush should include
- AT as minimum, but MT tyres recommended in the very muddy early springtime conditions
- a shovel, a compact axe, and a saw
- 1 or more snake-ropes for recovery
- CB radio
We also highly recommend
- Protective foil over your paint (especially important in the narrow, thick growth Homolje trails – expect significant scratching without them)
- winch (it will make recovery in hard situations a lot simpler)
- lift kit (will make conquering trails with deep tyre tracks a lot easier)
Vehicles with low gear are mandatory
For this tour the meeting point will be in Belgrade, the capitol of Serbia, from where we’ll travel in a convoy to Ždrelo spa (you’ll be supplied with detailed access instructions, coordinates and GPX/KML tracks from your hometown to meeting point). Final details will be mailed to you timely. Please secure that you have your travel insurance before starting the tour. We expect you to arrive with a vehicle in good technical conditon, which can endure a week of offroading in the very demanding, muddy conditions of early springtime. This tour will require at least average offroad experience and skills. During the tour a chance to refuel will be available each 200-250 km (petrol, diesel, LPG). All major credit cards (Visa, Master, Maestro, etc.) work in Serbia (both on ATM machines and for paying goods), but it’s advisable to have a small amount of cash for small expenses.
This tour was designated as a hotel tour because of the early spring season, when low temperatures are still possible (and even snow). However, if camping would be ok with you and you’d like to camp on suitable ground near our accomodation facilities (on all, or some nights), please declare your camping interest in the registration form.
For more details please consult the 4×4 addendum to the Terms and Conditions of Rustika Travel.
Tour price covers
- one adequately equipped guide vehicle with our guide
- all fuel and other expenses for the guide vehicle
- personal counceling before and during the tour
- appropriate GPS maps and data, that can be made available to the participants, if they have compatible hardware
- accomodation costs on HB basis
- lunch in restaurants and picnic lunch packages
- tickets for caves
- access fee for the Majdanpek mine tour
- gold panning demonstration and short course
- farewell dinner
Tour price does not cover
- individual fuel and toll costs
- individual food and drink expenses outside those listed above
- servicing expenses by third parties
- individual accomodation expenses before and after the tour (on your way to Serbia and back)
- other individual expenses