Balkans Snow Trails

Serbia
January 4th – 9th 2021

When the snow blizzards start, the bears are long gone to their winter shelters and the wolves begin singing their winter song, people have already left the mountains of the serbian Carpathians, not to return until springtime. That is the season when our snow trails adventure through these desolate places starts, on unmaintained forest roads that nobody else needs at that time of year. Nothing is certain at this time when nature is deeply asleep. Reaching any place in the wilderness of these majestic mountains is an adventureous achievement! But, at the end of every day a cozy room at a little mountain hotel is waiting for you, often with thermal pools of natural hot water to relax in…

What? How long? How hard? How much?

Duration – 6 days
Hotel accomodation (HB service)
Estimated length – 500 km
Technical difficulty – easy to moderate
Capable AT tyres recommended, optionally MT (no snow chains necessary)

Price
1050 € per vehicle with driver + 250 € per each extra passenger

Where?

Tour start

Tour participants will be arriving during the tour day 0 (January 3rd) to the Ždrelo Spa resort and get their hotels rooms, after which they can enjoy their afternoon in the thermal pools of the aquapark, or just relax before the tour start on the next day. We will have a dinner together at 20:00, getting to know each other, and discussing what awaits us in the following days (precise instructions for reaching the starting point and other data important for conducting the tour will be emailed to the participants in the first week of December).

Ždrelo Spa hotel aquapark

On the morning of January 4th, after breakfast, we’ll make our first round in the lower altitudes of Homolje mountains, where we shouldn’t have a major problem with high amounts of snow. After the roundtrip has finished, we’ll return for another pleasent afternoon in the hot waters of the spa resort. On the next day of our tour we will pack up and start our journey towards some more serious ones of the serbian Carpathian mountains, where the first more substantial encounter with snow may happen. In case of a reasonably low amount of snow, we might have the privillege to ascend Beljanica, the highest peak of the Kučaj mountain range, which is normally, due to very harsh climate and strong winds making huge snowdrifts, inaccessible from December to April. If Beljanica is inaccessible, we will simply continue our exploration at slightly lower altitudes south of Beljanica.

Moving on

After the third night in the bungalows of an ethno resort near a waterfall, our advance into the heart of the Kučaj mountain range continues, venturing deep into the vast, uninhabited wilderness of Kučaj. Depending on the snow situation, we will make a shorter or longer winding trail through the kingdom of the Balkan wolves in a southerly direction, reaching the Sisevac Spa by the end of the day. There we will again have a chance to enjoy the nice thermal pools with first class accomodation.

Sisevac is located at the southwestern edge of Kučaj wilderness, being a good starting point for a number of attractive snow trails leading to points of interest, such as the Valkaluci hunting reserve or the unique Prskalo waterfall. We will certainly make a very attractive circle from Sisevac, with some luck breaking through the snow drifts in the central parts of Kučaj and reaching Veliko Igrište, the place with the biggest wolf population in Serbia. We return to Sisevac for another night in the spa resort.

Day five of the tour leads us through the central parts of Kučaj, towards the iconic Rtanj mountain, and the marvelous Ramonda hotel. Although Rtanj itself, as a very steep mountain, is inaccessible for a 4×4 ascent, it’s an impressive site, and there are very picturesque trails all around it.

The grand finale

The roundtrip that we will actually make on our final day of the tour, day six, will very much depend on the snow situation in the area. If the condition of the mountain roads permits, we will make a comprehensive tour of the eastern parts of Kučaj, featuring the Mikulj peak with it’s Novi Stjenik monastery, as well as touring some of the scenic viewpoints of Lazar’s canyon, before returning to Ramonda hotel over Malinik mountain. Should the situation with the snow turn out to be impassable, we will make an easier scenic roundtrip around Rtanj mountain, visiting several points of interes south of it (such as the Vrmdža village and lake, Seselac cave, etc.). Before you begin your journey back home you’ll get a chance to spend another night in the marvelous, four star Ramonda hotel.

The roads and trails that we will travel on are mostly unmaintained during the winter, as Kučaj is the largest completely uninhabited area in Serbia. Therefore, there is very little to no activity at this time of year (it’s usually visited only by hunters during the winter). The biggest part of Kučaj is a gigantic highland plateau, situated between 800 and 1000 m of altitude, so it’s not very high. But due to being isolated from the surrounding valleys, it has specific microclimate with very harsh winters, averaging a daily temperature of about -15 degrees in the central parts.

Having all this in mind, every venture into this territory during the winter is a considerably adventurous and bold move, offering no guarantees of success. The fact that most of this area also doesn’t have any mobile phone coverage makes the situation even harder, as there are no means to call for outside help. You can rely only on your own skill, and your team mates.

Our daily trails will be between 60 and 80 km long, exceeding that range only in cases we need to make a significant detour due to a direct connection to our goal being undrivable because of the snow. The endpoint of the tour will be the Rtanj village under the mountain of the same name, which is about 45 km away from the nearest motorway, connected by a very good quality major road (so you will be on the fast lane home in notime).

Accomodation

All four hotels that we stay in will feature 3 or 4 star standards, and three of them will have natural thermal water, or heated pools, two of them also offering a sauna.

We plan to leave our accomodation right after breakfast every morning, between 9 and 9:30, and to arrive to the next accomodation point before dark, if possible (around 16:00). However, delays may be possible in case of struggle with the unfavourable trail conditions. Dinner will be planned every evening at 19:00. Due to short winter days, we will not make any lunchbreaks during the day, but we will have shorter breaks that can be used for a snack, so you’re advised to have something with you in your vehicle for the snacks if you think breakfast and dinner are too far apart.

We will get a chance to refuel twice during the tour, so you shouldn’t have a problem with the range of your vehicle (you don’t need any spare fuel cans), unless you drive a petrol vehicle instead of diesel (in that case an extra 20 l fuel can is a good measure of precaution).

Tour requirements

Equipment of your vehicle for Balkans Snow Trails should include

  • AT tyres as required minimum, MT optional
  • a snow shovel + basic tools for your car maintenance
  • at least one kinetic rope for recovery
  • CB radio (in case you don’t have one, we will provide a hand held PMR radio for you)

You should also consider

  • Sillicone protective foil over your paint, as almost all offroad trails in Serbia are narrow, and therefore you will have contact with vegetation on daily basis
  • Winch is also strongly advised for winter tours (the incidence of getting stuck is at least 5x higher than in our summer tours)

Unlike some other tour operators, we do not require that you have a set of 4 snow chains for the tour. In our experience, the extra traction provided by snowchains will get you slightly further, but only slightly. When snow becomes too deep, even snow chains don’t help any longer. On the other hand, mounting (and dismounting) the snow chains in freezing weather conditions is a great inconvenience, and snowchains themselves are a serious hazard, as they add considerable weight to your wheels, easily damaging your wheel bearings and other components in extreme use conditions. And, in case of breaking chains, they can inflict considerable damage on hoses and other sensitive components too. So the potential damage from snow chains is greater than benefit.

After all, we do not regard our tours as extreme. That means that we’re not trying to push you and the vehicle to the very limit. We just want you to have a good, pleasent time in the Balkan winter, without crawling around your vehicle putting the chains on and taking them off all the time!

Tour price coverage

Tour price covers

  • our guide in his own vehicle, and tour guidance during 6 days
  • all fuel and other expenses for the guide vehicle
  • personal counceling before and during the tour
  • appropriate GPS data, that can be made available to the participants, if they have compatible hardware to upload the GPX files

Tour price does not cover

  • individual fuel and toll costs
  • individual food and drink expenses outside the HB service in hotels
  • mechanical servicing expenses by third parties
  • individual accomodation expenses before and after the tour (on your way to Serbia and back)
  • other individual expenses

What else you should know about the tour?

As mentioned, final details about how to reach the tour starting point from your home country, in the form of a Google maps link or GPX/KML file (as well as other details important for the tour), will be emailed to you approximately one month before the tour start. Please secure that you have your travel insurance before starting the tour, and make certain that you are informed about all the border crossing procedures and requirements that are in power, either in your home country, or the transition countries. We will inform you through the final introductory email what are the entry requirements of Serbia as the destination country. We expect you to arrive with a vehicle in good technical conditon, which can endure a week of winter overlanding. This tour will require average offroad experience and skills, but winter driving conditions can often be more demanding than driving in other seasons. During the tour a chance to refuel will be available each 200 km (petrol, diesel, LPG). All major credit cards (Visa, Master, 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 in the mountainous areas.

Image gallery from the tour area

Tour booking form

If you have any more questions,
ask your guide!

Invoice and payment instructions will be e-mailed to you upon filling out and sending this registration form