24 Feb Tara Canyon

I remember driving though the Tara canyon with my parents as a child…I still have vivid memories of my brother and me in the back of the car, completely silent and immersed in the fast, bubbly, crystal clear water, luscious forests and pebbly terraces all around us.  But I realised that my memories were like faded, old Polariods, because when I visited Tara canyon again last year, it was so much more beautiful and vibrant than I remember. It was breathtaking.

It’s one of those special places that you have to visit and experience sights, smells and sounds to understand why it is so special. Words are simply not powerful enough to describe this stunning region.

Tara Canyon is UNESCO World Heritage Site – it is the deepest and longest canyon in Europe with up to 1.3km depth and 78km length, second in the world after Colorado and the biggest European supply of drinking water. It offers one of the best rafting experiences in the world, alongside Colorado and Zambesi rivers and it hosed World Rafting Championships in 2009.

I went on a rafting trip with a group of friends. First up, we visited Perucica forest and nearby Skakavac waterfall and Trnovacko lake.  It is a part of national park Sutjeska which includes the highest peak of mount Maglic on the border with Montenegro. And while the hike was challenging, it was worth the stunning views!

We then made our way to the camp, in the very heart of the Tara Canyon.  The camp was so picturesque with gorgeous wooden mountain huts scattered everywhere, wooden tables, benches and hammocks in the shade with the best river views a stone throw away.

And then there was food and hospitality… If you are from this region, then you know that food is part of our culture and who we are. Time with family and friends is shared over homemade traditional meals and you will always be asked to eat some more and out of respect you have to say yes.

At night, a camp fire was lit in the middle, surrounded with the tables, where dinner was served – mouthwatering local ethno roasted lamb and veal with potatoes, so simple and yet so delicious. With camp fire still going strong and after a few ‘rakijas’, the sounds of tamboura, acoustic guitar and accordion filled the night air. It was a truly magical experience.

The next morning, we woke up to the sweet smell of fresh bread from the oven and just made ‘ustipci’. These crispy fried balls of dough are delicious on their own, with jam or dusting sugar, but that morning, we have cut them open and while still steaming hot, filled them up with ‘kajmak’, smooth salty cheese like spread typical of these regions and homemade prosciutto and cured meats. It was possibly the best breakfast I have ever had!

After filling up on some delicious food to give us energy for what’s ahead, we got decked out in full rafting gear – wet suit, life jacket, helmet and a paddle – and went rafting along the most exciting part of Tara river.  An absolute adrenaline rush and the best experience ever. The rafting lasted approximately 3 -4 hours with photo breaks and compulsory selfies that would make any Instagramer jealous. We went swimming in the most picturesque spots and visited Tara’s coldest tributary Sipcanica creek. At the end point, mouth of rivers Tara and Piva, hot showers were awaiting for us and more glorious food at the local restaurant.

So make sure you add this one to your bucket list and trust me, you will not be disappointed. It was one the most amazing and unforgettable experiences I have ever had. The nature, the adrenalin, the food, this trip has it all.  But don’t take my words for it, check it out for yourself. It is an easy two day break from hustles and bustle of the cities and a time to relax, unwind and return to the nature. Enjoy and happy rafting!

Dusan Bejatovic

Nature lover, thrill seaker, globe trotter

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