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  • Writer's pictureMatthias

Of views and vultures

If you enter the word 'Serbia' into a popular internet search engine, it's probably gonna be a certain natural wonder that pops up on most of the image results. The meander of the Uvac gorge, with its about a dozen twists and turns, is unarguably one of Serbia's most striking – and for a change even internationally known – landmarks. More than that, in a way the river canyon is a perfect representation of tourism in the country: a breathtakingly beautiful piece of Earth, but hardly developed for visitors and not necessarily easy to access. Officially there is only one viewpoint, Molitva on the right bank of the northernmost bend, but if you look for your own way, you will probably find one. Possibly even further below in this article...

Photo by Sanja Kostić

Located amidst the southwestern regions of Nova Varoš and Sjenica and traversed by the river Uvac – that creates a natural border to Bosnia and Herzegovina further west – the canyon has more or less become a natural symbol of Serbia. And regardless of what you think about terms like that, standing on one of the ridges up to 1,320 m high and looking down at the numerous bends of the limestone rocks, shaped by the water up to an angle of 270°, it kinda makes perfect sense. Uvac is indeed a unique miracle of nature and offers a sight to behold.

Photo by Sanja Kostić

And while it might have become a natural symbol of Serbia, the canyon itself in turn has its very own: the griffon vulture. Not too many years ago this scavenging bird was critically endangered and on the verge of extinction in the country. But a special fund for this species' protection has made it possible to build several feeding stations serving dead stock (yummy!). That helped to increase the vulture's population to around 300 specimens again – most of which live, breed and fly on the slopes of Uvac. Often enough not only on eye level, but so close that you feel like petting them in flight.

But of course not only the griffon vulture is enjoying the nature and the view (and the menu!) of Uvac and granted this place its "special nature reserve" status in 1971. Altogether it's 140 bird species (among them wallcreeper, owl, kingfisher and the also endangered golden eagle), a large number of bats and otters (some on the European Red List) as well as over 200 plant species (three of international importance, three endangered, 25 under controlled picking and trading and 50 with medicinal properties) that happily and safely thrive on the reserve's grounds of 75 km².

Another special feature of Uvac is the largest cave system in Serbia, the Ušac cave (Ušačka pećina), altogether 6,185 m long and consisting of three connected caverns. Its entrance, located right above the water of the river, is often submerged, but several boat tour services offer guided access to this hidden underworld.

Photo by Sanja Kostić

If you wanna enjoy the spectacular views on gorge and vultures, you don't need to rely on the official Molitva viewpoint with its pretty wooden panorama balcony. I would rather recommend to go to Veliki vrh, on the left bank just ahead of Molitva (just follow the handmade signs after exiting the country road – careful, it tends to get a little off-roady). Not only is the view from here splendid, you can also upgrade it with hot and cold drinks as well as excellent fresh pancakes from the small wooden coffeeshop Markove Kolibe (Mon-Sat 12-8 pm). And to add just one more thing on those griffon vultures: a 15-20 minute walk upriver through the forest will take you to an excellent spot for watching them fly.

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