The Danube is unquestionably the most iconic river in Serbia - the scenic ride following its flow uncovers many fortresses and cultural treasures only to end in the Djerdap National Park. However, one of the much smaller rivers challenges the Danube’s title, with the exquisite landscape that it carves in its 72-kilometer-long flow in Southeastern Serbia. Dangerous and delightful Jerma River Gorge pierces our memory with a hard-to-forget scenery and an enticing ride through the wildest of nature.
Powerful and untamed, the Jerma swirls graciously through the Serbo-Bulgarian border twice. Nestled between the mountains, the gorge is home to many endangered species like eagles, owls, and trouts. The rocks over the narrow road that almost form a tunnel, numerous ravines, infinite greenery and the burbling sound of fresh water, creates an atmosphere of a much more distant land (and naturally the Middle Earth comes to mind). The master sculptor of the landscape, the Jerma, contains fresh drinkable water in the largest part of its flow. There are several designated places where it's possible to get out of the car and absorb the outlook.
Even though the road following Jerma Gorge is one of the most beautiful in Serbia, it’s also one of the most dangerous ones. Sharp cliffs stabbing the sky some 200 meters from the ground, narrow parts of the road where two cars can’t pass each other, and stringed hairpin turns, are just some of the sights that make the drivers hold tighter to the steering wheel. Some of the ravines were completely impassable until 1927. At the time, a narrow-gauge railway was built to support the operations of the nearby “Rakita” mine. When the mine was closed in the 1960s, the part of the railway was rebuilt as an asphalt road to increase safety.
For the safest and most rewarding experience, it’s best to avoid during the winter and early spring, when the melting snow and rocks can cause additional damages to the road.
The closest town to Jerma Gorge is Pirot, famous for its traditional weaving style and the local delicacy hard cheese. The Mt. Stara Planina nature reserve is close by, ideal for discovering numerous waterfalls and old forests with an exotic feel. In fact, the area is great for discovering archaic Serbian traditions and untamed nature, just like the almost forgotten stone village Gostusa, or a stunning stream gorge of Rosomaca, that resembles the Grand Canyon.
The dangerous and delightful ride following the Jerma River Gorge in Southeastern Serbia will enhance your senses in many ways from the colors and landscape tickling your eyeballs, to the internal adrenaline rise. Beware, it’s very easy to get used to it.
Cover photo © Credits to iStock/Marko Ignjatovic
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