17 Apr Rtanj // Serbia’s mysterious mountain
A favoured destination among adventurers in Serbia, Rtanj is a mountain of ever-changing scenery. Think pyramid-shaped peak, dense forestry, rocky landscapes and hidden halls and passages. Add to that a ruined church and an ice cave, a shroud of mystery, as well as countless legendary tales. You’ve got the makings of what is one of the country’s top adventure spots, period.
Located in Eastern Serbia, Rtanj is situated just 28 km north of Sokobanja and the same distance east of Zajecar. That means that places such as Felix Romuliana, Soko Grad and Bovan Lake are within driving distance. Each place is magical in its own right, though here’s a hot tip – head to the Bovansko Lake. From there you can get a different perspective of Rtanj before getting up close and personal.
Far from being Serbia’s tallest mountain, Rtanj reaches a height of 1,565 m above sea level. As you approach, you will notice that part of it is almost perfectly shaped like a pyramid. This is where many legends surrounding the mountain stem from. Some claim it was once a pyramid. Inside, there are said to be countless streams, corridors and caves. There’s also talk of an inexplicable energy along its slopes. Its highest peak, Siljak is said to absorb energy, while “Svetiliste” — located at the foot — exclusively emits energy. Interestingly enough, some parts of the mountain were recorded emitting higher radiation levels than many urban environments in the country.
The slopes of Rtanj are home to a number of endemic plants; protected by law and possessive of healing properties. You may find the famous Rtanj tea along these slopes. Once picked annually on the 7th of July, the plant is now banned from picking due to a decline in growth. If you’re lucky enough to meet some locals during your adventure, however, you might also be lucky enough to sip on some Rtanj tea.
Given all of the above, it’s the mountain’s landscape and hidden nooks and crannies that make it a top-notch adventure destination. Starting with its highest peak: Siljak is home to some of the most inspiring views in the country. It is said that the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers in Belgrade can be seen from the summit. You’ll have to hike for about 15 km before you reach the top. Your journey will start off easily enough, but it’s game on once you reach the bottom of Siljak. From there a steep incline awaits. Though, as the saying goes, “nothing good comes easy”.
When you get to the top you will immediately see the ruins of an early 20th-century church dedicated to St. George. It was built in honour of the late owner and founder of the Rtanj mining village located beneath the mountain. The church lays in ruin thanks to the efforts of greedy treasure hunters seeking to unearth rumoured gold that was supposedly hidden beneath. The gold was never found and the church was never rebuilt.
Two hidden gems are located near the very top of the Rtanj mountain. The first is known as the Chimney; a vertical tunnel that plummets to a depth of 450 m. The tunnel is distanced 110 m from the peak, is of an oval shape and has a diameter of 6 m. It is said that The Chimney emits some form of energy and is the reason that so many people come to Rtanj for healing purposes. The other hidden gem is known as the Ice Pit. Located on the southeastern side of Siljak, the Ice Pit is 50 m deep and is relatively easy to explore. As you make your way further in, the pit narrows until you enter a 10 m-tall hall that’s half underground. Here the temperature constantly varies between -4 C and -2 C, regardless of the time of year or outdoor temperature.
Tips & Essentials:
- Pack lightly. A 15 km-long hike awaits. Ensure you take water and food. Also, bring a rain jacket in case of a change in weather conditions.
- The hike to the top of Rtanj is testing. If you’re not an experienced mountaineer then only attempt to hike Rtanj during summer. Only experienced mountaineers attempt the climb during winter.
- Engage locals before you make your way up to mountain. You’ll here local legends and may even be lucky enough to get your hands on some Rtanj tea.
How to get to Rtanj:
Whether you’re travelling from Belgrade or Nis, the E75 Belgrade-Nis highway is the best way to get to the mountain. From there take the regional road that leads to Aleksinac and then turn right to head to the village Trgoviste. Once you pass through the Trgoviste make a right turn and head toward the village Muzdinac. Once there, continue until you see a macadam road on your left. Take that road and you will shortly arrive at the foot of the mountain.