Looking at a geographical map of Europe, you wouldn’t expect to find any substantial amounts of sand on the continent, other than on the beaches and children’s playgrounds. While sunny Spain does have vast deserts, the biggest sandy terrain in Europe is actually found in an unlikely place, here in Serbia. Just an hour drive from the capital Belgrade resides the unique nature reserve of Deliblato sands, blending fine-sand dunes with blissful greenery.
A very rare terrain for trekking in Serbia, called the European Sahara, but the most suitable term might be the “Green Sahara”. It may seem curious, even mystical, to see how a desert appeared in what is well known as the most fertile region of Serbia. The plains of the Vojvodina region are almost completely covered with farms. The main culprit for this unusual relief is, as usual, the wind. Powerful easterly winds deposited sand over a long period of time, creating this landscape that sits beautifully among farmhouses and forests blessed by high levels of precipitation.
There are more than 900 species of plants in the area and some of them, such as the Banat peony, are endemic to this part of the world. Having 20 different kinds of orchids might as well be a world record for a desert!
All these life forms have made the Deliblato sands to become a special nature reserve, bound to enrich the lives of those who visit it.
The Stunning Birds of the Deliblato sands
If you’re an avid birdwatcher, you won’t be leaving Deliblato sands anytime soon. Imperial eagles and Banat falcons are just some of the birds that thrive in the region.
Their land cousins include gerbils, mole rats, skunks and plenty of other creatures often found in the steppes. There is also an abundance of large mammals such as deer, wild boars and even some last vestiges of wolves.
The Stunning Geology
This lovely nature reserve has ellipsoid shaped sand masses that are 15 kilometres in length. This entire desert originated from the Panonian Sea and was created by the winds that brought the sand here.
The abundance of life mentioned above is not only of interest to the scientists. While geographers, geologists and biologists will discover what this desert has to teach them, a visitor less experienced in these subjects will be amazed by this rich environment.
What most visitors notice at first glance, is that it seems the desert is in a constant struggle with life coming out all of all its spores. You simply don’t see various trees, flowers, and birds flourishing in the Sahara!
Hiking in Deliblato sands
There are several trails available for the adventurous hikers, but also some for mountain biking. While mountain biking in Serbia isn’t so popular, and riding in sands can be a little difficult due to the biodiversity of the region, there are two trails suitable for the adrenaline-seeking mountain bikers.
The trails are:
Trail 1 – Čardak – Vrela: circular walking path, total length – 12 km. Also suitable for mountain biking.
Trail 2 – Borovi breg: walking path in the shape of an 8, total length – 15 km. It is also suitable for mountain biking and jogging.
Trail 3 – Koprivić: circular walking pathway, total length – 7 km.
Trail 4 – Staza radosti: circular walking pathway, total length – 5 km.
Trail 5 – Eko staza: circular walking pathway, total length – 3,5 km.
Trail 6 – Staza života: circular walking pathway, total length – 3,5 km
As the sand doesn’t allow forestation and greenery to get too thick, wandering freely away from the trails can be done easily. Just make sure you know where you are going, and prepare beforehand, just to be safe.
Due to the softness of the soil, the Deliblato sands is also more accessible for older hikers or with reduced mobility.
Activities in Deliblato sands
When the main treks slicing through the greenery start to tire you out, the area offers other activities to try out. You can go to the Kraljevac special nature reserve, which is good for fishing.
Naturally, the sandy area is ideal for wine-making and on the other side of the nature reserve, surrounding the town of Vršac, you can visit the renowned wine-region and enjoy some wine tasting.
On the southern edge, you can visit the marshy area named Labudovo Okno (Swan’s Window) which is under an international conservation treaty. The marshes, ponds and river islands are considered one of the most important bird migratory habitats in the country and a great option for bird-watching.
Deliblato sands brings the best of both worlds as woodland and steppe vegetation meld together with soft sandy dunes making for a unique experience for the wanderers that few other places can provide.
The recreational and educational center Čardak
The recreational and educational center “Deliblatska peščara” – Čardak is located in the wooded part of the nature reserve, only 7 kilometers from the village of Deliblato. It consists of an administrative building, a restaurant (for 500 people), 7 pavilions (two renovated, with 130 beds), 3 groups of bungalows and a sport field. The center is surrounded by paths that are equipped with information boards, rest areas and lookouts. It enables a complete stay in nature for pupils, students and especially experts in biology.
Here you will be able to get information and seek help, take information material, buy authentic souvenirs and prepare local and international projects.
The Kaštel Marijeta
The Kaštel Marijeta is located in the hidden town of Šušara, in the heart of the nature reserve. If you enjoy nature, you will be fascinated by the untouched beauty of the landscapes around the property.
There are several walking or cycling paths that lead to the parts of the park of special beauty (Zagajička brda, Dumača, Korna, Labudovo okno).
In the vicinity are the rivers Karaš and Nera, the Danube canal, the Tisa, the prehistoric site in Dupljaja, the baroque town of Vršac and Bela Crkva with beautiful lakes.