If you are in Serbia (or Romania), or especially if cycling Euro-Velo-6 route along the lower Danube, National park of Đerdap in East Serbia is a must-see.
To fully enjoy the sight, brief transition from ride to hike is necessary: it would be much appreciated by tired back and legs muscles, but the real award here, comes for the eyes…
Circular walking tour on Miroč mountain offers magnificent vistas over the narrow passage created by the mighty river: Welcome to the “Iron gates” of Danube.
Danube formed the gorge of Đerdap (Djerdap) through the south range of the Carpathian mountains, between the Pannonia plain on the west, and Dacia plain in the east.
With over 100km in total, it is the longest gorge of Europe. South side belongs to Serbia, north side to Romania.
The gorge starts at the “Danube Sea of Golubac”. Just before it enters the narrow section, Danube is at its widest: 14 kilometers is river wide across the famous fortress of Golubac to the Romanian shore.
It reaches its narrowest and most dramatic point in the strait of Mali Kazan, beneath the mountain of Miroč on Serbian side, opposite to Romanian plateau Ciucaru Mare.
According to Jovan Cvijić, famous Serbian geographer, Pannonia and Dacia-Black Sea basins were both filled with water millions of years ago. They were separated by a mountain range.
Several straits, located roughly along today’s Danube stream, connected these two seas. When sea-level started to drop, the water from the Pannonia sea flowed into the Black Sea creating the Danube as we know it. River terraces of Djerdap represent the evidence of this geological event.
Panoramic views are highlighted in a way that most of the walking time is actually spent in the woods. And then, after an hour or two of a steady pace hike, magnificent river vista suddenly opens – and so, at least three times on Miroč mountain!
For maximum joy and comfort, I recommend loop hike Mali Prilaz – Veliki Štrbac – Ploča. Counter-clock-wise direction offers several advantages, especially if accompanied by children:
- the hardest part, ascent to Mali Prilaz is done first, when concentration is high and legs are fresh;
- trail follows the sun. If you depart at 10 o’clock from the parking, you would reach Ploča in the magic hour (17-18h) (April-May);
- gradation of the sights: “save the best for last” (viewpoint Ploča).
It is possible to hike this route without a GPS device. However there are some critical points where orientation skills are required, since signposts are missing on site (status May 2017):
- Starting point of the ascent to Mali Prilaz is barely visible on the road,
- Turning point to Mali Prilaz viewpoint is not marked,
- Turning point to Ploča when arriving from Veliki Štrbac is not indicated.
If walking the opposite direction, main trail section Ploča – Veliki Štrbac is well-marked.
How to find the starting point of the trail and parking?
Some 20 minutes drive from the small town of Donji Milanovac, and after passing the “Tunnel Nr 4 (370m)” take the first parking on the left. There is a water fountain and a picnic table aside.
If you doubt your fitness level or navigation skills, head straight for Ploča viewpoint first. Walk 500m straight ahead, along the main road, until you reach the ramp on your right-hand side with a information board depicting the hiking trail to Veliki Štrbac. Follow the marked path from here.
If you prefer the loop described here, walk back from the parking area for some 200m along the main road. There is a small path that enters the forest to the left. Follow the single trail to Mali Prilaz (1,5h). Path is marked, visible with a few fallen trees laying over at some spots.
How to find Mali Prilaz?
After an hour and a half uphill hike, there is a big rock on top of the forest trail with some route indicators written. Right after passing it, there is a barely visible path that swings to the right, leaving the main track. Path would eventually disappear in the grass (depending on the season) but if you simply go further along the forested ridge, rocky viewpoint finally shows itself offering great vista over the river. This is Mali Prilaz.
Mali Prilaz (“Small entrance”) offers the upstream perspective of the strait of Kazan. Left shore is Romania, right shore (where standing on) is Serbia. Rocky plateau on the right side is Veliki Štrbac (768m) – next stage of this trail. Lower plateau on the Romanian side is called Ciucaru Mare (318m).
Be careful if accessing the rocks! Kids should stay on the edge of the forest, view is equally good.
Next 2 hours to Veliki Štrbac are a bit more dull. Trail goes through meadows and by semi-abandoned village farms before ascending the top of the plateau through dense beech forest.
It is the views why we visit Miroč mountain, but ancient oak and beech woods in the blossoming spring act as a healer…
Veliki Štrbac offers great side view of the passage and across into Romania.
Before the hydro-dam Đerdap near Kladovo was built, whole Djerdap gorge was infamous for shipping, demanding navigating virtuosity. To avoid the disaster, international crews were demanded to be be accompanied by a local skipper (called the “lotz”) to ensure safe pass for the vessel.
Section from Veliki Štrbac onwards is now dominantly downhill. Next point of interest is forest house – visitors centre “Ploča”. There is a fountain where you can refill your water. Before approaching the meadow where the house is located, there is a sign for Mali Štrbac which should be disregarded.
200m down the road from the house, pick up a path on the right hand-side to finally reach the viewpoint Ploča (arriving from Mali Prilaz and Veliki Štrbac). This intersection can easily be overlooked. There are no signs available so attention is required even if you are following a gpx track (attached below).
Some ten minutes after the junction, famous Danube postcard reveals itself.
Best view over Danube?
Well, arguably, yes!
Except the main viewpoint, when going further down the trail, two another spots appear with enjoyable views from slightly lower altitude.
Not far away, the forest single trail joins the gravel road arriving from the forest house and leading to the main road below, which is some 30 minutes away.
Loop saldo: 16 kilometers, 800m total ascent and magnificent views from Miroč viewpoints.
If you stumble upon the forest ranger, you will hear from him that it is mandatory to visit the National Park with a guide (for some very strange reasons). Ranger will however be pleased enough to cash some euros for visitor tickets (3 eur per capita). Do not enter any discussion, simply pay for the tickets and go your own way.
Detailed GPX file: Miroč 2017: Mali Prilaz – Veliki Štrbac – Ploča.