Balkans Eurail adventure from Belgrade to Bar
Of all the train journeys in the Balkans, the Belgrade to Bar route is possibly the most spectacular in terms of scenery and engineering. It was named by the National Geographic as one of the top 10 European train trips. This spectacular route takes you through the back roads of Serbia and Montenegro, crisscrossing their villages, lakes, and mountains along the way.
This train journey captures the romance of travel not just with the beauty of the landscapes but also for the train experience itself. Expect Soviet-style carriages and velvet-green seats from the 1970s, but also prepare for engaging conversations with warm and friendly Balkan folks. This train promises a journey into the heart of the Balkans and its people.
The Belgrade to Bar train route
The train journey starts off on a lackluster note as you leave the urban sprawl of Belgrade behind and continue through the suburbs of Vreoci, Lazarevac and Lajkovac. Once the train passes Valjevo, the railway crosses the Gradac River. It then weaves its way through the gentle green hills of Užice, followed by the remote villages of Zlatibor region.
At this point, the scenery starts to become more interesting. The railway passes through Bosnia and Herzegovina for 6 miles, near the town of Štrpci. Although the train doesn’t stop here, you’ll get a chance to catch a brief glimpse of the back roads of the country.
Constructed in 1976, the railway itself is a great feat of engineering considering the terrain it has to traverse. This part of Serbia and Montenegro is peppered with meandering rivers, tumultuous mountains, and narrow canyons. To navigate all this topography is a challenge on its own.
Almost a quarter of the railway’s total length is made up of external structures. There are over 254 tunnels and 435 bridges throughout the entire voyage. The biggest and the best known bridge is Mala Rijeka viaduct. At 498m long and 198m above ground level, it’s one of the highest railway viaducts in the world. The track then runs alongside the jade-colored Lim River and crosses the border into Montenegro.
At this point, customs officers will board the train to conduct passport checks. Be sure to get your documents ready. Border checks usually take no more than one hour, but it depends on the officers.
After leaving the border, you’ll reach the highest point of the route, at 3,386 feet above sea level, in Kolašin. This is when the journey becomes even more dramatic. On both sides of the train, you’ll see impressive mountains soaring into the sky and the Moraca River winding beneath the tracks. The tracks also cross through a side canyon here by way of the Mala Rijeka viaduct.
Many passengers usually alight at Podgorica, the capital city of Montenegro. Arrival into Podgorica is quite surprising for many, as the capital appears smaller than most would imagine.
After leaving the industries of Podgorica behind, the tracks will run alongside the stunning Lake Skadar for a few miles before plunging into one last tunnel, the Sozina tunnel, one of the longest on the journey. Eventually, the journey brings you along the sun-kissed coast, treating you to views of the Adriatic Coast, before ending in the final destination of Bar.
Practical info: The entire journey from Belgrade to Bar takes around 10 hours, but expect delays due to border checks. There are three trains daily, departing at 9.10 a.m., 8.10 p.m. and 9.10 p.m. from Belgrade’s main train station. Ticket reservation is mandatory. You can do so at the train station.
Belgrade to Bar stopover city: Podgorica
As Montenegro’s capital and biggest city, Podgorica is worth visiting to experience the country’s spirit at its best. As a medium sized city with a modest population of 150,000, it is easy to explore on foot. Although Podgorica isn’t exactly the prettiest city, it has an eclectic mix of old and new with a laid back Mediterranean flair.
Wander through the old Turkish town, Stara Varoš, visit the Skaline historical monument, pay pilgrimage to St George’s Church on Gorica Hill, and hang out at the hip Rimski Trg for a glimpse of modern Podgorica. A few days would be enough to see it all.
The city also makes a great base as it is just an hour away from both the mountains and the coast. Lake Skadar is the largest lake in the Balkans and is highly worth visiting especially in summer. To get there, take a train to Virpazar, the gateway town of the area.
Another excellent place to visit is Kotor Bay, most famous for its stunning setting and UNESCO Old Town. It’s just a 2-hour bus ride away and the bus passes famous beach towns like Budva along the way. Check the bus schedule here.
Practical info: Podgorica’s train station is located on the eastern edge of the city. The city center is a 15-minute walk along Oktobarske Revolucije or a short bus ride on bus no. 6. Note that the train station is very small and only has a ticket office and a restaurant. ATMs and other facilities are available across the road at the bus station. The left luggage counter here is opened from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday. It charges 2 euros per bag for 24 hours.