I wrote an article in Dutch about the ” Most beautiful train journey through the Balkans: Belgrado – Bar ” (in Dutch = Mooiste treinreis door de Balkan: Belgrade – Bar) for a popular Dutch website about trains & international train travelling and public transport in general: www.treinreiziger.nl
Here is the article translated from Dutch to English :
Travelling by train. You usually do that to travel from A to B. But the train journey can sometimes be almost an attraction in itself. In the coming period, Treinreiziger.nl will pay weekly attention to the most beautiful train journeys in Europe. In part one: Belgrade – Bar. The line that is still relatively unknown to the large (train) travel public.
Relatively a young railway line
The 476 kilometre long railway line from the Serbian capital Belgrade to the Montenegrin harbour town of Bar on the Adriatic Sea is according to many travel guides and (train) websites one of the most beautiful railway lines in Europe. And that is not strange: the environment through which the train runs is beautiful: mountains, gorges and views. A train journey on this railway line is therefore a real experience and therefore definitely recommended.
The railway line is relatively “young”: after 24 years of construction, the railway line was opened in its entirety on 28 May 1976 and then ran through one country, Yugoslavia. It was a prestige project of the then Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito. In the 1990s, Yugoslavia fell apart and the railway suddenly ran through three countries: Serbia (301 kilometres), Montenegro (175 kilometres) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (9 kilometres). The train no longer stops at the Štrpci station, the only Bosnian station on the line. This Bosnian part is, incidentally, maintained by the Serbian railway manager.The railway line in Bosnia, where the train fortunately does not stop. Otherwise passport control was needed again.
Highlights in Montenegro
The railway line is a technical piece of art in many aspects. There are 254 tunnels with a total length of 114 kilometres and the railway line has 435 bridges with a total length of 14.5 kilometres. The highest point of the line is at Kolašin, in Montenegro, with an altitude of 1032 meters above sea level. What is special is that the train then descends to the Montenegrin capital Podgorica fairly quickly. The line here has a slope profile of 25 ‰.
‘Mala Rijeka’ viaduct
Impressive is the “Mala Rijeka” viaduct. This viaduct is located on the Kolašin – Podgorica route, perhaps the most beautiful part of the journey. The enormous height of the viaduct is remarkable: no less than 198 meters. At the opening this was even the highest train viaduct in the world, but that title has since been taken over by a Chinese viaduct. That makes the 498-meter-long viaduct no less impressive.
The train runs through different landscapes. Between Kolašin – Podgorica the train squeezes itself through the mountains. That provides beautiful views, both in winter and in summer. After Podgorica the landscape changes to a more Mediterranean environment with palm trees. The view of Lake Skardar is impressive. A few kilometers away the line goes through the 6.7 kilometer long tunnel with the name “Sozina”, which is also the longest tunnel of this railway line. To make the holiday feeling even more complete, the Adriatic Sea is visible at the end of this tunnel and then it is another 20 minutes to the end point Bar.
Highlights in Serbia
In Serbia, the Užiče- Priboj section is certainly worth the effort. The line climbs sharply here, after which it divides again into the valley of the river Lim. The last part in particular goes through a sparsely populated area and the Bosnian part is also passed through here. Between Užiče and Zlatibor the profile of the old narrow gauge line Belgrade-Sarajevo is still visible. Part of this line has been preserved and is now used as a tourist railway line.
The train leaves in Belgrade from the Topčider station. The Belgrade – Bar train journey now takes around 11 hours. That is quite long considering the distance. Before Yugoslavia fell apart, the travel time was around 7.5 hours. Today, about an hour is lost due to passport control at the border. Because the train does not stop in Bosnia, there is fortunately no border control in Bosnia. The state of the railway means that it is not possible to drive equally fast everywhere, which means that the journey time is longer. A dining car is irregularly present. So make sure you have enough food and drink when you start travelling. Bringing toilet paper doesn’t hurt either.
A sleeping carriage from Tito’s ” blue train “is going in the regular train during the summer months.
A single ticket for the eleven-hour route costs (converted) around 22 euros. Both carriages from the Serbian and Montenegrin railways are used. Despite the coaches being a bit older, most coaches offer excellent comfort. However, you have to take into account that something is often broken (air conditioning, non-working toilet lock, damaged window, etc.) The carriages normally have air conditioning, but it can happen that it does not work. Smoking is formally prohibited, but smoking is generally tolerated on the balcony. Interrail is also valid on the Belgrade – Bar route, but given the ticket prices, a single ticket is also very interesting. In the past you could buy Belgrade – Bar online, currently not. This may change at the end of 2020. For busy days (Friday and Sunday) and the summer season, reservations are definitely recommended.
There is one day train between Belgrade and Bar. Do you want to enjoy the scenery the most? Then travel from Bar to Belgrade. Otherwise you run the risk that you will complete (part of) the most beautiful route in the dark. In addition to a day train, there is also a night train. The surcharges are also very affordable, but here too: there can always be something wrong. For example, when Treinreis.nl made the trip, the heating did not work and initially also refused the lighting.
As indicated, the train to Bar runs from Belgrade so not from Belgrade Center, the new main station of Belgrade. Do you want to go to Topčider station from Belgrade Center? Then you can take bus number 36 to the Savski Trg stop (the old main station). There you switch to tram line 3 to Topčider. The taxi is also cheap in Serbia and Montenegro, but it is important to have a reliable taxi company. Pink Taxi is well regarded in Belgrade. A taxi ride costs (converted) around 5 euros. Read more about the different railway stations in Belgrade here (link).