Serbia’s tallest mountain, Kopaonik, was designated a national park in 1981. The park covers roughly 12,000 hectares and has its park management offices in Raska. The range of mountains in the area, wooded slopes and picturesque valleys, rivers and streams, are all home to many species of protected flora and fauna. The middle of this national park, the Suvo Rudiste plateau, cut by the Samokovska River, stretches between peaks and slopes.
The flora is characterized by a large number of autochthonous plant species (the Balkan beech, spurce, several kinds of maple, pine and oak). The fauna is also diverse but its concentration varies, depending on the quality of the habitat.
The vast wilderness of the park offers many opportunities for hiking and exploring, as well as enjoying the warm waters of the Josanicka Banja spa, highly attended for its curative properties.
Well-developed facilities for tourists are located at the Kopaonik ski resort, including an information center in the resort village. Kopaonik lies near the main transportation routes in Serbia. The closest airport is in Niš.
Kopaonik, the largest mountain range in Serbia, extends from the northwest to the southeast for 80 km, and has a width of around 40 km in the middle. The highest section of Kopaonik is the spacious Ravni Kopaonik plateau around which rise Suvo Rudište and Pančićev Vrh (the highest peak at 2017 m).
Kopaonik has a subalpine climate and and is rightfully known as the Mountain of the Sun for there are almost 200 sunny days during the year. Cold and heavy air is channelled away to the surrounding valleys and basins, meaning that winter temperatures are not too low. Snow falls from the end of November and stays until May, which is on average 159 days a year.
Kopaonik gained its name from the Serbian word “kopati” which means ‘to dig’ because of the rich ore resources which were mined here for centuries. Volcanic activity and the discharge of hot mineral solutions caused changes in the surrounding rocks, creating the rich Kopaonik mining region from which iron, lead and zinc were excavated.
Due to its valuable ecosystem, Kopaonik became a national park in 1981. Kopaonik National Park covers an area of 11,810 hectares and based on the number of endemic species, it is one of Serbia’s most important biodiversity hotspots for endemic flora.
Kopaonik mountain is especially beautiful for its distinctive landscape of dense coniferous forests at higher elevations and mixed beech and oak forests on its slopes, pastures and meadows and prominent peaks from which views extend to the Šar Mountains and the Komovi and Stara Planina mountains.
Kopaonik lends itself to active relaxation throughout the year and is the largest and best-known Serbian ski centre. The Ravni Kopaonik plateau is centred around tourism, with a wide range of accommodation and a network of ski slopes amongst other facilities. Another tourist hotspot is located near the village of Brzeća, on the eastern slope of Kopaonik. The first class ski slopes lie between 1650 m and 2017 m above sea-level. This tourist resort has a network of 24 ski-lifts connected in one system and 2 children’s lifts, and caters for all types of skiers. The ski-lift system covers the ski slopes total 55 km in length. The system can handle 32,000 skiers an hour. Guests also have the use of a 12km-slope for Nordic skiing, and in Crvene Bare there are marked slopes of 3, 5 and 10 km in length. Ski hire and repair services are also available, as well as snowmobile hire.
The Jošanička, Lukovska and Kuršumlijska (at the foot of Kopaonik) spas are very close to Kopaonik, while the rich thermal springs of the Vrnjačka, Mataruška and Sijarinska spas are just a little further away. Kopaonik, too, has mineral springs: the lightly radioactive Krčmar spring, which is 1700 m above sea-level, and Marine Vode (1950 m).
The historical significance of the Kopaonik region as the seat of the mediaeval Serbian state is illustrated by the remains of fortified towns (Zvečan, Koznik and Maglić) on the peaks of the central massif and the mining areas (Stari Trg and Novo Brdo), as well as the churches and monasteries (Gradac, Pavlica, Studenica, Žiča and Sopoćani), the endowments of Serbian rulers, nestled at the foot of the Kopaonik mountain range.