Surrounded by the peaks of Golija and Rogozna mountains and the Pešter Plateau, nestled in the valley lies Novi Pazar, a city where eastern and western influences mix and where Christianity and Islam meet.
No wonder, then, that Novi Pazar and its wider area contains a wealth of both Orthodox Christian and Islamic sacral buildings.
The remains of this region’s medieval architecture are of immense national, regional and international importance. Apart from its unrivalled cultural landmarks and buildings protected by UNESCO, another distinguishing feature of Novi Pazar are the slopes of Golija mountain, a nature park containing the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Golija-Studenica.
Due to the city’s exceptional geographic situation at the crossroads of civilisations and trading routes, the people of this region have been predominantly traders since ancient times, a fact reflected in the city’s name, Novi Pazar, derived from Bazaar.
Through its history, Novi Pazar has changed hands between Zeta, Byzantium, Hungary, Bosnia, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. As you walk along the streets of this city, you will be able to trace the steps of the famous conquerors who passed through here on their westward conquests including Byzantine Emperor Manuel Komnenos and Fatih Sultan Mehmed II.
The former capital of the Nemanjić state of Raška and subsequent administrative centre of the Sanjak of Novi Pazar, from the 15th Century until as late as the beginning of the 20th Century, to this day proudly keeps the heritage of both Serbian medieval rulers and Ottoman sultans alive.
Although present-day Novi Pazar is a modern city and a university centre, with sports facilities and high-rize buildings, if you walk through the Old Town (Stara čaršija) or enter one of the famous pastry shops of Novi Pazar, you will be immersed in the spirit of bygone times and smitten by the lasting charm of this city.
At the very heart of Novi Pazar, you will notice the remains of an old Turkish hammam, built in the 15th Century by Isa Bey Ishaković. Beneath its 11 domes, the hammam features 11 rooms, including a changing room and a room for heating water.
Another true architectural gem of Novi Pazar is the Altun-alem Mosque, named after the precious stone of alem. The mosque was built in the 16th Century by Muslihiddin Abdülgani, known also as Muyezin-Haji al Medini, one of the greatest scholarly minds of his time. The mosque is exceptionally well preserved and together with the old town transports visitors back to the time when Novi Pazar enjoyed the status of a şehir (city).
The Đurđevi Stupovi monastery, perched atop a hill above Novi Pazar, is one of the most exquisite examples of 12th-Century Orthodox Christian monasteries. Its importance has been recognised by UNESCO, which included it in the World Cultural Heritage List together with Sopoćani monastery, the Church of Saint Apostles Peter and Paul and the remains of Ras and Gradina fortresses, under the common name of Stari Ras and Sopoćani.
The Sopoćani monastery is where Serbian king Stefan Uroš I was interned. The monastery also keeps fragments of holy relics of Saint Cosmas and Damian. The monastery is also known for its frescoes, most notably the Dormition of the Mother of God, declared the most beautiful medieval fresco at the 1961 world exhibition in Paris. Built on the foundations of an early Christian church and expanded many times over the centuries, the Church of Saint Apostles Peter and Paul is one of the oldest churches in the Balkans and is an eclectic mix of architectural influences from different epochs. On the outside, the church is surrounded by necropolises, while its interior will entice you with fragments of frescoes of unparalleled beauty, dating back to three different periods: the 9th and 10th Centuries, the late 12th Century and the last decade of the 13th Century.
The city fortress on the banks of the river Raška was used in the defence of the city from enemy attacks. A relatively well-preserved watchtower built in the early 17th Century, known as Kula izvidnica or Kula motrilja, today stands along the northern wall.
When in Novi Pazar be sure to visit Amir-Aga’s Han, built in the 18th Century, which welcomed countless merchants to its inn who sought a place of respite while transporting goods from Skopje to Dubrovnik.
Just 32 kilometres away from Novi Pazar lies Golija, a nature park included in UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme together with the nearby Studenica monastery. As you traverse the mountain on maintained trails, you will be surrounded by more than 1,000 plant and animal species that inhabit the area.
Nestled between Jadovnik, Zlatar, Ozren, Giljeva, Zilidar, Javor and Golija mountains lies the Pešter Plateau, a true paradise for the lovers of pristine nature. Whether you choose to go alpine or Nordic skiing, mountain cycling or on a motorcycle adventure, the Pešter Plateau caters to all visitors, providing ample opportunity for a rich and eventful holiday.
The town of Sjenica, called the coldest town in Serbia because of its unique microclimate, is also near Novi Pazar. Sjenica Lake is ideal for bathing, rafting, kayaking or simply enjoying the view of the winding river Uvac.
After an active holiday in the mountains, spend a relaxing weekend at Novopazarska banja spa, which has been used as a medical resort since ancient Roman times. Today, it is a modern wellness centre with pools, mineral springs, an old Turkish bath and a large, well-kept park ideal for walks.
Turkish influence is visible both in architecture and in the gastronomy of Novi Pazar. Be sure not to miss tasting the famous kebabs and manti, delicacies that have all but become an emblem of this region.
Beef kebabs used to be made in the streets. Today each kebab shop has its own family recipe, so you can taste the kebabs of Jonuz, Sak, Bek, Rile and others.
Individual pies made of small pieces of filo dough, known as manti, have been recorded as Serbia’s Intangible Cultural Heritage because of their age-old recipe. Originally, manti used to be filled with beef; however, you can also taste the more “modern” versions made with cheese and greens.
Serbia is known as a country with an intrinsic coffee-drinking culture and nowhere is coffee enjoyed more than in the region of Novi Pazar. Prepared in a copper coffee pot with bubbles on top, the coffee of Novi Pazar possesses a flavour that cannot be replicated by any other coffeemaker. Your enjoyment of the coffee will be complemented by the unique way in which it is served - with a small cup (filjan) for sipping, a separate jug with sugar and only made complete with a serving of Turkish delight.
Coffee is perfectly complemented by traditional sugary desserts: tufahije, baklava, kalburabasti, keten halva, tahan halva and sweet suji balls will sweeten your life like no dessert you have tasted before!
The villages around Sjenica, where cows and sheep graze every day, produce milk of superb quality, which is used when cooking local delicacies. Here you can also enjoy the flavours of lamb, as well as suji, various filo pies and buckwheat breads.