It’s considered one of the seven wonders of Europe. A cross between the eerie badlands of South Dakota and the lunar landscape of Turkey’s Cappadocia. Đavolja Varoš in Serbia evokes a sense of wonder and even fear. It’s truly one of nature’s most peculiar gifts and has to be seen in person to be believed.
Located in the south of Serbia in the Radan Mountain range, Đavolja Varoš (Devil’s Town) is a rare phenomena caused by erosion over many centuries. More than 200 conical spires or “earth pyramids”, were created when rainwater created channels around the soft stone, gradually wearing down until only the spires remained. Each one has a “mushroom” cap which protects them from further erosion. Some of the caps weigh as much as 220 pounds (100kg) and are held up by a neck less than a foot (30cm) thick. How those strange formations have survived over the years is anyone’s guess, but that’s why they call it a phenomena. Adding to the ghoulish atmosphere (and local superstitions) are the strange hair-raising sounds that can be heard when the wind blows through the pyramids. Howling, squeaking, moaning, whispering and whistling, they all make you want run without ever looking back.
The Djavolja Varoš Natural Landmark belongs to the village of a strange name – Djake, which comes from the Albanian word “gjak” that means blood. The village is located at 660 to 700 meters above sea level. This unusual and mystic place, which very name will chill your bones, comprises of two ravines with ominous names – Djavolja (Devil’s) and Paklena (Hell’s).
The nearby springs – Žito vrele (Wheat spring) and Djavolja voda (Devil’s water), with extremely acid water have well known miraculous properties. A path leads to the stone sculptures and viewpoints offering a spectacular view to the surrounding nature.
During centuries people have told legends about this place. The process of forming of Djavolja Varos hasn’t yet finished – the erosion continues, causing some of the pillars to fall down or change shape, and the new ones to emerge. This, together with a bit freaky look of the “Devils” themselves, was the reason for people to weave out a number of legends. According to one legend, these formations are actually petrified wedding guests who, on devil’s orders, wanted to marry a brother and sister. Then God punished them by turning them into stone to stand as a reminder that no sin goes unpunished.
The other legend says that there was a witch who granted people’s wishes as long as they promised to give her whatever she asked for. These 202 stone statues are those who didn’t fulfill their promise or tried to trick the witch.
Science, however, doesn’t have such fairy-tale explanation – Djavolja varoš was formed by erosion. By destroying forests, man has made way for the destructive power of water. Wind, rain and sun did the rest. Nevertheless, the scientists agree that the shape of some caps and the fact that a peak of 20 to 30 cm in diameter holds a cap of several hundreds of kilograms is somewhat “peculiar”. Djavolja Varoš is definitely a place to visit. Grandiose and slightly menacing figures in day light, mystical and illuminated by decorative lights at night, these figures will surely leave you breathless. And the legend says that if you drink from one of these springs, you will surely return.
Đavolja Varoš was placed under protection of the state in 1959. In 1995, by the decision of the Serbian Government, this geologic formation, its springs, and surrounding 67 hectares (166 acres) was declared a Natural Monument.
Djavolja Varos (Devils’s Town) is located on the southern slope of Radan mountain, 30 km southeast of Kuršumlija, between the villages Zebice and Đake, some 660-700 meters above sea level. The site is about 10 km far from Prolom Banja, and it can be reached on a 2.5 hour walk. If you are traveling by car, you can get to Djavolja varoš by turning left towards Dobri Dol on the 80th km on the Niš -Priština road (8 km after the exit for Prolom banja). After 6 km of driving through Zebice village you turn left again and after 3 km of the new asphalt road you get to this unusual monument of nature. Djavolja varoš is 288 km far from Belgrade and 89 km from Niš. And only 10 km from it, you can find a town named Kuršumlija that is easily reachable by regular bus lines from all major cities in Serbia.
The best time to visit Devil’s Town is between April and September. Serbia has a mild continental climate with a warm spring (59-68°F (15-20°C) and autumn. Around September you can expect some rain, but summers are generally dry and hot (around 80°F/27°C). If you like adventure, don’t make a turn downhill by the farm, but continue forward, 2 – 3 km more, to a small village of about ten houses, surrounded by a wooden fence, situated on a little glade encircled by forest. Pass by the village and enter the forest through a narrow path, which after a couple hundred meters brings you to two big oak-trees. In one of them you can make out a pretty illegible carved letters “Dj. varos”. Pass right between the oaks, and after a couple of minutes, you will find yourself on the edge of a steep gorge, and you will see the devils deep beneath you, in the valley. We don’t recomend descenting down this gorge, even though we proved it to be possible
From Prolom Banja, there are several buses a day for Kursumlija, and from there, the traffic connections with Nis and Belgrade are pretty frequent.
For those with cars, there is an asphalt road till the village Raca, and after that, one should take a macadam road uphill, some 10 km farther. In the middle of the forest there is a small space that serves as a parking lot in the period when it’s possible to approach the area with a car. From there, a 15-minute walk down the road will take you to Devils’s Town.