Тhere are a handful of rivers on the Balkan Peninsula that deserve your special attention. The Jerma (or Erma in Bulgarian) is one of them, with its gorgeous canyon stretching across both Bulgaria and Serbia. Adrenaline junkies should spare five days in August to join the party at the Adventure Outdoor Festival and discover what the canyon’s Serbian section has to offer when it comes to climbing, hiking, sky running, biking, yoga, slacklining and caving.
Why is the Jerma Canyon so memorable?
The steep limestone slopes of two mountains guard the Jerma River as it runs between Greben Mountain – a large karst ridge with sharp peaks and stone figures on one side – and Vlaska Mountain, which features a rocky facade that turns into a fairytale beech forest on the other. Hiking, walking, climbing, off-road mountain biking trails and caves beg to be explored by active souls, while more mellow visitors will find a feeling of pure joy when immersed in the pristine nature, which is perfect for yoga and meditation.
The festival activities
A team of adventurers, experienced guides and instructors will introduce you to the landscape and take you on a series of adventures, including:
Mountaineering – Hike up the mountains that guard the Jerma River to enjoy astonishing views of the canyon from great heights.
Sky running – Explore the landscapes of Jerma in trail shoes and experience the magic of running in a completely pure environment. Trail and sky running is guided by Nevena Rajovic, the winner of Skyrunning League Serbia in 2016. You‘ll get a chance to familiarize yourself with the region, as well as learning new techniques, stretches and power exercises in the midst of the incredible landscape.
Climbing festival (August 18-20) – Try 20 new, challenging routes and compete for one of the delightful traditional prizes on offer. These unique prizes are typical of the Pirot region of Serbia and are made specially for the event.
Sport climbing and abseiling for kids and adults – Take your first steps up the mountainside with the experienced instructors and trainers of Tribe, whose expertise and focus on safety will make sure you’re well looked after. Sport climbing is one of four basic sports on offer for kids in Jerma.
Mountain biking – The only thing you need is a bike and you‘re ready for the off-road adventure. You‘ll be riding through the narrowest gorge in Europe, with the trail even snaking through the famous Cira train tunnels along the way. You can ride along the trail – which is also the route for the upcoming Caribrod mountain biking marathon – at your own leisure.
Wild caving – Vetrena Dupka, the cave at the slopes of Vlaska Mountain, is ready to reveal the secrets of the priest Martin’s treasure. You’ll learn the story of the treasure and explore the cave with experienced speleologists, who will introduce you to the basics of caving and explain what to do (and what not to do) when you’re deep underground.
Yoga – Here you can learn the basics of Hatha and Vinyasa yoga in a breathtaking setting. Simply spending time in nature can relieve stress, improve mood, reduce anger and aggression, boost happiness and improve the immune system. When you add yoga asanas under the sky, pranayama and meditation, you have a recipe for pure bliss.
Slacklining workshop – Slacklining is the art of walking and balancing along a suspended length of flat webbing. It’s the kind of activity you can use to relax after a long day, or you can take it more seriously and commit to practicing your balance and technique over several hours. Slacklining can be viewed as a metaphor for life: balance is the core, but falling occasionally helps you master the art of rising and persisting. The mountainous landscape of Jerma provides the perfect setting for learning to slackline.
Extra activities – Art workshops, music, gastronomy, movies, chats by the fire, horror stories in the dark, reading, storytelling, dreaming, holding hands, eyegazing, stargazing… what you get up to in this magical part of the world is entirely up to you!
Festival dates: August 16–20, 2017.
Location: Jerma Canyon, 50 mi (82 km) from Sofia, Bulgaria, and 60 mi (95 km) from Nis, Serbia (see map below).
Tickets: a five-day pass costs 30 euros and includes access to all activities, on-site camping and a T-shirt.
Ticket for the climbing festival only costs 10 euros and includes access to the climbing festival, on-site camping, T-shirt, yoga, slacklining and some extra activities.
Deadline for registration: July 30, 2017.
Accommodation: you can camp (campsite access is included in the ticket) – just bring your equipment. Alternatively, you can find guesthouse accommodation in the nearby village.