BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) - Serbia’s southwestern region of Sandzak is hosting natural beauties and interesting legends to be discovered.
Home to a large Bosniak community, Sandzak is one of the unique natural beauties of the Western Balkans with its canyons, mountains, and rivers as, well as wildlife for tourists.
Uvac Canyon is one of the main attractions that draws attention with its curved structure and is home to a special species of griffon vulture.
Pester, the highest plateau in the Balkans with an altitude of 1,200 meters (3,937 feet), is seen as one of the important tourist spots of the region.
Uvac Canyon Nature Conservation official Miloje Kovacevic told Anadolu that nests of griffon vultures under protection in the canyon are everywhere.
"This place was taken under protection in the 1990s. At that time, there were five pairs of griffon vultures. Now more than 500 are flying in the sky," said Kovacevic.
He added that most of the tourists come to the region to see the griffon vultures but Uvac Lake also attracts the attention of nature lovers.
Bajro and Nafija Muhovic couple, who live in their modest house near the Canyon, said the only house around the canyon is their own house, so it has become a resting place for tourists visiting the region.
- Siberia of Balkans, 319-year-old Ottoman heritage
The Pester plateau in the region is also known as the "Siberia of the Balkans" due to its freezing cold and snowy weather.
Sabahudin Abdagic, who works as a guide in the region, said the Serbian government took Pester under protection in 2016.
"The Karajukica springs on the outskirts of Pester are described as the coldest region in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. It is known that the air temperature drops to 40 degrees (Celsius) below zero," said Abdagic.
He added that Pester Lake is home to more than 170 bird species.
Meanwhile, the plateau host an Ottoman heritage of Askerli Mosque which is one of the oldest mosques in the region.
The mosque was built by the Ottomans in 1704 and was damaged many times throughout history.
"It was last renovated in 1976. The mosque was very important for the whole region at that time. The woodwork inside the mosque was preserved as it was." he said.
- Legends of 'haunted forest' and 'tree of love'
According to a legend among the people of Sandzak, the forest area in the village of Ugao is believed to be haunted.
The legend tells that a man broke the logging ban in the forest and cut down a tree to use in the house he had built.
A few days later, a storm broke out in the village and lightning struck the man's house.
So, people believed that the storm broke out because the forest is haunted, and the story has since then passed through generations.
Another legend in Sandzak is the story of the tree of love or the lonely tree.
The tourists who visit the spot say they get positive energy by hugging the tree.
Abdagic said the tree is a willow that has been struck by lightning many times, becoming a cult among people with its interesting and lonely appearance.
Sandzak is an important region with its weather, natural beauties, and legends.
"You can visit Sandzak at any time of the year. When you come here, the miraculous beauties of the region will welcome you," said Abdagic.
The Sandzak region is home to a large Bosniak community with deep cultural heritages rooted back to the Ottoman era.
Novi Pazar is the largest city in the Sandzak. It was established in 1459-1461 by Ishakoglu Isa Bey, the founder of Bosnia's capital Sarajevo and North Macedonia's capital Skopje.