Even if I’m a huge enthusiast of trains and often do detours to take scenic routes I didn’t know about the Sargan Eight railway in Serbia until a few years ago. But once I learned about this engineering masterpiece hidden in the Zlatibor mountains I put it on the very top of my Balkans bucket list.
Unfortunately, the timing has never been right for me and it took years since I finally managed to visit Mokra Gora and take the famous narrow-gauge train. It was definitely worth waiting – taking the Sargan Eight train is one of the best things to do in Serbia and it definitely lived up to my (high) expectations!
What is the Sargan Eight train
The Sargan Eight is a popular and very picturesque heritage line operating on narrow-gauge tracks. The line between Mokra Gora and Šargan Vitasi stations is 15,5 km long, with 22 tunnels (the longest one is 1666 meters) and 5 bridges along the way.
The journey time takes around 40 minutes and the height difference between the starting and final stations is 300 meters. The Sargan Eight name comes from the profile of the line that twists and turns, creating shapes similar to the number eight.
The operations were suspended in 1974 but some 20 years later the discussion to renovate and restore the line started. Eventually, in summer 2003 the first train on the newly done line resumed the connection between Mokra Gora and Šargan Vitasi. In 2010 the railway line was extended to Visegrad in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Where is the Sargan Eight railway
The Sargan Eight railway line is located near the village of Mokra Gora in western Serbia, next to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The starting/ending point of the Sargan Eight journey is in Mokra Gora, the train station is located just off the main road going through the village. There is a free parking lot next to the station so if you are traveling by car reaching the place is really easy.
If you use public transport there should be buses from the nearest bigger city in Serbia – Uzice, as well as from other destinations within the country.
The Sargan Eight railway is also a perfect stop if you travel from Belgrade to Sarajevo (or in a reverse direction).
How to take the Sargan Eight train
In the high season, between April 1st and October 31st, there are two departures per day, at 10:30 and 13:30. In the low season, it’s one departure per day, at 11:45. The whole journey from Mokra Gora to Šargan Vitasi takes 3 hours.
If you travel independently it’s better to plan your Sargan Eight trip in advance as tickets can sell out quickly, especially in the summer season. You can book the ticket in the authorized agencies or via email address firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
When I took the train in September 2021 the ticket for the Sargan Eight journey was 1.000 RSD (8,50€/10$).
If, like me, you arrive in Mokra Gora without the booked ticket you can try to purchase it before the journey at the ticket office at the station (the small booth when entering the platform). Even if the ticket office is open the tickets sale starts around half an hour before the departure.
I was lucky to score the ticket easily but it was midweek in September and the train was still full, with a few larger groups and many independent tourists. I wouldn’t really recommend this option as it’s a bit tricky. I did it only because I wasn’t sure I will be allowed to enter Serbia on the day of the train trip. If you can, book the ticket in advance.
If you arrive in Mokra Gora well before the departure time there is a restaurant at the station, nothing too fancy but enough to kill the time.
You can find all the current information about the Sargan Eight train here.
It is also possible to take the Sargan Eight Train as part of the tour – this can be a good option if you don’t have a car but would like to visit Mokra Gora. Here are some of the recommended tours:
- From Belgrade: Sargan 8 Railway and Wooden City 1 Day Tour
- From Belgrade: Drina River House, Sargan 8 Train & Drvengrad
- Sarajevo: Visegrad, Sarkan Eight Railway & Kurstendorf Tour
What to expect at the Sargan Eight trip
The Sargan Eight train is the old type of train, with wooden benches and a retro interior that just adds up to the nostalgic atmosphere of the journey.
When I took the train there were four cars, there is no seat reservations so you could choose whichever place you wanted to.
Along the way, you can listen to the history and details of the Sargan Eight journey as well as listen to some Serbian songs.
The trip from Mokra Gora to Šargan Vitasi takes around 40 minutes. The train doesn’t stop along the way but you can admire beautiful views of the Zlatibor mountains from the train – fortunately, the windows open all the way down which helps tremendously when taking pictures.
Once in Šargan Vitasi, there is around a 15-minutes stop. You can walk around the platform or go a bit further to see old locomotives, some of them even from the 1940s.
There is also a replica of the weird bike-alike machine that runs on the train tracks, that was used in Emir Kusturica’s movie “Life is a miracle”. The station itself is really picturesque too!
On the way back to Mokra Gora there are a few photo stops, including a longer one (like 40 minutes) in Jatare.
Even if the weather was rather gloomy when I took the train, the views of the mountains were really breathtaking. You can also admire the eight-shape turns and twists of the railway line, including the tunnels entering the mountain.
If you want a bit of excitement during your trip you can go to the last car on the train and stand at the outside platform at the very end. Not only you will have a great view of everything around but the feel of the fresh air in your air and the thrill of going through the dark tunnels is kind of unforgettable.
I did it on the way back from Šargan Vitasi to Jatare and it was pretty great!
What to see nearby
Once you are done with the Sargan Eight train trip there are a few more places nearby that are worth checking.
Near the train station in Mokra Gora, you can find Drvengrad, the artificial village that was built for Emir Kusturica’s movie “Life is a miracle”. The movie set stayed intact and now serves as a tourist attraction, a pretty cool one. Fun fact, when I visited the place Emir Kusturica himself was there too.
Mokra Gora is located on the edge of the Tara National Park and the village can be a good base to explore the area. A bit further, near Bajina Bašta, you can see the famous House on the Drina.
You can also hop across the border to visit Visegrad in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a beautifully located town known from the novel “The Bridge on the Drina” – the most popular work by the Noble prize winner Ivo Andric.
Final thoughts on the Sargan Eight
Despite the gloomy weather I really enjoyed taking the Sargan Eight train. It was so much better than I expected, a real masterpiece of engineering combined with some of the most beautiful views in Serbia.
The whole journey was well-organized, with the perfect amount of time at each of the stops. Even if the train was full it didn’t feel overcrowded. Overall, I don’t think I can say a bad thing about the experience. I would maybe change the way the tickets are sold but that’s it.
If you are traveling in the Balkans and are looking for a unique yet exciting experience then the Sargan Eight train is your answer. The views might not be as spectacular as on the Belgrade to Bar route but this line definitely lives up to its fame and expectations!
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