The Centre of the Magic Circle
For decades now, this area has based its prosperity on the famous Automobile Factory (FAP). Industrial problems during sanctions and wars in the 1990’s have forced highlanders to understand again the values of their beautiful river, their spa, their medieval heritage, their urban culture and unusual sensibility, as well as the fact that in the radius of 40 kilometres around Priboj are Mileševa, Zlatar, Zlatibor, Tara, Mokra Gora, Višegrad...

By: Nenad Despotović
Photos by: Tourist Organization of Priboj

On the intersection of Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia (Republic of Srpska), in Lower Lim, are the town and the municipality of Priboj. On 553 square kilometres live around 30 thousand citizens, according to the census of 2002. One can reach this beautiful area, full of pastures and forests, on the railway Belgrade-Bar or on the highway from Belgrade to the Montenegrin coast (through Kokin Brod or Bistrica). You can also take the road from Valjevo, across Tara, to Priboj, then continuing to Pljevlja and Nikšić, or on the road from Sarajevo, which then continues towards Sjenica and Pazar across Priboj.
– Apart from many other Serbian towns, Priboj differs for being both the centre and the border of Serbia, depending on your geo-strategic optics – says Lazar Rvović for National Review, the President of this municipality. – Priboj is in the dead end but it is also on a very important transversal line, depending on how much you know and see the importance of signposts. It is on the intersection of three sovereign states, and it represents the point where unites the Serbian people of the Republic of Srpska, Montenegro and Serbia, depending on what you see as a state or as national area. Once it was one of the most developed municipalities in the region, and now it is one of the less developed. We are a part of Raška, or Sandžak, depending on the time or the historic idea that you belong to. We are an area, which is, on one hand, the cradle of Serbia national idea, and on the other hand and programmed jinxes, its grave. A municipality that has it all and still has nothing. This town and this region cannot be in the middle of it all: we are either on the top or on the very bottom.


Priboj was first mentioned in Turkish written chronicles in 1463. Two preserved itineraries witness its medieval past, from the 16th century, when Priboj got two important objects: Gazi Sinan bey built a caravan saray and a bridge over Lim in 1522. In 1659, the famous writer Evlija Čelebija passed through Priboj. Having in mind the medieval town Jatag (a fortification at the bottom of Bić Mountain), he claims that Priboj was established by Serbian kings. Describing the city, the fortification and the town in details, he says that Priboj had 300 households, a mosque and three hans.
Priboj passed through very important economic prosperity in the second half of the 16th century, when two important commercial roads passed here: a road from Bosnia and a road from Dubrovnik.
In the 18th century and during the First Serbian Uprising, during the war and during the great fire, the town began to perish. After the Congress of Berlin, it became the border area of Bosnia, which was occupied by Hungary. The centre of the Turkish and the Hungarian garrison was in Priboj. The Austrians have built their barracks, several buildings and a hotel. The Austrian barracks also included a tennis courts, a bowling alley, football courts... Therefore, back in the 19th century, this town had a tennis court, before any other town in Serbia!
With the opening of the East-Bosnian railway, from Sarajevo to Uvac River, Priboj began to develop again and became a very touristy place.
In the 20th century, the centre of economic development for decades was the Automobile Factory ”Priboj” (FAP). However, after the 1990’s crisis and the stagnation of FAP, the centres of this area’s development were Pribojska Spa and its tourist potentials.
– We have a beautiful river, a lake, mountains, a spa with top-quality water of this part of Europe, great hunting grounds, unpolluted nature, pre-historic mines, and the oldest medieval hospital on the Balkans. We have many medieval fortified towns, monasteries from the 12th century, authentic traces of multi-ethnicity and multiculturalism... On the other hand, we have a serious urban culture, a specific sensibility and inspiration. Of which witness many events and many artists – says President Rvović. – However, it has all left inactive. Like in the rest of Serbia, politics was considered as a consolation prize for non-creative and incompetent people, as well as for their selfish personal goals, a short term or season job, which led us into a situation to watch these unused beautiful potentials for years. However, people who have decided to reactivate it again, the people who realize that they have to find the solution by themselves, now govern Priboj.
Most of the administrative obstacles and problems have been solved (planning documentation, real estates...) says the first man of Priboj. Now, we have opened the door for serious foreign investors. These investors do not go to municipality employees, but those employees visit them.
– The investors have seen the changes in quality and in practice, and they began to visit us – says Rvović. – Those are investors from Italy, Switzerland, Norway, and Russia. They are mostly interested in tourism and renewed sources of energy. With the construction of the road Pribojska Spa-Zlatibor, we are now only 32 kilometres away from this tourist centre, one of the most important in Serbia. We are strengthening our position ”in the centre of the magic tourist circle”: in the radius of 40 kilometres are Mileševa Monastery, Zlatar, lakes of Zlatar, Zlatibor, Tara, Mokra Gora, Višegrad. Priboj has had great development opportunities, which are now to be really used.


The ancient Romans and the people of medieval Serbia knew the beauties of Pribojska Spa. It was located on the main road, which led from Bosnia or Dubrovnik to Central Serbia and Constantinople. The places where caravans stopped and travellers spent their time. In the time of the Nemanjić dynasty, there was an arranged hospital. The local legend claims that Saint Sava healed people’s legs there. There is also a legend that Uroš, the son of Stefan the First Crowned, healed from a skin disease here. The importance of the renovation of this beautiful spa, in Serbia and abroad, getting the rating it really deserves, is active just now. The process will accelerate by obtaining important investment.
The Nemanjić family renewed and contributed to the Monastery of Saint Nicholas, the shrine from the 11th century, during their frequent visits to Pribojska Spa. Located on a plain below the spring of healing water, surrounded by greenery and peace, this church is a millennium stone-monument of living sacral tradition and the keeper of the tradition of Saint Sava. Right there, in the Monastery of Saint Nicholas, 790 years ago, in 1219, Saint Sava placed the first of six bishop centres of the Serbian Orthodox Church. It was the centre of the Bishopy of Dabar and of the Archdiocese of Dabar and Bosnia.
Every year, on the day of Saint Ilija (Gromovnik), on August 2nd, for more than five centuries, in the port of the Monastery, a fair is held. The people of Priboj say that it gathers more than several thousand visitors. Thanks to the work of the Tourist Organization of Priboj (established in 2005), this gathering became an organized event, which begins in the end of July. Traditional handicrafts, flute and other traditional music instrument playing competitions, concerts of ethno music and reviews of ethno fashion, competitions of rakia producers and of those who prepare a ćeške plate - those are all parts of this event held of Saint Ilija’s day which attracts more and more visitors every year.
Priboj also attracts great attention with its famous ”Poetry Soirées on Lim”, then with its children’s days in March and many important events in September.
Besides all that, rich waters and natural beauties all represent an important resource, mostly a touristy one. Lim begins in Montenegro (below Plavsko Lake), going through Serbia, and empties into Drina in the Republic of Srpska. On this river, upstream from Priboj, near the railway Belgrade-Bar and the highway, which leads from Belgrade to southern Adriatic, is the beautiful Potpećko Lake.
The Tourist Organization of Priboj is organizing unforgettable rafting on Lim, several times during the year. On the third weekend in August, we have the event ”International Lim Rafting”, with many following cultural events, which became very popular in Serbia and abroad...
Wise and experienced people say that self-recognition is the necessary and the most important of all first steps on the way of activating resources, and the renaissance of Serbian towns. There is no doubt that Priboj already had its self-recognition.


The water from thermo-mineral springs of Pribojska Spa had a constant temperature of 37◦C and it is unique in the Balkans. It is used as a helping therapeutic mean (bathing and drinking) with all forms of articular rheumatism, as well as with post-traumatic conditions, nervous system diseases, spinal column disorders, circulation disorders, skin diseases, gynaecology diseases, digestive system disorders, eyesight diseases... The Rehab Centre includes the Department for Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation. Great doctors, beautiful nature, fresh air, the scent pine trees and mountain herbs, the view of the impressive valley of Lim, and the great shrine, which is very close, all heal many people, including both body and soul, and some people come back.


In the port of the Monastery of Saint Nicholas include the churches of the Prophet Saint Ilija Gromovnik and of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God. In the Church of the Assumption, one of the most important treasuries of church objects, in the region of Serbian Orthodox Church, was discovered in 1974. Very valuable objects are kept and have been revised for a long time in the Museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and in June of 2007, they were returned to the Monastery. The Treasury of the Monastery of Saint Nicholas was officially opened in that period, and it is a treasure of priceless value, accessible to visitors.


Priboj is a multi-ethnical region in which mutual respect and amity were never disturbed, not even in the most difficult war years in the 1990’s. These people are hospitable, quiet and diligent, calmed and with common sense, upbrought in the sprit of self-discipline and responsibility. It enables them to survive through tough times and function well in different working milieus.


Ćeške is a traditional plate of Priboj, without which it is hard to imagine a celebration with the people of the region. It is made of chicken, barley, kaymak and many spices. We cannot describe it, you have to taste it. Moreover, the people of Priboj should make this original plate from a local gastronomic experience into a proper brand.


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