Among Yugoslav mountains, Kopaonik is unrivalled by its natural beauty and mineral wealth. Its boundaries are set by quite distinct natural borders-the deep valleys of the Ibar, Jošanica, Rasina, Gornja Toplica and Lab rivers. Kopaonik, the biggest mountain of the central Serbia, spreads its wide mountain-ridge 82.7km long, its greatest width being 63km, in the direction from the mountainous region over Kosovska Mitrovica, to the north-west over the series of peaks higher than 1600m, to the highest part of the massif called Ravni Kopaonik (Flat Kopaonik) with the peaks: Gobelja (1934m), Karaman Vucak (1936m), Suvo Rudište (1976m) and Pančićev vrh (Pancic Peak) (2017m). The northern border of the massif is separated from the massif of the mountain Željin by the rivers Jošanicka reka and Koznicka reka. At the western side, along the whole Kopaonik mountain-ridge, the river Ibar gorge is placed. The eastern side is bounded by the rivers Rasina and Toplica valleys. It is very spacious, taking up a full 2756 square kilometers.
By its geographical location, Kopaonik is predestined to be a large to Europe. The Ibar, Zapadna Morava and Toplica highways provide for easy access from the large industrial centers of Šumadija, Pomoravlje, Toplica, Kosovo and the Skopje valley (Skopska dolina). Due to good asphalt roads and railways, the mountain can be reached in five hours' time even starting from Belgrade, which is about 250km away.
In its highest part, Kopaonik somewhat resembles a flat-roofed house; its side are almost wall steep and the top so level that it induced the people to aptly name is Flat Kopaonik (Ravni Kopaonik). The western sides of the mountain are a little steeper than the eastern, but also more inaccessible and bare. Kopaonik is rich in cold and radioactive waters at higher altitudes and hot ones in the lower parts.
The main features of Kopaonik relief were formed some 70 million years ago. Great movements of the earth's crust brought about folding and strong splitting, cleaving the steep sides facing the bordering valleys. Longitudinal and transversal fissures dissected to a large degree, the interior parts of the mountain as well. Deep clefts thus formed created a path for the flow of andesite-basalt rock, giving birth to the most extensive eruptive mass in Serbia, and therefore to great mineral wealth-the most important ores (iron, copper, lead, silver and other metals) are linked with dacites and andesites. Chromium and magnesium ore deposits formed in the serpentine-peridotic rock. Erosion created the wide plateau of Ravni Kopaonik and the highest peaks from the more resistant rock. Cascading rivers and snow carved rugged valleys in the areas of softer, especially serpentine rock, which is dominant in the western region of the mountain, increasing, therefore, the slope, inaccessibility and picturesque quality of the terrain.
Kopaonik, where people used to work mines from old times, was named after its ore resources (kopati-to dig). The volcano activity and discharge of hot mineral solutions caused changes on the nearby old rocks because of high temperatures and heavy pressures. That is how "mining region of Kopaonik" came to be, with a large numbers of mines from old times. In Kopaonik region, besides the usual ores: metals iron, lead and zinc, there are rare metals silver and gold and rare minerals: volastonite, fluor-spar, asbestos and other.
The process of erosion has created interesting forms of relief, which attract the attention of mature lovers. Some are made of granite and look like giant heads of cabbage, weighing two to three tons, falling apart and splitting as if shedding their shells. They can be seen in several places along the Jošanicka Banja-Ravni Kopaanik road. Others are a potpourri of rocks of unreal beauty, like the Kozje Stene on the slopes of Kukavica and along the left bank of the Samokovska River. Third are groups of oddly aligned or scattered blocks of large-grain granite, resembling giants turned to stone. Such an example is Markov Kamen (Marko's rock), "the most beautiful geomorphological natural rarity" on Kopaonik.
Natural monuments: Geomorpholigical monuments-stone granite sculptures: Lisicja stena, Pajin grob, Suvi vrh, Jankov breg, Babin grob, Visoki deo, Karaman-Vucak. Geomorphological monuments-traces of Pleistocene glaciation: Circ Krcmar, Circ Široki do, Circ Velika Gobelja. Geological monuments: Velika stena, Velika Sijaca, Jelica, Žljeb, Gvozdac, Oštri Krš. Hydrological monuments-springs and fountainheads: Fountainhead Duboka, "Geyser" Gvozdac, Spring Marina voda, Spring Krcmar, Waterfall Barska reka, Semeteško jezero-lake. Hydrological monuments-strictly protected water-courses of the river basins: Samokovska reka, Gobeljska reka, Barska reka, Brzecka reka, Duboka reka.
As regards climate, Kopaonik significantly differs from the neighboring mountains, a fact which can be seen from the meteorological records for Raška, Kosovska Mitrovica and Ravni Kopaonik. The first lies at an altitude of 417m, the second at 526m and the third at 1710m above sea level. The first two have very similar temperatures, which is a result of their being located in a valley at a lower altitude. In Raška the median yearly temperature is 10.7°C, in Kosovska Mitrovica 10.5°C and on Ravni Kopaonik only 3.7°C. The January temperatures at the three meteorological stations are -0.4°C for the first, -0.2°C for the second and -5.2°C for the third. The shifting of the temperature maximum of Ravni Kopaonik to august indicates it has a sub-alpine climate. The winter temperatures on this mountain are not very low as a result of its southern position, flatness and wide-open terrain, which prevent the piling up of clouds and cold air and facilitate ventilation. The cold winter air is heavy and moves through the neighboring valleys and ravines. Spared a long-lasting cloud cover, Ravni Kopaonik is exposed to the sun for a longer period of time in winter, making it warmer than might be expected in Naturally, this is "wintry" sunshine, so the snow does not melt for five months (its duration is a average 159 days a year). This is why the ski season is long and stable here.
With 200 sunny days a year (in Suncana Dolina), this mountain seems to have been made for a resort with plenty of fresh air. Thus city dwellers enjoy coming here both in summer and in winter. In July and August negligible amounts of rainfall come in short-lasting showers, after which the weather is fine again. Therefore, during the winter and summer tourist seasons, which bring in the largest number of visitors, there is little precipitation. Such a climate has a great effect on health, a fact that is acknowledged by the experts as well.
WATERS, THERMO-MINERAL SPRINGS AND SPAS
Kopaonik would not be so attractive had nature not be quested it with an abundance of cold, radioactive and thermo-mineral waters.
Walking through the tall grass of the Kopaonik meadows, one often steps into a brook or pillowy bog, which sprays the passer-by like a sodden sponge, which had been pressed. When all these creeks and rivulets come down from Ravni Kopaonik to the foothills and flow into the Jošanica, Samokovska or Graševacka rivers, they begin to foam, rumble and thunder. Only this eternal mountain roar reaches the absolute quiet of the fir and spruce forests and the seemingly monotonous pastures. Climbing down to one of these piedmont rivers, one notices a multitude of cevrntije-giant stone cauldrons with whirlpools of foaming water. Frequent watermills and an occasional rolling mill complete with weir, sluice and water wheel, add to the vividness of the attractive foothills scene.
Quite a few radioactive springs are hidden above all these streams, rivulets and their sources. Some of them cling to the very tops of the mountain-Krcmar Voda emerges at 1950 meters above sea level, just below Pancicev Vrh (Pancic's Peak); Marina Voda at 1700 meters; Pajino Preslo and Kaznovske Bacije at almost the same altitude. Every one of these springs has more then 11.5 Mach units of radioactivity. Krcmar Voda, with 74 Mach units, is the most radioactive spring in Yugoslavia. Very cold and slightly mineralized, this water is a particular natural asset of Kopaonik.
Many thermo-mineral springs are found in the foothills of Kopaonik and at places of marked fissuring-in Jošanicka Banja, Bogutovacka Banja, Lukovska Banja and Kuršumlijska Banja, to mention but a few of the nearest thermal springs. "Following Velika Cesma in Vranjska Banja (92°C), the second hottest spring in our country is the main spring in Jošanicka Banja (78.5°C). The springs are curative…" The water of Jošanicka Banja is used for treatment by bathing, drinking, gargling and inhaling.
Lukovska Banja, a natural spa well know since the Roman age lies in the eastern piedmont of Kopoanik, at an altitude of 700m above sea level. It boasts eight springs with alkaline mineral water, whose temperature varies from 36°C to 56°C. Mud baths with a temperature of 37.5°C are also used for therapeutically purposes.
Kuršumlijska Banja, south of Kuršumlija, also in the eastern piedmont of Kopaonik, is a health spa "with one spring bordering upon another". There are ten springs of sulphurous water there, their temperatures being from 38°C to 57°C. Another produces alkaline mineral water of 30°C.
Bogutovacka Banja lies on the left bank of the Ibar and not directly below Kopaonik itself. However, it is very close to the mountain and its got water coming to the surface is a consequence of tectonic movements in the wider Kopaonik region. It has three springs of slightly sulphurous and radioactive, hypothermal water, with a temperature of 24.7°C.
We have mentioned only those thermo-mineral springs and spas which are situated either in the foothills of Kopaonik or very close by. Other well-known spas lie within a radius of 50 kilometers: Vrnjacka Banja, Mataruška Banja, Novopazarska Banja as well as many small thermae that have not yet been developed.
All the natural splendor of Kopaonik is not yet well-known or sufficiently exploited. The mountain is noted for its abundance of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and bilberries. The eastern slopes of Rendara and the northern sides of Pancicev Vrh have miles of bilberry groves, which bring scores of people out from the nearby villages to pick the fruit in August. In the last ten years or so, Kriva Reka, the highest village on Kopaonik (about 1250 meters above sea level) has become better known due to the cultivation of raspberries and currants.
Because of all these natural characteristics and beauty, the great Yugoslav scientist, Josif Pancic, was especially fond of Kopaonik. He climbed it sixteen times-the last time at the age of 72. Enjoying the splendors of Kopaonik, on several occasions he expressed his wish to be buried there. His wish was fulfilled only in 1951 when his remains were transferred and buried on the highest peak, which was named after this great man (Pancicev Vrh-2017m above sea level). The founder of the Serbian Academy of Sciences, a man who explored and admired this mountain for so long, now lies there forever.
Dr Milorad Vasovic
"Planina sunca i snegova"
Turisticki savez Srbije, 1982.