Avala (Serbian Cyrillic: Авала, pronounced [âv̞ala]) is a mountain in Serbia, overlooking Belgrade. It is situated in the south-eastern corner of the city and provides a great panoramic view of Belgrade, Vojvodina and Šumadija, as the surrounding area on all sides is mostly lowlands. It stands at 511 metres (1,677 ft) above sea level, which means that it enters the mountain category just by 11 meters.
Avala is located 16 kilometers south-east of downtown Belgrade. The entire area of the mountain belongs to the Belgrade City area, majority of it being in the municipality of Voždovac, with the eastern slopes being in the municipality of Grocka, and the southernmost extension in the municipality of Sopot. It is possible that in the near future the entire area of Avala will create a separate municipality of Belgrade, named Avalski Venac.
In the Middle Ages, the town of Žrnov or “Avalski Grad” (Avala town) was located on top of Avala. In 1442. it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, which built a new town in Žrnov’s place as a counter-fortress to the Belgrade city fort, and renamed it “havale”, which originally comes from Arabic and means “obstacle” or “shelter”.
The mountain has been protected since 1859 as a “monument of nature”, or, by the modern standards, “sight of the exquisite values”. That year, Prince Miloš Obrenović of Serbia issued an order for the Avala to get fenced and protected that way. Remains of the medieval Žrnov were removed in 1934 to make way for the Monument to the Unknown Hero. In the period of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the mountain was declared a national park, in 1936. In 1946, by the ukaz of the Presidium of the National Assembly of Serbia, Avala was reduced to the status of the “public property of general benefit” and placed under direct management of the Government of Serbia. In 1965, a 202 m high Avala TV Tower was constructed, one of the tallest structures in the Balkans, by the architects Uglješa Bogunović, Slobodan Janjić and M. Krstić. It had a restaurant-look out on 120 meters. The tower was destroyed during the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. Its total reconstruction began in 2006 and was officially opened at a ceremony on 21 April 2010. The new tower is almost the exact replica of the destroyed one, including the unique three-feet base. Belgrade’s General Urbanistic Plan (GUP) for the 2001-2021 period defines the mountain as a sports and recreation area.
Despite being officially protected for almost 150 years, it was only in 2007 that preservation plans for the mountain were made. That way, Avala entered a circle of protected green areas of Belgrade, which also included the mountain of Kosmaj, the island of Veliko Ratno Ostrvo and the woods of Stepin Lug, with the forests of Košutnjak and Topčider to be added next. Protected areas of Avala spread over 489,13 hectares.
Aside from rich animal life, the Avala is known for its diverse plant life, despite not being a tall mountain. There are over 600 plant species living on the mountain. Some of them are protected by the law as natural rarities, like certain types of laburnum or box tree. The area is also abundant in medical herbs. High woods mostly consist of durmast oak, Turkey oak, hornbeam, beech, linden, black pine, black locust and other trees.
Special attractions of the Avala are several monuments. They include: