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Tear yourself away from Montenegro’s azure coast and plan a visit to Durmitor National Park. You will NOT be sorry!
Wondering if it’s worth giving up a day or two on Montenegro’s beautiful beaches for some time in Montenegro’s ‘black mountains’?
The answer is yes. Absolutely, 100% YES!
And Durmitor National Park is the perfect place to do it.
It’s a relaxed and scenic 3 hour drive from the coast, so you can pull it off in a day trip, but to really enjoy your time here you really have to spend at least one night. With the cute mountain town of Žabljak on the edge of the park, there are lots of good accommodation and restaurants that will make your stay in the mountains just as comfortable as on the coast.
There’s also a tonne of things to do here. Durmitor is Montenegro’s premier hiking country, but if that doesn’t float your boat you can see medieval tombstones, go rafting, take a scenic drive, try via ferrata, go canyoning, ziplining or offroad on an ATV tour. You can also just take it easy and read a book by a lake.
Durmitor National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and like all national parks in Montenegro there’s an entrance fee that helps maintain the park. You can buy tickets for €3 for a day, €6 for three days or €12 for seven days. Children under seven go free.
Crno Jezero (Black Lake) | Tara Canyon | Rafting Tara Canyon | Đurđevića Tara Bridge | Tara Canyon Zipline | Durmitor Ring | Durmitor National Park Hiking | Stećci (medieval tombstones) | Via Ferrata | Nevidio Canyon | ATV Tours | Ski and Snow
With a natural bounty of emerald water surrounded by dense forest and Durmitor’s highest peaks looming in the distance, awe-inspiring Crno Jezero (Black Lake) is a must-see in Durmitor National Park.
The main thing to do here is the 4km (2.4mi) walk around the lake. The trail takes you through spruce and fir forest and there are lots of places to stop and enjoy the view, including an area with picnic tables about half way around.
Along the path you’ll see boards with information about the plants and animals that are native to the area. There’s also a cave where Tito, who went on to become president of Yugoslavia, hid from Nazis during World War II. You’ll see it signposted as Titova pečina.
Although you can bike this trail, in reality it’s too busy and narrow to do that most of the time. There are also a couple of flights of steps on the path.
You can also hire boats on the lake for €8 an hour and kayaks for €4 an hour.
Address: Crno Jezero, Durmitor National Park
Entrance: Durmitor National Park day pass €3, children <7 free
Tara Canyon is undoubtedly one of jewels of Montenegro. At 1,300m deep it’s the deepest canyon in Europe and second only to the Grand Canyon in the world. The Tara River that gushes through it is known as the ‘Tear of Europe’ because it’s so pristinely clean.
The best way to see Tara Canyon is by rafting down the Tara River. But if that’s not your thing or you’re visiting out of season you can get fantastic views of it from the Đjurđevića Tara Bridge and more distant views by hiking to Ćurevac Peak.
Rafting through the Tara Canyon is one of the most popular activities in Montenegro. From the river you can really appreciate how crystal clear (and cold!) the river is and how dramatic the canyon’s cliffs are.
Rafting tours run May to the end of September, but spring snow melt means the rapids are too dangerous for most early in the season. July to mid-September is the best time to go. In summer you get a nice combination of exciting rapids and calm stretches where you can appreciate your surroundings. The weather is also perfect for a little dip in the 10°C (50°F) water… if you’re brave enough!
The next best way to see the Tara Canyon is from the Đjurđevića Tara Bridge. This bridge was the longest concrete arched vehicular bridge in Europe when it was built in 1940 and it saved Montenegro from Fascist forces during World War II. Actually, it was the destruction of the bridge by its chief engineer that halted the occupation because without the bridge the canyon is impassable.
Today, the Tara Đjurđevića Bridge is a major attraction and it’s the best place to see the canyon if you can’t raft down it. You can walk along the footpath to the middle of the bridge and from here you’ll get stunning views in both directions. You can also watch people zipline from one side of the canyon to the other.
If you’re looking for a thrill you can zipline across the Tara Canyon at Tara Đjurđevića Bridge. There are two different ziplines run by two different companies. Extreme Zipline Tara is just over 1km in length and flies across the canyon at up to 120km/h. Red Rock Zipline is 350m long and has two lines so you can go at the same time as someone else.
Address: Most na Đurđevića Tari, Durmitor National Park
Hours: 10am – 7pm, 15th April – 1st October
Pricing: Extreme Zipline Tara is €25, Red Rock €10
The Durmitor Ring (Durmitorski Prsten) is the best way to see Durmitor’s dramatic scenery without breaking a sweat. You can easily drive (or cycle) the circular route that takes you through mountain villages, lakes and stunning Sedlo Pass. This is a beautiful drive through some of Montenegro’s best landscapes and I highly recommend setting aside at least a couple of hours to do it while you visit Durmitor National Park!
Durmitor offers some of the best hiking in Montenegro. The park has 48 peaks over 2,000m and 18 glacier lakes, known locally as gorske oči (mountain eyes). Many of the 25 marked trails covering 150km cover lead you to these peaks and lakes and will take you through pine and beech forest as well as exposed meadows and shepherds’ villages called katun.
The easiest and most popular trail is the one around Black Lake, but it’s usually pretty busy. If you’d like to explore uncrowded trails, choose one of the other hikes. You can get information about all of the trails and maps from the visitor centre in Žabljak.
If you’re coming to hike the Durmitor mountains, the place to stay is Hostel Hiker’s Den in Žabljak. This is a hub for hikers in Durmitor.
Bobotov Kuk (2523m) is Durmitor's highest peak and it’s the most well-known hike in Durmitor National Park. There are three ways to hike this peak:
1) The most popular (and easiest) is to start from Sedlo Pass, part of the Durmitor Ring. From there it’s a three hour hike to the top and you can come down the same way. This route can get busy so I recommend starting it early in the morning. By mid-morning onwards there can be bottlenecks around the parts of the trail.
2) The more challenging options starts at Crno Jezero (Black Lake) in Žabljak. This takes you up the other side of Bobotov Kuk and is a 10-hour hike (return).
3) You can go up one trail and come down the other. It’s easiest to start in Sedlo Pass and come down into Žabljak because you’ll spend less time climbing, but also because you can get a local taxi to drop you off at the start point in Sedlo Pass.
Although Bobotov Kuk is a popular hike, the weather in the Durmitor mountains is very changeable and people have to get rescued here every year. If you do this hike please make sure you’ve checked weather reports and have sufficient supplies and safety gear.
Address: Bobotov Kuk, Durmitor National Park
Stećci are medieval tombstones scattered across this part of Montenegro as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia. There are 28 stećci sites across these countries and they were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2016.
Archaeologists believe these tombstones mark where local nobility were buried in the 14th and 15th centuries. These sites are also called the Bogomil Stećci because they could mark Bogomil graves. Bogomils rejected the Orthodox church and were very ascetic. They didn’t eat meat, drink wine or marry. They were conquered in this area by the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century, which is when the gravesites were abandoned.
There are two sites in Durmitor, Grčko Groblje (Greek Necropolis) by Riblje Lake and Bare Žugića. The two sites are close together and you can visit just one or both in the same trip. The Bare Žugića site has more stećci (300 versus Grčko Groblje’s 49) but Grčko Groblje is a little closer and in a pretty site beside a lake.
Hardly any visitors make out here, even though it’s only fifteen minutes’ drive from Žabljak. You can easily tack a visit onto the end of a drive around the Durmitor Ring and if you’re visiting in summer you can stop at Vražje Lake to cool off as you pass.
Address: Greek Necropolis - Bogumilski Stećci, Novakovići, Žabljak, Bare Žugića – Bogumiliski Stećci, Žabljak
Opening Hours: 24 hours
If you’ve never come across it before, via ferrata is kind of like a cross between hiking and rock climbing. You wear a harness and you use a cable system to scale the hill. There are also ladders, bridges and steps so you get the experience of rock climbing without the years of training and extreme hand strength required for it!
There’s a via ferrata near Sedlo, which you’ll pass as you drive the Sedlo Pass section of the Durmitor Ring.
I absolutely loved doing this via ferrata and highly recommend it!
Nevidio Canyon is Montenegro’s most popular canyoning spot and there are tours through the canyon all summer. High jumps make it one of Montenegro’s most challenging canyons and it’s limited to adults only.
If you’re into adventure sports you’ll love canyoning and coasteering in Montenegro and there are several more canyons to choose from. There are even canyoning tours for kids so it’s a great activity for families.
An ATV tour is a great way to explore Durmitor without hours of hiking. On a tour you can see lots of the beautiful viewpoints, lakes and villages in Durmitor National Park.
There are two tours that start and finish in Žabljak:
Snow covers Durmitor National Park for several months a year and in winter Žabljak is a bustling ski resort. There’s a modest ski resort at Savin Kuk which has one black, one red and three blue runs as well as a baby run. You can also go Nordic skiing and snowshoeing here.
I recommend spending at least one night in Durmitor if you can. The best place to stay when visiting Durmitor National Park is Žabljak, a cute mountain town on the edge of the park.
You’ll find lots of accommodation to choose from and there are lots of good restaurants where you can try traditional local cuisine, which is vastly different from what you’ll find on the coast. Žabljak is so close to the national park that you can walk to the Black Lake and do many of the hikes, even if you haven’t got a car.
Polar Star is a great place for families, couples and groups. They have rooms, self-catering apartments and bungalows. There’s also a little playground and lots of outdoor space for kids to run around.
Hotel Soa is a stylish hotel near the Black Lake. The central location makes it ideal for exploring Durmitor National Park and the wellness centre is a welcome treat at the end of a day of being in the outdoors.
Durmitor Bungalows have modest, but clean and warm, self-contained bungalows. With barbecue facilities, a playground, lots of green space and the novelty of bungalows these are ideal for families. Durmitor Bungalows are walking distance to Žabljak centre, supermarkets and the bus station.
Food in Durmitor is based on the traditional lifestyle in the mountains. With snow cover for four to five months a year and a physically-demanding lifestyle, the local diet in Durmitor is based on meat, dairy and grain. Locally-produced food is generally organic and grass-fed and I highly recommend trying some of the local dishes. Here are some top picks:
The easiest way to get to Durmitor National Park is to hire a car and drive yourself. It’s about three hours’ drive from the coast and about two hours from Podgorica. The roads are windy but good.
Having a car will make it easy to visit places like the Đurđevića Tara Bridge, the Durmitor Ring and the Black Lake. If you’re interested in a self-drive holiday around Montenegro but not sure where to start you can download my free self-drive tour itinerary.
A great way to experience Montenegro’s outdoors, without doing the organising yourself, is on a multi-day tour. You can add these to a beachside holiday or make them your whole trip. There are itineraries that start from two days long and they include activities like hiking and rafting as well as meals and accommodation.
A private transfer from the coast to Žabljak starts from €120 and from Podgorica €84.
You can get public buses from Podgorica and the coastal centres to Žabljak. The best places to find timetables and tickets are on busticket4.me and Balkan Viator. You won’t find direct routes from the coast (eg Kotor to Žabljak) but there are at daily buses (usually at least one morning and one afternoon) from Nikšić and Podgorica. Search for those buses first and then find the best connections from your location to either of those destinations.
Durmitor is open year round. May to October are the nicest months for hiking and sightseeing, while December to March are best for snow. Spring and early summer will give you lush green landscapes, while the park is hues of rust in late summer and autumn.
The best way to find your way around Durmitor is by downloading maps onto your phone.
For hiking download the maps.me app to get trail routes, viewpoints, water sources, parking areas, campsites and roads on your phone. You’ll be able to use it even when you don’t have reception or data, which often happens in Montenegro's rural areas.
The maps.me app doesn’t have all places in Montenegro so downloading the Montenegro map in Google maps will supplement what’s missing on maps.me. You can find instructions on how to do that here.
If you want a good old paper map you can pick them up from the visitor centre in Žabljak.
The animals you’re most likely to come across during your visit to Durmitor are cows, sheep and horses. But Durmitor National Park is home to a huge variety of wildlife too. You might see eagles soaring over Tara Canyon, woodpeckers as you walk around Black Lake and colourful butterflies are everywhere. In fact, Durmitor is believed to have Europe’s biggest variety of butterflies and there are 163 bird species in Durmitor and 314 protected species. There are kestrels, vultures, grouse, deer, martens, foxes, wolves and bears among others.
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