I recently took a 7-day road trip around Montenegro, and whilst many may argue that’s barely enough time to even scratch the surface, I believe that it gave me a great little taster of everything this incredible country has to offer.
Although Montenegro is primarily known for its coastal cities (namely Kotor and Budva), this little European gem that’s sandwiched between Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania has a whole lot more to offer than beaches and bars.
It contains some of the most rugged mountain ranges in Europe (averaging more than 2000 metres (6600 feet) in elevation), as well as one of the deepest canyons, making it the perfect playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
Here are just a few of the outdoor activities you can enjoy in Montenegro.
Skiing in the Durmitor National Park
Formed by glaciers and traversed by rivers and underground streams, the Durmitor Nacionalni Park is located in the north of the country, close to the border of Bosnia and Hercegovina. The quaintly ramshackle town of Žabljak (pronounced “Jablak”) transforms into a lively ski resort in the winter months.
Whilst Durmitor is pretty small when compared to some of its western counterparts, like many of the Balkan ski resorts it offers great value for money and has some beautiful gladed off-piste runs and masses of powder.
Photo by Luigi Torreggiani via Flickr Creative Commons licence
Where to stay in Durmitor National Park: We stayed at Hotel Soa on the outskirts of Žabljak. Its rooms and on-site restaurant overlook the ski slopes, and guests even get complimentary use of the hotel’s sauna – the perfect way to relax after an action packed day of skiing and snowboarding.
Rafting or kayaking on the Tara River
The Tara River Canyon is 82 kilometres long and 1300 metres at its deepest, making it the deepest river canyon in Europe. It forms part of the Durmitor National Park, and is protected under UNESCO World Heritage status.
Wild, but also stunningly pristine, with waters the colour of rich malachite, the Tara River makes the perfect playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
The most popular one-day rafting route sees travellers begin their journey in Brstanovica and continue down an 18-kilometre stretch, through 21 of the river’s 50 rapids, as far as Sćepan Pole on the Montenegro/Bosnia and Herzegovina border.
Zip-lining across the Tara Canyon
If you’d rather view the canyon from above then you can always take a walk across the Tara Bridge – a 365-metre long structure that stands 150 metres above the Tara River. The bridge was completed in 1940, and at the time it was the largest concrete arched vehicular bridge in Europe.
If walking isn’t quite satisfying enough for all you adrenalin junkies out there then how about flying? A couple of zip-line outfits have set up shop close to the bridge and will send you soaring high above the valley floor at speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour.
Hiking in the Biogradska Gora National Park
There are a number of areas that you can go hiking in Montenegro – the Black Lake in Durmitor National Park, the Coastal Mountain Traversal in Lovcen National Park, and the Peaks of the Balkans trail in the Prokletije Mountains – but for a truly authentic experience and a large dose of mountain hospitality, head to the Biogradska Gora National Park and stay in one of the traditional wooden chalets that are scattered around this part of Montenegro.
Here you’ll find roaring open fires, cosy woollen blankets, hearty home-cooked food, and complimentary shots of the local plum brandy to warm your bones after long days of hiking and mountain biking through primeval forests, and to high-altitude glacial lakes.
Where we stayed: Eko Katun Stavna, situated at the foot of Komovi Mountain, 1800 metres above sea level. It’s a real off-the-beaten path experience, and on a clear day the views from here are absolutely incredible.
Bird-watching on Lake Skadar
If you’d rather spend your time outdoors floating on the calm waters of the Balkan’s largest lake then absolutely do not miss a visit to Skadar. Lake Skadar – two thirds of which lies in Montenegro and the remaining third in Albania – is renowned as one of Europe’s top bird habitats, and is home to approximately 270 different species.
A protected National Park since 1983, Lake Skadar is a blissfully pretty area surrounded by dramatic Karst mountains. You’ll find traditional fishing villages, and pristine beaches dotted around its shoreline, and an overwhelming number of enthusiastic boat-owners eager to take your money and show you around.
Where we stayed near Lake Skadar: Cetinje is an easy 30-minute drive from Vipazar (on the shores of the lake) and is the country’s old capital. Not many people visit Cetinje because it’s so small and there’s not a lot to do there, but it’s a lovely little city, and makes a great base from which to explore the surrounding areas. I can recommend these apartments. Not only were they incredible value for money (just €20 / £17 per night), but our hosts were the kindest people we met in the whole of Montenegro.
Have you visited Montenegro and tried your hand at any of the above experiences? Tell me about it in the comments below!
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