“I never want to leave Montenegro,” Marko said with an impassioned tone.
We were in awe as our small red car carried us closer towards the distant mountains. The dense forests abundant with pine and beech trees had us seeing 50 shades of green. Enshrouded with low-lying clouds, deep canyons with an almost ghostly beauty greeted us, followed by wide open spaces dotted with the occasional cabin or flock of grazing animals.
“We have to come back… but we haven’t even arrived yet,” Marko said with an excited laugh.
I instantly responded with, “we will!”
Durmitor is an essential Balkan destination for lovers of natural wonders
Part of the Dinaric Alps, Durmitor is one of the most extraordinarily beautiful mountain regions I’ve ever laid my eyes upon and it is the Montenegrin destination that made the strongest impression on me (so far). I’m a mountain lover, places like this are a feast for my eyes and my soul.
This underrated region of Montenegro will send any nature lovers heart racing and fill them with a strong determination to come back. The diversity of striking landscapes and natural wonders in Durmitor is simply mind-blowing.
Durmitor National Park is home to magnificent, rugged mountains in the darkest shades of black and grey, capped with contrasting bright, white snow, colourful glacial lakes, Europe’s grandest canyon, pristine turquoise rivers, waterfalls running wild and the greenest of forests.
Up here close to the heavens, activities are determined by the season and at the mercy of the sometimes wild weather.
Oh, and despite the heavens opening up on us and covering us in copious amounts of rain and snow (unusually for late May) for most of our stay, we still had a memorable time and were never disappointed. A lot of the mountains were often seemingly removed from the landscapes with the heavy fog and clouds rendering them invisible. It was such a pleasant and unexpected surprise when they finally emerged.
Durmitor truly exemplifies ‘Wild Beauty’
Inline with Montenegro’s tagline ‘Wild Beauty’, farm animals are mostly free-roaming here. You will probably get caught in an animal only traffic jam or you might have to stop your car while a herd of animals cross the road. When Marko and I sat in a restaurant we were kept entertained by watching the fluffy, curly haired sheep and spotted dairy cows wander from field to field, constantly crossing the road in search for the tastiest grass.
Rare, native animals also inhabit this region of Montenegro but more hidden away from human sight. Browns bears, grey wolves, European wild cats along with rare birds and fish roam throughout this region.
You will find this region is heavy on the heavy food and heavy on the Northern charm.
The default status of Montenegrins is relaxed but it is on another level here. People are very nonchalant but in the most positively infectious way that even managed to put me at ease after receiving some awful news from my family. The locals are also very hospitable and welcoming. Life in the north can actually be very hard but without that insider knowledge, it would be impossible to tell based on its people.
About Durmitor National Park
- Durmitor National Park is named after the limestone massif (or in other words; one of the world’s most beautiful mountains) which is called ‘Durmitor’.
- In Montenegrin (and in similar Balkan languages) people don’t say ‘Mount Durmitor’ or ‘Durmitor Mountain’, it is simply ‘Durmitor’. The national park is also simply referred to as ‘Durmitor’.
- The Durmitor National Park is Montenegro’s first national park, it was established in 1952.
- Durmitor is one of the largest national parks in the Balkans.
- The Durmitor National Park is UNESCO world heritage listed due to the importance of this natural zone.
- The highest peak in Durmitor is Bobotov Kuk at 2,522 m. Durmitor has over 15 peaks with over 2000m of height.
- The unique appearance of Durmitor’s landscape has been crafted through thousands of years of erosion by glaciers and rivers.
What to see & do in Durmitor National Park
Durmitor Mountain Range
The mountain range itself, with it’s dramatic, craggy appearance is truly awe-inspiring. Admiring this natural wonder from afar was an absolute pleasure.
Hike to the highest peak
Take the tough, multi-hour long hike to its highest peak, Bobotov Kuk, for drone-like scenic views of the National Park. If you wish to do this hike, come in Summer. When there is snow it can be incredibly dangerous and should be avoided. This is a hard hike that takes around 6-8 hours depending on your fitness levels.
Durmitor has over 18 glacial lakes, that are referred to as ‘mountain eyes’ by local people. The array of blue, aqua and black colours in these lakes have to be seen to be believed.
The Black Lake (Montenegrin: Crno Jezero)
Admission: Entry is 3€ per person. Parking is an additional 2€ per car for parking.
The Black Lake is one of the most famous lakes in Montenegro and it is the largest lake in Durmitor. It comprises of two separate lakes which are in close proximity to each other.
Swim or rent a boat
In the summer, some people choose to go for a dip in the lake but they often realise that the weather is colder than expected due to the altitude. In the warmer seasons, you can also rent a boat at around 8€ per hour.
Stroll around the perimeter
It is an easy 4km walk to wander around the entirety of these two lakes.
The Devil’s Lake (Montenegrin: Vražje Jezero)
This was my favourite lake because I like how it looked like an eye and the surroundings were so picturesque. The outer colour of the lake is a piercing light shade of aquamarine and the inner circle is a dark blue colour which is very pupil-like. At 16 metres in depth, this lake is deceivingly deep.
Dainty, fragrant wildflowers in all different shade of purple and yellow surround this lake and that is just the cherry on top for me. We returned multiple times to this lake.
For the coolest perspective of this lake
Climb the steep hill for the best views of this lake.
Tara Canyon (Montenegrin: Kanjon rijeke Tare)
Sometimes referred to as the ‘Grand Canyon of Europe’, Tara Canyon is the deepest canyon in Europe and the second deepest canyon in the entire world! This canyon will take your breath away!
Look down the canyon walls to see the Tara River in all its aquamarine coloured glory, running wild. The Tara River runs from Bosnia and Hercegovina to Serbia and it has been proclaimed to be one of the cleanest rivers in Europe.
Walk across Đurđevića Tara Bridge (Montenegrin: Most na Đurđevića Tari) for epic scenic views
This large concrete bridge runs through the canyon. A walk across this bridge will give you a glimpse into the depths of the Tara Canyon as well as the beauty of the turquoise Tara River.
Notably, during WWI this very bridge was blown up in order to stop German lead invaders from crossing the bridge, destroying the only available crossing through the canyon.
Zipline through the canyon
With a zip line at nearly 1km long, Durmitor is home to one of the longest zip lines in Europe which takes you through the canyon to get up close and personal with this natural wonder. This is possibly one of the coolest experiences you can have in Montenegro!
There are multiple companies around the Đurđevića Tara Bridge that offer this activity which ranges between 10-20€ to do.
Keep in mind that this can only be done in the warmer seasons when rainy weather is not getting in the way.
Raft on the Tara River
For another close encounter with this grand canyon, join a rafting tour of the Tara River. At 30-60€, these tours sometimes include lunch and an overnight stay in a camp near the river.
This activity only takes place during May – October. If it is raining it can be very risky to raft on the river because the river becomes very fast, so rafting doesn’t take place during that type of weather.
While in Durmitor I was surprised to encounter 3 waterfalls casually, 2 of which were unmarked and unnamed.
If you are a fan of chasing waterfalls, keep your eye out while travelling around Durmitor because you might spot one where you least expect it.
Skakavica (pictured below) is one of the few waterfalls that actually has a name in this area if you would like to check out a sure thing.
Where to eat in Durmitor National Park
Aside from visiting for the natural wonders, the local cuisine and the fresh produce are also strong reasons to visit. And unlike other parts of Montenegro, Žabljak has many, many restaurants that are cooking up traditional fares.
As mentioned, the cuisine of this region is heavy and it is also kind of homely. The food is made to satisfy a strong appetite with comforting winter foods, you will find a strong presence of dairy (sour milk, kaymak and cheese), cabbage, green beans, potatoes, corn and meat (especially dried meat).
A vast array of produce is home-grown and made in Žabljak, from dairy products made from cows and sheep to meats and vegetables. The animals here graze in alpine pastures so the produce is truly top notch.
Pekara / Bakery Recommendation
Just behind the big Voli supermarket in Žabljak, there is a cute bakery with a charming wooden exterior, simply called ‘Pekara‘. They bake a nice range of savoury and sweet pastries. Their burek and savoury pies here are super delicious with an amazing balance of flavours and the perfect textures. There are also Montenegrin and English labels on the food on display.
We recommend trying their chocolate croissant which has comes with a decadent northern twist. Chocolate croissants are made all throughout Montenegro but the ones in the north are different as they not only filled with chocolate but the outer pastry is also coated in chocolate.
Recommended by our host at our accommodation, Izvor is a family run restaurant. All meals are prepared with local ingredients and there is a lot of traditional food available here.
At Izvor, we highly recommend trying these two northern specialities: Priganice and Kačamak.
The origins of Priganice have been traced back to the north of Montenegro as well as the nearby regional areas of Bosnia and Hercegovina. Priganice is essentially a Balkan doughnut which can be served alongside sweet or savoury accompaniments. The ones served up at Izvor are the best I’ve had thus far, they were perfectly crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. My favourite way to eat Priganice is dipped in honey.
Kačamak is a hearty traditional northern dish which is an absolute must to try. It consists of potato, corn flour and cheese. Kačamak is typically eaten for lunch or dinner. It kind of reminds of more strongly flavoured cheesy scrambled eggs in terms of texture and flavour.
Where to stay in Durmitor National Park
I was very excited to live out my ‘cabin in the woods’ dream while in Durmitor. There is a range of accommodation providers in Durmitor offering self-catering cabins, hotels and even a hostel. You can also camp here in warmer seasons. We personally found Žabljak to be a great place to base ourselves as we explored Durmitor.
Everything in the north is significantly cheaper compared to the rest of Montenegro especially the coast. So in this part of Montenegro, you can totally treat yourself with some fantastic accommodation for very, very reasonable prices.
We stayed in a self-catering cabin at ‘Bungalows Krstajić’ which was less than a 5-minute drive from
Žabljak’s main township where you can find a big supermarket, restaurants and many other places to grab a bite to eat.
Our accommodation was very cosy and had a fusion rustic/modern aesthetic. It had a basic kitchenette, a small dining area, a cosy lounge, a modern bathroom and upstairs it has two tiny bedrooms, just big enough to fit the actual beds.
It was the perfect base for exploring the region and a super comfortable place to get a good nights sleep. At 31€ per night in early spring (including a daily heating fee), it was one of the most reasonably priced accommodations available.
When to go to Durmitor National Park
There are two main seasons for visiting Durmitor National Park, Summer and Winter which sometimes bleed into other seasons depending on the weather.
If you have your heart set on any particular activities, I highly recommend staying for a few extra days because the weather can be unpredictable and can make or break whether you get to do something.
With around 138 snowy days in a year, Durmitor is an excellent destination for doing snow sports.
You may also manage to do a little bit of sightseeing (like to the Black Lake). Some areas may be impossible to visit because of heavy snow and hiking can become quite dangerous.
Summer is the perfect time to hike, sightsee and do other adventure activities like zip lining, river rafting and horseriding.
Montenegrins love to visit Durmitor during summer to escape the brutally hot and humid weather. Up in the mountains, in the high altitude, it is cooler than the rest of Montenegro all year round and is a nice relief in the summer.
Visiting between the main tourist seasons?
We visited in mid-Spring, it was unseasonably cold and snowed which was very unusual.
For a lot of Spring and Autumn, you will be unlikely to do any of the special activities here with companies that provide tours/activities still being closed up for the season or closed because of bad weather. Most of the souvenir stores are completely shuttered up too.
I really enjoyed being in Durmitor off-season despite the rain and snow. When it was really coming down hard outside, it was amazing to sit inside our cosy cabin and watch the storms passing. We managed to visit a lot of sites but were unable to do some specific hikes (like to Bobotov Kuk) because there was still snow. Most local restaurants are open all year round, so you won’t miss out on the delicious local cuisine if you visit off-season.
How to get to Durmitor National Park
Durmitor National Park is easiest to reach by car and not to mention, a dream to drive around with the mostly well-maintained roads but you can also reach it using Montenegro’s well-networked public transport.
Fly to Podgorica airport and drive onwards to Durmitor. The shortest route (122km or 75mi) should take just over 2 hours of driving.
Taking public transport?
You can very easily take the bus from Herceg Novi, Kotor or Podgorica to reach Žabljak. From Žabljak, there are other smaller bus lines. If you are taking public transport, the centre of Žabljak will be the best base for you.
It can take a little bit longer by bus but it can be a cost-effective option.
I recommend using Rome2Rio to work out your best route from anywhere.
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