Montenegro is like a ‘tardis’. Our Montenegro tours open the door into one of Europe’s smallest countries, just the size of Northern Ireland, where you will discover a world of five national parks, a plethora of peaks, with over sixty of them hitting the heights of over 1,800m, lakelands and nearly 300km of coast.
That’s why, for example, Montenegro hiking can take you from the likes of Lovćen National Park in the morning down to the coast at Kotor in the afternoon. It’s also a bit like travelling through different worlds on our Montenegro cycling holidays, whirring off to Skadar National Park in the morning, which boasts the biggest lake in the Balkans, and landing in Lovćen National Park in the afternoon. Montenegro tours are regenerative and exciting, and for natural adventurers, just what the doctor ordered.
Where to go
Durmitor National Park
Durmitor is the doyenne of natural drama in Montenegro, a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the north of the country with no less than 48 limestone peaks over 4,800m. This is a walking wonderland, and one that you can climb up to the heights of Previja Pass (2,145m) and Skrka Pass (2,112m), or go for a gentler circular trek of three Durmitor Lakes – Barno, Zminje and Crno. Durmitor is also home to an iconic avenue of adventure, Tara Canyon, which cuts through the park and perfect for white water rafting.
Lovćen National Park
One of our favourite Montenegro hiking havens, a highlight of this park is trekking up to the top of Jezerski Vrh summit (1,657m) to visit the mausoleum of the much beloved leader and great thinker, Njegos who died in 1851. This is a bit of a sacred pilgrimage for Montenegrins, as Njegos was considered an ambassador for peace and reconciliation of his time. The gateway town is Cetinje, the former capital where the last King Nikola’s palace is now a museum and its 15th century monastery, galleries and small boutiques make for a lovely wander. You can also hike from Lovćen to the coast at Kotor on the same day.
Lake Skadar National Park
This national park is both green and blue, with its eponymous lake covering 400km², shared with Albania and forming a natural border. Tucked into the Prokletije Mountains, their peaks reflected on the calm and biodiverse waters, our Montenegro cycling fans love the Lake Skadar route, with exquisite views and exciting descents. Lake Skadar is still very much off the tourist trail, unlike some of Europe’s other great lakelands, and this one is most definitely great. Virpizar is Lake Skadar’s main town and, although tiny, it is the centre of the country’s wine region where Vranac and Kratosije are the ones to look out for.
This UNESCO town is protected and revered for its ancient architecture but also its fine natural environs, perched on a fjord-like inlet that leads out into the Bay of Kotor. There are superb views of the bay from the hilltop fortress of St. John, but you can also soak up its medieval and Venetian vibes in the old walled town of Stari Grad. Kotor is a particular favourite on our Montenegro cycling holidays, as you can time an exciting descent from Lovćen National Park down to Kotor in one day, with the best views ever.
Biogradska Gora National Park
This national park, in the Bjelasica mountain range, is celebrated for its rich, primaeval forests, with trees dating back four or five hundred years. Biogradska Lake is an oasis in the middle of all this green space, with its river of the same name creating a verdant waterway straight through it. There are numerous hiking trails through the beech, fir, juniper and elm trees such as up to Lica Mountain (1,893m), or alongside the Bjelasica mountain peaks of Zekova (2,117m) and Crna Glava (2,139m).
Things to do
- The hard won peaceful relationships between Balkan countries should be celebrated by visiting hikers and cyclists alike. The Peaks of the Balkans is a long-distance hiking trail traversing the Western Balkans, on a circuit that encompasses the heritage highlights (and highlands) of Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. Depending on the heights that you want to hit, there are options to ascend Mt. Trekufiri, Hajla, Taljanka and Arapi, all promising the most peaceful panoramas.
- Hike a section of another long-distance trail, the Via Dinarica, a network of long-distance walking trails that not only takes you through Montenegro’s Dinaric Alps but also the mountain magnificence of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia. The Bosnia-Herzegovina to Montenegro section leads you through a colossal combo of Sutjeska and Durmitor National Parks, including some white water rafting along Montenegro’s Tara Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in Europe.
- Pack a good picnic for your hike or cycle and seek out the local providers for a feast of fine foods. Cheese is key to the Montenegrin diet, with village varieties at every turn of the road, it would seem, but Pljevaljski, Njeguski, Lisnati and Prljo are the most famous. Pršut is the local version of prosciutto ham, and the place to buy this is the former royal palace town of Cetinje, where Njegusi pršut is king. Lamb that is slow-cooked in milk, over a fire, is a northern Montenegrin speciality, and cevapi sausages will fill your boots on any trek. In short, Montenegrins will never let you go hungry with their warming mountain fare, and local wines to accompany it.
Responsible travel tips
- Montenegro tourism went a bit crazy after independence in 2006, with concrete enclaves and clubbing hitting the shores of Budva. Our Montenegro tours avoid these spots, however we are keen to prove to the tourist board that nature-based adventures are worthy of attention on their part. So, please take plenty of photos and post on social media, #Montenegro, saying how much you love their pristine landscapes, and how important it is to preserve them. Tourist boards sometimes think that visitor numbers are what it’s all about, whereas we believe that visitors’ voices really make a difference.
- H2O in Montenegro is good to go. With rich sources of fresh mountain spring water everywhere, there is no need to buy bottled water at all, so remember to pack your reusable bottle or hydration bladder pack.
- Respect Montenegrins traditional culture, especially in rural areas, and cover your shoulders and knees when visiting Orthodox churches and other religious sites.
- Our Montenegro tours run between April and October, and one of them, a walking holiday in the south of the country as late as November. It brings huge sustainable benefits to travel out of season, as our Montenegro walking and cycling holidays focus on small rural areas, and by supporting them out of the traditional season can make a vast difference to several families.
- Bring your binoculars to keep an eye out for birdlife, particularly in Lake Skadar National Park, which is an Important Bird Area, and home to avian wonders such as the greater flamingo, Kentish plover, rare Dalmatian pelican and the pygmy cormorant.