As avid hikers and nature lovers we knew that it would be important for us to visit some of the national parks in the regions we were traveling through.
We fell in love with the Adriatic coast, but we were really itching to be in the midst of rolling hills, lush forests and rocky alpine. In truth, all of Montenegro is stunning. There may be developments of concrete apartment buildings and shopping malls in some areas, but the vast majority of the country is so lush with green hills and forests, covered with humble villages and just feels like a breath of fresh air.
Although a small country size wise, it was hard to choose where we stopped along out route. We made our itinerary last minute, but with a little planning you can make a great Montenegro road trip loop that hits most of the major sights in the country.
We ended up exploring Lovcen, Durmitor and Biogradska Gora National parks and spent the most time exploring Durmitor. We were able to visit three of the five national parks in Montenegro which I feel are understated. Let’s just say after our fist visit to the country we found out that there is so much more to see in Montenegro.
Lovcen National Park
We drove up to Lovcen National Park from Cetinje, which is the former capital of Montenegro founded in the 15th century. The Lovcen National Park is a part of the Dinaric Alps and has a great deal of religious significance and represents a sense of cultural pride to Montenegrins. Within the park there is a road that forks off to the right and leads you to an elaborate chapel with the mausoleum of Petar Petrovic II Njegoš, who was a 19th century bishop, poet and philosopher who Montenegrins view as a great importance. Getting to the mausoleum is a bit of a huff and puff hike, but it’s worth the effort. There is a 5 Euro entry fee and there is a discount for students.
When you walk up to the entrance, you’re greeted with two enormous statues representing Montenegrin women, each weighing 7.5 tons! Inside, the mausoleum’s ceilings are covered with golden flakes and there is a 28 ton statue of Njegos which was sculpted by Ivan Mestrovic out of one block of granite.
Behind the mausoleum there is a walkway that leads you to a panoramic vista of mountains beyond mountains and on a clear day the Adriatic sea.
There are also several trails you can take throughout the forest, but I recommend checking with the Visitor Center for trail information. We stopped by and they were very helpful and answered so many of our questions.
Biogradska Gora is the second national forest we were able to explore for a bit and is also one of Europe’s last three old growth forests. From the direction we were driving in, there is only one entrance to the park near Mojkovac so it would have taken a few hours of driving before we found another entrance. The drive to the national park was breath-taking with the river Tara flowing swiftly beneath the highway and on the canyons above were covered with lush patches of trees. When we entered the park, Biogradska felt like a national park we’d find in America, one that is virtually untouched and protected by the government and by UNESCO. The national park is covered with 1600 acres of beautiful forests, six glacial lakes.
From the first lake there are several well-marked trails that you can hike. There is a trail that loops around the lake. Vehicles can also drive through the park, but only if your car can properly handle the off-road conditions.
Durmitor National Park
Durmitor is by far my favorite park in Montenegro, but with some bias. We were able to spend three days exploring the forests as well as the town of Zabljak which gave us the opportunity to go on longer hikes and come home to rest for the night and then hike again the next day. The park which is also a UNESCO protected site, has 16 glacial lakes one of which, Crno Lake, can be strolled to less than 5 miles from the park’s entrance. The trails are well maintained and marked and all seem to lead hikers a different lake.
The last hike we were determined to make was Bobotuv Kut which is the tallest peak within the park at 2,523 meters. The hike was not easy and took about 7 hours to complete. The geography and alpine landscape was breathtaking and well worth it, but climbing the very top of the peak was a bit nerve-racking because it was very steep.
Tara River Canyon
We didn’t have time to make a long stop in the Tara River Canyon, but there are a lot of activities that are available for visitors such as zip-lining and river rafting. The Tara River Canyon is a magnificent canyon and is one of the deepest canyons in the world.
If you are looking for a good adventure, Montenegro is a place where you can find it. The country is beautiful, it is covered in old-growth virgin forests, the mountains are beautiful and there is just a list of activities that you can participate in. We spent about 5 days in Montenegro and I wish that we were able to spend more time there to check out other national parks.