Five years ago (when blogging was still a thing?) I probably would have started this blog post lamenting about how I spent hours trying to find great hiking tips and trail recommendations for Montenegro. While it’s quite easy to research Montenegro’s beautiful coastline, Steffen (the husband) and I struggled a little finding suitable information on Montenegro’s mountains and national parks for our trip in the fall of 2018.
But here’s the deal: No one reads (or writes) blog posts like that anymore so I’ll spare you the overly narrative lamenting to share a plain, good old five-best-list (at least these are still cool, right?) with our favorite hikes and a brief summary of everything else you need to know about hiking in Montenegro.
The following five hikes were found thanks to hiking magazines, guide books, and recommendations from locals and I hope you’ll find this list helpful in your own research.
A few things you should know before hiking in Montenegro’s mountains and national parks: While the trails are flawlessly marked and it’s basically impossible to get lost, we encountered little to no infrastructure along the tracks. So be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, a first aid kit, and anything else you might need (sunscreen, chargers, etc).
Heads up: Apparently, there are snakes and bears in the woods of Montenegro — we didn’t see any (though there was one incident where we heard something large in the brushwood, but didn’t dare to check what it was) — but I’d recommend watching your step and staying on tracks (as you should anyways in nature reserves). What we did see were many stray dogs and cats as well as fire salamanders — so unless you can’t be trusted with puppies, there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Also important: Being the
dumb overly ambitious tourists we are, we obviously aspired to conquer Montenegro’s highest mountain, Bobotov Kuk. It looked quite doable and I saw photos of people wearing jeans up there on Instagram, so I was convinced we could pull it off, too. But there was a dramatic temperature drop shortly before we came to Žabljak and several locals warned us not to attempt Bobotov Kuk with snow and ice on the ground. Luckily, we listened.
Lesson here (and always): Remember that weather is unpredictable in the mountains, always ask and listen to locals, don’t be over-ambitions, don’t risk your life for a freaking Instagram-photo — and pack gloves even though it’s your summer vacation.
To make the following list of great day hikes in Montenegro actually helpful, I’ll give you the exact times it took Steffen and me to hike these routes, but I’m not sure if our fitness levels are a good frame of reference. I’d say we were in somewhat decent shape last fall: Steffen had just mountain-biked across the Alps the second summer in a row, I usually attend at least one yoga and one strength endurance class at the gym every week. We’re usually fast paced uphill walkers, but we’re also taking a lot of photos/videos which slows us down and we really take our time walking downhill as I’m prone to falling (remember my little Yosemite disaster?).
Speaking of falling: We invested in proper light-weight, foldable hiking poles for our trip to Montenegro and I’m pretty sure they saved my life at least once. If your not as clumsy as me, you might not need them, but I’m still convinced your knees would be very thankful for a little downhill walking support (maybe I’m just old though).
To complete the list, I’ll also add links to the places where we stayed to help you plan your own Montenegro road trip. Just so you know: I’m going back to blogging retro-2013-style, meaning none of our accommodation was sponsored — this is just me sharing my honest experiences.
And lastly: The national parks of Montenegro cost a small entrance fee (3 Euros per person per day) — don’t freak out when a random guy approaches your car at a tiny parking lot in the middle of nowhere, it’s usually just a park ranger collecting the fee.
But now, finally here are five wonderful hikes in Montenegro that you really shouldn’t miss.
Primeval Forest Feels: The Hike up Mount Bendovac in Biogradska Gora National Park
Considered Europe’s most beautiful primeval forest, Biogradska Gora National Park was the perfect introduction to our hiking adventures in Montenegro. We started at the lake, Biogradsko Jezero, and hiked up to Mount Bendovac which offered amazing views of the forest and the lake. And since the lake is really pretty, we finished off our tour by walking around it.
Tip no.1: The hike up to Mount Bendovac is for the most part a smoothly paved gravel trail in serpentines. If you’re not a fan of walking the same way up and down again though, there is another trail leaning straight up the hill. It’s a little more strenuous, but leads through a stunning birch forest — we took the steeper trail uphill and the serpentines downhill and it was wonderful.
Tip no.2: The walk around Lake Biograd is very family-friendly with information boards and games, plus it has some beautiful picnic spots along the way — but even if you’re looking for more of a challenge, don’t miss it: It provides the most jungle-y feels I ever felt in Europe and is absolutely worth seeing.
Walking distance: 19 kilometers (Mt. Bendovac + lake)
Altitude meters: 720
Time: 5 hours and 10 minutes
We stayed in Kolašin at Bianca Resort & Spa. It was a bit of a splurge, but we did enjoy the ski resort ambience here very much. (I’m including these two hotel photos here, because they describe how Kolašin feels very well.)
Ice Cave Route: The Hike up to Katun Lokvice in Durmitor National Park
Durmitor National Park is easily one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen: Don’t miss these mountains in Montenegro (I’d honestly pick Durmitor over the Bay of Kotor)! Since we decided against attempting the hike up Bobotov Kuk, we chose the Ice Cave as our replacement destination — which is actually a halfway point on one of the trails leading up to Bobotov Kuk.
Spoiler: We didn’t make it to the ice cave either. The terrain got quite difficult as we reached 1900 meters above sea level, meaning we were slowly running out of time before sunset. It was also freezing (around 2 degrees Celsius) and I didn’t have gloves, so we made the smart decision to return once we could see the ice cave from afar.
But: The views on this hike were absolutely insane and if you don’t have a lot of time and a crazy amount of energy, but still want to get a little closer to Bobotov Kuk, I’d absolutely recommend hiking up the summer camp, Katun Lokvice, which is a wonderful place for a picnic before descending again.
The famous Black Lake, Crno Jezero, was our starting point and after the uphill challenge we added an easy walk around the lake onto our hike and ended it with a well-deserved beer at the restaurant there. The walk around the lake has pretty views and tons of benches, so definitely visit this part of Durmitor National Park even if you don’t want to turn your vacation into a tough mountaineering workout.
Walking distance: 13 kilometers (to see the ice cave from afar + lake)
Altitude meters: 570
Time: 4 hours and 40 minutes
We stayed in Žabljak at Etno selo Sljeme — it was the perfect base for our two days in Durmitor National Park and the staff here was insanely nice.
Canyon Views for Days: The Hike up Mount Ćurevac in Durmitor National Park
Tara River Canyon one of the deepest canyons in Europe. And rafting Tara River is the best way to experience the canyon — at least that’s what they say. Due to that sudden temperature drop in Žabljak I mentioned above, we chickened out of rafting though and decided to see the canyon from above instead!
The mini-hike up Mount Ćurevac came highly recommended by locals — and they were right! The magnitude of the canyon from above really takes your breath away.
Walking distance: 2 kilometers
Altitude meters: 40
Time: 40 minutes (we really took or time at the summit, see drone footage below)
Side note: While rafting might be great to see Tara River Canyon, the road from Kolašin to Žabljak actually offers very similar views — and bonus, you don’t get wet in the car!
The Bay of Kotor from above: Hiking from St John’s Fortress to Lovćen National Park
That the best view of the world-famous Bay of Kotor is from St John’s Fortress is pretty much common knowledge. But did you know you can walk up even further to have and even better view?
To find this trail you have to take the hundreds of stairs up to the fortress, then climb through a fortress window (yes, seriously!) and walk up some killer serpentines. But it’s worth it!
After the viewpoint, Steffen and I walked up even further (almost up to the zip-line) into Lovćen National Park, but I’d say you could totally hike up to the major bay viewpoint (you can’t miss it) and call it a day because you’ve certainly done enough for those poor hamstrings after all the fortress stairs and the serpentines.
Tip no.1: If you come to Kotor in the summer, make sure you don’t end up on the serpentines at noon (meaning: leave for that hike rather early in the morning): The bright gravel harshly reflects the sunlight and there is zero shade — it must be crazy exhausting to climb up there with all that extra heat.
Tip no.2: It costs 8 Euros to hike up St John’s fortress and see Lovćen National Park. Supposedly, there are trails that will lead you around the ticket office, but honestly, Montenegro needs your tourist money so be nice and pay for those stunning views, please.
Tour details (if you walk way up, wouldn’t recommend that though)
Walking distance: 13 kilometers
Altitude meters: 860
Time: 5 hours and 10 minutes
We rented a small apartment in Kotor’s old town with Apartment Wine House Old Town — the location was great, but the old town can be really loud at night. Also good to know: When there’s construction down the street, it seems to be a common problem in the old town that houses in the same street don’t have any running water (it only lasted for an hour or so, nothing to be worried about, but we were a little confused as this happened right when we checked in).
Three Peaks, No Words: Prokletije National Park
On our last full day in Montenegro, we drove across the entire country (for the second time!) for this one hike, hoping it would worth it. And luckily, it exceeded our expectations by a million. It’s probably the best hike I’ve ever done and I won’t even begin to describe how gorgeous this tour was, because I couldn’t find the right words anyways. Also, it briefly leads you into Albania!
This hike was certainly the most strenuous one on our trip and even though I have no fear of heights, I got weak knees more than once as a larger part of this trail is literally walking on the ridge from peak to peak. If you’re not afraid of heights and properly equipped (I’d say hiking poles are a must on this trail), this hike is one of the best adventures Montenegro has to offer. Seriously, you won’t be able to close your mouth for a long time, because this place is just so unreal.
To hike this trail: Park at Mountain Hut Karanfil and head to Mount Popadija first as this ascend is so steep it’s probably impossible to do downhill. Then continue to walk on the ridge to the second peak, Mount Talijanka (my favorite!), then onto Mount Volušnica. Keep in mind: Aside from the trail signs, this trail is completely untouched and we didn’t encounter a single other soul, there is no restaurant or supermarket anywhere close. Stock up on water and snack supplies in Plav and listen to your gut to be safe!
Walking distance: 11.4 kilometers
Altitude meters: 890
Time: 4 hours and 50 minutes
We stayed in Gusinje at Eko Katun ROSI in a rustic little cabin, which we loved, because it was super cozy, the views from this campsite were incredible, and dinner was amazing, too.
And that’s it: These were my favorite outdoor experiences in Montenegro! I hope this was helpful — let me know if you have any further questions about hiking in Montenegro in the comments below!
Oh, and if my photos didn’t convince you of Montenegro’s wild beauty yet, Steffen turned his drone/ GoPro/ iPhone footage into this lovely video: It has some jaw-dropping scenery and several moments of me looking like crazy person, so enjoy! (It’s Steffen’s first ever video, I’m sure he’d appreciate a little love over on YouTube, too. )