Durmitor National Park


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Europe » Montenegro » Žabljak
October 20th 2019
Published: October 22nd 2019
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After breakfast at our apartment in Kotor we hopped into the car and set off for the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Durmitor National Park. After driving for a while on good quality new roads we wondered when they would run out….and discovered the answer not long after as we pulled up behind some cars.

The cars had obviously been stationary for quite some time as people were milling around. After we’d been sitting there for a while I hopped out of the car and walked to the front of the traffic jam to see what the hold up was. There were concrete barriers blocking the road… As one of the cars at the front of the traffic jam was a taxi I figured we’d be moving at some stage so headed back to the car. On the way back I heard someone comment that they’d been waiting for over an hour.

We continued to wait for the traffic to move. We were rather surprised when an ambulance with lights and sirens on wasn’t even allowed through. While waiting a few cars which clearly thought we were pulled over for no reason drove to the front and then, when they realised they couldn’t go any further, they cut in line.

After about an hour or more wait, the concrete barriers were moved and the traffic started to move. It wasn’t really clear to us what the hold up had been. They were clearly working on the road, but it seemed like with some traffic control they could have kept traffic moving whilst working. At least we weren’t in a rush (unlike the ambulance!).

After we drove past the end of the road work the roads were in fairly good condition again. The scenery continued improving (on the already stunning scenery) as we drove. The autumn leaves and mountains were beautiful!

We stopped at a small town for a late lunch – cheese byrek for me and meat for Scott. We ate our byrek in the car while waiting for the guy who had parked directly behind our cark while he popped into the supermarket to finish his shopping.

We reached our hotel next to Tara Canyon at about 2:30, slightly later than anticipated due to the traffic delays but still not too bad. After checking into our hotel (which consisted of showing one of the staff members my booking.com reservation and her handing us the key), we headed out to do some short hikes.

We drove about 20 minutes back in the direction we’d come from and then turned off onto a small road towards Bosaca village. The road narrowed and the quality deteriorated as we continued driving, but it was still not too bad. Eventually we reached what seemed to be a car park, hopped out of the car and set off towards Zmijinje jezero (Snake Lake).

The walk through was quite easy and the track, although not clearly marked, was easy to follow. After about 40 minutes of walking through fairly dense forest we reached the lake. The lake was quite peaceful and surrounded by trees. We stayed for a little while taking photos and admiring the view before setting back along the same track.

We eventually reached a sign which pointed to another lake. After a quick google we realised it was another lake we’d planned to visit, the Black Lake. After checking the trail on maps.me we set off towards Black Lake.

The walk was mostly downhill for quite a while, which made us really excited for the climb back up the hill on the way back… We had to take some small detours around rather muddy areas, but aside from that the track was easy and in good condition. After about 40 minutes we reached the huge Black Lake. The Black Lake was much busier than Snake Lake and there was even a cafe on the banks of it.

We didn’t stay too long as we didn’t want to get stuck hiking through the forest with no daylight left so after checking the temperature of the water (cold!) we set off towards our car along a different track.

The first part of this track, as expected, was a climb up the hill. But after we made it to the top the trail was relatively flat so quite pleasant. We made it back to our car at about 5pm and then headed back to our hotel.

Along a narrow, steep, gravel track we encountered oncoming traffic. The angry local man wasn’t keen on trying to go around each other so after much honking (on his behalf) Scott had to awkwardly back up the hill until he could pass. Our car did not enjoy this… And the local guy didn’t even give us a wave to say thanks (which is fairly unusual going by what we’ve experienced elsewhere in the Balkans). After giving our car a bit of a rest we continued on our way back to the hotel.

That night for dinner we found a small restaurant a short drive away. Scott ordered cevapcici (small grilled minced meat kebabs) and chips and I ordered some grilled vegetables. Our expectations weren’t that high given it’s not the peak tourist season, but the meals were quite delicious. They seemed more home style than the food we’d been eating around Kotor. The grilled vegetables were the best I’ve ever had!

The following morning after a very filling breakfast at our hotel we walked across the Đurđevića Tara Bridge. The Đurđevića Tara Bridge is a 365m long concrete arch bridge which crosses over the Tara Canyon. Unfortunately the sun wasn’t in the best position for photos, but we snapped a few shots anyway before making our way back to our hotel.

From our hotel we set off back towards Žabljak before taking the same turnoff we’d taken to get to the lakes the day before. This time we followed the small local roads towards Tepca to the start point for the hike up Mt Ćurevac.

As we hopped out of the car we were pounced on by a national park official (we assume!) who we purchased our tickets from (3 Euros each). After buying our tickets we started the hike.

Because we were headed to the viewpoint at the top of Mt Ćurevac, the hike involved an approximately 1.5km walk uphill. The trail varied between a dirt track to climbing over rocks, but wasn’t too strenuous, though we both ended up a little sweaty despite it being fairly cool.

The views over Tara Canyon were well worth the climb. The canyon is 1300m deep at its deepest point, so is fairly impressive. The views away from the canyon were almost as lovely, there was a nice plateau with forest and village in the distance.

Whilst at the top we chatted with some friendly Russians (after watching then take selfies from a rather precarious position which they could have fallen to their death from). They gave us some tips for the rest of Durmitor and we took photos of each other. We also chatted with an Israeli family.

After admiring the views for a while we decided it was time to head back down the car and set off for our next destination, Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The first part of the drive to Sarajevo was along one of the ‘panoramic roads’ which weaves through Durmitor National Park. It’s hard to describe just how stunning the scenery along the panoramic road was. We stopped every few kilometers to take photos of panoramic views of beautiful mountains, winding roads.

Fortunately for us the road wasn’t too busy as it was quite narrow, with numerous hairpin bends and steep drops off either side. In some parts of the road we weren’t quite sure what we’d do if we encountered an oncoming car. Because it was so narrow and winding we drove most of the first section of the trip at a top speed of about 40km/hr, but most of the time we were travelling much slower than that.

The terrain flattened out at one point and we had lovely views of small towns, autumn leaves and plains. The flatter terrain didn’t last long before we were back to hairpin turns as we made our way to the Piva Lake viewpoint on the side of the mountain.

We stopped briefly at the Piva Lake viewpoint to admire the views, before continuing along the narrow road with numerous switchbacks. Eventually we reached the road which runs alongside the river. This road was rather fancy as it had one lane in each direction as well as multiple (very dark) tunnels.

After driving for a while we realised we were probably getting quite close to the Montenegro – Bosnia and Herzegovina border. I checked the map and sure enough we were fairly close to a border. We stopped briefly to grab our passports out of the boot and then headed to the border to leave Montenegro.

After exiting Montenegro we turned a corner and then had to queue to cross a narrow bridge which took us to the immigration booths on the other side. Eventually we crossed the bridge, handed over our passports and noticed a big ‘Welcome to the Republic of Srpska’...not quite the sign we’d expected to see! We’ve since learnt that the Republic of Srpska, mostly inhabited by Bosnian Serbs, is one of the two autonomous region which make up Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other being the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but more on that in a later blog.

After we crossed the border the quality of the roads deteriorated quite a lot! The road was quite rough, with numerous (large) potholes. The scenery was just as lovely as on the Montenegrin side though so we still enjoyed the drive. We arrived at our hotel in Sarajevo about two hours after we crossed the border with Montenegro and approximately 5 hours after we’d finished our hike in Durmitor National Park.

When planning this trip I’d almost removed Durmitor National Park from the itinerary completely as everything I’d read said that the weather would be terrible at this time of the year. After seeing photos of the park I couldn’t bring myself to skip it entirely. Fortunately for us the weather was perfect; clear blue sky and about 18 degrees both days. It would have been lovely to have a bit more time so we could have done some of the other hikes, but at least we got a little taste of Durmitor! It’s a beautiful part of the world.


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24th October 2019
Piva Lake

Montenegro
I love this scenic view. We must get to Montenegro.

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