Durmitor National Park
While my body loves bathing in the sea
My soul communes with the forest
My heart soars with the lofty peaks of the mountains
It is here that I am most alive
I had been on the road for over two-and-a-half hours, and traveling for almost four. Despite a stop to stretch my legs at Ostrog Monastery, I was road-tired and a little bored. A wide, sweeping bend in the road materialized before me. As the little Mercedes curved past the turn, a gasp shocked out of my throat.
A mountain peak jutted into the deep blue sky before me, the rocks swirling in a perfect pinwheel formation. Tall pines began to crowd the roadside as it narrowed and twisted and gained elevation. Soon, I had traded the multi-lane freeway for a twisting country road. Fields of tall grasses with weathered wooden houses popped up at breaks in the trees, purple wildflowers lined the roadside, and time slowed down.
I was in Durmitor National Park in northwestern Montenegro. I hadn’t even gotten out of the car yet, and it was already my favorite place in the country.
A Guide to Durmitor National Park
If you plan to visit Montenegro, don’t miss this spot. It’s out-of-the-way of the popular coastal towns, but it’s well worth the long drive. Give yourself a few days here — there are day tours to Tara River from Kotor, but Durmitor demands more than a day trip. Here’s how to fill those days.
There are plenty of places to stay in Zablak at all budget levels, but I recommend Hostel Hikers Den in downtown Zabljak. It’s a cheap place to stay, the staff are super friendly, and it’s a great place to meet people and make friends. It’s also convenient to the grocery store and the bars and restaurants in town, if you want to hoe into a burger after a good day hiking. I even borrowed one of the hostel’s resident dogs for my final hike around Crno Jezero on my last day in town!
You’re in the mountains, so why not camp? While the weather in Durmitor can change on a dime, in July and August you’re usually safe to sleep outdoors. Even if you don’t have all the gear, many of the family-run campsites dotted around Zabljak can provide tents and/or small cabins with linens for your use. While I didn’t stay at any campsites, check Tripadvisor and Airbnb for options.
You could stay in Durmitor for weeks and not be able to cover off on all the hikes that this park has to offer. But there are a few that stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Crno Jezero (Black Lake)
This is a great first hike after you arrive in Durmitor. It’s easy to access from town, it’s an easy hike, and it’s absolutely stunning. Crno Jezero means Black Lake in Montenegrin, but it’s actually a gorgeous deep blue-green that looks beautiful in the afternoon or early morning light.
If the quick and easy loop around Crno Jezero isn’t enough, another 90 minutes will get you to pretty and peaceful Jablan Jezero, another glacial lake. You’ll trek through alpine forests full of wildflowers and streams before you arrive at this stunningly blue lake. Trails are marked but several intersect through the forest, so pay attention so as not to get lost!
This mountain peak hike is a long one, but it’s not as difficult as other summits. While the top of this mountain is more of a plateau, it affords a stunning view of the surrounding peaks as well as the Škrčko Lakes far below. Start this hike early — a roundtrip from Crno Jezero will take about 7 hours.
Serious hikers only need apply here — this is a steep and challenging ascent to Durmitor’s highest peak. While you won’t need special equipment, there are rocky areas of the trail that require extreme care when placing your feet. Loose rocks can twist ankles, and a mountain rescue is no fun. Give yourself at least 9 hours to get up and back.
Raft the Tara River
It’s one of those experiences that’s super-touristy, but kinda a must-do. Several operators offer rafting tours of the famous Tara River, and it’s a fun way to see the canyon. Do your homework to ensure that the tour provider has a good safety record, and enjoy! It’s not a particularly challenging raft ride, but it’s a good time.
Walk the Tara River Bridge
You can do this on a rafting tour (most will stop at the parking lot on either side of the bridge before you head down the canyon), or you can drive yourself in about 30 minutes from Zabljak. Park on one side of the bridge and walk along the sidewalk to the other and back. You can get stunning views of the Tara River below, and there are pretty photo spots on either side of the bridge.
Swim at Vrazje Jezero (Devil’s Lake)
Deep in Durmitor, down narrow back roads, you’ll find this stunner of a lake that’s perfect for a swim on a hot afternoon. The depth drops off dramatically in the middle, creating a ring of beautiful turquoise water that fringes a deep blue center. When the sun hits it just right, it’s a jaw-dropper.
Find Peace at St. Michael’s Monastery
If you manage to find your way down the bumpy dirt road to this little church on the banks of the Tara River, congratulations! It’s not easy to find, but if you park at the church and walk through the garden to the river, there’s a perfect spot to sit and contemplate the beauty that is Montenegro. The ice-blue water of the Tara River will mesmerize you, and the sound of the water rushing past will lull you into a state of perfect peace.
Have you visited Durmitor National Park? What is your favorite mountain town? Let me know in the comments!