Montenegro may be famous for its charming old towns and romantic bays of the south, but up in the mountainous north a whole world of adventure and epic scenery awaits.
Durmitor National Park is one of Europe’s best kept secrets, with towering peaks and dramatic canyons, not to mention countless beautiful hiking trails, world-class river rafting, and one of Europe’s best zip-lines. It’s an adventurer’s paradise and the best part is, it’s all gloriously tourist-free.
Please note: This visit took place prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. Please check all current travel advice before planning your visit and travel responsibly.
When to visit Durmitor National Park
Whatever time of year you choose to visit Durmitor, you’ll be guaranteed jaw-dropping scenery and an endless choice of outdoor activities. Between December and March, the park transforms into a premier ski resort, but come spring Durmitor’s hiking trails burst into life, and by summer, the lakes even warm up enough for a spot of wild swimming.
Rafting and zip-lining excursions run daily from May to October, although May to June is the best time to take on the Tara River, if it’s high-adrenaline rapids you’re after.
Where to stay in Durmitor National Park
The small town of Zabljak is the gateway to Durmitor National Park and is ideally located for exploring this spectacular region. There’s not a whole lot to do in the town itself, but the accommodation is cheap and cheerful, with modernised apartment blocks in the centre and some more traditional-style wooden chalets on the outskirts.
You’ll find everything you need in town, including a petrol station, a supermarket, and a couple of good places to eat. We really enjoyed Restaurant Or’o for traditional Balkan food and beers in a modern alpine setting, whilst Pekari Toni was perfect for picking up coffee and freshly baked pastries to go, each day.
A weekend itinerary for Durmitor National Park
You could easily spend weeks exploring the many trails and scenic wonders of Durmitor, but there are a few highlights you won’t want to miss, if you’re short on time. I’d strongly recommend hiring your own car to explore the park; not only will it save you time, but the self-drives are one of the best bits!
Day 1: Hike to Ćurevac viewpoint
The hike to Mt Ćurevac viewpoint is one of the best short hikes in Durmitor and a great introduction to the region. The trail starts from the carpark (I’d recommend using Google Maps to find this, as the road signs for Ćurevac are not obvious) and it’s a 20-30 minute hike through peaceful forest scenery to a beautiful viewpoint, overlooking the deepest part of the Tara River Canyon. Alternatively, you can extend your hike and start from the town of Zabljak, which will take around 3-4 hours return.
River-rafting and zip-lining at Tara River Canyon
Now that you’ve seen the majestic Tara River Canyon from above, it’s time to get up close and personal. Start your sightseeing at Tara Bridge; one of the most famous sights in the region and a must-stop for adrenaline junkies. The views from the bridge are absolutely stunning, with mist-clad mountains rising up around you, and the emerald green waters of Tara River snaking through the valley far below.
If you’re feeling brave enough, you can zip-line over Europe’s deepest canyon, or instead head down to the river banks to try your hand at rafting. Red Rock Tara offer a wide range of activities and guided tours, and will even arrange half or full-day trips with pick-ups from Zabljak, if you don’t have a car.
Day 2: Visit the Black Lake (Crno Jezero)
Durmitor National Park is dotted with pretty lakes, but the most popular by far is Black Lake (Crno Jezero) – and it’s easy to see why. Despite its name, this glacier lake is a stunning turquoise colour and promises picture-perfect mirror reflections on a clear day. There’s a circular hiking trail around the lake or, during the summer months, you can hire a kayak to explore the peaceful waters at your own pace. There is also a cosy cabin-style restaurant on the lakeshore where you can grab some lunch or warm up with a hot chocolate.
It’s only a 30-40 minute hike to Black Lake from the centre of Zabljak, or a short 10 minute drive to the parking area. Entrance to the park is €3 and an extra €2 to park.
Drive the scenic ring-road
The Durmitor Ring is undoubtedly one of the world’s most spectacular road trips, yet hardly anyone knows about it! Starting in Zabljak, the P14 takes you along winding, panoramic roads, through breathtaking mountain scenery and past traditional villages. The whole ring road is only 85km long but you’ll want to allow plenty of time for photo stops and possibly some hiking en route. Do check the road conditions before you drive – parts of the road can be steep and narrow and the route is generally only accessible from June onwards, due to weather conditions.
Alternatively, if you’re planning to travel to Kotor or Montenegro’s southern coast, after your weekend in Durmitor National Park, I’d recommend taking the P14 all the way to Pluzine. We did this partial route, instead of the full ring road, and it was one of the most stunning self-drives I’ve ever experienced! The highlight is the astonishingly blue Pivskoe Reservoir and I’d recommend a quick stop at Caffe Bar Sidro for the best views in town. From Pluzine, you can then take the E762 down south to the Bay of Kotor.