For such a small country, the diversity of Montenegro’s natural scenery is phenomenal. You’ve got beautiful beaches and fjord-like bays down south; towering mountains and plunging canyons up in the north; and then, straddling the border with Albania, there’s Lake Skadar National Park: one of Montenegro’s wildest landscapes and a true hidden gem in the Balkans.
Nestled within stunning mountain scenery and teeming with wildlife, Lake Skadar is a must-stop on any first-time visit to Montenegro. But before you pack your bags (and bird-watching binoculars!) here’s a quick guide to help you plan your visit.
Please note: This visit took place prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Please check all current travel advice before planning your visit and travel responsibly.
Getting to Lake Skadar National Park
Lake Skadar is located just outside of Montenegro’s capital city Podgorica. It’s less than a 90 minute drive from the main tourist centres of Kotor and Budva and can be easily visited on a day trip from either.
Most tourists flock to the town of Virpazar, which serves as the main gateway to the national park. But if you want to get off the beaten track, I’d recommend heading to Rijeka Crnojevića instead. Named after the river which flows into Lake Skadar, this tiny, historic village is a beautiful place to start your sightseeing and offers many of the same activities – minus the crowds.
What to see and do at Lake Skadar
Make a photo-stop at Pavlova Strana Viewpoint
Just a few minutes (and a few hairy switchbacks!) from Rijeka Crnojevića, you’ll stumble across the best viewpoint in the park. Pavlova Strana looks out over the horseshoe bend of the Rijeka Crnojevića river, as it feeds into Lake Skadar. The lush green mountains and serene waters make for a truly magical image and offer a completely different perspective of this unique region.
Take a lake cruise
To experience Lake Skadar in all its glory, you MUST get out on to the water. Lake cruises are a popular activity and can be arranged from Virpazar or Rijeka Crnojevića. From the latter, you can opt to do a shorter trip around the main horseshoe bend or venture further out, into the vast expanse of the lake itself. Either way, the views are simply breathtaking, with mountains mirrored in the clear waters and floating water-lilies, as far as the eye can see.
Spot rare birds in their natural habitats
Lake Skadar is one of Europe’s largest natural bird reserves and is home to nearly 300 species, including pelicans, egrats and eagles. The best way to bird-watch is on a lake cruise, as you’ll be able to keep an eye on the river banks where they congregate. We even managed to spy a heron, rustling up a snake for breakfast… only in Skadar!
Relax at Rijeka Crnojevića
Once you’re back on dry land, spend some time soaking up the serene atmosphere in Rijeka Crnojevića. Admire the famous Ottoman bridge and relax at one of the riverside restaurants. Rijecka Gostiona is a lovely spot to enjoy a cold beer, overlooking the river.
Rijeka Crnojevića is also right in the heart of Montenegro’s wine region, so if you have time, you could stop at one of the nearby vineyards and sample some of the local wine. Alternatively, explore another of of the quaint stone villages dotted around this area or continue the scenic drive down to Virpazar and carry on sightseeing from there.
If you love the look of Montenegro’s natural scenery, then check out my adventurer’s guide to Durmitor National Park, or start planning your visit to the coastal town of Perast – Montenegro’s prettiest destination.