This breathtaking national park was formed by glaciers and is traversed by rivers and underground streams. Along the Tara river canyon, which has the deepest gorges in Europe, the dense pine forests are interspersed with clear lakes and harbour a wide range of endemic flora.
Durmitor National Park and Zabljak as ski resort can well keep up with its counterparts in the Alps and Pyrenees but at a fraction of the costs. There are ski lifts to the various pistes and a host of accommodation options — from private homestays to large hotels.
In the summer, activities range from hiking in the glorious pine forests — some of the black pines are 400 years old and 50m high –, along the lakes and to spectacular places like the Ice Cave, which sees snow and ice all year round, to kayaking in Tara Canyon (Europe’s longest and deepest) to Jeep tours through the mountains and into the canyons.
In walking distance from Zabljak and a great starting point for numerous walks around the national park is the Black Lake (Crno Jezero) — come here for dusk or dawn to see the mist hover above the water. In the morning, tracks in the mud bear witness to cattle and sheep quenching their thirst here even before you got up. The lake is actually two lakes most of the year with a thin trickle connecting them. For only a few days in March, the Celine waterfall comes to life and fills the twin-lake with fresh water gushing from the mountains.
While none of them is as impressive as the Black Lake, there is a total of 18 glacial lakes in the Durmitor range, also called Mountain Eyes, which you can wander to. Be warned of Barno Jezero (Barno Lake): We hiked out there to find that its waters extend way beyond into a sea of shimmering yellow grass and ended up with wet feet before we even reached the shoreline.
One of the most satisfying and relatively easy to reach viewpoints (provided you have a car) is Momcilow Grad. Park your car below the eponymous restaurant and follow the dirt road/sheep path up, up, up (stay left, out of the woods) for about 20 minutes. The GPS data you are looking for is 43.165750,19.071928. Go there for the golden hour — early morning or late afternoon — and behold the drama…
For lunch or dinner we loved the Zlatni Bor (it’s a restaurant and hotel) on the P5, about 2km from downtown Zabljak. Their lamb sac (under the bell) is mouthwateringly juicy, falling off the bone and at €8 for a serving (that easily feeds two) very affordable. Not to mention the limunada (freshly squeezed Montenegrin lemon with well water)…
We were recommended Koliba restaurant at the foot of Savin Kuk (it’s the one further up, past the green roof of the pagoda-style restaurant). However, because the ski lift operates in spring and fall only for groups of 15 or more, all the restaurants here are shut, too.
The chicest place around is certainly the Oro with its log ski chalet and giant windows look. They serve a mix of Montenegrin classics with Western influence. Prices are accordingly. While I liked their food, make sure you understand before what you are ordering — a friend ordered a polenta-style dish and got a big bowl of a polenta-type mush with heavy cream (without veg, salad, or any garnish). You find the Oro across the street from the Voli supermarket.
For a mix of local and hip in the morning or for a snack find the tiny bakery (pekara) “Bakery” [sic!] in the back of the building next to the Voli (passage where the street art is) — fresh juice, good coffee (also to go, you can even bring your own cup), freshly baked sweet and savory goods (excellent burek!).
While You’re There
On the way to Durmitor, be enchanted by Ostrog Monastery, one of the most important places of worship in Serbian Orthodox faith, and catch the afternoon light on Nevideo Canyon (near Savnik), a small bridge lets you look into it; or you take an hour or two, drive a bit further, park and wander right into the canyon (entrance fee of €5). If you want to stay at either of these places overnight, Niksic might be your best shot for Ostrog, and about 2 km from the canyon you have Etno Selo Nevideo offering lovely looking huts in a pristine landscape. Adrenalin junkies might want to add on a day for Nevideo and some canyoning.
- Entrance to Durmitor National Park is €3 p.p. plus €2 to park the car. Multi-day passes are available. Durmitor NP website: www.nparkovi.me/sajt/np-durmitor/cijene
- There are buses connecting Zabljak to Podgorica and the coast as well as going to Serbia. The bus station (autobusna stanika) is near the center of town.
- Zabljak’s hostel is the Hikers Den with dorm beds starting from €13/night. Note that we booked a double room at Rooms and Bungalows Sreten Zugic for less than €15 a night. So comparing pays if you are not traveling solo… Hikers Den website: hostelzabljak.com; Sreten Zugic on Booking.com: booking.com/hotel/me/rent-a-vile-apartmani-bungalovi-sobe.html
- For the spontaneous types: rooms (sobe), hotels, apartments are so abundant here that pre-booking is not an absolute must.
- Your accommodation will certainly be able to organize excursions (Tara Canyon rafting, Jeep tours, hiking, etc.) for you. If you would like to plan ahead I recommend Sreten Zugic (Sreten.firstname.lastname@example.org)
- UNESCO World Heritage listing Durmitor & Tara Canyon: whc.unesco.org/en/list/100
- Nevideo Canyon accommodation Etno Selo Nevideo: www.etnoselonevidio.com/