Away from the delights of the Adriatic coastline, Montenegro is full of surprises.
It’s a great hiking country, with the gulf of Kotor one of the most popular routes because of the breathtaking views. The Durmitor Massif has several peaks above 2,200 metres, some of them accessible without specialised climbing equipment.
Part of the mountaineering route known as CT-1 runs through the Biogradska National Park, a 120 kilometre route that starts in Verusa and skirts Biogradskar Lake on its way to Zabljak. A new route, CT-2, opened in 2009 and offers 182 kilometres of coastal views from Herceg Novi to Bar near the Albanian border.
The daddy of them all is the 192 kilometre Peaks of the Balkans trail that crosses Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo though you’ll need to allow 10 days to cover the full trail and you’ll need a cross border permit which you can get from a local agency. This is a relatively new, undiscovered trail so head for Plav if you want to boldly go where few have gone before you. You can see more at www.peakofthebalkans.com
If you’re more of a mountaineer than a rambler, head inland to Durmitor where Bobotov Kuk is one of the highest peaks in Montenegro. You’ll need the services of a mountain guide and the ascent will take a full day to complete. But boy, the views of the Durmitor National park will make the effort worthwhile.
Montenegro’s terrain has caused generations of families to become equestrians, so if you like to spend time on horseback you’ll find a range of options from a half day hack to an eight day trail.
What might surprise you is that Montenegro is a bird watchers paradise, with over 330 species recorded here. This tiny country boasts two of the best bird watching locations in Europe, lake Skadar and the manmade Ulcinj salt pans. Skadar Lake is one of the largest in Europe, 43 kilometres long and as wide as 14 kilometres in places. Around two thirds of the lake lies in Montenegro and the rest in Albania. The whole Skadar region became a national park in 1983 and has been recognised by RAMSAR as Wetlands of International Importance.
Skadar is fed not only by various rivers but by 50 active springs that ensure a continuous source of clean, clear water. That ensures a plentiful supply of fish including trout, carp and bleak. But it’s the avian life that is of most interest to travellers, with 270 species sited in and around the lake at different times of year. Some nest here, others transit during autumn and spring so you need to do your research and choose your timing carefully depending on which species you want to catch sight of.
The Dalmatian pelican is one of the iconic birds of the region, rarely seen elsewhere in Europe. You will also find pygmy cormorants and glossy ibis. On the tiny island of Omerova Gorica you’ll discover a colony of 40 grey and a few purple heron nesting in the laurel trees. Protected areas have been created for some of the more endangered species, where you will see great and little white egrets, great black cormorants and grey herons. April and May is the best time of year when migration coincides with the breeding season.
The best place to head for as a starting point for the Skadar National Park is Virpazar, while Murici Beach on the west side is a fantastic place for swimming in the translucent waters. As well as birdwatching there are a number of hiking and biking trails around the lake. You can grab a map at the visitor centre or plan something in advance with Undiscovered Montenegro. (www.undiscoveredmontenegro.com )
There’s no substitute for coming and seeing the beauty of Montenegro for yourself so get in touch and we’ll make the arrangements.
Until next time