5 must-visit national parks in Montenegro

Montenegro’s five extraordinarily beautiful national parks remain some of Europe’s least explored areas, yet reveal a plethora of year-round adventures. Here’s everything you need to know.

Lucy McGuire
01 February 2023
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1. Lovćen National Park

(NTO Montenegro)

Looming above the scenic Bay of Kotor, this rugged national park occupies the rocky region of the Dinara Alps and while its 1,749m Štirovnik Peak is its highest, it’s the 1,657m summit of Jezerski vrh that’s considered the most famous. Not only was Lovćen’s karstic massif once the heart of Montenegrin culture, it’s also the striking black mountain that gave Montenegro its name. Today, you can drive or hike up the iconic hill before scaling the 400-plus steps to the 11m tall and 37m long mausoleum of poet, philosopher and prince-bishop Petar Petrović II Njegoš. The gargantuan statues by acclaimed Yugoslav-era sculptor Ivan Meštrović will also compete for your attention with the extraordinary views over the Bay of Kotor. The park is well known among cyclists who get their highs from the hair-pin bends en route to Kotor, while there’s plenty in the way of culture – just head to Cetinje, the old royal capital which occupies its slopes, and the village of Njeguši, the ancestral home of Montenegro’s Petrović dynasty, famed for its prosciutto, cheese and honey.

2. Lake Skadar National Park

(NTO Montenegro)

Nestled between the sea and the mountains, Skadar Lake National Park is the biggest of Montenegro’s national parks. It’s also home to the largest lake in the Balkans, a 370 sq km dolphin-shaped expanse, whose ‘tail’ sits in Montenegro and ‘head’ sits over the border in Albania. Aside from being incredibly picturesque, these emerald-hued waters are among the most important habitats for wetland birds in Europe. And, amazingly, they play home to half of the continent’s bird species, which includes pygmy cormorants and the threatened Dalmatian pelican, known for its colossal three-metre wingspan.

While the most famous view of the lake is from Pavlova Strana, located in the village of Rijeka Crnojevića, you can make the most of this spectacular park by taking a boat, SUP or kayak tour across the water from Virpazar. Some of the best birdwatching expeditions also combine visits to a cluster of tiny islands, home to medieval monasteries and the Ottoman-built prison fortress, Grmozur, once dubbed the Montenegrin answer to Alcatraz.

3. Durmitor National Park

(NTO Montenegro)

It’s true what they say about Durmitor being an adventurer’s playground. Situated in the untamed north of the country, its dramatic, glacier-formed setting features around 50 peaks that tower higher than 2,000 metres. And its 18 glacial lakes (known as gorske oči, or ‘mountain eyes’) include the famous Black Lake, which provides the setting for a picturesque walk around its shores. Trekking features heavily here, with some 150km of marked trails crossing its 390 sq km area. And those looking for a serious mountain biking or mountaineering adventure should look no further than the 76km Durmitor Ring, which circles the eponymous mountain, or a challenging scramble up the highest peak, Bobotov Kuk. The Tara River – Europe’s deepest gorge – meanwhile, provides high-thrill pursuits such as a three-hour raft adventure or a 1,050m zipline across its abyss. Below the national park, on the Mala Komarnica River, is the unique Nevidio Canyon, where thrill-seeking canyoners flock to for its unique rock formations and 25cm-wide ‘Kamikaze Gate’. Come winter, the park is transformed into a ski destination.

4. Biogradska Gora National Park

(NTO Montenegro)

Despite being the smallest of Montenegro’s national parks, Biogradska Gora, located in between 2,100m mountains in the country’s northeast, is home to the most diverse selection of nature. We’re talking 26 different plant habitats, 200 bird species, 10 mammal species and 350 types of insects. And let’s not forget the variety of 160 orchid species that provide a bright spectacle in the early summer. Among its most noteworthy features, however, is the six square miles of primeval forest, one of just three remaining virgin forests in Europe. At its centre is the vividly green tree-lined Lake Biograd, a habitat for three different kinds of trout, which you can reach via a 3.4km trip on the park’s visitor train. Follow up with an amble around its beautiful periphery or, if you’re feeling more intrepid, you can tackle the various mountain biking tracks or multi-day hikes that include overnight stays in a katun, a traditional type of hut. The mighty Crna Glava, its highest peak which stands at 2,139 metres high, can also be scaled in around six hours.

5. Prokletije National Park

(NTO Montenegro)

Dedicated in 2009 as a way of protecting a 1,660 hectare expanse of the Prokletije Mountains, bordering Albania and Kosovo, the namesake national park is Montenegro’s newest. But it’s also considered the most remote, with its unforgiving terrain and limestone peaks appealing to the most fearless travellers. Even its nickname, the ‘accursed mountains’ warns of its treacherous nature, playing home to the 2,534m Zla (Evil) Kolata, the country’s highest peak.

Undeterred, hikers still flock to this captivating region, and they should, because not all visits need to become major expeditions. Many visitors start their discovery at the gateway town of Gusinje, where they explore the 18th century Vizier’s Mosque before taking a half-hour walk to the Ali Pasha Springs, which bubble up at the foot of the mountains. Around 20 minutes from Gusinje, you’ll find the Grebaje Valley, one of the best places to take a day’s hike into this untouched wilderness. Connect with a local guide to plan a hiking or climbing route to suit your ability and you won’t regret stepping into Montenegro’s least-explored corner.

Feeling inspired?

For more information and to start planning your dream visit to Montenegro, head over to the official website.

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