There’s more to Montenegro than beaches and old towns. This tiny Balkan country also packs a punch in the hiking arena, and is home to an incredible national park full of challenging mountain and valley hikes.
Durmitor National Park is located in the north of Montenegro and boasts nearly 50 peaks more than 2,000m above sea level.
As you approach the national park from the seaside or capital city Podgorica, you’ll see the peaks rise above the valley and dominate the horizon around the cosy mountain town of Zabljak.
There’s something for all skill levels at Durmitor National Park, so read on to find out the best day hikes.
Know before you go
The hiking trails in Durmitor National Park range from relaxing walks around Black Lake, to rock scrambling strenuous hikes lasting up to 10 hours suitable only for fit, experienced hikers.
It’s important to take note of the following before you head out on a hike:
- Time your visit to the park in the summer months. July and August are the best months to hike as there will be no snow on the high altitude peaks.
- Make sure you check the weather before you go, and consider postponing your hike if rain or thunderstorms are forecast.
- Be prepared for all weather conditions and have a rainjacket handy as the weather can change quickly. It can also get very cold on the high peaks such as Bobotov Kuk if the summit is in the clouds.
- Wear proper hiking shoes with good grip.
- Bring at least two (2) litres of water, as well as sunscreen, a hat and high energy snacks such as chocolate or museli bars, fruit, and sandwiches.
- Make sure you tell someone where you’re going and what time you expect to be back. If possible, try to hike with other travellers. You can meet other fellow hikers at Hiker’s Den Hostel.
- Have the Maps.me app downloaded to your phone to ensure you stay on track.
- For a full rundown of the hikes and daily weather conditions, stay at Hiker’s Den Hostel. The brothers who run the hostel are a wealth of information on Durmitor National Park.
Entry to Durmitor National Park is €3 for a day pass. You can also buy a three day pass for €6 or a seven day pass for €12.
Black Lake (Crno Jezero)
Duration: 3-4 hours round trip
If you’re like the outdoors, but are not confident enough for the larger peaks, a trip to Durmitor National Park is still worth it to see the beautiful Black Lake.
Black Lake is the most well known location in the park, owing to its easy access and also most trails start or end here.
You can walk around the Black Lake and its smaller sister in 3-4 hours depending on how many stops you take to enjoy the views, or maybe cool off with a dip in the water.
Starting Point: You can reach the lake on foot from the centre of Zabljak in 20-30 minutes. Simply follow the main road through the town following the signs to the national park.
Tara Canyon viewpoint
Duration: 3-4 hours return
For something a little harder but still achievable by beginner hikers, you can hike to the Tara Canyon viewpoint from Zabljak.
Most of the walk is on a road with a gradual ascent, followed by a 15- 20 minute hike up a rocky trail to the viewpoint on the top of the 1,625m Curevac peak.
From the top of Curevac, you get a view down to the Tara Canyon.
Starting point: From the centre of Zabljak, take the road heading to the right next to the Voli supermarket, keeping the supermarket on your left. Shortly after you take a left turn, and then a few more turns. It’s best to use Maps.me to map your route up to the carpark for Curevac as there are only sporadic signs for Curevac.
Ice Cave (Ledena Pecina)
Duration: 7-9 hours return
The hike to the Ice Cave (Ledena Pecina in the local language) in the middle of the national park is very physically demanding and is suitable only for experienced hikers.
The hike first takes you up through a beautiful forest, before opening into a valley. You’ll cross two valleys during the hike and get amazing views all along the way.
It’s best to do the hike in a clockwise direction. Durmitor Camp is a good rest stop serving up brilliant views before you start a steep uphill to exit the first valley and go into the next one. Watch your step on the slippery gravel trail.
The trail then gets more rocky and has another steep uphill to the Ice Cave. Make sure you’re following the trail in Maps.me as the trail hooks right at one point. The straight ahead route leads to Bobotov Kuk.
Once you reach the ice cave, take a peek inside. I don’t recommend going right inside the cave, as it may be difficult to get out again due to slippery and icy conditions.
From the ice cave, head downhill and eventually you pop out at the entry to the forest and walk back the way you came to the lake.
Starting Point: The hike is a loop circuit starting and ending at Black Lake. Follow the signs to Ledena pecina from the right side of the lake.
Duration: From Sedlo Carpark: 6 hours return. Starting at Black Lake, and ending at Sedlo carpark: 7-10 hours round trip.
Bobotov Kuk is Durmitor National Park’s highest peak, rising 2,523m above sea level.
There are two routes to reach the peak.
You can start at the Black Lake, walk through several valleys and very steep uphill sections to reach the summit and end at Sedlo; or take a taxi to Sedlo, hike up and return the same way.
Both options are very physically demanding, however the Sedlo return is shorter in distance and time.
The hike to Bobotov Kuk on either route is rocky and slippery and exposed in places, so watch your step.
If you’re scared of heights or exposure, this is not the hike for you. The last section of the hike goes along a narrow exposed trail, and then there’s a rock scramble with ropes to support the ascent.
Be aware that the weather can change quickly on this peak, and there are often whiteouts and extreme care is needed in these conditions.
If you still want to do the hike, I can tell you that the view from the top of Bobotov Kuk makes it worth the effort (I did it twice!) with 360 degree views across the park.
Starting Point: Experienced hikers wanting a challenge can do the valley traverse up to Bobotov Kuk. Start from the Black Lake, following the same path you would for the ice cave until you reach a junction. Right goes to the Ice Cave, and straight goes to Bobotov Kuk. You’ll pass through three valleys on this hike and there’s lots of steep ascents and descents, as well as rocky paths. You will also need to possess some navigational ability as it’s easy to go off track. Once you reach the summit, come back to the saddle and then head right to take you down to the Sedlo carpark. Hitchhike back.
If you want to go up and down the same way, take a taxi to the Sedlo carpark. If you have a group of people, it should cost €3-4 per person. The drive takes about 25 minutes. Return the same way you came, and hitchhike back to Zabljak.
Red Rock (Crvena Greda)
Duration: 6-8 hours
This hike offers up one of the best views of Durmitor National Park, but it is strenuous, long and you’ll need some navigational abilities to negotiate the overgrown trails in the middle of the hike.
The hike up to Red Rock starts off moderately to the Jablan Jezero viewpoint but then gradually gets harder.
Once past the lake viewpoint, you’re on a steep rocky trail up to the next viewpoint at the summit of Red Rock.
From here, it can be a little tricky to find the downhill trail – we missed it the first time – and then it’s a very steep and slippery descent down a sporadically marked trail. For the next few kilometres you are traversing a wild part of the park along an overgrown, randomly marked trail – following a combination of footpadding and trail markers.
If you think you will find this bit tricky, you can instead return the way you came up Red Rock and back to Bosaca.
If you persevere, eventually the distinct trail will begin again and steer you downhill to Ziminje Jezero, and back to Black Lake.
This is one of the most challenging trails in the park due to the need for navigational abilities and slippery sections of trail. It’s only for experienced hikers.
Starting Point: Start the hike from the village of Bosaca, which is easy walking distance from Zabljak. Once you reach the village, look for a trail marker pointing left for Jablan Jezero. Head through the woods, following the trail to the Jablan Jezero viewpoint, then continue upwards.
Getting to and from Durmitor National Park
Buses depart Montenegro’s capital Podgorica bound for Zabljak several times daily. The journey time is about 2.5 hours.
Use the website busticket4.me to check times or buy tickets online, or you can also buy directly from the bus station ticket office. Bus tickets back to Podgorica can be bought from the driver at Zabljak bus station.
Buses also leave twice daily from Zabljak to Belgrade, Serbia.
Every second house seems to be a guesthouse in Zabljak so there’s no shortage of accommodation.
Budget solo travellers will like the social Hiker’s Den Hostel, but if you’re travelling in a couple or a group, you’ll find that the guesthouses offer better value for twin rooms than individual dorm beds.
The brothers that run Hiker’s Den Hostel however are a wealth of information on the trails – they are also part of the local search and rescue agency. They will tell you the best trails for your ability, and the no go zones.