Montenegro Road trip – The north is more than Durmitor

The beaches on the Montenegrin Coast are too crowded for you, the cities too hectic and the weather too hot? Take a break from the hustle and bustle and enjoy the regions and cities off the coast! You will be amazed at what this small country has to offer! Besides the UNESCO World Heritage Site Durmitor National Park and the Tara Gorge there are more highlights and hidden treasures waiting for you in Montenegro.

What do you learn in this article?

BIG5 Montenegro’s wild north around Durmitor

You don’t want to miss any attraction? Find your checklists, travel guide & tips for the Road trip in north Montenegro here:

BIG5 North Montenegro – Speed Date

Outstanding:

The insanely beautiful and diverse nature of northern Montenegro

Sucks:

The sometimes very slow and arduous plodding with the rental car over smaller country roads – a kingdom for a motorway!

DO:

Have peace and quiet and recharge your batteries? Let’s go on an excursion to the Durmitor National Park – here everything is sooo different than on the Mediterranean, touristic Adriatic coast

DO NOT:

Tap water can still be “technical water” in some places, better not drink it!

Don’t tell your mother:

In Durmitor National Park today there are again many bears and wolves 😉

BIG5 North Montenegro – Rapid Fire Q&A

  • You recommend a rental car, where do we get one? – At the international airports of Tivat & Podgorica you can find all major car rental companies
  • Do I need special equipment / clothing for the hike to the black lake? – No, from the parking lot Žabljak the path is well secured and level, as well as around the lake. It is also very good to walk in sneakers.
  • Driving in Montenegro is regarded as tricky… right? – The roads along the coast and especially to the north with less traffic were well developed. Nevertheless, you have to be careful with the driving of the locals and the one or other pothole!
  • The whole places seem to be far apart, if you look at the map like this? – They do at first sight. Nevertheless Montenegro is a manageable country and the routes are definitely feasible
  • How many days should I allow for the north? – That depends on the duration and distances of the hiking or activities in Tara, I recommend at least two days.

BIG5 North Montenegro – Orga

Best travel time

You can expect warm and dry weather in July, August and September. Winter sports are also very big in Durmitor, especially in December and January.

Arrival & Departure

Visa: Check here if you need a visa for Montenegro with your passport

  • Flight: The international airports of Podgorica (IATA: TGD) & Tivat (TIV) are suitable for the journey
  • By car: The cities of Budva, Kotor and Herceg Novi are ideal starting points for tours off the coast
  • For the mentioned regions a rental car is recommended or guided day tours or round trips including transfer

Where to go next? What about the Bay of Kotor or the Coast of Montenegro?

Accommodation

  • Recommended location: In the north, Žabljak is an ideal stopover for the next stage, closer to the coastal towns is the large city Nikšić
  • Budget: Durmitorske zore (Prisoje, 84220 Žabljak; ~ 30€ double room), great apartment made of lots of wood
  • Budget: Apartments Koprivica Niksic (Duklo bb, 81400 Nikšić; 20€ double room), apartment with garden and barbecue
  • Medium: Guest House Durmitor Paradise (Sinjajevinska bb, 84220 Žabljak; ~ 40€ double room), cosy 3* apartment
  • Medium: B&B Konak (Rosulje bb, 81435 Plužine; ~ 40€ double room), beautiful location directly on the lake
  • Precious: Hotel Soa (National Park Durmitor, 84220 Žabljak; ~ 140€ apartment), great 4* hotel right in the centre of Žabljak

Price level

Withdraw money: In the larger towns and in the tourist Žabljak without any problems, but depending on the region it is better to arrive with a good cash buffer

Beer indicator: Significantly cheaper than on the tourist coast, for half a litre 1.00 – 1.50 euros on average

Costs for a taxi:Also here is 1 kilometer ~ 0.50 Euro, with some action also cheaper

Restaurants

  • Restoran Koliba (Savin Kuk Bb, Zabljak 84220; low-medium price segment), cosy small restaurant with authentic local dishes
  • Durmitor (Ulica Bozidara Zugica B. B, Zabljak 84220; medium price range), traditional Eastern European cuisine
  • Forest Lounge Bar (Ivana Milutinovica, 81400 Nikšić, cheap), very good cuisine, especially the grilled specialties
  • Zvono Guesthouse (Ul. Baja Pivljanina bb, 81435; cheap), delicious local fish dishes and only a short walk from the lake

BIG5 North Montenegro – Activities

  • Hiking through the vast nature of Durmitor National Park
  • Cross the Tara Gorge over the famous bridge
  • Look forward to plenty of action with the numerous outdoor activities in the Tara Gorge
  • Go on a discovery tour in Nikšić, the second largest city in Montenegro
  • Admire the Piva reservoir (Pivsko jezero)

BIG5 North Montenegro – Photo spots

  • The black lake from the shore of the small lake
  • From the Tara Bridge to the right on a gorge, river and mountain panorama
  • … and of course the Tara Bridge itself from all possible angles
  • The mountain panorama in Durmitor National Park during your hike
  • View over the Piva Reservoir

BIG5 North Montenegro – Things to do off the beaten track

  • Hike through the Nevidio Canyon – rugged landscape in the Durmitor Massif and paradise for outdoor adventurers. Nevidio means “unseen
  • Amazement in the ice cave Ledena Pecina
  • Visit the rock monastery Ostrog – important holy place of the Serbian Orthodox Church at 900 meters above sea level with a great view of the Bjelopavlicka plain
  • Visit the “Dom Revolucije“, the today abandoned house of the revolution in Nikšić
  • Admire the impressive medieval frescos in the monastery of Piva

BIG5 North Montenegro – Culinary Journey

The typical country restaurants are called “Konoba“, here you can find regional delicacies and wines. Cheap grill stalls with excellent meat dishes are called “Pecenjara“.

  • Lamb dishes of all kinds are typical for the mountain regions of North Montenegro
  • Local goat cheese from the farmers’ markets
  • Njeguški pršut – raw pork ham in wafer-thin slices, similar to Italian prosciutto
  • Popara – breakfast mix of bread, butter, cheese and milk
  • Kačamak – Potato noodles with polenta and local scorup cheese

BIG5 North Montenegro – Communication

  • Thank you – zahvaliti
  • Yes – da
  • No – ne
  • Hello / Good afternoon – zdravo / dobar dan
  • Bye / Goodbye – zdravo / zbogom

BIG5 North Montenegro – Helpful Websites / Links

BIG5 North Montenegro – Overview Map for your road trip

The highlights in the north – road trip through Montenegro

Adventurous journey from the coastal towns

Car rental booking & route suggestion

Many people immediately think of Montenegro as the Bay of Kotor or the beaches – if they connect Montenegro with anything at all. But the very name “Monte negro“, i.e. “black mountain”, indicates the scenic diversity of the small Balkan state.

The landscape is breathtaking and is sooo different from the Adriatic coast. The north is a paradise for nature lovers and offers countless outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, skiing, rafting, canyoning, … you name it!

Montenegro’s beautiful north is a 3-4 hour drive from the coast and definitely worth a long visit. Getting a rental car is quite easy and cheap in the big tourist centers and airports. Just looking at the distance everything is not too far away, but be careful, in Montenegro there are no highways and it is quite rare to drive faster than 100 km / h.

The fastest route from the coast that I recommend is from Tivat via Nikšić, Šavnik and Žabljak and takes about 3.5 hours (for 150 kilometres). In one section an extensive construction site is currently delaying the smooth passage, but fortunately there is generally little traffic.

My tip: One of the best rental car stops for spontaneous travellers is certainly the international airport Tivat. It can be quickly and cheaply reached by bus from Kotor (approx. 15 minutes, 1 Euro).
A rental car is booked quickly and easily and off you go to the wild north.

I have some contacts there, feel free to write me if you need support!

Already the approach is a sightseeing tour

The route leads through beautiful landscapes that are so different from the coastal beach-sea Montenegro just a few kilometers away. The lake landscape around Nikšić invites you to take a rest at resting places at the roadside, on the horizon you can already see the (at least in May still) snow-covered mountains. You pass through small villages, isolated farms, mountain passes, winding forest roads.

Far away from the busy and with tourists congested coastal roads you feel like you have arrived in the “real Montenegro“. And indeed – that feels really good after two days of total sightseeing in Dubrovnik and Kotor.

Pack a nice little lunch package (especially at Idea in Kotor), which you can enjoy with 1-2 breaks on the way north with a great view. You can do this for example: Resting places in front of Nikšić with a view of the Slansko Jezero or the canyon landscape in front of Šavnik.

The small Idea supermarket in front of Šavnik can be used to stock up on supplies. Via a well-developed “expressway” you will reach the plateau and quickly reach Žabljak. As a popular skiing area (yes, Montenegro has that to offer too) the tourist infrastructure is very well developed.

Hike and breathe deeply in Durmitor National Park

From Žabljak – the highest settlement in the Balkans – you can start in Durmitor National Park and admire the Crno jezero, the “Black Lake” or take longer walks through the park area.

If your time budget is limited, I recommend a hike around the Black Lake in Durmitor National Park. The hiking car park to the lake can be reached after passing through Žabljak (for orientation: pass the hotel SOA, among others). Because of the good accessibility (unfortunately also for big tourist busses!!) the area can be a bit overcrowded by non-hikers…

Again Montenegro proves its versatility: The way to the lake leads through the “dark pine forest” and reminds strongly of Austria. The hike is really grounded! Take a deep breath in the forest, put your hands in the remaining snow piles (yes, in May!), balance over the stones in the connecting piece between the big and the small lake, if the water level allows it.

Afterwards – depending on the weather – you can have a refreshing cold drink or a nice coffee in the restaurant at the lake – that’s how holidays must be!

In Durmitor National Park you can do great day and multi-day tours.

A particularly beautiful but demanding stage for a day is, for example, the ascent of Bobotov Kuk, at 2522 metres the highest mountain in the Durmitor massif. From the black lake follow the marked route to Indjini. You should plan at least seven hours.

But be careful: The weather in the high mountains can change very quickly and become really dangerous. In addition, sometimes the signposting is not the way you know it from the Alps. The best thing is to inform the accommodation about your plans, ask for advice and travel in a group.

For detailed information about Durmitor National Park, please visit the Visit Montenegro website.

 

Some of Durmitor’s highlights such as the Fish Lake (Riblje jezero), the Devil’s Lake (Vrazje jezero) and the Stecci Tombstones can also be easily reached by car. However, some of the routes are not as well developed as they are on your navi app. To spare you the secondly expensive itching over earth and gravel, drive past the lakes first and look forward to the rescue: an asphalted road to the destinations!

Cross the wild Tara Canyon

From Žabljak you can reach the Tara Canyon – an outdoor paradise par excellence – with only 23 additional kilometres (about 30 minutes). Hiking, rafting, zip-lining across the gorge – whatever you like! After the world-famous Grand Canyon, the Tara Canyon is the second deepest in the world with up to 1,300 meters. Before a trip to Montenegro I had honestly never heard of Tara.

On the approach we hear a constant rattling around us. But don’t worry, it is not the engine of our so far brave rental car, but the many motocross bikes around us, splashed with mud from top to bottom.

Especially impressive is the crossing of the Durdevica-Tara bridgeon foot of course! The vibration, the wobbling, the movement of the approximately 80-year-old work of Yugoslavian engineering art, when vehicles or even heavy trucks drive over it. Literally “right in the middle of it instead of just there”.

Engage in adrenaline-fuelled outdoor activities in the Tara Gorge

There really is something for every outdoor fan: kayak, rafting or rafting tours on the wild river Tara, motocross or climbing.

There is a special attraction directly at the bridge: zip lining! Hooked on a steel cable, you fly over the canyon at about 50 km/h and enjoy spectacular views.

Only from the bridge restaurant, the “Restaurace Most” we book the accommodation for the night. It is meanwhile after 17:00 o’clock. It is a great feeling of freedom to stand in front of a map of Montenegro and choose a city at all. Today’s technology makes it possible, with a few finger movements on the smartphone in the booking.com app a room is selected and booked.

A long and eventful day requires a sumptuous meal for dinner. Feel like “real Montenegro?” My recommendation, if you are on your way back to the coast again: One of the restaurants right on the road at Nikšić. A lot of food (especially a lot of meat!) for little money, plus only locals, the usual disregard of the no smoking signs and quiet Balkan chanting from the loudspeaker. #runs.

 

Go on a discovery tour in Nikšić

Nikšić is already the second largest city in Montenegro with only just over 70,000 inhabitants.

In the former city of steel and beer (Nikšićko Pivo) the palace of King Nikolas and the ruins of the Ottoman Utvrđenje (fortress) from the 16th century are particularly worth a visit. Today the palace houses the museum of local history, which can be visited for 2 Euros. The entrance to the fortress is free.

If you find abandoned buildings and their background history exciting is the “Dom Revolucije“, the house of revolution. As a memorial to the Montenegrin partisans of the Second World War, this large construction project was started in the mid 1970s and was conceived as a centre for shops and restaurants. The building was never really completed during the Yugoslavian wars, but is now abandoned and a place for street art. But during the visit, one has to be careful, as the empty halls are also used by dubious clientele.

Nikšić today is a city in a new beginning mood, especially in the student quarter there are many hip bars and restaurants to end a successful day of hiking or sightseeing.

Visit Pluzine and the region around the Piva reservoir

Besides the well-known highlights Durmitor National Park and Tara Gorge, there is another great destination in northern Montenegro: Pluzine at the Piva Reservoir in the huge gorge of the same name.

From Zabljak to Pluzine you will travel on a great panoramic route through parts of the Durmitor National Park.

Pluzine is a quiet small town, not yet influenced by mass tourism, a very exciting destination to switch off and enjoy the beautiful nature.

To visit the reservoir you can easily drive the narrow road through the gorge by car. Quite close to the town is the impressive 220 meter high Mratinje Dam.

A boat trip across the lake is definitely recommendable, as it is the only way to see the enormous size of the gorge.

You can end the day with delicious local fish (especially trout) in one of Pluzine’s restaurants.

 

As you can see, Montenegro has a lot to offer and is a great destination for a road trip in the Balkans! Visit this great country before the north is discovered by tourist masses! 🇲🇪

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Gabriele

    Montenegro is really underrated as travel destination, i’ll definitely give it a try thanks to your article!!

    Reply
    • Phil

      I totally agree! That’s great to hear, thank you very much!

      Reply

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