Durmitor National Park is Montenegro is a dream for those who love nature and the outdoors! My first visit was in October of 2021 with absolutely no idea what to expect. The entire forty-day trip had been planned pretty quickly so I only had a few bookmarks on my Google Maps and hadn’t done much research. All I knew is that it was in the mountains and the pictures I’d seen were breathtaking so I wanted to see it with my own eyeballs!
For the previous two weeks, I’d been in Albania enjoying the still summer-like temperatures along the Adriatic and Ionian coasts. Driving into the mountains of Montenegro was a massive elevation change, and I arrived in the town of Žabljak to near-freezing temperatures with snow in the forecast! Thankfully, I’d anticipated this possibility and had enough layers to keep me warm while I went exploring.
In this guide, you’ll discover why this place is incredible and find all the information you need to plan your own trip to Durmitor National Park! If Montenegro hasn’t been on your radar before now, here’s an article with a handful of reasons why this destination is worth your consideration. Now, let’s get to it!
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What to Do in Durmitor National Park
Durmitor National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has a wide variety of activities available for exploring the incredible natural wonders of the area. To get started, head to the main entrance of the park, just west of the little town of Žabljak. There is parking available for €3, but there’s not a lot and I’m sure it fills up quickly during the busy season. From here, you can easily access Black Lake and a number of hiking trails.
Hiking in Durmitor National Park
There are miles and miles of hiking trails in Durmitor National Park. This map shows the marked hiking trails in and around the park. If you zoom out, you’ll find more trails available in the surrounding areas as well. Once you arrive at Black Lake, you’ll see signs on both sides of the main walkway with information about trails that connect from there.
Here’s an article with recommendations for trails in the park. Because the weather raining and snowing during my visit, I didn’t have the opportunity to hike any of the peaks. As you can see from the photos, the peaks behind the lake are shrouded in clouds. My strategy was just to follow the trails to the left or right of the restaurant at Black Lake until I was ready to turn around and head back. These trails were easy, even when wet, and took me through the forest to other lakes and viewpoints. It was perfect for the conditions! I can’t wait to revisit Durmitor National Park at some point to see all the things I missed.
Visit Tara Canyon
Tara Canyon is the deepest canyon in Europe! The Tara Bridge provides an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the scale and magnitude of the gorge. You can walk out onto the bridge and see the Tara River rushing 170m (557 ft) below. Near the bridge you’ll also find the Red Rock Zipline center, if you’re looking for a little more adventure! You’ll need join a group to reach the bridge if you don’t have a rental car.Rafting the Tara River is a popular activity for visitors to the area. You can spend a day on the river or join a multi-day trip, if you want to explore for longer. Because the town of Žabljak is situated above the river, you’ll need to find a group that offers transport for your rafting adventure, if you don’t have a car. Here’s one operator that will do just that!
Planning Your Trip to Durmitor National Park
Durmitor National Park has activities on offer all year-round. You can go hiking and rafting during the summer months while skiing and sledding draw visitors in the winter. In this section, we’ll cover the important things to consider when planning your trip!
When to Visit Durmitor National Park
Summer is the most popular time to visit. It’s the time when the weather is best, the hiking trails are accessible, and the surrounding towns are ready to welcome tourists! This also means it’s when things are busiest and most expensive.
Fall is a great time to visit! You’ll find fewer crowds and the weather is still good for hiking from September to about mid-October. The deciduous trees start showing their brilliant colors against the backdrop of the peaks and pine forests. It’s absolutely breathtaking! Once the snow starts to fly, things are pretty quiet until ski season begins.
Winter snows give skiers and snowboarders and opportunity to enjoy Durmitor National Park in a different way. Savin Kuk is the premier ski resort in Montenegro. It has three lifts and a few miles worth of ski trails. While small, the daily lift pass is only €13! Coming from the land of epic skiing (Utah) where it’s hard to find a day pass for less than $100, this is mind-blowing!Spring brings new life to Durmitor National Park! As the snow melts and trails clear, sparks of green begin to pop from the frozen ground. Wildflowers begin to bloom and the sounds of birds return to the forest. If you visit in May you’ll still avoid the crowds and still be able to access most of the hiking trails.
How to Get There
The main entrance of Durmitor National Park is about a mile from the town of Žabljak, which makes it easily walkable. However, Tara Canyon and many of the other lakes are further out. If you want to explore beyond the main part of the park, a rental car is the way to go.
Trains don’t go to Žabljak so bus is the only public transportation option. However, you can get to Žabljak from a number of places in the region! Getbybus is the easiest place to purchase bus tickets in the Balkans. You may need to print your ticket in advance, so plan for that. For more about using public transportation in the Balkans, check out this guide.
If you’re traveling to Durmitor National Park during the summer months, I recommend buying your bus ticket a few days in advance just to be sure you can get a spot. The bus station is near the main road and less than a 10 minute walk from many accommodations in the area.
Rental CarHaving a rental car gives you the ultimate flexibility to see as much of the park as you want. You can pick up a rental car in Podgorica or any of the major cities in the region. Before booking, look at the pickup location. I booked with Surprice Cars and my rental was €15 per day. The car was totally fine and the agent was apologetic about the confusion. I would book with them again, but there are plenty of agencies to choose from! For more on planning a road trip in Europe, check out this article.
Where to Stay
There are a lot of great accommodations in Žabljak! You’ll find guesthouses, private apartments, traditional hotels, and even individual cabins for your stay. Below is information about the place I stayed and absolutely loved! You’ll need a rental car to get to this place though. There are a number of wonderful places to stay that would be within walking distance of the main entrance to Durmitor National Park and the bus station. Here’s an article to help you find the right accommodation for your needs and save money at the same time!
This was my absolute favorite place I stayed on the entire forty-day trip! I had the cute little cabin all to myself and the hosts were absolutely wonderful! They helped me get laundry done and were quick to respond to anything I needed. The small cabin is perfect for one or two people and has the coziest bed ever! There’s also a larger cabin behind the little one if you’re traveling with a bigger group. I would stay here again in a heartbeat! All those exclamation points should give you an idea of how much I loved this place.
Where to Eat
For a small town, Žabljak has a number of great restaurants! There’s also a Voli grocery store right in the middle of town where you can get everything you need to create your own meals.
Traditional Montenegrin Food
I stopped at Konoba Luna on my walk back from the park on a cold, snowy day. I decide to try the Kačamak, a local porridge dish made from cornmeal, butter, potatoes, and cheese. This is not a light meal, my friend! It’s hearty and heavy, but perfect after a long walk on a cold day. The menu was full of other traditional dishes and Montenegrin wine. The meal was less than €10 and left me full for the rest of the day!
Though I didn’t get the chance to eat here, it was one that I was curious about when I walked by on my way to Durmitor National Park. The menu in the window looked good -- a variety of dishes from seafood to pizza.
Believe it or not, the Balkans has a lot of great Italian cuisine, especially the Western side of the peninsula. Italy is just across the water and the Romans were active throughout the Balkans thousands of years ago. For more of what to eat in the Balkans, check out this article.
When I arrived in town on a Sunday evening nearly everything was closed, including the grocery store! Lupo D’Argento was the only place I could get a meal, unless I wanted to subsist on gas station stacks, which I totally did for breakfast the next day. The carbonara was wonderful after a day of living on trail mix and granola bars! They also have Montenegrin wine available, which was also welcome after a day of being on the road. The meal cost about €10, including wine, and I had enough left over for another dinner.Pizza in the western part of the Balkans is really damn good! I ducked into the Balkan Pizzeria on my first night but they were closed. Though I didn’t get a chance to try it, I’m guessing it’s a great spot to get a pie and sit outside when the weather is nice.
Tips for Having the Best Trip to Durmitor National Park
There are a couple things to keep in mind when planning your trip that will help things go smoothly.
Like I mentioned before, most of the town is closed on Sunday. I’m not sure if this is also true in the summer months, but plan accordingly, just in case. When I say everything, this includes the grocery store. Either plan to arrive on different day or bring provisions with you so you won’t have to go hungry!
Durmitor National Park is located up in the mountains so the weather is variable. It will be significantly cooler than the coast so if you’re visiting other places, you’ll definitely need to pack layers! The trails around the main area of the park are easy enough, but if you want to really go exploring, make sure you have adequate hiking gear.
Traveling in the Balkans is a bit different than in the Western Europe so here’s an article with tips to help you have the best time in the region. Here’s a complete guide to planning your trip to the Balkans, to help you put all the different elements together. If talking to a real person would be helpful, check out these travel consulting services designed specifically for indie travelers.
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What other national parks have you visited while traveling abroad? Do you have any tips to share with others about planning an outdoor adventure?
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