I’ve been to a lot of national parks in search of stunning landscape photography locations, but nothing has impressed me like Durmitor National Park.
Located in the north of Montenegro, a country blessed with rich natural beauty, Durmitor National Park boasts some of the best hiking trails and natural views in the Balkans. Pine forests run in ridged lines below the prominent views of Montenegro’s tallest mountain, Bobotov Kuk. Added to this well marked hiking trails, and you have a hiker’s paradise.
And I mean well marked – on the hike I did to Jablan Jezero there was a trail marker every twenty metres.
Before you do any hiking, make sure you pick up a map of the national park at the tourist office in Žabljak. The hiking trails are clearly marked on the map. You’ll also need cash for the park entry fee – around 3 Euros.
The Black Lake is hard to miss – the main road out of Žabljak leads straight there, and it’s well signposted. Durmitor National Park is only a 40-minute walk from Žabljak, making it an ideal home base for any hiking activities. During the day there will be quite a few tour buses lined up at the parking lot, but there are fantastic views of the park with the river in front.
Once you’ve paid your entry fee, follow the wide, flat path towards the lake, past the local tea sellers. You’ll see the lake looming ahead. If you′ re lucky for a sunny day, the lake reflects pure blue in the sunlight.
Turn left or right and you can hike around the Black Lake. It’ll take a couple of hours, so take enough food. The lake is shaped like a figure eight, passing canoes, picnic areas and thick forests. While the path undulates along the lake’s edge, it’s not particularly strenuous, making it suitable for all levels of hikers.
I got a little lost on the Eastern side of the lake because the path goes inland rather than follow the lake’s edge around. It wasn’t too hard to get back on track using the lake as a landmark but take a compass and the aforementioned map just in case.
On the left of the entry is a cafe and restaurant for any post hike drinks you might need. The Black Lake is also the starting point for many other hikes in the area. You can see them all on this sign with hike grading.
Two nights later, I hiked out to the Black Lake for sunset to avoid the tourists and see if I could get a good shot. The weather had been patchy during my trip, and I had one last chance to get the shot. Well lucky me. Got a stunning sunset and moonrise and had a chat with an Icelandic fellow driving to China! I love how photography can open conversations anywhere – so many people stop to ask what I’m taking photos of.
Hiking to Jablan Jezero
With the weather threatening thunderstorms, I called off our trip to Bobotov Kuk and hiked up to Jablan Jezero, a high lake of the area.
Turning East and uphill near the bus parking, I passed the local campground and headed through the forest. The path leads to a local road where I turned right to pass local farmhouses selling cheese and yoghurt. Word to the wise, Montenegrin cheese is delicious. The farmhouses looked straight out of a Microsoft screen saver, I kid you not.
The steep section of the hike started just after passing a couple of cows (who I suspect supplied the local dairy industry). While it’s steep and rocky, the path is well marked with the red bulls-eye familiar to hikers in the region. At the top of this section, the views became more stunning; looking back I could see the Black Lake nestled between the pine trees.
Continuing upwards I came across fields of yellow flowers against a backdrop of the mountains. I hiked along the ridge then down towards Jablan Jezero, eating lunch on a rock looking down on the lake with the cliffs rising above me. There are several side lakes you could also visit while in the area.
This hike took around five hours, but to be honest, a lot of that was marvelling at nature, taking photos and sitting in fields of flowers. I’m still gobsmacked by the beauty of Durmitor, and I really, really want to go back to do the other hikes one day.
Watch the weather – Montenegro has many microclimates and the weather can change suddenly. If you’re heading above the ridgeline, be prepared for wet and cold weather and don’t go hiking in a thunderstorm.
As with any hike, take plenty of water. Hiking in the mountains is strenuous and long, so you need to stay hydrated.
And finally, tell your hotel where you’re going and how long you’ll be there for.
How to get to Durmitor National Park
Durmitor National Park is accessible by car and bus. I took the overnight bus from Belgrade in Serbia, which takes around six hours. It’s easy to access other destinations in Montenegro by bus including Podgorica and Split. The bus terminal is located a few minutes’ walk from downtown. See my article on buses in the Balkans for more details on how to get around.
Where to stay: Žabljak
In winter, Durmitor National Park is a popular ski destination, so there are plenty of apartments in Žabljak to choose from. I stayed at Žabljak City Center Apartments and enjoyed the Balkan hospitality, including the ridiculously filling dinners. Yes, there were too many sausages.
There’s a supermarket in town (perfect for hiking snacks) as well as ATMs. If camping is more your thing, there is a campground closer to the national park, although you’ll need to walk there or get a cab from the bus terminal if you don’t have a car.
Been to Durmitor National Park? Want to go? Share your experiences in the comments below.