National Parks in Montenegro
The 5 National parks of montenegro
There are 5 incredible national parks in Montenegro. They cover 10% of the countries terrain and really are the most delightful places to visit. The mountains in Montenegro are the most ice-eroded section of the Balkan regions from the last glacial period. If you love hiking, mountain biking or wildlife, you will find a mixture of everything in these 5 national parks.
The big national park draw in Montenegro is absolutely Durmitor, home to the Tara Canyon and also the Sedlo Pass. A more detailed blog of Durmitor National Park and the Sedlo Pass is here. It is the only one of Montenegro’s national parks to have UNESCO heritage.
The 5 national parks of Montenegro are:
- Biogradska Gora
- Lake Skadar
If you are planning to visit all 5 of the national parks in Montenegro, it is definitely worth buying the annual pass which costs just €13.5 as opposed to paying between €1 – €4 per visit. You will need to take your passport to buy the pass as the pass is registered to your name.
the five national park's of montenegro
The route that we went when visiting all 5 national parks in Montenegro was in the following order; Durmator, Biogradska Gora, Protlekije, Lake Skadar, Lovcen.
The logical route for us to follow was in a circuit was going along the top of Montenegro and down to the coast because we came in August, when the beaches are packed. The hiking weather was pretty good for us – we had one day of rain and a few hazy days, which was great as it was a bit cooler.
Our entry point from Bosnia and Herzegovina, (read our Bosnia Road Trip – Your Complete Guide to see what we did), meant that we crossed into Montenegro at the Hum border crossing, and after the National Parks we were able to go up the coastal areas when the crowds had dispersed.
Durmitor National Park
Durmitor national park really is the show stopper park out of all of Montenegro’s five parks. It is absolutely breath-taking! I have written an article that covers Durmitor in more depth that I will here – but if you chose to do just one park, then this is the one to do.
If you have the time to drag yourselves away from the beauty of the beaches, you can reach the gateway to Durmitor, Zabljak in just a 3 hour drive from Kotor.
Read our full blog post on Durmitor National Park for details on the best hikes and drives and also for information on the Tara Canyon.
Biogradska GORA National Park
About Biogradska Gora National Park
Since 1952, Biogradska Gora has been a National Park. It is the smallest of Montenegro’s five national parks at almost 57 square km. The park boasts one of only three virgin forests left in Europe with trees over 400 years old and 60m tall!
It has a huge biodiversity for such a small park:
- 2,000 plant species
- 200 bird species
- 80 species of butterfly
- 350 insect species
Biogradska National Park is home to many mammals like wolves, bears, foxes, deer, squirrels and dormice as well.
What to do in Biogradska Gora National Park
As you drive into the park there is a small carpark, allowing you can take the tourist train up to the top rather than driving. Its a fun thing to do and is included in your pass.
However, if you intend to stay overnight in the motorhome, park at the very top. You need to get their very early or quite late when all the day trippers have gone home. You could even get a lakeside pitch! The cost is €10.
There is a restaurant and cafe as well as a visitors centre. They have the most fabulous plate of ustipci for breakfast with jam, honey and cheese for just €5.5 that will feed two. Yum!
At the top, a quick and easy 3.5 km trail will take you around the lake. There is no uphill walking, although the ground can be knotty with tree roots. Part of the walk has a wooden boardwalk as the path winds through the most amazing forests. If you have younger ones that don’t walk so far, you can hire a boat out to row round the lake for €8 per hour.
Last but not least of course, is the spectacular hiking and mountain biking that can be done through the beautiful forests. There are several trails that are of varying difficulty. The trails are to mountain peaks or glacier lakes, although the level of the lakes could be seriously diminished or dried up in the middle of August.
Protlekije National Park
About Protlekije National Park
Folk-law says that the Devil unleashed the mountains from Hell in return for a day of mischief. He sure created breath-taking scenery as the Accursed Mountain range, running through this park, is just magnificent.
In 2009, Montenegro gained its fifth national park, Prokletije. Prokletije sits on the eastern side of the country next to Albania and Kosovo. Although you read that Bobatov Kuk is the highest peak, Maja Kolata is 5m higher but spans into Albania as well. Protlekije has the most dramatic landscape of all the national parks, with vertical, spiked mountains and wild chamois roaming freely.
As the least visited national park in Montenegro, and the most remote, your hikes or mountain biking will be not be overrun with other tourists! The mountain range draws serious mountaineers from Europe to scale its dangerous peaks before embarking on more challenging seasonal climbs in other countries.
This area can also be covered with snow even in summer, so be sure to research your walks carefully. It is definitely one that we are going to go back to for a multi-day hike.
What to do in Protlekije National Park
This national park allows for some magnificent hiking and mountain biking trails. One could say that perhaps the most impressive scenic hikes of all the national park of Montenegro. The hikes range from easy to difficult, so there is something for all.
Plav, Gusinje and Vusanje are the key towns that people stop at for entry into the park. In Gusinje there is a visitor centre that is open during the week – in the middle of the town, where they speak excellent English and can help advise on hikes.
We did two walks in Protlekije:
- Ropajansko Lake
- The Three Peaks
Ropajansko was really well marked, with the well known red/white dots. It was aso great walk to complete, with a slow and steady uphill pace tracking the river. Either side of the trail were staggering mountains, high and dramatic. Just as we reached the end of the walk, we levelled out into the most beautiful grass plains. It was a straight trail hike, so we returned the same way, which normally we don’t like to do. A couple of alternative routes off the main track allowed us to be curious on our return path too!
The second walk was the Three Peaks walk. We popped into the visitor centre in Gusinje and asked for something which was manageable in a day, dramatic, but not ridiculously difficult, and this was his recommendation. Wow, it was absolutely fantastic. A challenging walk (the duration more than the terrain) but breath-taking hike that we would highly recommend.
skadar lake national par
About Skadar Lake National Park
The beautiful water based Lake Skadar National Park is Europes largest bird reserve. It is absolutely beautiful, in a completely different way that the rest of the national parks are.
It is the largest lake in the Balkans, covering a massive 530 km square, shinking down to 370km squared in the summer. Two thirds of the lake sits in Montenegro and a third in Albania.
Skadar Lake was granted national park status in 1983, it has been granted UNESCO world heritage. One of the key reasons for this, is that it is a key migration stop point for birds flying from northern Europe to Africa and also the last breeding grounds for the endangered species of the Dalmation Pelican and the Pgymy Cormarant.
What to do in Lake Skadar National Park
There are two key things dominating this national park – and that is boating and birdwatching – and often at the same time. You can hire boats here from between 1 and 8 hours. Obviously the longer the boat ride, the more remote places you will be able to see around the river. You can also hire kayaks, allowing a peaceful and slower view of the park.
We took our kayak out on the river and did a wonderful 3 hour circuit from where we had parked up on a campsite. We left early in the morning ensuring that we didn’t cross paths with the plethora of boats that can be on the river. I always feel closer to nature when in a kayak – its one of the reasons I have done it in many locations around the world!
Although we didn’t see any paddleboards for hire, we did see people on paddleboards – so whether they had taken their own, or hired them I am not sure. The main part of the lake was lovely to swim in and there are several man made beaches that you can relax on as well. It was around 39 degrees when we went mid August, so the weather gets pretty hot!
Of course as one might expect in a national park, there are walks and hikes to be done. There are at least 5 of each – ranging from easy to more difficult. Many of the hikes are a comfortable 3 or 4 hour round hike, which is easily doable even when the weather is warmer! Pick up your local maps from the main (but small) town of Virpazer.
LOVCEN national park
About Lovcen National Park
A visit to Lovcen National Park will introduce you to another of its top driving roads in Montenegro. The Serpintine Pass, goes from Kotor to Lovcen and has 16 switch backs to contend with. We are in a 7.5 m motorhome and we managed it, but it does have very narrow roads with passing points. In summer, it can get very busy so its best to tackle it in the morning for a smoother experience.
Crna Gora and Montenegro both get their names from the Black Mountain in Lovcen National Park. Covered in dense, dark green forest, this historical area, including the town of Citinje, has been at the centre of Montenegro, going back to the Ottoman and Turk periods.
Whilst the park is not as big as Durmitor or Skadar Lake, it is very accessible and full of nature, history, culture and more. The gateway town is Ivanova Korita, which is where you will find the visitor centre, restaurants and bars.
What to do in Lovcen National Park
Coming from Skadar Lake, you get the chance to drive the P1 – a road which Montenegro claim as one of the most scenic driving roads. A single track road, with passing points and at the end (or the beginning, depending on your direction of driving) has the Serpentine Road – 8km with 16 hairpin bends. You will also take this road if you approach from Kotor.
Take a visit to the highest mausoleum in the world, Njegos mausoleum. It is Lovcens most iconic landmark. Visit the village of Njegusi, which is the birthplace of the famous royal. The village is also famous for it’s cheese and smoked ham, so a stop to sample some food really is a must.
As with all the National Parks, outdoor activities are the best. A lovely but relatively straight forward hike is the Wolf Trail. With stunning views, this 10 walk will take about 3 hours, you get amazing views of Budva and Boka Bay. Whether you go clockwise or anti-clockwise, you will have about 1 hour in the sun – so make sure you set off early so you miss the real heat in summer.
Tips and Tricks
- Buy a single entry pass for all the national parks which lasts for one year. Don’t forget to take your passport as it is needed to register the national park card.
- If you really want a challenge and are a keen hiker, Protlekije National Park is a good place to start a multi day hike. The Peak of the Balkans full trek is 10/12days, but it is possible to complete sections.
- Download a good trail route app like Mapy.cz on a smart phone to use on your hikes. You can download offline maps for countries so you don’t need to worry about a connection.
- For some of the multi-day hikes, experience and preparation are key. You may hire a guide if you wish. The Peak of the Balkans, you can arrange to have your bags taken stop to stop, much like the El Camino.
- Stop at the oldest restaurant in Montenegro – Kod Pera na Bukoviću, if you are going to Lovcen National Park.
We hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. We have tried to cover everything you need to know but if we have missed something – please do let us know.