Quick update: We’re in Oregon!! The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, I’m another year older (photo from my Bday above) and Drew’s event, OutFound Series, is getting closer and closer! Here’s a video we made of our recent move from LA to Hood River + the last 4 hikes (Strawberry Peak, Mount Lukens, Las Virgenes, Los Liones) I embarked upon before leaving SoCal.
Ok, back to Montenegro! While in Europe last year we had to spend 3 months outside of the Schengen countries due to our American visa limitations (90 days max in Schengen countries in a 180 period). SO, we rolled across the Italian border into Croatia and explored the magic of the Balkans, including the beautiful little country of Montenegro (which just recently declared its independence in 2006). Our guide book of choice: LonelyPlanet Montenegro, this is the one we used, OR, if you’re exploring more of the Balkans, LonelyPlanet Western Balkans OR, if you’re exploring even more of Europe, Lonely Planet South Eastern Europe. These are all affiliate links, please use 🙂
With so much to see and the freedom to roam wherever our wildly-restless hearts desired, we set our sites on the country’s most stunning, adventure-filled locations. If you’re planning to visit Montenegro, know that there is so much to discover! The figs and mushrooms are DELICIOUS, the people are lovely, the nature is plentiful and money goes a loooong way (think 7€ for a fancy mushroom risotto served next to the Bay of Kotor)!
Tip: For a fun half-day excursion, find your way to Perast on the Bay of Kotor, and kayak to Our Lady of the Rocks. After your return, enjoy a meal at Dardin (featured in the photo above). Order the Shopska salad (our fave) + risotto or gnocchi and always try the Vranac wine.
Is that not the prettiest mushroom you ever did see? Drew spotted it from our hiking trail as a single beam of light illuminated its vibrant red top. We literally had to stop and sit next to it for a little while before we felt fulfilled enough to walk away. Alright, alright, on to the rest of the adventures!
1.Summiting Bobotov Kuk, the highest peak in Montenegro + Exploring the Ice Cave (Ledena Pecina) in Durmitor National Park.
The BEST way to approach this 8,278 foot high summit + enjoy the stunning scenery that surrounds it, is by making it an incredible 1-day through hike (with the assistance of a taxi). We slept in Zabljak the night before (see below), woke up just as the park was opening (7am) and asked the guy at the ticketing booth (whom we had met the day before) to please call his friend/taxi driver to take us to the trailhead in Sedlo (15€), also the highest road pass in the country.
It was about 8:30 by the time we hit the trail and before noon we were on the summit enjoying the fresh air, the AMAZING view and the friendly farm dogs roaming and howling freely about the mountains:
As we continued our trek, we headed down the summit and before we knew it we were staring into the mouth of a gigantic ice cave! If you look closely at the photo below you can see me trying to shimmy my way down the ice in an attempt to join Drew in the belly of the cave:
After cooling off a bit, we found our way out (there are ropes) and continued on the path all the way back to our van in Zabljak, but not before jumping in Crno Jezero (Black Lake) for a classic VanLife lake bath at sunset:
Total Hike Time: 10 hours, including time to stop and enjoy the top + explore the cave + eat lunch/snacks +bathe.
2.Rafting the Tara River, one of the deepest river canyons in the world! Fun fact: The Grand Canyon is just 600 feet deeper.
We decided to go rafting with Kamp Kljajevica Luka. They left Zabljak with their bus full of rafters for the Tara River at 9am, and we followed right behind in our rolling home (we were traveling that direction anyway). Upon arriving, we were treated to a cup of coffee before hopping in a bus and floating down the calm, beautiful waters of the Tara.
The water levels were extremely low when we were there at the end of August – if you are looking for a more exhilarating ride, plan to visit in Spring when all the snow has just melted. Can we talk about the water for a sec? We jumped in and it was FREEZING! Absolutely, immediately NUMBING!! Crazy but so beautiful and so worth it. Also, you can literally cup your hand and drink straight from the Tara, which flows with some of the cleanest water in the world.
Alternate Adventure: Hike to the top of the Tara’s “eternal guardian,” Mt Ćurevac, the highest point along the river (rough guide here).
3.Hiking Jezerski Vrh in Lovcen National Park.
Jezerski Vrh is the most beloved mountain in the country being that the mausoleum of “the greatest son of the nation” can be found at the top + the views are just spectacular! Also, Montenegro is named after its “Black Mountains,” mountains made of volcanic rock, and Jezerski Vrh, which is one of those mountains, is said to give the nation its special identity.
There are basically 2 ways you can hike to the summit, either via the Kotor Gate (which will take a brutal 2 days unless you take the bus one way) or via the tiny town of Bukovica. We opted for the later for the sake of time, distance and not being able to figure out the Montenegrin bus schedule. It took us an enjoyable 6 hours total and 10 miles roundtrip, using these exact directions. You can also drive to the top, but where’s the adventure in that!
4.Climbing the 1,350 stairs of Kotor to the Castle of San Giovanni at 4,000ft.
We had very little time when we were here but were able to run from the River Gate to the top of the stairs in 25 minutes flat, in flip flops, though we don’t recommend it. If you have the time, plan for 1.5-2 hours round trip. The views along the way are spectacular!
- BRING WATER.
- Hiking in the morning is best because the rising sun will illuminate the mountains and views across the way.
- At night, the castle walls that surround the town light up! It’s a beautiful sight to see.
5.Boating across Lake Skadar, the largest lake + bird reserve in Southern Europe.
Our friends at Carpe Mundo planned this one, but if you go to the medieval town of Virpazar there will be a ton of boats for hire there 🙂 The untouched, wild beauty that we experienced here was unlike anyplace else we had ever been.
Surrounded by miles and miles of lily pads, thousands of cormorants, catching a glimpse of the last pelicans in all of Europe, swimming in its refreshing waters, exploring the ancient monasteries and pristine beaches, it is here that the former Montenegrin royal family chose to vacation and where some of the best wines and organic food in Montenegro can be found.
Tip: Looking for an INCREDIBLE winery to visit after? Winery Masanovic is AMAZING (another great find compliments of Carpe Mundo). Drew vouches that the homemade cheese, prosciutto, honey, chestnuts and HOT DONUTS will be the perfect way to end your day!
So there you have it, all our favorite things from the unforgettable time we spent exploring such a tiny country filled with such massive beauty! We hope this helps inspire your travels and motivates you to set your sites beyond the normal tourist route. Let us know if you have any other questions and, since you’ll be right next door, be sure to check out our post on 10 Unbelievably Beautiful Places in Croatia to Adventure!
Oh, one last thing. If you happen to be rolling through Montenegro in your van, know that we found one of our favorite wild camping spots + saw the longest shooting star of our lives in Lovcen National Park ★
To see all our favorite moments with Carpe Mundo + epic VanLife scenes from our time spent in this amazing little country, watch our documentary below – we’re pretty sure you’ll love it 🙂