Durmitor National Park Hiking & Travel Guide, Montenegro
Ben and I were seriously looking forward to visiting Durmitor National Park to go hiking for weeks before we actually got there. As we arrived in Montenegro early spring, we wanted to make sure enough snow had melted and the conditions were just right. This being so, visiting Durmitor was one of the last things we did during our 7-week stay at our Workaway in Lake Skadar.
There was still a decent amount of snow on the ground in places at the end of May that made some of the hiking trails impassable. However, we still managed to do everything we wanted in the area and even hiked a trail that most people would have used crampons for in our skate shoes and summer hiking clothes. Maybe not our smartest idea.
Durmitor National Park is located in the northern part of Montenegro and makes up one of five national parks in the country. If you’re an outdoor lover or extreme sports enthusiast this area should be calling your name.
You could spend up a week in this area happily hiking different trails and joining different adrenaline tours, but if you have less time, we did 3 days and 2 nights which was a perfect introduction to the area.
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Where is Durmitor National Park
Durmitor National Park is in the far north of Montenegro (south of Croatia) and is made up of a large mountain massif called Durmitor, hence the name!
Podgorica is the closest major city from Durmitor and takes 2 hours 15 to reach. Otherwise, for most tourists, you can reach Durmitor from Kotor in 3 hours.
Getting to Durmitor National Park
Žabljak is the main township for Durmitor National Park and is a great central base for hiking and exploring the area. To get here follow the below directions.
Driving to Durmitor
Transport in Montenegro is probably as you guessed, a little sparing. Whch means the best way to get anywhere here is by having a car. You can rent a car through Auto Europe from Kotor and Podgorica or search local companies for special offers. When driving in Montenegro be conscious of drivers passing on blind bends as this seems to happen all the time.
From Kotor, follow the E80 along the Bay of Kotor until you reach the P11 turnoff. After 39km, turn onto the E762. Soon you will reach the P5, which will take you the rest of the way to Žabljak.
From Podgorica, follow the E762 for 120km until you reach the P5 as above.
Arriving to Durmitor by bus
There are a few buses daily heading to Žabljak from Kotor and Podgorica. Depending on where you are coming from you can check out the Get By Bus and Bus Ticket 4 Me websites for ticket times and prices. Tickets are €7-8 from Pod and €15 from Kotor.
Tours to Durmitor National Park
Tours are a great way to explore the highlights of the region if a) you are short on time, or b) you love the ease and comfort of a tour. Get Your Guide offers amazing tours around the world at competitive prices. Two of the tours below will pick you up from Kotor and one of the rafting trips even leaves from Dubrovnik in Croatia.
Durmitor National Park entrance and fees
While the national park takes up quite a lot of real estate, there is really only one section that requires you to pay an entry fee. Just outside of Žabljak is the beautiful Black Lake. Parking is free but entry into the park costs €3 per person for a daily ticket or €6 for 3 days. There are small wooden huts by the entry paths where you can pay. This is cash only.
Durmitor National Park Information
As the national park covers such a large area, the best way to explore is by driving around it. If you do not have a car then the Black Lake and the hiking trails from here will be your best bet.
I do recommend hiring a car at least for a couple of days here to see the most. Parking is plentiful even during the peak summer months and there are numerous restaurants and cafes for you to grab a bite to eat.
Durmitor was formed by glaciers creating huge canyons, rivers, underground streams and 48 peaks over 2,000m in height. There are plateaus, meadows, forests and lakes all waiting to be explored and Bobotuv Kuk, the highest peak at 2,525 is a doable climb. The biodiversity of the park is also something you won’t find in other areas of Europe. Home to over 1,600 species of plant and 130 birds, plus although rare, stay on the lookout for larger mammals like brown bears, wolves and the European wild cat. We didn’t see any of these guys, but we did spot a chamois on our hike.
Best time to visit Durmitor
The best time of year to visit Durmitor will entirely depend on what you want to do there. The winter months get a lot of snowfall, which opens up activities like downhill and cross-country skiing. During the spring and autumn, you’ll experience the natural wildflowers and the fall colours spreading through the park. Summer months are best for hiking and watersports and strangely enough, is the low season here.
The best part about Durmitor and Montenegro is that tourism is relatively low compared to Croatia and other parts of Europe. So visiting the national park in the summer is totally fine and dealing with hoards of tourists won’t be a problem.
*However, the exception to this would be Kotor – this small town can get 2 huge cruise ships in at once and it’s not a fun experience.
Durmitor National Park hiking
No visit to Durmitor would be complete without going on a hike. There are hikes for all abilities and the best part about this area is once in the wilderness you rarely see another person. We have loved hiking in the Balkans with its unique scenery and friendly locals. Make sure you also add the Valbona to Theth trail in Albania to your hiking bucket list.
The hardest part about hiking in Durmitor is choosing which hike to go on. The area is well signed once past the trailheads, but information regarding hikes is hard to find online. I’ve heard the guidebook, Mountains of Montenegro is a great resource. You can buy it on Amazon in paperback or kindle formats. Also, Road is Calling has listed 8 great hikes they did in the area.
We chose our hike by looking at the Mapy.cz app. This app has been a game-changer for our travels, you can see hiking trails all around the world, plus it adds topography lines so you never get caught out by elevation gains. If you would like to see what my other favourite travel apps are, enter your details below.
The Black Lake loop
Distance: 3.5 km
This is a great loop if you only have a short amount of time in Durmitor. The loop trailhead begins at the lake which is about 10 minutes from the carpark. Make sure to pay your entry fee and keep the receipts on you.
The elevation gain is 184m up and although mostly flat, parts of the ground can be muddy or uneven.
Bobotov Kuv 2,522m
Distance: 10km round trip
Type: In and Out
The Durmitor National Park hiking king would definitely be Bobotov Kuv. Not only is it the highest peak in Durmitor, but in all of Montenegro. The best part about this peak is it is actually quite accessible for most hikers with a decent level of fitness.
There are multiple routes leading to this peak, but the easiest one (least amount of elevation gain) starts from the Sedlo Trailhead (map above). The Sedlo trailhead can be found on the P14 which is part of the Panoramic Durmitor Ring Road just 14km from Žabljak.
The total elevation gain from here is 692m. The first 3.7km is mostly flat and then the ascent begins for the final 1.2km’s. Before you reach the peak you will need to do some scrambling over uneven terrain. Allow 6 hours for the duration of the hike.
If you don’t have a car you summit Bobotov Kuvcan from the Black Lake. However, bear in mind, the overall elevation gain is 1,057m over 7.6km one way.
Large loop via Black Lake, Lokvice Lake and Veliki Meded
You may remember I said we did a crazy hike? Yep, well this is the one. We were forced to traverse across long steep sections of mountain that were covered in snow. Because we didn’t have the proper gear, we were crab walking along. I felt like my fingers were going to get frostbite from digging them so deeply into the snow. One slip and I was convinced I would slide hundreds of metres down the side of the hill.
This hike would have been incredible if there was a little less snow. I wouldn’t recommend doing this if there is still a decent amount of snow coverage.
This hike is excellent because it passes a couple of alpine lakes, mountain huts and two valleys. You will cross from the first valley over a saddle between two peaks and into the next valley before a gradual descent back to the Black Lake.
There is a lot of loose scree on this trail and in some places climbing towards the saddle you may need to scramble. Keep an eye out as we caught a glimpse of a chamois during this hike.
The total elevation gain is 786m and you should allow 5 hours to complete the loop.
Other things to do in Durmitor National Park
As you probably already know by now, Durmitor is a great place for adventure and adrenaline junkies.
My top picks for Durmitor if you just have 2-3 days would be to do the following:
Visit the Black Lake
Located only 3km from Žabljak this lake is a must-visit. There is a paved path from town out to the lake and this is where you will need to pay your €3 entry fee. This glacial lake is surrounded by a beautiful pine forest that has an easy loop trail around it (see above).
During our stay in Žabljak, we visited the lake twice. Once when we arrived to take some sunset photos and again to begin a hike. The Black Lake is a starting point for many hiking and biking trails which lead deeper into the national park.
If you want to have more of a relaxing day, there are plenty of spots around the lake for a picnic lunch or stop at the cafe on the water’s edge.
You can even choose to hire cute wooden boats to paddle out on to the lake for €8/hour.
See the Tara Bridge
I personally believe that the Tara Bridge is the iconic symbol of Montenegro, but maybe that’s just me. Even if it’s not the iconic symbol, I’m sure you have seen pictures of this stunning bridge pictured below. Connecting both sides of the Tara Canyon, this arched bridge stands 172m above the river below.
On either side of the bridge, you will see plenty of signs advertising the different ziplining companies which allow you to fly suspended over the length of the canyon. There are different lengths, which all come with different prices, but expect to pay around €10 to zipline over the Tara Canyon.
Take a scenic drive
A cool thing we discovered during our time in Montenegro (thanks to our Workaway hosts), were driving audio guides by izi.travel. If you download the izi.travel app, the app will use GPS location and act as your tour guide.
The tour in Durmitor National Park follows the Panoramic Durmitor Ring Road which is a scenic 76km loop starting and ending in Žabljak. The guide talks about the history of the region, interviews locals to catch a glimpse into their lives, points out detours and points of interest. All you need to do is follow the brown road signs labelled with the Panoramic Roads logo and the number 2.
We were lucky enough to be one of the first people through this road after the winter snow clearing. We pulled over the car and waited in the sun amongst the hundreds of purple wildflowers for the final section to be cleared.
From Žabljak, this loop follows a small windy road anticlockwise to Trsa and then joins the P14 back to Žabljak. If you have the time a detour to the Piva Lake is absolutely breathtaking. Along the P14 you will also find a lot of Durmitor National Park hiking trailheads.
Go whitewater rafting
The first time I was in Montenegro was when I was based in Tivat working on a superyacht. One day off we gathered a bunch of the crew to take a day trip to go whitewater rafting. We drove out along the stunning Piva Lake and had this awesome adventure.
If you’ve never been whitewater rafting before this is a great place for your first time. It’s popular with tourists, so the guides are very competent in English and will explain all the necessary safety information to you.
You can join this tour from Kotor which includes all transport, rafting fees and breakfast and lunch.
Where to stay in Durmitor
You’ll want to stay in Žabljak as it is centrally located and makes for a great base for exploring the surrounding national park. It is also the only major town located inside the park boundary.
Budget: Ben and I stayed in the Woden Apartment which is a 3-bedroom apartment as you enter Žabljak. Although this place slept 6, we still found it cheaper than most of the alternatives. The owners live downstairs and are extremely friendly and it’s located 1km to shops and restaurants and 2.9km to the Black Lake. There is a bike rental across the road in case you don’t have a car.
Hostel: Hostel Hikers Den has repeatedly been ranked Montenegro’s best hostel with reviews rarely getting under 10/10. Dorm beds start at €12 for a 6 share and is located right in the heart of Žabljak. The friendly staff will help you organise any tour around the area. You’ll meet a bunch of other hikers who are ready to set off into Durmitor National Park for hiking adventures. Maybe you can even tag along.