500 – 2525 meters
High peaks, deep-green woodland and vast, dramatic valleys: Welcome to the gem of the Dinaric Mountains.
Durmitor National Park, the biggest national park in Montenegro, is a true paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The area is incredibly diverse, being home to majestic peaks, glacial lakes, mossy forests and enchanting meadows. Situated close to the sprawling town of Zabljak, you can find lodging, supermarkets with outdoor gear, reasonably-priced restaurants and plenty of outdoor agencies that can help you find your perfect kayaking, canyoning or rafting experience.
Durmitor National Park
Durmitor National Park is the largest national park in Montenegro. Situated in the country’s mountainous north, it’s bordered on both sides by two deep canyons: the Tara canyon to the east and the Piva canyon to the west. The Tara canyon is the longest and deepest in Europe, plummeting 1,300 meters into the earth at its deepest sections. The Durmitor mountain range has 48 high peaks over 2,000m, giving way to five canyons and no less than 18 glacial lakes that range in colour from frosty blues to turquoise. The Black Lake, surrounded by pine forest, is the best-known and, as such, the most crowded, but don’t let this discourage you from visiting. Many tourists who visit spend their time solely at the lake, meaning the rest of the park remains peaceful even when it’s busy down at the water.
The region is also home to some of the oldest traces of mankind, which have been well-preserved over the millennia. Aside from tumulus headstones dating back to the prehistoric era, you can find cippi (ancient milestones), stone bridges and caravan roads that date back to the Roman Empire.
Today, just under 2,000 people live in Durmitor, most of whom are shepherds. These people live according to the strict rules in place in the park that seek to preserve the region’s nature for future generations.
The town of Zabljak is easily accessible in the summer but difficult to reach between October and March due to high snowfall. Unfortunately, in this part of Montenegro, the public transport network isn’t very well-developed, but you can get to the town twice a day by bus from Podgorica. From there, you can drive or hike to the visitor’s centre at the Black Lake and pay your entrance fee on the way. There are no buses going directly to the park, but you could always hitch a ride with other tourists.
A hike around the lake is around 3.6 km (2.2 miles) long and will take you about one hour. Tired and worn out? Near the visitor centre, on the shores of the lake Crno Jezero, sits a tranquil forest equipped with deck chairs, hammocks and boxes with books.
When you go hiking, don’t overstock on water. With almost 750 fresh springs spread throughout the park, you’ll find all you need coming straight out of the ground. And being completely safe to drink, tasting it is an experience in itself.
Wildlife and plants
Comprising several distinct ecosystems, the park is incredibly rich in flora and fauna. The region was given official national park status back in 1952, while the Black Lake itself has been under special protection since as early as 1902. A testimony to the success of Durmitor’s ecological preservation is the lasting presence of numerous apex predators, such as grey wolves, brown bears and the European wildcat. But don’t worry: the chances of a hiker actually seeing one of these animals are very slim.
Along the slopes, you may encounter chamois, hare and foxes, while marten, squirrels, deer and boar roam the forests of Durmitor. As you hike to the sound of a choir of songbirds, approximately 130 species of butterfly will guide you on your walks. There are also 168 different bird species in the park; including grouse, grey mountain eagle, white-headed vulture, falcon and crossbill.
Whilst you explore the park, look out for the various edible plants that grow in the region from late May until October. These include strawberries, blueberries, thyme, fungi and medicinal herbs. Don’t forget to buy a special foraging permit as you won’t be permitted to pick anything without one. A permit cost 5 euros per day or 50 euros per year.
Where to stay
The campsite near Black Lake offers space for tents (costing from 3 to 5 euros per day) and camper trailers (3 euros per day). You can also rent a tent at the visitor’s centre. If you want to use the dedicated area and wood to make a campfire, you will have to pay 5 euros extra. Don’t forget to budget-in your parking fee of 2 euros per day for a car.
There are two mountain lodges in the park, open from mid-June until the end of September and operated by a host. Mountain lodge Skrka has two twin bedrooms and a dorm with wooden benches for 9 people. You will need to bring your own sleeping bags to use the lodge, or you can pitch your tent around the building. The second lodge, Susica (costing 10 euros a day), has four twin bedrooms, a bar, a fireplace and toilets. You can also pitch your tent around the lodge.
There are few other accommodations run by the National Park: Radovan Luka (15 euros a night per person) and a dedicated motorhome park for 30 vehicles with amenities for 10 euros a day.
Activities in the park
kayaking / rafting
When should I visit the park?
Due to the altitude and climate, it is best to visit from April until October, after the last and before the first drop of snow. It can still be chilly year-round, with temperatures dropping low at night.
Do I need to stick to trails?
Please stick to the trails as much as possible and don’t pick flowers or fish without a permit.
Can I go wild camping?
Wild camping, campfires and playing loud music are forbidden within the boundaries of the park.
Can I bring my dog?
Dogs are permitted in the park, but make sure they don’t go after any of the wildlife. There are no dog-waste bins anywhere in the park.
Is the park wheelchair accessible?
A big asphalted road leads up to the Black lake, so wheelchair users can easily access the biggest attraction in the park.
Where do I park?
Park your car alongside the road when approaching the park. At the time of writing, paid parking was not available in the area.
Is the use of drones permitted?
Please check with park officials when entering the park.
National parks in Montenegro
There are five stunning national parks in Montenegro: Durmitor, Biogradska Gora, Skadar Lake, Lovcen and Prokletije. Together, they cover 7.7% of the territory of Montenegro.