Five national parks
Montenegro has five national parks, each with their own unique attractions. The serpentine road up to Lovćen National Park has unrivalled views of the Bay of Kotor, and Njegusi Village offers the chance to try and buy Montenegro’s most celebrated produce – prosciutto and cheese from Njegusi. In the park, there are walking and biking trails, picnic areas and the mausoleum of Petar Petrovic-Njegoš II.
Durmitor, Prokletije and Biogradska Gora National Parks are secluded retreats that offer an escape from the summer crowds on the coast. The forests, lakes and mountains are perfect for hiking, biking and appreciating these mostly untouched areas.
Skadar Lake National Park is a treasure trove of wildlife, and visitors can expect to see a multitude of birds, snakes, frogs, turtles and insects any time of year. The increase in tourists visiting the lake has helped local families turn away from exploiting the lake’s natural resources and instead has offered them work in eco-tourism.
A hiker’s dream
Montenegro’s mountainous landscape is a hiker’s dream come true. The steep summits and gently sloping hills are stunning places to explore on foot. Some of the best hiking locations are in the national parks, so they’re easily accessible and the trails are marked. On the coast, hikers get panoramic views of the sea, while, in the interior, they’re treated to miles of green dotted with shepherd’s huts. Rudolph Abraham’s The Mountains of Montenegro is the must-have guide for hiking here.
Kayaking and stand up paddling
When the summer hits in Montenegro, there’s only one place to be: on the water. Exploring the coastline by kayak or stand up paddle board is a fantastic way to find deserted beaches and explore sea caves that those on boat tours miss out on. Whenever you need a rest from paddling, you just put on a snorkel and jump into the water to cool off. Getting around by kayak or stand up paddle board is totally sustainable, and those who spend a day paddling can justify a delicious seaside dinner with some local Vranac wine or Niksicko beer at night.
Bird watching at Skadar Lake
Skadar Lake, which saddles both Montenegro and Albania, is a haven for migratory birds. The entire Montenegrin side of the lake is a national park, and it’s the largest bird reserve in Europe. Over 280 bird species call the lake home, and it’s the last breeding ground of the endangered Dalmatian Pelican and Pygmy Cormorant.
Visitors can hire kayaks or take a trip to see the birds in a traditional fishing boat called a čun. The locals know where to get the best views of the birds, and travelling in a čun allows them to navigate the shallow reed canals where the birds make their nests and forage. Boat tours on the lake also include historic sites like Grmožur Island, a former island prison, Lesendro Fortress and Kom Monastery.
Wine, the heart of Montenegrin culture
Surrounding Lake Skadar, the Crmnica region is known as the best wine country in Montenegro. With lots of boutique wineries, visitors to the area can try some of Montenegro’s best wines. But good wine isn’t the only reason to make the trip here. A trip to a local winery offers the chance to meet a local family, learn about the ancient custom of wine-making in Montenegro, try local cuisine and try local liquors like rakija and višnjak. eco-resort Crmeniza combines a love of wine with eco-friendly, luxury accommodation on the lake.
Who needs amusement parks when there are canyons?
Montenegro doesn’t need amusement parks, the canyons make ideal natural playgrounds. The Tara Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon, is best seen while white water rafting down the rapids.
For those who love a real adrenaline rush, canyoning through Nevidio Canyon is the ultimate thrill. The challenging tour through the canyon includes swimming, climbing, sliding and jumping to get from one end of the canyon to the other.
Exploration on horseback
There’s nothing like exploring the nooks and crannies of Montenegro’s off-the-beaten-track areas on horseback. Horse treks are a great way to discover ancient bridges, hidden waterfalls and local culture. The treks are led by experienced local guides who love to share tidbits about the history of the area and local customs. It’s not unusual to meet a local shepherd herding his sheep or share a cup of Turkish coffee with a small café owner. This ‘slow travel’ is an unrivalled way to see some of Montenegro’s best scenery and get an insight into Montenegrin culture.
Mountain Riders, Oraovica bb, Komani, Montenegro, +382 67 343 411
Exploration on two wheels
Whether it’s gentle sightseeing or serious downhill adventure you crave, exploring Montenegro on two wheels is something special. Ride the old rail trail around Skadar Lake or have a mountain biking adventure on Mount Vrmac. Riding down the Ladder of Kotor, with its 25 hairpin turns, is one of the best ways to get your fill of stunning scenery. With a stop in Njegusi for a traditional breakfast of prosciutto, cheese, crusty bread and glass of wine (because when in Montenegro, do as the Montenegrins do) to fuel the trip, it’s an unrivalled day of breath taking views and local experiences.
Wild animal encounters
The Montenegro Animal Sanctuary takes in orphaned and injured animals in Montenegro. Their residents include two camels and a dozen emus abandoned by a circus, an injured eagle, a bear cub, numerous deer, pigs, rabbits, goats, geese and pigeons. Visiting the sanctuary is an amazing opportunity to learn about and get close to these animals. The nominal entrance fee goes toward supporting the residents. Visitors who want to be really popular should bring a bag of carrots or mixed seed.
Prihvatiliste i Oporavak Zivotinja Crna Gora, Blizna, Montenegro, +382 67 214 888
No need for a slow food revolution here
There’s no McDonald’s in Montenegro. Nor is there a Burger King, KFC or any of those other chain restaurants. What you will find is traditional, home-style cooking made from fresh, seasonal and local ingredients. The fish in restaurants depends on what’s been caught that day. The vegetable sides depend on what’s in season. And there’s a remarkable variation of cuisine within the country. On the coast, fish like sea bass and shellfish are staples. At Skadar Lake marinated carp is a must try. While in the mountains, kačamak (cornmeal porridge with potato and cheese), goat cooked in milk are tasty comfort foods.
Not to be forgotten, a stay in Montenegro’s off-the-beaten-track destinations come with local drink specialties. Home-made pomegranate or mint juice, teas made from dried leaves of local plants, wine and rakija are all on offer.
Ethno villages and camping
For a real eco-tourism experience in Montenegro, eschew the swanky hotels and try an etno selo. These ethno villages offer traditional stone or wooden cabin accommodation, usually in a beautiful natural location. There are basic cabins with little more than a bed, but places like Etno Selo Montenegro has two-storey stone bungalows complete with bathrooms, electric blankets and wood burners for a fraction of the price of a hotel room.
For the ultimate back-to-nature experience, Camp Full Monte is an idyllic camping hideaway in the hills of Herceg Novi. Totally off grid, with a garden full of organic produce and state-of-the-art eco-friendly facilities, the camp is a real eco-tourist’s paradise.