Unless you’re a fan of the international glitterati, you probably don’t know much about the tiny Balkan country of Montenegro. One of central Europe’s youngest nations, Montenegro has a fantastic coastline on the Adriatic Sea that’s long been a favorite spot for jet-setters in the know.
But there’s another side to Montenegro — a brilliantly rugged, dramatic side that adventure travelers have only just begun to discover. If you love hiking, climbing, snow skiing, whitewater rafting, or even just driving along impossibly twisting mountain roads, then Montenegro has got your version of paradise.
The name of this 130 square mile adventurer’s heaven is Durmitor National Park. It’s home to Europe’s deepest river canyon and 18 pristine glacial lakes, all guarded by the looming limestone peaks of the craggy Durmitor Mountains.
3 Best Adventures in Durmitor You Should Try:
Rafting the Tara River Gorge
There are three extravagantly lovely canyons in Durmitor. But for daring kayakers and rafters, there’s only one — the Tara River Gorge. The full 42-mile run takes you through narrow, impossibly steep canyon walls, over challenging rapids, and into quiet, lush areas where you’re likely to be completely alone.
Running the Tara River Gorge is comparable to whitewater adventures on the Colorado River in the U.S. But there’s one huge difference: your group might very well be the only one on the river.
Hiking the park
If you’re planning to hike Durmitor, be sure to visit the Black Lake, possibly the most beautiful of the park’s glacial gems. The hike around Black Lake is relatively undemanding, and is even accessible to cyclists. Once you’ve walked the smooth white sand beach and waved to the flat top of Crvena Greda Peak, get serious with one of Durmitor’s 125 miles of marked trails, many of which can be accessed from Black Lake.
You’ll see an assortment of Durmitor’s native fauna: grey wolves, brown bears, and any of 160 species of birds including eagles and falcons. Following the river’s path, you’ll pass immaculate waterfalls, thick pine forests, eerie rock formations and even a few monasteries hidden in the woods.
Pristine, world-class skiing
In the winter Durmitor is a wonderland of alpine ski bliss. The park boasts a near-perfect snow cover from December through March, and conditions here challenge the best venues in Europe, at lower prices and with smaller crowds. Be aware, though, that Durmitor is better known for its skiing than for its warm-weather sports — you won’t be alone here in the winter. To avoid the crowds, try summer skiing on the Debeli Namet Glacier, where there’s snow all year round.
Take advantage of this Balkan gem while it’s still mostly undiscovered. Durmitor National Park is just a 3-hour, white-knuckle mountain drive from Montenegro’s glitzy Adriatic coast — but it’s a whole world away.