We ended our ten-month trip in one of the most beautiful and popular National Parks in the Balkans. Although we expected it to be one of our last stops on the way home, sooner or later it was made clear that the time had come to our vagabond lifestyle. My knees refused to continue and asked for a week break right after the trek in Albanian Prokletije, then allowed for three more days of wandering in the Montenegrin mountains, instead of five. So that there were no more doubts that we were r e a l l y done with traveling, the hip belt of Anel’s backpack broke down just minutes before we put up out thumbs towards home.
Yet we managed to set our feet in Durmitor National Park and do some decent hikes there. Though the area is quite compact and pretty busy in the summer, the Durmitor is a great hiking spot full of easily accessible peaks and lakes. Settled in the northwest of Montenegro, it seems to have become a magnet for hikers from all around Europe, with Western and Central European trekkers almost outnumbering those from the former Yugoslavia. Most of the treks can be done as one-day trips but staying in the tent and taking less popular routes can make it a more intimate experience.
It took us a good half day to hitchhike from northern Albania (Shkodra) to Žabljak, a small and not really pleasant mountain resort at the foot of the National Park. Catching a ride in Montenegro didn’t go very smoothly this time and to our surprise it was easier on less frequented roads. We reached Žabljak in the midst of a cold, cloudy day and were told about continuous rainfalls. People seemed to be leaving the place, which made us wonder whether it made sense to stay. Hoping for better weather to return, we stocked up food supplies for a couple days and walked almost all the way to the Ivan Do camp, where we were encouraged to get on the minivan of a slightly imposing owner of the Razvršje campsite and taken to his place in order to pitch a tent. Razvršje is a decent camspite to spend a night if you don’t mind the owner Mišo’s attempts to talk you into some attractions.
Next morning the clouds were still giving us a reason to doubt, but around noon the sky completely cleared up. We packed the tent and started the trek.
Day 1 (or 1/2) | from Razvršje campsite to the mountain refuge at Katun Lokvice (1800 m)
2 hours with heavy backpacks
Since we set off quite late, our aim for the day was to reach the mountain refuge at Katun Lokvice, our camping spot and a starting point for the day trips. We took a path from Razvršje campsite (behind the showers) that leads up and then down through the pine trees, right to the entry gate of the National Park. Shortly after, this small path meets a large paved promenade, leading from Žabljak centre to the Black Lake, which is widely used by tourists, families and cyclists. Only a ten minute walk from the entry point brought us to the lake shore.
Crno Jezero (Black Lake, 1416 m) is a glacial lake lying at the foot of Medjed Peak. It’s made up of two smaller lakes and is a main tourist attraction for non-hikers. We had a look on Medjed crest dominating over Crno Jezero, then continued along the lake, took a path to the north and in 5 minutes got to Jakšić Mlin on Mlinski Potok creek, there crossed a bridge where the trail properly starts. A well-marked path is climbing through a conifer forest, at times quite steeply. After an hour it leaves the forest and leads through the area of low vegetation. Through the small depressions and elevations, it finally brought us to the point where we saw red roofs in the distance – the three huts at Lokvice. The hut to the right is a mountain shelter open to hikers, but it’s usually quite busy and mostly people pitch tents just next to it. So did we. Both options are free of charge. Another hut is inhabited by a nice shepherd who offers Nikšićko beer to the trekkers. There’s spring about three minutes walk from the hut in the direction towards Biljegova valley and marked with „voda“ signs on the stones.
Day 2 | Medjed : Južni Vrh (2296 m), Severni Vrh (2287 m) and Terzin Bogaz
3 h 40 walking
One of the most popular Durmitor’s peak, Medjed, is a long exposed ridge and a home to four peaks: Mali Medjed (Small Bear), Djevojka (Girl), Severni Vrh (Northern Peak) and Južni Vrh (Southern Peak), which can all be climbed from either side. The trail from Indjini Dolovi to Mali Medjed is super steep and pebbly, so instead of making full Medjed adventure, we opted for its two highest peaks and added the neighbouring Terzin Bogaz. Actually, doing Terzin Bogaz first and then climbing Medjed ridge from its Southern Peak all the way to Mali Medjed is a way to go, if only your limbs are fine.
The trail leading to the pass from which Terzin and Medjed are climbed starts at shepherd’s house, whose resident will eagerly explain directions. It leads southeast up the steep slope of mount Medjed for about half an hour climb, then turns into softer 20-minute long traverse.
We took a path to the left towards Južni Vrh, the highest peak on the ridge. The distance is quite short but very steep, so on several occasions we used hands and cables. From the top we got to see surrounding peaks of Severni Vrh, Bobotov Kuk, Savin Kuk and Terzin Bogaz.
Another 20 minutes of climb down and up again brought us to the northern peak of Medjed. It looked super close, but the path got more complicated and was almost entirely secured with the cables. If you made it up to here with hiking poles, now it’s time to attach them to the backpack.
Going back down from Medjed to the pass took us about the same amount of time as the climb up. It was already a perfect moment for lunch and a long break in the sun. After a good rest we took an opposite path up to Terzin Bogaz, also a pretty steep route involving scrambling and cables. We made it without much difficulty, but it took us a good half an hour. We descended to our tent in Lokvice in warm afternoon sun.
We stretched this hike into a whole day, but if starting from Žabljak early enough, it’s possible to squeeze the first two days into one.
Day 3 | Lokvice – Bobotov Kuk (2523m) – back to Lokvice through the Trojni Prevoj
6 hours of walking
After a good warm-up on Međed and Terzin Bogaz, the day had come to climb the highest peak of Durmitor, officially the highest peak of Montenegro. Although the peak of Zla Kolata with an elevation of 2534 m, located on the border with Albania in Montenegrian Prokletije is a bit higher, it’s Bobotov Kuk that holds this title for ambiguous reasons.
There’re a few trails leading to Bobotov Kuk, including two from Katun Lokvice. To reach the top, we chose a shorter one, taking us up and down through rugged, grey terrain, through the depressions of Biljegov Do and Valoviti Do. At some point it started leading quite unpleasantly through piles of large stones, passed to the right below the peak of Kleknata Glava and in last half an hour got us to a steep rocky ascent to the pass, right below Bobotov Kuk. That was probably the most demanding part of the hike due to the steepness, unclear path and small sliding stones under the feet.
We met plenty of hikers at the pass. Some were on their way up, others were coming down from the top. We took some well-deserved rest before the last stretch. Fifteen minutes of further climb towards the summit already rewarded us with beautiful scenery. About halfway from the pass to Bobotov Kuk a panorama on Škrčko lake suddenly emerged, offering an unexpected and breathtaking view.
The last part of the ascent takes another 15 minutes and involves scrambling and using installed cables, but it’s doable for fit walkers with no mountain climbing experience. That’s why genuine hikers, occasional walkers and whole families attempt to reach the crown of Durmitor. Not without a reason – the top of Bobotov Kuk provides the best 360 degrees views that you can experience in Durmitor.
To make the most of the day and avoid taking the same way back, we chose to get to Lokvice by the path that leads below the peaks of Zupci (one of Durmitor’s highlights, formed in the shape of sharp, rocky teeth) and climbs Trojni Prevoj (pass). We needed an hour to come down to Mliječni Do with a narrow but secure path. From here we followed the path to Zeleni Vir, where, according to the map, we should find a source of drinking water, but we somehow missed it. 20-minute climb brought us to the foothill of Zupci, from where we could enjoy the views on Mliječni Do, Bobotov Kuk, Samar and Šareni Pasovi (another trademark of Durmitor – created from sedimentary crests in a form of multicoloured stripes).
After 20 minutes of walking along Zupci, we turned off the main path. We couldn’t find any signs of the trail that lead through Trojni Prevoj, so we decided to use the compass and find our way. It wasn’t very hard as the pass was all the time visible. We had problems only at the descent, where climbing down the rocky parts without a rope didn’t feel completely safe. However, in the end we managed to find our way and descend all the way down to Lokvice, but it took us a good hour and a half.
As the day was quite heavy, we rested and camped one more night in Lokvice.
Fourth day | return to Žabljak
We packed up and went down to Žabljak in the morning. The walk to Black Lake (Crno Jezero) took us an hour. Quick shower at Razvršje campsite and we were ready to head out to the main road out of Žabljak and hitch a car to Bosnia. It worked well, by the end of the day we were already in Foča, on the other side of the border.
Transport to Žabljak is mostly organized by tourist agencies. The best option is to get there with your own vehicle or by hitchhiking – if coming from the south, we can recommend the route via Nikšić.
Camping. There a couple of campsites in Žabljak, starting with 3 euro per person. We slept at the camp Razvršje, which we can definitely recommend. Mišo, the owner with typical Balkan attitude, will treat you with welcome coffee and rakija (included in price!), he can also help you find the map and get properly informed. The advantage of the campsite is that it has a huge number of toilets and showers with hot water and rather good location at the entrance to the town. Cyclists get special price here – 2 euro per night!
Entrance to the National Park. Fee for camping in the area the National Park is charged at the entrance to gate, but we just asked for a one-day entry ticket (3 euro per person) and it seemed to be enough. For these 4 days we haven’t met any ranger in the park asking to see the tickets. If you’re really broke, Mišo at Razvršje campsite will eagerly explain you how to enter the park and do hikes without passing ranger’s gate. However, getting to main peaks that way seemed rather complicated to us.
Money. The currency of Montenegro is euro. In Žabljak you can find ATMs and can use the credit card, but there’s no exchange office.
Food supplies. In Žabljak there’re several places to buy food, including a big busy supermarket, small shops, vegetable market, bakeries and restaurants.
Water. Some of the sources of drinking water that are marked on the map have already dried up. The one by Lokvice is the most secure.
Map and trails. You can check out the area map here.