My week in Montenegro consisted of exploring Kotor, going on a day tour, hiking in Durmitor National Park, and renting a car which I also slept in.
I kept meeting travelers who told me that they got around by hitch-hiking. It’s something I used to enjoy doing back on the Appalachian Trail to get into town to resupply, and I hadn’t done it in a few years. Additionally, bus ticket prices were increasing the further west into Europe I traveled. I wanted to save some money.
Myself and a hostel buddy hitched from Shkoder, Albania over to Budva, Montenegro. It took most of the day, but we arrived by nightfall. Then we took a bus for the last 30 minutes into Kotor.
Hikes of Kotor
The main part of Kotor is located inside of a fortress. The city is surrounded by walls and built into the side of a mountain. Kotor sits on a bay full of boats and the landscape is mountainous. So naturally, there are plenty of hikes in the area.
Hiking Kotor’s City Walls
After a morning of aimlessly wandering around Kotor, I followed some narrow steps that looked appealing. Eventually, they led me to a dirt path going above the city. I decided to follow along to see where it would go.
The dirt path switch-backed higher and higher, through tall grass and past delapitated ruins of the city walls. There was no one else on the trail, and I thought I had really discovered something cool.
Eventually, upon almost reaching the top of the mountain, the path came out amongst the ruins of a building where there were several other tourists hanging out. There was a stone path a short way off to the left, and a steady stream of people were hiking up the mountain. That’s when I figured out that I was on the city walls hike which is not a secret at all.
I continued down the main path back into the city. I was pleased that I got a dirt path to myself for the hike up and missed out on paying the entrance fee.
You’re going to have to do a bit of exploring to find the trailhead. Kotor is such a cluster of streets I’m not entirely sure where I found the trail and even if I did it would be hard to describe.
The most useful info I can offer is that you can start your search from the South entrance gate. You’re looking for a steep staircase with a park bench at the top and to the left. At the start of the trail, there are two dogs who viciously bark from behind their fence.
Additionally, I know that there is another dirt trail you can find from the North entrance gate of the city. I’m not sure if entrance fees are collected at either of these places during peak season, but during off-season they are free.
Hiking Across the Bay of Kotor
I was asking the staff of my hostel for recommendations on where to hike in the area. One of the guys simply pointed at the mountain across the bay and suggested I go there.
I walked through town to the trailhead. There was a series of staircases and then the trail switch-backed to the top. There was an abandoned military building on the ridge. We walked inside and looked around, then got creeped out when a bat flew overhead.
Follow the main road in Kotor around the bay, towards the village of Muo. Before actually arriving in Muo, you’ll see a sign for the trail and red and white markers. Follow them upward.
360 Monte Tour
It seemed like there was a lot of historical sights to see and cool stuff to do in Montenegro. I decided to go on a tour because I like hearing about places from local guides. I remember more about the history of a country when the dry facts are also accompanied by personal stories.
I did the Great Montenegro Tour with 360 Monte Tour. We started the day with a visit to the oldest restaurant in Montenegro where they make prosciutto and liquor. Before breakfast, our guide explained the process of making rakia (a liquor that sounds comparable to moonshine) and gave us each a pre-breakfast shot. Then we had prosciutto sandwiches.
Another of the more memorable stops along the way was Lovcen Mountain and a mausoleum. Lovcen Mountain is the second highest mountain in Montenegro, and the mausoleum in the highest in the world. It’s the resting place of a former ruler of Montenegro who was also a poet.
One of the cool things about the tour was how often they pulled the van over for photo ops. The best photo op by far was of Skadar Lake where it curves around a mountain. It reminded me of Horseshoe Bend in Arizona (I know, I’m constantly pining for the American Southwest).
By far my favorite activity of the day was the boat ride. It was mellow and relaxing and we all sipped on wine while Despacito played on the speaker, which I really got a kick out of. On the way back, the boatman let us take turns driving. It was easier than steering a car and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Finally, we had one last stop in Budva. My highlight of that stop was our guide taking us to her favorite ice cream shop, which she also said was half the price of everywhere else.
Renting a Car in Montenegro
Hiking around Kotor was fun, but I wanted to get into the big mountains further north. Durmitor National Park sounded like the ideal destination for hiking in Montenegro.
However, it seemed like the trails were pretty spread out and it would be difficult to get around the region. I looked into renting a car, and the off-season prices were much lower than I expected them to be.
I had befriended Abby, another American girl, at my hostel. We decided to rent a car together, and we planned on camping in it to keep our budgets in check. I found a good deal online. Our rental would be $55 for three nights and four days, plus the cost of gas. We had to go a few miles to the Tivat airport because the cost to pick it up in Kotor would have been double.
Finally, we had our car and were ready for the roadtrip. We drove north to the town of Zabljak, the main town near Durmitor National Park. We even picked up a few hitch-hikers along the way.
Car Camping in Montenegro
Our first evening in the Durmitor area, Abby and I drove around on forest roads scouting out potential car camping spots. Every good spot we found we marked on the GPS app, so we could potentially come back to it.
Finally, we found the most perfect spot there was no doubt we would stay there. It was off of a low traffic road. Our back drop was mountain views and rolling fields. There was a decommissioned ski lift dangling overhead. And there was plenty of room to safely park off of the road.
Abby and I went to the grocery store to buy fruit, vegetables, sandwich stuff, and chocolate. We ate sandwiches in the car that night and woke up ready to hit the trail in the morning.
Hiking around Black Lake
There was some snow in the mountains, which added limitations to where we could hike. For the first day, we did the short walk to Black Lake just outside of Zabljak. We had breakfast at the lake then continued up the mountain. Every now and then, snow would cover the trail getting our shoes sufficiently soaked.
We had wanted to do a peak, but when we got a visual on the trail we could see that it was steep and covered in snow. Rather than do an unpleasant, potentially dangerous hike we continued on a more mellow path.
After a couple hours of walking, Abby and I plopped down in the sun and settled in to read a few chapters of our books and eat lunch. Later we took the same trail back to the car.
Follow the road call Njegoseva out of Zabljak to get to the trailhead. It’s a short distance, so you can walk or drive. Upon reaching the ranger station, there’s an entrance fee and a parking fee. Take the paved walking path all the way to Black Lake.
Once you’ve reached the lake, take the west trail into the forest (on the right side when you’re facing the lake). There are signs and trail markers the whole way up from here.
Driving the Durmitor Loop
That afternoon, Abby and I wanted to take advantage of having a car and take a drive through the mountains. We were also hoping to scope out a trail head for our next hike. We spotted a road that made one giant loop through Durmitor National Park.
We started driving up the R14. The road was winding and full of curves, following a cliff with 100 feet drop-offs. Every time a car came from the opposite direction, one of us would have to pull over on the narrow road to allow the other vehicle to pass. There were also a smattering of villages along the way, far in the mountains and away from any large towns.
We thought the loop wouldn’t take that long to do. After all, it looked to only be about 50 miles. With how slow we had to drive for the winding road, the whole drive took three hours.
That night, we returned to our previous car camping spot because it was so good. We watched an awful movie that Abby had downloaded onto her computer, and we ate a jumbo bar of chocolate.
Our final hike of the Durmitor trip was beginning from Sedlo Pass. We drove back up our cliff-side road to a small parking lot. From there, we hiked up the hill onto a narrow trail with a precipitous drop. There was a wire rope installed in the rock to assist hikers during the most dangerous part.
Once we were up and over the first pass, things mellowed out. We were greeted with a snow-covered valley that stretched for several miles.
There were a few side trail options to go up to peaks. However, a couple we met who had just come down from a peak said that the route was ice-covered and it would be a bad idea to attempt it without traction for our shoes.
Abby and I decided to continue along the valley and find a spot where we could hang out and read our books. After a few hours of hiking and reading, we were back at the car once more and started our drive south.
The Sedlo Pass parking lot is off of the road R14. To get there, go right on the highway out of Zabljak. Turn right onto R14. Follow that road up into the mountains. After you pass a building on the left, the trail head parking lot will be 100 meters further on the right. The trail is defined and easy to follow.
Montenegro has some amazing mountains. Whether you choose to rent a car and head to Durmitor National Park or stick around Kotor for day hiking, you won’t be disappointed.