The Montenegrins tell a story about the creation of their country. They say that after God created the Earth, he looked down in his bag which had once contained all the birds, fish, animals, plants, water and the first humans who now populated his new planet. He noticed that in the bag there were still some stones left and he threw them down to the newly created Earth, thereby creating Montenegro.
You canâ€™t help but think of this story as you navigate within Montenegroâ€™s rugged, wild interior. Although it is a small country, getting from point A to point B in inland Montenegro takes a long time because you are driving along narrow, twisting (and letâ€™s face it, often terrifying) mountain passes and roads through the countryâ€™s numerous gorges.
Many tourists never get to this part â€“ preferring to stay along the more developed coast. But I would urge all visitors to explore at least part of this spectacular interior. Here are some highlights:
Durmitor National Park – This park, aÂ UNESCO Heritage site, is located in northern Montenegro, close to the border with Bosnia-Hercegovina. Its pristine lakes and rocky mountains are a wonder to explore â€“ and you will do so easily with extremely well-marked trails for all skill levels. Vegetarians beware: on the menu is lamb, lamb and more lamb, but also scrumptious priganice â€“ a type of small fried dough, like fritters – served with either kaymak (soft, salty cheese), fermented milk or honey, and mouthwatering berries picked fresh from along the trails. A little slice of heaven.
Whitewater rafting in the Tara River – Easily reached from Durmitor is the Tara River canyon, a popular place for whitewater rafting excursions. Serious rafters will want to go in the spring/early summer, with its higher water levels and fast rapids, and plan a two-day (overnight) trip to the Bosnian border. Travelling with young children, we were happy for the lower water levels and slower rapids of late summer. The kids loved their first rafting experience and canâ€™t wait to return.
MoraÄa canyon and Biogradsko Park â€“ This is close to the nationâ€™s capital, Pogorica, and the drive through this canyon is breathtaking. Nearby is the wonderful Biogradsko Park, with lots of hiking, swimming and horseback riding in aÂ beautiful setting.
Donâ€™t miss the spectacular MoraÄa monastery, an important Serbian Orthodox holy place. It is set in a lovely surrounding and its frescoes are magnificent.
LovÄ‡en National Park – This is white-knuckle driving at its best, up precipitous, curving mountain roads with lots of hairpin turns â€“ honk lots as you initiate the turns to alert oncoming traffic. Yet the view over the Boka kotorska as you climb higher is breathtaking as is the panoramic view from the tomb of Montenegrin Prince PetroviÄ‡-NjegoÅ¡. Montenegro is a small country and, from this altitude, it is all laid out stunningly just beneath you.
Lake Skadar â€“ This is the largest lake in the Balkans, divided between Montenegro and neighboring Albania. The biodiversity in this unspoiled region is notable, and it is a well-known bird sanctuary. Boat tours can be arranged from the lake town of Virpazar to enjoy the stunning landscapes and the beautiful monastaries dotting the shorelines and islands. Be sure to try the wonderful, strong red Montenegrin Vranac wine produced in the region.