Months later, I still feel like I don’t have adequate words for Durmitor National Park. Which is odd, because normally words come to my overcaffeinated fingers a bit too easily – see my exhausting list of 75 reasons to visit Albania if you have any doubts. But Durmitor National Park, nestled high in the mountains in the northeast corner of Montenegro, defies even my verbosity.
The landscape of Durmitor National Park looks alternately like New Zealand, Scotland, Iceland, and the Alps. Limestone crags cut by melting glaciers millions of years ago left an otherworldly landscape in this tiny corner of this tiny country, unbeknownst to much of the world. Pristine glacial lakes are the few remnants of this prehistoric time: every other surface is covered in craggy rocks and lush grass.
I’d say it’s a shame that more people don’t know about Durmitor National Park, but in reality, that’s part of its charm. Three and a half hours away from the popular coastal town of Kotor, Durmitor National Park is a bit far for day-trippers and whirlwind travelers. However, enough people visit that there is sufficient tourist infrastructure in place. It’s really the Goldilocks of off the beaten path travel – not too hard to get to, not too easy; not too crowded, not too deserted. Just right! My favorite travel destinations merge the untouched with the beautiful for a truly wild experience.
Where to Stay in Durmitor National Park
The town of Žabljak is a great place to base yourself. It has a fantastic and affordable hostel (Hikers Den) right in the heart of town, about five minutes’ walk from the central bus station. Beds are 11-12 euros per night, which doesn’t include breakfast. There are also super cheap AirBnbs (get $35 off your first stay!), but I recommend you stay at Hikers Den because the owner, Alex, has so much good advice about trails and hikes and the atmosphere is awesome. It’s also a great place to meet hiking buddies if you’re traveling solo like I was.
Plus, the town is just super cute!
Where to Eat Near Durmitor National Park
There are plenty of great restaurants in Žabljak. Lupo D’Argento serves huge, excellent breakfasts for about 4-6 euros. Their prices are a little higher for dinner, but you can still get a pasta for about 6-8 euros. I had a massive four cheese gnocchi after climbing Bobotov Kuk and it was delicious, but I was also so hungry that I think I would have eaten anything at that point.
If you’re itching to try some traditional Montenegrin food at a low price, check out Nostalgia close to the train station. If you stay at Hiker’s Den, they have a discount available at Nostalgia where you get a drink, a salad, and your choice of a few different main dishes for only 4 euros!
Make sure you try a pekara (traditional bakery) while in Montenegro. You simply must eat a burek! It’s a flaky phyllo dough stuffed with meat, cheese, potato, spinach, or other goodies. My favorite pekara was located about 50 meters behind the big grocery store – there are signs you can follow.
Hiking in Durmitor National Park
There are so many awesome hiking trails ranging from extremely easy to moderate to intense. If you’re looking for more of a stroll than a true hike, walk to Crno Jezero, which means Black Lake in Montenegrin language, about 3 kilometers out of town. Despite being really easy to get to, it’s stunning. Walk around its perimeter to see the smaller twin lake which is also lovely and less populated.
The hiking is also excellent on the way to Bobotov Kuk, the highest peak of Durmitor National Park. If you start the hike in Sedlo, you’ll pass so many beautiful landscapes on your way to the top. You can either schedule a cab to and from the start of the trail in Sedlo, or you can start in Sedlo and then actually hike all the way back to town, passing Black Lake on the way. You’ll definitely want to get an early start if you do this route, as it is about an 8 hour hike! Hiking to the top of Bobotov Kuk and back to the Sedlo trailhead is about 6-7 hours roundtrip, but of course, this all depends on your pace and stamina.
How to Get to Durmitor National Park
The bus system in Montenegro is pretty good (just don’t ask me about the time it took me 8 hours to get somewhere 45 kilometers away… that’s a story for another day). There are regular direct buses from Kotor and Podgorica – each will take about 3.5 hours to reach Žabljak and cost about 9 or 10 euros, plus one euro for luggage. If you’re heading from somewhere other than either of those two cities in Montenegro, you will most likely need to take a bus heading to Nikšić and transfer there.
If you are coming from Kosovo, take a bus heading to Podgorica, get off in Nikšić and transfer. Likewise, if you are coming from Mostar or Sarajevo in Bosnia, take a bus to Nikšić and transfer there. Alex from Hiker’s Den also organizes direct shuttle services to Sarajevo from time to time, so it may be worth asking him ahead of time — it’s the same price as the bus and much faster.
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