Durmitor: one of the most beautiful places in the world
Out of this world beautiful, that’s the words I would choose describe the little known nature park Durmitor in the north of Montenegro. I didn’t really have an idea of what to expect: we were looking for a stop on our roadtrip in between Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kotor in Montenegro, so after a bit of Googling I discovered there was a nature park in northern Montenegro. Judging from the pictures it looked a little bit like the Alps, and I love me some mountains – so why not?
But what I didn’t expect is that I would encounter a landscape I had never seen before. That at some points it looked like we were on a whole other planet. Every few minutes Mr. and I said to each other: why doesn’t anyone know about this place? Why haven’t we ever heard about Durmitor? To this day (over a year and a half since visiting), I keep recommending this place to everyone I meet! It’s just that good.
Durmitor National Park is located in northwest Montenegro. The way we traveled, through Sarajevo and trough the mountains, doesn’t really seem to be the usual route – judging by the state of the asphalt. Or more like: the lack thereof. The route coming in from the east looked much busier and well maintained. If you’re coming from Sarajevo you’ll have an unbelievably beautiful trip, along bright blue lakes and mountains packed with trees, but after a while you actually have to drive into the mountains, onto a N-way which is… the most adventurous road we’ve ever driven on. But it was fun.
The road quickly led us into the mountains. That’s not really a problem per se, but the asphalt started to look like gravel with every second passing by, and the road (which obviously only had guardrails every now and then) was only as wide as about 1.5 car by now. Mr. was driving the car with sweaty hands while I tried to whisper encouraging words like ‘STAY BEHIND THE JEEP IN FRONT OF US SO NOTHING WILL HAPPEN TO US OMG PLEASE DON’T LET THERE BE A TRUCK COMING FROM BEHIND THE CORNER’.
At one turn we even drove over a PLANK, people. A plank. A wooden plank, because the road was too broken/unstable/who even knows a this point. Just let that sink in for a while. We were on a mountain road somewhere in northern Bosnia, on a small gravel road, with steep drops, without any cell reception and a plank in front of us. Not even sure this was actually the right way to the park, or that we’d even get into Montenegro at all.
After about forty minutes nightmare road was finally over and we entered the border control. With our harts racing (We initially got rejected entry into Bosnia a week or so earlier and I really didn’t want to drive back the same way) we luckily could proceed.
Our welcoming gift after entering Montenegro was this view:
Still one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever encountered.
Next, we got to experience the lovely Montenegrin tradition of pitch black tunnels. I can tell you not seeing anything makes the whole driving through a tunnel experience a lot more exciting. You should try it sometimes. Just put a hand over your eyes, and drive in. The complete lack of emergency exits had something charming as well. Our entrance to the park (from the north) was hilarious if it wouldn’t have been so dangerous. First you make a hairpin bend, after which you enter a unlighted, pitch black tunnel for which I hope you have your headlights turned on, because if you don’t you’ve crashed into that wall behind the hairpin turn you see coming about 1.5 second before you have to make it. It’s a good story for our grandkids, I guess.
Our arrival into Dormitory however, made up for all of the excitement. Like I said: it’s so incredibly beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a nature reserve that looked so exceptional. It’s actually a collection of some sort of tundra fields, high up in the mountains. And it was so quiet! In the twenty minutes we sat on a bench and enjoyed our view, I think a total of ten cars passed us. And this was mid-summer.
A bit further down the road we stopped at a little wooden cabin café because I had to use the toilet. Even though maybe I should’ve known better (the cabin was about 15 square meters), I hesitantly asked the waitress: “Toilet?”. She laughed, while the two bearded local men in the corner looked at me amusedly. She waved her arms in the air and spoke the legendary words: “Look around you, everything here is a toilet”. Although, that’s what I think she said, because I didn’t speak any Montenegrin.
There’s no use in trusting your navigation here… it has no idea where you are as soon as you exit the highway in the Balkan. After a long while driving through the unbelievably beautiful landscape, we arrived at the campground where we spent the night in a little wooden cabin. There wasn’t a shower… just a big bucket of water. But hey, we adapt, right? When we arrived, the owner sat us down at a picnic table, gave us something to drink and drew a map by hand of everything we had to do and in what order. Yep! Durmitor is also a ski resort by the way, so the area does know a bit of tourism, but it mostly exists of tourists from eastern Europe.
Luckily on our way over we already had seen a fair bit of the highlights. The next challenge was finding the Tara River Canyon, that apparently had one of the highest bridges in the world. But we never made it. After about forty more minutes along little winding roads that kept on getting smaller and smaller, Mr. and I decided to head back. We were tired and fed up with stressful roads for the day. We had such phenomenal views on the way, that it was enough for now.
We decided to visit the Black Lake instead. You have to pay a few euros to visit, but after doing so you get to relaxed along a beautiful lake. It was the perfect ending to an intense but amazing day. Traveling through the Balkan is quite intense, but sometimes it leads you to exceptionally beautiful places that hardly anyone knows, and therefore will be quite deserted. Score.