While Croatia is currently one of the ‘hot’ travel destinations in Europe, it’s lesser known neighbour Montenegro is one of the real gems of the region. One of the factors that makes Montenegro such a great place to visit is the amazing nature. A great way to experience it is to get out and hike. And one of the best places to hike in Montenegro is Durmitor National Park.
We drove to Ivan Do at the edge of Durmitor National Park, planning to camp. The campground was … well it left a little bit to be desired. Luckily, there was a house just next door that rented out the granny-flat underneath for not much more. Once settled we went for a little pre-dinner walk to have a look at the forest and decide where we wanted to go the next day. On returning to the house we found out there was no running water. We soon learned that due to a problem with a water-pipe there was no running water in the whole valley. Luckily we had enough drinking water and our host provided us with washing water so we could at least head out on our hike clean and hydrated. There are various accommodation options – camping, B+Bs, hotels. If you don’t want to wing it, try the Tourist Information office in Žabljak.
Before setting out the next morning we went to talk to a neighbour we had met the day before – we wanted to give someone notice of where we were heading and when we expected to get back: we had asked about this at the Crno Jezero entry to the park the evening before, only to be told by the National Park employee that they didn’t take a record of who went hiking. Steve showed the woman we were talking to where we planned on going, only to be asked “why are you bothering with there? Why aren’t you going to the ice cave?”
The ICE CAVE???
We didn’t even know there was an ice cave. So with the help of our new friend we quickly re-considered our route to include the said ice cave and set out.
The day turned out to be one of the most difficult hikes I have ever done – it was incredibly hot. There was not just scrambling up and down scree, but there was actually climbing up rock (though not technical type climbing with ropes etc.) And it was long – we were out for around eight hours including lunch – that said, the boys probably could have done it in six without me. I am a very keen hiker, but not very fast, and my crappy sense of balance lets me down, especially on downhills.
But you know what – it was also one of the BEST hikes I have ever been on, anywhere in the world.
There was an amazing profusion of plants – dozens and dozens of varieties of wildflowers. You could walk 10 metres and come across various different flowers, grasses, succulents, alpine herbs and other plants, all on the same stretch of trail. Durmitor is truly a botanists paradise.
The landscape is stunning. Mountains, valleys, forest, stone – it’s all there.
The trails are relatively well marked. I say relatively because though there are markers, there are not really different markers for different paths. And there are some painted signs on rock but they are a) very faded and b) mostly in Cyrillic, so were not of much use to us. We had bought a map at the information centre in Žabljak and it did a good job of getting us there and back.
And of course, the ice cave.
It is magical. We arrived and sat above it on our own to eat lunch. Other groups of hikers started to come along and had the same idea. You can walk down in to the cave along a steep slope (there is a cable to hold on to/pull yourself back up) and while it looks like you can go on in to the cave, we didn’t. It was quite amazing to come out of the extreme Summer heat and sit at the mouth of the cave and feel chilled.
– you bring water
– you are prepared for all eventualities – wet weather gear (storms can blow in), first aid kit, emergency overnight kit (it could be some time before someone finds you if you get lost or injured …)
– you have good hiking boots/shoes
– you have sunscreen
– you have a map. As said above, we got our in Žabljak but if you want to buy something before getting there, Amazon has options.
– you tell someone where you plan on going and when you plan to be back.
Entrance to Durmitor National Park is €3.00. We went in through one of the ‘back entrances’ as that was close to our accommodation, but there was still a park employee there to take our money. Be prepared.