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« How retirees stay busy | Main | Rating my hikes »

The ups and downs of hiking in Montenegro

Just back a couple days ago from a 3-week trip to Europe. Sightseeing in Amsterdam, conference-going in Dubrovnik, and hiking in Montenegro kept my friend Heidi and me quite busy. For me the highlight was the six days in the small country of Montenegro.

The country has an area about the size of Connecticut (533 square miles) and a population about that of Vermont (628,000).  It's a young political entity (declared independence in 2006) with a very, very long history - often viewed as a territory of the Ottomans, the Venitians, and the Hapsburgs - all reflected in current culture and cuisine. I knew none of this when I booked our self-guided hike. 

Flying in, Heidi kept pointing out how mountainous the region was as we got closer to Podgorica.

We were soon to experience those mountains.

We were driven from the airport at Podgorica to the old capital city of Cetinje where we stayed at an old house and left the next morning for a boat ride on Skadar Lake and then a 4 mile hike to a local winery. Crystal clear waters in the lake and the rivers flowing into it.

Vineyards produce excellent wines in this region of Montenegro. Liqueurs were popular. Beer - not so good, I thought compared to the Czech pivo.

The birch forests were breath-taking. Hiking in October, we caught quite a bit of the fall colors. Much of our hiking was done in forest areas with almost nothing on roads.

Our second day of hiking took us from Cetinje to Lovcen National Park - about 6.5 miles and a 2000 ft climb. Rough trails were pretty standard though out the week  Note the red circle with the white dot in the center. It was our trail marker.

Our third day was a trip up to the Njegos Mausoleum, passing by and through lovely villages, meadows, and forest. Look closely at the photo above and you can just pick out the Mausoleum on top of the bare mountain on the right. This round trip hike had 1300 ft climb (and drop) was was over 5 miles.

Once on the top of the mountain, one was treated to 468 stairs that led to the tomb itself. But the views were incredible.

The downloadable maps of each day's route that showed real-time GPS positioning were life-savers helping us navigate. The written directions and maps were somewhat sketchy.

Our 4th hiking day took us from Lovcen to Kotor about 9 miles with an elevation loss of 4500 ft! At about five miles, we started down the 72 switchbacks of the Ladder of Kotor. We were a bit footsore and tired at the end of this day, to say the least.

We decided to skip the 5th day of the suggested hiking trails, and instead spent the day sightseeing in the old walled town of Kotor - sometimes described as a mini-Dubrovnik. Old walls covered with ubiquitous purple blooms made up much of the wall.

High above Kotor is the ruins of the old fort of San Giovanni.  On this, our "day off" we climbed 1350 stairs to an elevation of nearly 4000 feet. As with the rest of Kotor, cats were abundant. As were cruiseship passengers. I enjoyed the cats more.

Our 6th and final day of hiking took us from Orahovac to Persat - about 5 miles which we decided to do along the coast rather than through the mountainous pass suggested by the tour guide. Along the Bay of Kotor the morning was beautiful and the old town of Perast was interesting. During our entire week in Montenegro our weather could not have been better - clear skies, temps in the mid-70s, and no wind. Wish Minnesota's mid-Octobers were so pleasant.

View from a Perast church steeple. The mountains in this part of Montenegro come right down to the sea. Most places there is room for perhaps a street or two of houses; in other places barely enough room for a two lane road.  

Montenegran fare was good, but simple. I've never eaten so much prosciutto in my life. Tomatoes tasted fresh picked. Good pasta and breads. We did not go hungry. Outside the range of the cruiseship passengers, costs were very reasonable. Wish I could have said that about Dubrovnik and Amsterdam! 

This was a great week. Beautiful, interesting countryside, friendly people, nice accommodations, and good food. I recommend giving these mountains a try.

Link to 170 more photos.

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Reader Comments (2)

Thanks for sharing your trip! I would have loved the hiking as well as the traveling! Was the house cost expensive for a week? Did you rent a car and or pay a cab to take you to and from the trail heads? Did the people there speak English? I loved Dubrovnik (Yes, I was on a cruise ship. Sorry. LOL) and the pictures here looked lovely! Can't wait to show my hubby your pictures and put this on the list to visit.

November 4, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPat Hensley

Hi Pat,

Happy you enjoyed the report. I write them so I can remember things as much as to inform others!
The housing and in-country transportation (mostly taxis when needed) were a part of the fee paid to MacAdventures. They also provided luggage transfers, maps, a cell phone, etc. If I remember, the cost was about $1200 per person for the week that included lodging, transport, some meals, etc.

English was fairly common. The Monetenegran tour operators were proficient as were some folks at all the lodgings. Restaurants almost always had an English menu.

Hope you talk your husband into going. It still feels a bit off the beaten track away from the coast.


November 4, 2019 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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