Travel and nature: a guide to national parks of Montenegro
If the theme of your travels is about wild nature and natural parks, the natural reserves in Montenegro are the ideal destination for adventurous excursions to discover a special wildlife or for quiet walks to admire its rich flora.
Between lakes, mountains, forests, gorges or waterfalls, the parks cover about 10% of the country’s surface, extending over 107,500 hectares. Nature is in fact one of the main resources of Montenegro and the diversity of its natural environments and climate makes it particularly rich in wild animals including deer, bears, wolves and wild boars. It is a very important natural wealth, protected by the local laws.
In fact, Montenegro is the first ecological state in the world and thanks to its pristine biodiversity it has all the potential to become one of the most exclusive exotic destinations of global tourism. From the striking beauty of its mountains, which divide the coastal area from the hinterland, to the canyons of rare beauty, the myriad of beaches, bays and natural inlets, today the country is one of the preferred destinations for sustainable tourism.
“On September 20, 1991, Montenegro proclaimed itself the first ecological state in the world and recognized by many as one of the last ecological oases in Europe. The small territorial dimensions, in fact, do not prevent the existence of an extensive biodiversity as proven by the presence of four different protected areas ”. (Montenegro.eu)
With an incredible natural heritage, the untouched nature of Montenegro has always inspired tourists but also many famous European botanists and geographers. Here is one of the very few virgin forests left in Europe, Biogradska Gora and the largest lake in the Balkan region, Lake Skadar, a botanical jewel, famous for the wealth of numerous varieties of fish and birds including Dalmatian pelicans. Another splendid destination for lovers of long walks and birdwatching.
So let’s explore these areas and devote all our attention to national parks.
The 5 parks of Montenegro: natural and unspoiled areas
The national parks of Montenegro are divided on the territory into five important areas: Durmitor, Biograd gora, Lake Skadar, Prokletije, Lovćen.
The Durmitor National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is a true natural treasure and within it there are two regions with a special protection management: the Crna Poda forest and the Tara River canyon, the deepest and longest in the state of the Balkans and Europe and second only to the Grand Canyon of Colorado. Mount Durmitor, with its deep caves, fossil deposits and its park has an extraordinary environmental importance and it is one of the favorite destinations for those who love outdoor activities, such as climbing, skiing, paragliding or rafting.
The Tara River, together with the pristine glacial lakes, constitute its hydrography: the waters of the Black Lake, or Crno Jezero, covered by ice in winter, warm up in summer, becoming the perfect destination for swimmers. Its park has over 1600 plant species with a very rich ecosystem that includes rare and protected species. Among them 26 different species of reptiles and amphibians and bears, eagles and wolves.
The national park of Mount Lovćen represents the Mediterranean facade of Montenegro with a high and imposing stone wall composed of the mountains of Orjen, Lovčen – the most important – and Rumija, perfect destinations for long walks in nature and photography lovers.
On the top of Mount Lovčen is the mausoleum of bishop Prince Petar II Petrović Njegoš, the most important Montenegrin poet: Njegoš asked to be buried in a small church on the top called Jezerski vrh (Top of the Lake). This church for Montenegrins has always represented the struggle for freedom and still today lives a popular poem with patriotic verses: “Lovčen is our sacred altar”.
Lovčen is thus considered a sacred mountain: it can be reached via a scenic route from Kotor, following a series of sheer hairpin bends. Once you have climbed the steps leading to the mausoleum, you can admire a lunar landscape. In addition to the mausoleum, another attraction is the adventure park, in Ivanova Korita which offers the opportunity to play sports, as well as guided tours and excursions that can be organized thanks to the information center in the park.
Biogradska gora National Park – also known as “Biograd forests” – is protected by law of the Montenegrin king Nikola I (1860/1918), who wanted to protect its immense ecological heritage for future generations.
In fact, here you can find the last three virgin forests left in Europe with centuries-old trees – over 500 years old – and oaks that reach up to 60 meters in height. In this area there are: 26 plant ecosystems, 86 types of trees and over 220 qualities of different plants, including oak, fir, maple or beech.
The fauna – distributed over 1600 hectares – is very rich, including 350 species of insects, bears, wolves, foxes. Especially for birdwatchers, here it is possible to admire about 150 species of birds including eagles. In the heart of the forest is Lake Biograd, one of the glacial lakes of Montenegro: it is possible to walk through it through an interactive route of about 3.4 kilometers that provides information on its special flora and fauna.
Lake Skadar is the largest freshwater surface in the Balkans which varies according to the season: between 370 square kilometers in summer and 530 square kilometers during the rainy season. With over 842 species of algae, the lake is home to 50 species of fish and 280 different bird species.
Its great economic importance in ancient times, for fishing, trade and agriculture, meant that in its surroundings – in the past – were built fortresses and picturesque villages, medieval fortifications, churches and monasteries, traces of which can still be found today. The towns of Virpazar and Rijeka Crnojevića are important centers: Rijeka Crnojevića is well known for the best wine in Montenegro.
The lake in the summer has nothing to envy to the most beautiful maritime beaches in Montenegro.
Prokletije National Park, founded in 2009 – also known as “The Montenegro Alps” – is the youngest of the parks and natural protected areas of Montenegro. In fact, this area, characterized by a wild nature – is still little known. Its landscape is perfect for mountain lovers between sharp peaks and vertiginous walls. But the mountain and its breathtaking peaks are not the only tourist interest, as this natural area includes two other protected areas: Volusica and Lake Hrid.
Outdoor activities include mountaineering and climbing, although Lake Hrid is one of the main attractions. The lake is also known with the name of Lake of Happiness. A legend tells that the lake was created by the gods, to allow fairies to bathe in its waters away from the eyes of humans. Today, those who swim in the Lake of Happiness express a wish, as it is believed that bathing in its waters will bring luck.