The mountain massif of Durmitor is cluster of 48 rocky peaks above 2000 meters, crowned by 2,523m high Bobotov Kuk, which is the highest point of Montenegro. Its exceptionally stunning looks are due to the fact that its rocky sides rise suddenly from the high tableland of Jezera and Pivska Planina and have granted it a nickname of Soa nebeska –“The Pillar of Heavens”. The 20 by 10 km massif is one of the largest in the Dinaric Alps and its furrowed scenery contains several exceptionally beautiful “mountain eyes” (gorske oči).
In summer, Durmitor offers many opportunities for walkers, hikers and alpinists while as a winter resort it attracts many skiers. The canyons of Tara and Sušica rivers on the massif’s north and west side separate in from the rest of the world Mount Sinjajevina lens to its south and serene grasslands of Jezera ( “Lakes”), where the most of the villages are, spread to its east.
The lower regions of the massif are covered in fir, pine and juniper. In some place you will see an interesting feature an inversion of forest cover in which shrubs of birch appear above the level of conifers. In the fields and clinging to the rocks there are many interesting and endemic flower species to be found, such as Nikola’s violet or Tara bellflower. In contract to abundance of flora, the wildlife is rather scarce: chamois is the most common, there is a fair number of fox and rabbits and rarely wolf of bear. On the other hand, birdlife is faring better so you are likely to see a grouse, a partridge or such giants as the grey mountain eagle and whiteheaded vulture.
Lots of water in lakes and ponds and excellent grazing pastures at higher altitude made this area attractive for sheep and cattle breeding even in the driest of summers. This can be witnessed even in name “Durmitor” which derives from the Latin dormire and dormitorio and is connected with spending summers sleeping in the mountains , a method used by the sheperds to this day. Today, the surroundings of Durmitor are settled mostly by the Drobnjaci clan who has expanded here from the original grounds further to the south. Durmitor was almost outer world until 1880s when it was described by scientists from Russia and Serbia.
The first man to climb Bobotov Kuk as an alpinist was Austrian Oskar Baumann in 1883 but tourism on Durmitor started only after the mountain was visited in the 1920s by mountaineers from Belgrade and Zagreb. Their delighted reports about its beauties spread rapidly and soon more followed in their steps. After a successful 1932 German- Yugoslav movie “The Phantom of Durmitor” commercial tourism started and the first hotel was built in 1940. The area was declared a National Park in 1952 and in 1980 it was listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.
The centre of Jezera plateau and tourism on Durmitor is the town Žabljak keeping its olden looks with many nice wooden houses and steep roofs. The logs stocked at the front of the houses warn about the winter colds and the snows that can reach height of several meters. The town is young in origin: it came to being in 1870 when in the place of an old caravan stop a school, a church and the home of the clan captain were built. Scattered around its modest centre are old and new hotels as well as groups of weekend homes.
The town’s main sight is the white stone mausoleum rising from the cemetery overlooking the town. It was built in memory of 2441 men and women from the area who gave their lives in WWII amongst them four were honoured with the title of National Heroes, whose busts you can see inside; behind them is a relief by Rade Stankovic depicting the uprising against the occupation. Rising just to the south of the town is the peak Javorovača ( 1529m), with two ski-lifts leading to its top from where you will enjoy a panoramic view of Jezera plateau.
Walking towards the mountain you will pass to seat of the National Park administration ( the building with the blue roof) located just in front of the car ramp. In it is housed the national history collection ( Prirodnjačka zbirka) presenting the flora and wildlife of Durmitor; it also has a nice souvenir shop. Behind the ramp you enter the zone of the highest protection.
A few minutes walk from here you will reach the shores of Crno jezero ( “Black lake”) whose color is due to its depth ( 49 m) and thick forest surrouindings. This beautiful lake lies at the foot of the massif making a picturesque sight, especially in nice weather when the steep Medjed and other peaks mirror on its calm surface. The lake consists of two parts-the large on ( in front of you) and the “Small Lake” connected by the narrow strip of water which breaks in dry summers.
The water in the lake is very refreshing even ion hottest summer days and never rises above 22oC. The best way to enjoy Black Lake’s many beauties is to take the circular route around it (lasting roughly one hour). Another pleasant route is a half-hour walk from Blak Lake along Mlinski potok stream through thick pine and fir woods which will take you to Zminje jezero (“Snake Lake”). This lake of dark green color is abundant in marshy vegetation and surrounded with tall firs and spruce, some over 300 years old. In its clean find trout and triton- a rare species of amphibian.
A one –day-a-half hour walk along the road to Tepca village to the north of Žabljak will guide you through inspiring pastures and woods and to the Ćurovac viewpoint. On the road keep going right until the fourth fork where you should tour left. From the road there is a market path to Ćurovac ( 20 min). Watch your step for in front of you opens suddenly a 1,100m deep abyss with stunning views of river Tara. Far below to the left is the village of Tepca, nested in the only widening in the canyon; though it might seem within a stone’s throw it is actually more than an hour by foot.
From Black Lake and its restaurant there is a two-hour walk through the wood to the foot of Savin kuk. This is the focal point of skiing in winter but in summer it is interesting for a ride with the ski-lift to Savina voda spring at 2200m. The legend tells that water appeared in the strangely high place when St Sava made a cross with his stick with a request to God to the drench the thirst of the pupil he climbed with. A short ascend will take you to the top of Savin kuk ( 2330m) from where one enjoys views of almost the entire massif.
For those who come to Durmitor by car there are several interesting spots to visit, all within a short drive on the Jezera plateau. Driving on the road south toward Šavnik take the first sharp left turn. This will lead you to Vražje ( Devil’s) and Riblje ( Fish) lakes, with their grey waters contrasting with green marshland and golden grassland surrounding them. The legend has it that a winged horse lived in Vražje Lake and would come out at night to make love to mares; after finishing the act he would kick them the belly so that they could not have an offspring like him. When Vojvoda Momčilo, a hero of epic songs, heard about this he snuck up to the lake one night, waited patiently until the stallion did his work and then suddenly jumped on the mare and escaped. The mare gave birth to the winged horse Jabučilo who served his master in his master in his master in his many adventures. Above Riblje Lake stands Grčko groblje , a necropolis with several interesting stećak tombstones covered in colourful moss. The name (“Greek cemetery”) is misleading; the term “Geek” was used by the locals for all things very old, which they didn’t know to whom it belonged. If you liked this one you might want to see another necropolis (with the same name) one kilometre further in Bare Žugića village. Returning on the southbound road towards Šavnik you will reach the village of Donja Bukovica with its Roman Bridge standing across the river Bukovica. It is a single span bridge, whose stone is almost untouched by two millennia of its existence. Its height of ten meters depict the force of the river in springtime. Departing westward from the road towards Plužine , which sides behind the west face of the massif, the unknown and rarely visited side of Durmitor.
First you will pass the fantastic shape of Stožina hill and then the Valovito jezero lake, found in the depths underneath the stone peaks; after the Sedlo pass you will enter the green vale of Dobri do, with several katuni ( seasonal shepherd’s dwellings) still in function. The road improves from Lokvice where you will find an interesting restaurant run by the local cooperative here all produce is fresh and drinks are cooled in the wooden trough filled with snow and ice from the mountain. The road continues further across the Piva plateau.
One hour ride to the NW of Žabljak via restaurant “Momčilov grad” will guide you past some stunning views and the village of Crna Gora. This village stands isolated in a triangle of land bordered on the two sides by the canyons of Tara and Sušica and on the third by the mass of Durmitor. On all three sides one enjoys excellent views; additionally there is number of wooden houses with steep shingled roofs, which are fine examples of local architecture. Note that these houses were built entirely with wood, without using even one nail.
By far most beautiful way to enjoy Durmitor is to hike through is massif. There are numerous well marked paths crisscrossing it, two mountain sanctuaries for those surprised by rain of nightfall ( one in Lokvice and other by the Debeli namet) and two mountain huts in Škrka valley and Sušica canyon, on the west side of the massif. Bu sure to take with you a detailed map, enough water clothes as weather can change rapidly. We recommend several interesting tours but there are a number of possibilities to combine on your own. The easiest one is to the quaint Jablan jezero lake and then to the top of the Crvena greda clif (2164m) and back. The tour to Obla glava by Stari katun, one of the vales with summer homes of shepherds (katun), will allow you to descend to the Ledena pećina ( “Ice Cave”) in which snow and ice melt only in the warmest of summers. The return is around is around Čvorov bogaz ridge and through Lokvice. Our third recommended tour will take you steeply up Medjed ( “Bear”) ridge with an excellent view of the Black Lake lying directly underneath you and the middle of the rocky massif. The gently ascending ridge tour will take you from Mali Medvjed (2170 m) to Južni Vrh ( 2287m, 4hours to this point) after which the path descendes to Debeli namet , a patch of everlasting snow, the last remains of mighty glaciers that shaped the looks of Durmitor.
The route returns to Black Lake via Struga and Mioč poljana. The latter is also along the way of your next route, whose first part takes you the food of Savin kuk. The ascent to its top is either on foot or by ski lift.The route Šljeme ( 2455m) the third highest peak in the whole massif , has a very dangerous section-the climb through Kotao, and afterwards continues along the ridge. The return is via Čista strana. The fifth tour leads us past the Zminje jezero through Donja and Gornja Ališnica to the top of Planinca ( 2330m, 4 hours in all) commanding views of the glacier circ valley of Škrčka Lakes. A one hour descent will take you its mountain hut ( open from 1st of June to the 1st of October).
This valley makes one with the canyon of river Sušica to the north. The river starts from the Sušičko Lakes and continues northwards to the Tara disappearing underground several times. Both river and the lake got their name after their occasional drying up. The tour to Bobotov kuk from the side of Žabljak is very long and takes 6 hours one way, so those who are not excellent condition climb it from the west side of the massif, either from the mountain hut in Škrka (3h) or from Uredni do, to which you can drive. Starting from the latter you will pass Šareni pasevi, a natural phenomenon where you can see numerous geological layers brought to the surface by tectonic moves. On the other side you see zupci ( “Saw Teeth”), a series of very seep peaks. After Zeleni vir pool stars to heavy ascenat first to Djevojka and then to Bobotov Kuk ( 3 hours in all) with rewarding panoramic views to all sides. Skiing in Durmotor is located in the hill of Savin kuk where there are seven ski-lift and several pistes. In winter on every hour there is a bus going from the centre of Žabljak to the foot of the Savin Kuk. There are two more ski lifts on Javorovača, closer to the centre of the town.
Montenegro Hostel Team