A 10-day adventure through the Dinaric Alps to the Adriatic
September 3-12th 2017
August 12-21st 2018
Natural beauty of the Dinaric Alps features dramatic contrast between ancient forests, grassy highland plains, and alpine type cliffs. On this highland route we'll be crossing the world famous Tara canyon, visiting the Durmitor and Bjelasica national parks, Sinjajevina, the biggest highland plateau in the Balkans (avarage altitude 1700 m), and visit several lakes of breathtaking beauty, which will be a real feast for your camera lenses. We'll camp in places of holy silence and unspoiled nature, and see and taste the old ways of making cheese by Montenegrian mountain folk. It will be an immersive, overwhelming experience for all senses!
Duration - 10 days (September 3rd to 12th 2017, August 12th to 21st 2018)
Price - 700 € per vehicle
Wild camping (your own camping gear)
Approximate length - 1200 km
Technical difficulty - easy to moderate
AT tyres recommended, MT optional
Approximate area of the tour(precise track available to participants)
Watch the Montenegro highlands video:
Day one – Starting the tour and entering Ljubišnja mountain (about 70 km)
We gather around noon at the MAT Petrol station in the northern Montenegrian town of Pljevlja (https://goo.gl/maps/n9MNzrxuSUv, N43.349944, E19.358194) which is right next to a big supermarket. There we’ll fuel up an get our first food supplies for the tour, and soon depart on a dynamic and technically challenging route up the 2238 m tall Ljubišnja mountain, leaving pavement very soon upon exiting Pljevlja. We’ll use a network of not very well known forest trails, with occasional mud challenges (not a common sight in dominantly rocky Montenegro), until we reach Jezerac – a picturesque meadow surrounded by pine forest at the altitude od 1800 m, where our camp for the night will be. For those who want to stretch their legs before dark instead of gathering firewood and preparing the camp, a 1 hour hike to the highest peak of Ljubišnja is a possibility.
Day two – from Ljubišnja to Durmitor (about 120 km)
Direct crossing to the south side of Ljubišnja mountain isn’t possible over the ridge, so we have to descent partly the way we climbed the mountain the previous day, and then take some shortcuts through creeks and over pastures to catch the road leading to Bobovo village on the other side. And there a gorgeous view towards the Tara canyon and Durmitor mountain breaks open, and we enjoy a splendid tour of several attractive scenic points above the Tara and Draga river canyons (there we’ll make a picnic lunch. We follow the Tara canyon at close range all the way to the famous Đurđevića Tara bridge, where we cross to the other side. We’ll make a short break in the cafe at Đurđevića Tara, where, in case someone from the group is interested, it’s possible to have an adrenaline rush by sliding along zipline accross the canyon, 200 m above the Tara river. We climb to the other side to the Sinjajevina plateau, and soon we’ll arrive in the small mountain resort Žabljak in the Durmitor National park, where we’ll get accomodation in one of two official camps.
Day three – the big Durmitor circle and entering Sinjajevina (about 120 km)
The main feature of the day will be the big circle around the main Durmitor ridge, about 80 km long, featuring several impressive viewpoints and absolutely stunning, dramatic scenery. The rocky peaks of Durmitor, exceeding 2500 m in height are accessible only to hikers, but there is this scenic route around the mountain that we can take. Unfortunately for us offroaders, due to the great popularity among tourists, this route, once mostly dirt road, has been paved almost completely in recent years, leaving only the descent into the Sušica canyon as an unpaved part of dirt road. But the circle is well worth taking due to the impressive views. So, it will mostly be a day of relaxation when technical aspects of driving are concerned.
But before we depart, we have to get resupplied and refueled for most of the remaining journey – Žabljak is our last contact with civilization for a long, long time…
Towards the end of the day, when we complete the Durmitor circle, we’ll plunge into the great Sinjajevina plains, and find a suitable camping spot by the Zminičko lake, or maybe even a bit further in the wild.
Day four – exploring Sinjajevina plateau (about 90 km)
This day will be devoted entirely to Sinjajevina, the big highland plateau, biggest of it’s kind in the Balkans, which lies at an average altitude of 1600-1800 m, surrounded by +2000 m peaks. It’s really huge, so there’s no chance to rush over it, to complete the journey in less than one day. A network of rocky trails reaches even the hidden far corners of Sinjajevina, like the Zaboj lake, an emerald coloured gem, where we’ll have a lunch break. Or the Ružica church, a very sacred place for the Montenerians, build in the inhospitable, rocky environment that takes hours to reach from any good quality road. Ancient graves scattered around with names almost washed out by the elements are present everywhere in this desolate space. Just as well as lonely shepperd houses, with thousands of sheep, goats and cows, where the locals live in a way that has barely changed for centuries. We’ll end our enchanting tour of Sinjajevina by a water well called Smrdan, one of the very few places in that vast space where drinking water can be found. There we’ll put up our campsite in the open spaces with a view of rocky peaks nearby. One word of advice – firewood has to be brought here for the campfire, since there’s no tree anywhere in sight!
Day five – Across Lola mountain to captain’s lake (about 70 km)
Day five of our tour will feature a crossing of the Lola mountain, a very rocky, inhospitable ridge, which has only one pass at about 1800 m of altitude that can be conquered on wheels – and that’s the one we’ll take. So our highland journey goes on, turning into an alternate, dream reality, slowly fading away towns and lowlands in our minds. We go on passing by the lonely mountain shepperd’s homes, some small lakes among the rocks, and more cryptic, ancient graves which tell us tales of the centuries passed. Mud is really rare on our route (except maybe after strong rain, and rocky terrain is the only real technical challenge. In case the weather is dry, we may take an exciting shortcut over a ridge to Ćeranića Gora, where we’ll encounter just the right combination of rocks, mud and bumpy trails to get a little real excitement. In the Bojovića Bare area we’ll cross several small rivers, and may have some splashing fun, before we finally reach the gorgeous Captain’s lake, a big mountain lake at the altitude of 1700 m. On this day we’ll arrive there early enough to set up our campsite without haste, maybe enjoy a short swim in the lake if the weather is really hot, or take a 2 hour hike to the Stožac peak, from which another lake at 1800 m of altitude, Manito lake, can be seen together with Captain’s lake. This is also a place where we can buy first class white cheese mada by the locals, which is a well known specialty in this area.
Day six – Leaving the highlands – through Morača canyon to Bjelasica (150 km)
After we’ve spent several days in complete wilderness, it’s time to descend… Gradually. Upon leaving Captain’s lake, we’ll make a roundtrip of Maganik mountain, the rockiest mountain of Montenegro, with some truly fascinating rock formations. Of course, passing through the central part of the range is impossible, but even driving right next to the central ridge is an experience worthy of frequent stops for photo shooting.
However, after the rocky & bumpy Maganik experience, it’s finally time to descend into the deep Morača canyon and see the main road after many days. Having completed more than 300 km since the last chance to refill, we’ve probably already poured our fuel reserve into the tanks and are desparately looking for a filling station. We find the first one near the town of Kolašin. After refilling and eventually resupplying, we continue into Bjelasica national park, where we’ll sleep by one of the numerous lakes that exist on this mountain,
Day seven – roundtrip of Bjelasica NP (about 60 km)
This day is devoted to the Bjelasica mountain, with it’s neverending highland pastures. Unlike other Montenegrian mountains that are quite dry and rocky, Bjelasica iz green and full of water, featuring maybe the biggest number of mountain lakes in Montenegro. So, basically, we’ll make a tour of the Bjelasica lakes, hopping from one to another. The highest lake, Ursulovac, lies at an altitude above 1900 m, and can’t be accessed directly 4×4, but we can make a short hike to it from the ridge, that would take us about 20 minutes every direction. Upon touring the lakes and driving along the main ridge of the mountain we’ll transfer towards Hajla mountain, in the easternmost part of Montenegro.
Days eight to ten – descending towards the Adriatic coast along the eastern mountains of Montenegro
The journey along the magnificent mountains of Montenegro is far from over. Eastern part of the country also features some striking, rugged peaks, but unlike the western and central part, the mountains are divided by deep river valleys, so there’ll be a lot of altitude change during days eight and nine. Crossing from Hajla to the Prokletije mountains (including the solitary, 2200 m tall mountain Visitor), trail continues over Komovi to the Kučke mountains and the famous Rikavačko lake, at the very border to Albania (this part of the tour follows the Albanian border closely).
Finishing the tour of Kučke mountains, last day takes the participants through the capitol of Montenegro, Podgorica, and further across the last mountain range towards the Adriatic sea. We end the tour in a nice campsite in the Boka Kotorska fjord, near the ancient town of Kotor (if you have the available time, reserve the next couple of days for enjoying the seaside – it’s a great way to conclude such a tour!)
During the tour we’ll mostly be sleeping on nice natural campsites in total wilderness, often near lakes, at altitudes between 1300 and 1800 m, so prepare warm clothing – even at mid summer at those altitudes nights can be cold. On two nights we will be in official camps. Our average time of arrival to campsite is between 17:00 and 18:00, and morning departure time is usually between 8:30 and 9:30. Montenegro is a country rich with wildlife (including wolves and bears), but no attacks on campers have been recorded, so you can be relaxed. To make camping more comfortable, you should have folding tables and chairs, as well as cooking equipment for food (although you can also use campfire), mobile refrigerator (12 V), etc. In Žabljak and Bjelasica there will be a possible bungalow or hotel alternative to camping – we’ll consult the participants of the tour and, if you want to break the camping routine for a day or two, we can arrange to take rooms (not included in the base price of tour).
Equipment of your vehicle for Serbian and Montenegro highlands tour should include
- AT tyres (MT is also ok)
- a shovel
- a compact axe, and a saw
- 1 or more dynamic ropes for recovery
- complete personal camping equipment
- 12 V fridge and additonal equipment for preparing food
- CB radio
You should also consider
- Winch (always a handy peace of 4×4 equipment)
- A moderate lift – at least 2″
(vehicles with low gear are preffered, but not mandatory)
Tour price covers
- one adequately equipped guide vehicle with our guide
- all fuel and other expenses for the guide vehicle
- personal counceling before and during the tour
- appropriate GPS maps and data, that can be made available to the participants, if they have compatible hardware
Tour price does not cover
- individual fuel and toll costs
- individual food and drink expenses
- servicing expenses by third parties
- camping fees in official camps (usually around 2 Euros each for vehicle, every person, tent and electric connection), or hotel accomodation, if used
- national park entrance tickets (2 Euros per day/person)
- other individual expenses
Take a look what our tour in 2016 looked like!
Tour preparation and execution
The meeting point will be in the town of Pljevlja, in northern Montenegro. The coordinates of the meeting point are listed in the tour description by days, and we will timely supply you with a GPS track how to reach Pljevlja from your hometown, as well as the phone number of your guide. Please secure that you have your travel insurance before starting the tour. We expect you to arrive with a vehicle in good technical conditon, which can endure ten days of moderate offroading. This tour does not require a high level of offroad experience and skills. There will be parts of the tour when we won’t have a chance to refuel for several days so you should have a fuel tank (optionally with additional fuel cans) that can guarantee covering 300-350 km without visiting a petrol station. All major credit cards (Visa, Master, Maestro, etc.) work in Montenegro (either on ATM machines or for paying goods), and the official currency in Montenegro is Euro. You’re advised to have at least a small amount of cash for small expenses in the mountainous areas.
Average tour difficulty is easy to intermediate. In practice, that means that we will be travelling on decent quality dirt roads most of the time, with only occasional chances of encountering mud. There will be parts of rocky terrain, where care should be taken not to damage vital parts of the underbody (especially where we take shortcuts completely offroad, it’s necessary to watch out for concealed rocks in high grass). We will not have any deep water crossings on our route (so no snorkel is necessary). Our operational communication during the tour will be on CB radios (we mostly use channels 5 or 16 FM). Please ensure that you have a EU standard frequency range AM/FM CB radio, and not the special frequency shifted ones that are used in some countries (mainly in eastern Europe).
For more details please consult the 4×4 addendum to the Terms and Conditions of Rustika Travel.