As we wandered through the labyrinth of streets in Stari Grad (Old Town) Kotor, Montenegro at 7.00am we commented to one another ‘this is the best time to visit’. The church bells loudly ringing from various churches as we headed towards 360 Monte Travel Agency. The streets were void of tourists, many of them who come from the large cruise ships that entered Kotor Bay every day and others who were enjoying day trips from surrounding towns. The only noise was the local restaurants setting up their tables and chairs for the long day and evening ahead. A cat scattered ahead of us as it heard our footsteps on the ancient cobblestones.
We had heard and read about the beauty of North Montenegro and even contemplated hiring a car to head north into spectacular scenery and landscapes that Montenegro has to offer. Every time we googled North Montenegro, 360 Monte Travel Agency held the #1 spot. We approached Marko, the owner, and he kindly allowed us to join the tour with 16 other travelers.
The Bay of Kotor, Montenegro
In our mini bus we followed the shore lines of the Bay of Kotor past the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Perast to our first photo opportunity of the day. Every brochure or magazine story you read about Montenegro shows images of “Our Lady of the Rocks” and “St George”. No wonder, it is a sight to behold. Can you imagine in the middle of a bay two islands – one natural and one man made, one a monastery and the other a Catholic Church and Museum?
Our Lady of the Rocks
Sitting proudly in the bay with its shimmering blue roofs, nestled amongst the terracotta roofs and the buildings made of local stone, Our Lady of the Rocks is the local Catholic Church and a Museum. How did they build it? It took the locals over 200 years to build just the base, by throwing stones as they returned safely from each sea journey. The Church houses over 68 important paintings by the Baroque Artist Tripo Kokolja.
Sveti Dorde (The Island of St George)
Sveti Dorde is a natural island, home to the 12th Century St George Benedictine Monastery. The island houses the graves of priests who once lived there. Today, there are still Monks living in the Monastery.
As we slowly made our way up the steep mountains surrounding Kotor Bay we stopped for another photo opportunity. This time, we could see the two islands in the mist and we enjoyed a panoramic view of Kotor Bay with its smaller bays of Risen, Tivat and Herceg Novi. Although the area has been called the Mediterranean Fiord it is in fact, a submerged river canyon.
Slano Lake situated 6km west of Niksic (famous for its production of Montenegro’s finest beer, of which we are great fans) is one of 3 artificial lakes that were formed in 1950 for the local hydro-electric power station construction. Although Slano actually means salt – the lake is not salty at all. The water level was low when we visited in the summer due to the high usage of electricity during the summer months. It is a spectacular lake and one that visitors can swim and enjoy the natural surroundings.
Tara River Canyon
A canyon that is known as the deepest canyon in Europe and rivals the Grand Canyon of America was our next stop. Measuring 82km in length and at its deepest 1300m the Canyon and Tara River that runs through it is on the list of the ‘world’s must do rafting experiences’.
Those that were brave, dodged the traffic and walked out onto the bridge to witness the spectacular scenery below and to watch the rafters glide down the river. If you are a zip-liner this would be one experience you would not want to miss!
One of 18 glacial lakes in North Montenegro, Black Lake lies 3km out of the town of Zabljak in the Durmitor National Park. Do not miss this stunning experience. There is a small entrance fee to enter the National Park of Euros 3 per person but it is well worth it. On the pathway to the Lake, there are locals selling fruit, fruit wines, mushrooms and jams. Of course, we had to buy some wine, it was blackberry wine, so good we should have bought more than just the one bottle!
Black Lake is actually made up of 2 lakes – Big and Little Black Lake. The awesome colours of the lake, the reflections of the huge mountains around it, the ducks and the little row boats certainly made this a memorable part of our tour. There is a 3.5km walking path around the lake but we did not have time for that, but we just enjoyed the stillness and the beauty of this natural environment. There is a restaurant to enjoy with stunning views over the lake.
Sacred Ostrog Monastery
A winding road, steep slopes, sheer mountain cliffs leads you to Montenegro’s most famous sacred site – Ostrog Monastery. If you are afraid of heights you may not enjoy the drive, but we can guarantee you it is well worth it. Open to all faiths this 17th Century Monastery is situated on an almost vertical cliff of Ostroka Greda Mountain. Pilgrims who have visited have reported that when they prayed by the body of St Basil who lies buried there they have been cured of their illnesses. Out of the sheer rock face grows a vine. How can a vine grow out of such a sheer rock face? Incredible!
Breakfast and Lunch
The tour was a full day from 7.30am to 9.00pm and stops were made for breakfast at Restoran Kastel just outside Niksic and Luna Restaurant in Zabljak.
We would like to thank 360Monte for sponsoring us on their North Montenegro Tour. We would also like to thank our responsible and professional mini bus driver and Ognjen our guide for the day, who was very passionate and knowledgeable about his country. As always, our opinions are our own.
Details of 360Monte
Contact: Marko Čogurić
Address: Old Town d.o.o. Stari grad 284, Kotor, Montenegro
Email: email@example.com and tell them that To Travel Too sent you
Check out their website as they offer other tours around Montenegro.
Cost of North Montenegro Tour: 39 euros per person, entrance fees to Durmitor National Park is not included, food and drinks are not included.