If you are planning a visit to Montenegro, build in a little time in your itinerary to explore the interior of the country. If you are based in Kotor, one of the best ways to do this is via a day trip to Lovcen National Park and Lake Skadar National Park.
The Bay of Kotor and the Adriatic coast of Montenegro are gorgeous, without a doubt.
But the interior of the country is equally stunning! With massive mountains, lovely lakes, and deep green forests, the scenery in the interior of Montenegro will leave you spellbound.
Montenegro’s national parks are places of incredible natural beauty. But they are also places where you can learn more about Montenegro’s history and culture.
DAY TRIP TO LOVCEN NATIONAL PARK AND LAKE SKADAR
Probably the easiest of Montenegro’s national parks to access from Kotor, Lovćen National Park and Lake Skadar National Park can be conveniently combined in one day trip. This is one of the most fabulous excursions you can do from Kotor.
Read on for the perfect itinerary for your day trip to Lovcen National Park and Lake Skadar!
#1 Experience the serpentine road to Njeguši
Your day begins with a spectacular drive along the switchback road that leads from Kotor to the village of Njeguši.
The entire road is about 15 miles long, with 25 numbered switchbacks. But it’s the 5-mile stretch known as the Kotor Serpentine that is the most exciting part. You can see the road zigzag on the hairpin bend stretch in the map below!
Along the way, you’ll be treated to sensational panoramic views. You’ll see the Bay of Kotor, with little towns and villages dotting its shore. And the mountains of Montenegro, rising up into the sky.
As you go up further you can see way beyond the bay. Beautiful Croatia away in the distance, and the Adriatic Sea, sparkling blue on a good weather day.
Stop at designated viewing spots for photos. And to just drink in the views. In the spring and summer, enjoy the many wildflowers blooming along the road.
You’ll know you’ve reached the top when you see the vendor stands on the side of the road. Time to take a break and your last photos of the incredible view!
Drive the road early in the day to avoid traffic. The road is very narrow in places and you may have to reverse to allow oncoming traffic to proceed.
#2 Taste the famous Njeguši ham and cheese
The village of Njeguši is part of Lovćen National Park. It holds great historical significance for Montenegrins. It was in this village that Petar II Petrović-Njegoš was born.
Njegoš was a poet and philosopher, and ruler of Montenegro from 1830 until 1851. He died of tuberculosis at the young age of 38. He is held in high regard by Montenegrins.
Njegoš is credited with helping to establish Montenegro as a modern nation. And his literary works are cherished by the people of Montenegro. The house where he was born is today a museum.
Njeguši is small but very pretty. You can walk around the village and then settle down to enjoy Njeguški sir, the local cheese, and Njeguški pršut, the local ham.
We didn’t have the ham but we did try the cheese. Njeguški sir gets its unique flavor and aroma from the wooden vessel in which it is made.
#3 Take in the views in Lovćen National Park
The drive from Njeguši through Lovćen National Park is gorgeous. Our guide told us that the old road from Njeguši to the Njegoš Mausoleum was difficult to drive. The new road is a breeze to drive!
Lovćen was designated a national park in 1952. Mount Lovćen, with its two peaks, is the centerpiece of the park. The rocky landscape is starkly beautiful.
On a one day visit, you can’t see too much more of the park other than Njeguši and the mausoleum. We plan to go back for a longer visit so we can hike some trails in the park. I am sure it looks gorgeous in the fall!
#4 Visit the Njegoš Mausoleum
The Njegoš Mausoleum sits at the top of Jezerski Vrh, the lower of the two peaks of Mount Lovćen. Njegoš asked to be buried here, in a little chapel he had built before he died.
Although Njegoš was buried in the chapel per his wish, his remains had to be moved when the chapel was damaged. The current mausoleum was opened in 1974, after his remains were brought back to the mountaintop.
You have to climb 461 steps to get to the mausoleum. Inside you’ll see a statue of the leader, along with his tomb. There is an entrance fee. The steps are well-maintained, but it’s still a tough climb if you aren’t in good shape.
Behind the mausoleum is a viewing area, from where you can get panoramic views. If you can’t climb all the way to the viewing area, climb part way up the steps and you’ll still get good views.
On a clear day, from the mausoleum viewing area at the top, you can see most of Montenegro and even beyond! We had tons of clouds when we visited, but even then the views were lovely.
#5 Visit Cetinje, the old Montenegrin capital
Cetinje is the historical capital of Montenegro. It is nestled among the mountains, and is fun to wander, with its historical buildings and colorful facades.
Start by visiting the Cetinje Monastery, originally built by Ivan Crnojevic. The 15th century structure was damaged in an Ottoman attack.
The monastery had to be rebuilt many times, because of repeated Ottoman attacks. The current structure dates from the 18th century. Visit the interior if you have the time. We thought the exterior was more impressive.
Nearby is the charming Court Church on Cipur. Inside is a beautiful iconostasis and the tomb of Ivan Crnojevic. It’s a tiny church, but the setting is lovely.
Spend some time walking the streets. View the old palaces and foreign embassy buildings. Stop by the monument to Ivan Crnojevic.
Cetinje is a great glimpse into Montenegro’s history and culture.
#6 Have a fabulous traditional lunch!
We stopped for lunch at a lovely restaurant called Belveder Nacionalni Restoran, located a couple of miles outside the Cetinje city center.
The folks at the restaurant were extremely hospitable and the service was super personalized. I was served a very flavorful vegetarian soup to start. Comfort food at its best, on a slightly drizzly day!
My omnivore husband tasted a spoonful and promptly ordered his own!
I had grilled vegetables for my meal, and my husband a local lamb dish. Both were delicious. The portions were so generous we couldn’t eat everything, and the prices very reasonable.
#7 Discover the cute village of Rijeka Crnojevića
A tiny village on the Crnojevića River near Lake Skadar, Rijeka Crnojevića is picture perfect. I was surprised to learn that at one point it was actually the capital of Montenegro!
The double-arched stone bridge in the village makes for stunning photos, from the shore or from the water. Called Danilo’s Bridge, the bridge was built in the middle of the 19th century by Prince Danilo.
You can walk over the bridge or find a nearby trail to hike. Or you can do what I did: sit at an outside table at one of the cafes along the water, watching water birds and enjoying the tranquil scenery!
#8 Do a boat tour of Lake Skadar
One of the best things to do in Rijeka Crnojevića is a boat tour of Lake Skadar. The boat tour we did was my favorite part of our day trip!
Lake Skadar is the largest lake in the Balkan Peninsula. Two-thirds of the lake is in Montenegro, and the remaining one-third in Albania. The Montenegrin portion was designated a National Park in 1983.
The lake is home to an incredible amount of wildlife, from birds to fish and water snakes. Over 270 species of birds have been spotted at Lake Skadar, many of them migratory.
The endangered Dalmatian pelican nests in Lake Skadar. Seeing one (or more) of these enormous birds in flight is a breathtaking experience. Remember to take binoculars or a zoom lens to Lake Skadar if you are a bird enthusiast.
You’ll find more than 50 species of fish in the lake. Lake Skadar carp is a popular delicacy. You can also see water snakes slither through the water if you’re lucky.
Thousands of lily pads float on the surface of Lake Skadar. When we visited, we saw several gorgeous blooms in white and yellow and pink.
Along the shore and on islands, you can see the ruins of old monasteries and fortresses. The mountains encircling the lake make for dramatic reflections.
A boat tour on Lake Skadar is a must-do if you are visiting the area. While we did the tour from Rijeka Crnojevica, you can also tour Lake Skadar from Virpazar.
#9 Take photos at the Pavlova Strana viewpoint
Almost as good as getting out on to Lake Skadar is seeing it from above. The Pavlova Strana viewpoint is located just two miles from Rijeka Crnojevica.
From the viewpoint, you get a view reminiscent of Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, USA. The view is spectacular, a must if you love photography.
The road leading to the viewpoint is a one-lane narrow mountain road, so be careful if you decide to drive yourself.
We did a private day tour, and our local driver was nonchalant as he drove the road. My husband and I were glad we weren’t driving!
#10 Stop for views of Budva and Sveti Stefan
On your way back, take the M2.3 highway to Kotor. On this route, you will get great views of the beaches of Budva and of the resort on Sveti Stefan on the way back to Kotor.
If you have a clear day and a powerful zoom lens, you can get great photos of Old Town Budva. We sadly ran into rain on our way back to Kotor!
The little islet of Sveti Stefan is now home to a swanky resort. From a viewpoint along the road, you can get great views of the little island.
That brings you to the end of a fabulous day trip to Lovcen National Park and Lake Skadar National Park from Kotor. On this tour you have the opportunity to see some of the fabulous scenery in the interior of Montenegro.
If you have even two days in Montenegro, it is well worth doing this trip on day two of your visit. Allow about 10-12 hours to be able to do all of the things on this itinerary.
Guided tours to Lovcen National Park and Lake Skadar
While you can drive yourself to all the places on this day trip itinerary, it is worthwhile considering a tour, so everyone in your group can sit back and enjoy the views. The scenery is so stunning that it would be a pity to miss out because you are driving.
We splurged on a private tour and absolutely loved our day trip to Mount Lovcen and Lake Skadar! Our driver and guide for the day navigated the narrow mountainous roads safely, and stopped umpteen times so I could take yet another set of photos.
Planning a trip to Montenegro? It is a stunningly beautiful country, and you’ll be spoiled for choice on things to do in Montenegro.
You can explore pretty much all of the country from your base in Kotor, after you have enjoyed the many things to do in Old Town Kotor!
Our one week Montenegro itinerary should provide lots of ideas on how to structure your own visit.
Where to stay in Kotor
Set in a 17th century building, Boutique Hotel Hippocampus is located within Old Town Kotor. All rooms are air-conditioned and well-appointed. The hotel has a restaurant and rooftop terrace overlooking the walls of San Giovanni.
Book a stay here
Outside Old Town Kotor, consider renting an apartment in nearby Dobrota. Apartment Castellino comes with a garden and is the perfect place to stay for couples. If you are a family, check out Apartment Dobrota View, located right on the beachfront.
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