The best Montenegro itinerary for an epic 1-week road trip

by | Oct 25, 2023 | Europe, Itineraries, Montenegro | 0 comments

The best 1-week Montenegro itinerary
The best 1-week Montenegro itinerary

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There are many amazing destinations in Europe, but have you ever heard of Montenegro? The small country in the Balkans is still one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.

For now at least, although Montenegro has definitely started to creep onto people’s travel radar. And rightly so! Montenegro is jam-packed with jaw-dropping landscapes, fabulous viewpoints, magnificent beaches, and charming towns.

I’ve had Montenegro on my list for a while, and this September, I finally spent a week road-tripping around the country as part of a larger trip to the Balkans. And I might have found my new favourite country in Europe!

This 1-week Montenegro itinerary is perfect for your first trip to this amazing country!

You’ll float across sprawling fields of water lilies on Lake Skadar, hike through the majestic Durmitor National Park, visit some of the most fabulous view points you’ll ever see, and explore the medieval coastal town of Kotor, arguably Montenegro’s main attraction.

Pavlova Strana viewpoint in Montenegro

As I mentioned, we visited Montenegro as part of a larger road trip through the Balkans and visited the places mentioned in this Montenegro itinerary in a slightly different order.

Coming from Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina, we started with Durmitor National Park, then headed to Lake Skadar and Kotor, before continuing to Dubrovnik in Croatia. This itinerary is tailored to people flying in and out of Podgorica, but can easily be amended depending on your route.

Day 1-2 | Skadar Lake National Park

Distance: 16 km from Podgorica Airport to Virpazar

After you touch down at Podgorica Airport, pick up your rental car and head to Skadar Lake National Park, the first stop on your Montenegro itinerary. Lake Skadar is the largest lake in the Balkans, extending across the Montenegrin-Albanian border.

Interestingly, only the two-thirds of the lake located in Montenegro are protected, and the birdlife in the region is almost unparalleled anywhere in Europe! Keep your eyes peeled for over 270 bird species, including majestic pelicans, cormorants, and eagles.

In addition, the national park boasts rugged mountains, island monasteries, tiny villages, and sprawling fields of water lilies.

River at Skadar Lake National Park in Montenegro
Water lilies on a lake
Boat cruise on lake Skadar

The best things to do at Skadar Lake National Park

  • If you’re looking to add some stunning views to your Montenegro itinerary, don’t miss out on Pavlova Strana Viewpoint. Located at Skadar Lake National Park, this viewpoint offers the most popular and picturesque view of the Rijeka Crnojevica River flowing into Lake Skadar in an almost perfect U-shape.
  • Booking a lake cruise is one of the best things to do at Skadar Lake National Park. We booked this tour and enjoyed a private 2-hour cruise on Lake Skadar, sipping local wine, spotting an incredible amount of birds, and enyjoing the golden hour. Alternatively, you can also explore the lake by kayak.
  • The old road to Bar is a beautiful and very scenic mountain road between Virpazar and Bar on the Montenegrin coast. We ended up on this 35-km long drive out of curiosity, and I’d definitely recommend including it in your Montenegro itinerary.
House boats in Montenegro
Bed overlooking the river in Montenegro

Where to stay at Skadar Lake National Park

Talija Skadar Lake in Vranjina is the perfect base while visiting Skadar Lake National Park. This unique gem is a little cabin floating on the Moraca River. You can spot birds and jumping fish from your bed in the upstairs section or on the little terrace. The owners also run the restaurant next door, a great place for local food.

Alternatively, look out for accommodation in and around Virpazar, the main town at Lake Skadar. The main road connecting Podgorica with Virpazar can get quite busy, and I’d recommend booking a place that is not right by the road.

Whenever I travel abroad, I always use Airalo to get an eSim with local data. It’s the easiest way to stay connected!
Bay surrounded by steep mountains
Cat looking out of a window

Day 3-5 | Kotor

Distance: 70 km from Vranjina to Kotor

Prepare to be awed by the stunning beauty of the Bay of Kotor, deemed to be one of the most impressive landscapes in the Mediterranean. With its towering mountains, winding coastline, and quaint villages, the bay looks like a real-life postcard.

The medieval old town of Kotor is a well-preserved maze of narrow cobbled streets, churches, and hidden squares, all enclosed by the impressive city walls. As you wander through the town, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.

Kotor is probably the most popular destination in Montenegro. And as soon as you arrive in the stunning Bay of Kotor, you’ll understand why visiting Kotor is a non-negotiable on any Montenegro itinerary.

Person looking out on a city and bay

The best things to do in Kotor

  • Start your day right with a scrumptious brunch at Hotel Hippocampus. Bruch is served on the rooftop terrace, which is a peaceful retreat from the busy alleys of Kotor.
  • Spend some time wandering around the picturesque old town of Kotor, sipping coffee on one of the many squares, browsing some of the boutiques, snapping photos and getting lost in the narrow alleys.
  • Climb the city walls surrounding Kotor. The walls surround the old town and zigzag up San Giovanni Hill behind it to a maximum elevation of 280 meters. The highest point, Fortress Sveti Ivan (St. John) is one of the best places to enjoy the view (and sunset) over the Bay of Kotor.
  • If you’re up for a challenge, hike Pestingrad Peak for an exceptional view of the Bay of Kotor. It’s just a 45-minute drive past the Kotor Serpentines to the trailhead. Once there, you can park your car and begin the 2.5-hour return hike to the 1,000-meter-high peak.
  • Venture beyond Kotor and visit Perast, a smaller and quieter coastal village, only a short drive away from Kotor. Instead of driving, you can also head there by boat, combining it with a trip to the mesmerizing Blue Cave.
City wall and mountains
Restaurant in a narrow alley

Where to stay in Kotor

There is something magical about staying within the city walls of the historic old town. You’ll be amid the hustle and bustle, but you’ll also get to enjoy the city at its less busy, especially in the mornings. Just keep in mind that it can be a little loud on weekends and that you’ll have to park your car outside the city walls.

For slightly cheaper options with the best views of the Bay of Kotor, look for accommodation in Muo northwest of Kotor’s old town. The picturesque houses are lined up along a narrow road winding along the coast, which makes driving there a little challenging. But you can reach the old town on foot from most places in Muo.

On the other side of the old town is Dobrota, technically a suburb of Kotor. You can easily reach the old town on foot from there too, and since the sun sets behind the mountains on the other side of the bay, Dobrota enjoys sunlight for longer at the end of the day.

Hiking at Durmitor National Park in Montenegro

Day 6-7 | Durmitor National Park

Distance: 164 km from Kotor to Zabljak

A 3-hour drive takes you from Kotor into the mountains of Durmitor National Park. The views on this drive, as with any leg of this 1-week Montenegro itinerary are amazing, so make sure to keep your camera within close reach.

Durmitor National Park is one of the most impressive and stunning places to visit in Montenegro. Spanning 390 km2, it boasts an incredible alpine landscape of jagged limestone peaks, steep valleys and alpine meadows, dotted by dazzling mountain lakes and small local villages.

In addition to some of Montenegro’s highest peaks, Durmitor also features the deepest canyon in Europe!

The magnificent Tara canyon cuts through the mountains of Durmitor National Park, at a maximum depth of 1,300 meters (just 200 less than the Grand Canyon, making it the second-deepest canyon in the world).

View from Sedlo Pass in Montenegro
At the top of Bobotov Kuk summit
Unique rock formations at Durmitor National Park

The best things to do at Durmitor National Park

  • Durmitor National Park is a hikers’ paradise, featuring more than 150 km of trails that offer the perfect opportunity to explore the majestic mountain terrain. Put on your hiking boots, take in the stunning scenery and spend an epic day in the mountains.
  • For an unforgettable experience, summit Bobotov Kuk, the highest peak in Durmitor and one of the highest mountains in Montenegro. The climb to the 2,523-meter-high peak takes about three hours from Sedlo Pass, but once you reach the top, the 360° views will take your breath away.
  • Take a leisurely drive along the scenic 85-km Durmitor Ring Road, which winds its way past towering mountains, charming local villages, and makeshift stalls selling local produce.
  • Visit Curevac viewpoint to enjoy the best view of Tara Canyon, Europe’s deepest canyon. You can get to the viewpoint on an easy, pretty flat 2-3 km hike from this parking lot or in about 2 hours from Zabljak.
Traditional house in Zabljak
View of Durmitor National Park through the window

Where to stay in Zabljak

Zabljak, the main town in the area, is the ideal base for your next two nights. The town features plenty of accommodation options in and around town, various restaurants and cafes, a decent-sized supermarket, and even some outdoor stores.

We stayed in one of the chalets at Mountain View Lodges. The chalets are located about 6 km out of Zabljak, nestled in the picturesque countryside. The chalets have a fully equipped kitchen, a cosy lounge, two upstairs bedrooms, and a generous terrace with sweeping mountain views.

We truly enjoyed our stay there, but I’d like to mention that checking in was a little complicated, because we weren’t able to reach the owner. Make sure to message +382 68 820 419 on WhatsApp ahead of your arrival and you will be fine (this is the person managing the place).

A lake surrounded by forests

Day 8 | Departure (via Lake Biograd)

This is the last day of your Montenegro itinerary, and another very scenic 2.5-hour drive will take you back to the airport in Podgorica. If you have some extra time, make sure to include Lake Biograd in your route (this will add about 1 extra hour of driving).

Lake Biograd is a stunning lake in the Biogradska Gora National Park embedded in a dense ancient forest.

The forest is one of the last remaining rainforests in Europe and is home to many animals including wild boards, deer and even bears. There’s a parking right by Lake Biograd, making it a perfect spot to take a break from driving.

Cars driving on a mountain road
Unique rock formations above a road

How to get around in Montenegro

Public transport is quite limited in Montenegro, and you’ll need to hire a car to get around, especially to get to Durmitor National Park. Search for the perfect rental car for your Montenegro trip on rentalcars.com!

As in most countries in Europe, you drive on the right-hand side in Montenegro. The roads are generally in good condition, although often rather narrow, and you will be driving your fair share of hairpin bends. I’d recommend getting a car of a smaller size with automatic transmission, to make navigating these roads as easy as possible.

The best thing about renting a car in Montenegro is that you will be able to stop at all the amazing viewpoints along the road (aka every few minutes!).
A village on an island

How much time should you spend in Montenegro

One week is perfect for this Montenegro itinerary, allowing you to see the amazing natural variety the country has to offer. You’ll get to explore charming towns, visit the coast, and spend some time hiking the Dinaric Alps.

But if you can extend your trip, I think that two weeks or more would be the perfect amount of time to spend in Montenegro. In addition to Lake Skadar, Kotor and Durmitor National Park, you could then also add the following places to your Montenegro itinerary:

  • Pluzine and the Piva Canyon
  • Grebaje Valley and the Prokletije National Park on the Albanian border
  • and Lovcen National Park near Kotor
Pin this Montenegro itinerary to Pinterest to save it for a future trip!
The best 1-week Montenegro itinerary
The best 1-week Montenegro itinerary

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Welcome to my world!

Hi, I’m Sara, a twenty-something Swiss on a mission to become a full-time travel writer and digital nomad.