After a couple nights in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, we were back in northern Montenegro. This region is far less traveled than the Bay of Kotor and along the Montenegrin coast. Think: rugged mountains, incredible drives, terrifying tunnels and more instagrammable a-frames than you'll be able to photograph.
After leaving Mostar, we drove to Plužine, in the north western part of Montenegro. It is a very, very small town, with little to do. We stayed along the lake, in a little cabin at Bungalow Holiday, along with a large group of bicyclists. The lake itself looked kind of sad... I think the water level was down, and maybe we were just tired at this point, but we weren't super impressed with Plužine. But, it led to one of the best/wildest drives of our life the next day, so it was a means to an end. We ate next door at a little restaurant with picnic tables overlooking the lake and enjoyed a relaxing supper before heading in early for bed in our little cabin.
The next morning we set off for Žabljak. We had no idea what was in store for us. The road between Plužine and Durmitor National Park is no joke. There are dozens of windy tunnels to pop through as you wind your way up the mountains. Again, the roads are just big enough for 1.5 cars, so it was always exciting to turn the corner and see if a car was barreling right at you! We were blown away by the national park. It was so gorgeous, with some of the most beautiful scenery we've ever seen! And the best part was we felt like we had it all to ourselves!
One of the highlights of the drive was stopping at a little mountain hut in the park since Nigel needed to eat and have his diaper changed. It was not the best cup of coffee I've ever had, but definitely one of the best views! Our host had me try some of the locally made liquors and sent us on our way with a little pot of homemade honey! Again, we were the only people there and felt like it was our own private rest stop.
Žabljak is the main town for all things Durmitor, and we stayed in another adorable a-frame cabin (for less than $50/night!). In winter the town is known for its ski resorts and we definitely felt like it was close to our Colorado roots. We had a great dinner at Dvoriste, which felt like we were in our Montenegrin grandmother's mountain cabin, enjoying a cozy meal. Travel tip: if on the menu, anything is "Durmitor style", it means it is smothered in cheese and bacon. Order at your own risk!
We had heard a lot of people talk about the large canyon in the park, second in size only to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. We thought it must be a must-see, so we headed out to find it. I think I would have enjoyed our hike/adventure more if a) the canyon was as impressive as the Grand Canyon (it is not) and b) I had not spilled beer all over my lap at lunch, leading to a swarm of flies and bees of biblical proportions pestering me the ENTIRE time. Travel tip: if you spill your husband's beer all over your lap and backpack at lunch, clean it off before hiking to prevent a mental breakdown due to fly/bee swarm. Niles has video evidence of my misery if you'd ever like to see it.
On our way back to Podgorica we stopped at the Ostrog Monastery, the most famous in the country. It is built into the side of the mountain and draws thousands of pilgrims each year. I'd read that it was over commercialized, crowded and not worth it, but I still wanted to see it. I think it was a great stop on the way, but maybe don't go super out of your way to see it. There is a long hot line to get in, but, as we learned, if you have a baby, they scoot you right up to the front of the line, which is nice! There are two roads to get there, one more terrifying than the other, so I'd recommend doing your research depending on how close you want to feel to God on your way up! You'll need to wear a long skirt or pants and women must have their shoulders covered.
We had an early flight out of Podgorica, so we opted to stay in the city for our last night in the country. There is a new Hilton Hotel there, that was less than $100/night, so we opted to posh it up for the night and enjoy ourselves before leaving this amazing country. I had really hoped to go on a tour of the Plataže Winery in Podgorica, which is located underground in an old secret Yugoslavian air hanger. How cool is that?! Sadly, they are not open on Sundays, so we'll have to do that next time. Luckily our hotel had a lovely rooftop patio with amazing views (highly recommend even if you're not staying there) where we could enjoy one last glass of rosé before heading home.
We can't recommend visiting Montenegro highly enough! I'd love to chat with you if you're thinking about a trip to Montenegro - it is so beautiful and welcoming and super easy to navigate with or without a baby!