Skiing in the Mountains of Montenegro

Chanoa Tarle

Senior Contributor

Montenegro’s nickname, “Wild Beauty”, is by no means an exaggeration. The tiny, mountainous country is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes of Europe- the exotic terrain of Ulcinj’s Ada Bojana, the sexy coastlines of the Adriatic, the fjord-like Bay of Kotor protecting its medieval Old Town (founded in the 5th century BC) and more. While the country has made a name for itself as a must-see summer destination, winter remains largely under the radar, as does, consequently, the Montenegrin North. The ski trails do not compete with the likes of Courchevel or Gstaad, but if you're ready for nature to take your breath away, venture to the Montenegrin mountains to enjoy Kolašin and Žabljak this winter.

Making Your Way to Montenegro’s North

You have many options when it comes to flying to Montenegro, thanks to three international airports located in Podgorica, Tivat and Dubrovnik. Fly into Dubrovnik for a picturesque road trip on the seaside, taking in the Croatian city immortalized by Game of Thrones (King's Landing) and Montenegro’s own Venetian-influenced splendour, the UNESCO-protected city of Kotor, founded in the 5th century BC. Alternatively, fly into Tivat to make a stop at the jet-set megayacht marina, Porto Montenegro, or fly into Podgorica for the shortest trip. The subsequent car rides to Durmitor National Park are approximately two-three hours long (two from Podgorica and three from Tivat or Dubrovnik).

It's easy to rent a car from any one of a number of major car rental companies, including SIXT. However, car rentals are best reserved for drivers with extensive winter mountain road experience; depending on the weather, the conditions of the roads may vary considerably, demonstrating the mountainous country’s “Wild Beauty” moniker. An alternative solution is to take a professional car service, of which there are many from cities including Budva, Kotor, Tivat and Podgorica.

Bay of Kotor

Credit: Wladislaw Peljuchno

Private Quarters for a Luxurious Escape

Unlike its Balkan counterpart in Serbia, the popular Kopaonik Ski Resort, the mountains of Durmitor have yet to be built out for the most luxurious accommodations- and yet options abound. If only the finest accommodations will do, private quarters offer the best solution. Explore any number of privately-owned, move-in ready villas and chalets scattered throughout the area. If you prefer to stay in a hotel, Polar Star in Žabljak is a popular pick. Choose from standard rooms, junior apartments, studio apartments, or suites in this conveniently-located property lauded for excellent service.

Durdevica bridge

Credit: Mika Korhonen

Powdery Peaks

When it comes to skiing, make the awe-inspiring peak of Savin Kuk (Žabljak) a priority. You’ll appreciate its vast beauty with fresh, crunching hikes through the snow, and you’ll love Savin Kuk Ski Resort (700 m or 2,010 m above sea level; 4.6 km of slopes). There are trails for skiers of all skill levels, as well as instructors on hand for beginner and intermediate visitors (both children and adults). Ski Resort Kolašin 1450 also offers skiing and snowboarding with activities taking place on 14 km of slopes between elevations of 1,420 and 1,973 m. It’s a great stop for activities, though Savin Kuk is highly-recommended all around, taking food options, après-ski and service into consideration.

Powder in abundance

Credit: Miloš Milošević

Extracurricular Activities

If you find you still haven't satisfied your need for speed, make your way up the top of Savin Kuk, nearly to its peak, for a healthy dose of fast-paced adventure. You’ll encounter great terrain for snowboarding, a top-rated snowboarding school, snowmobile rentals and more. A trip to Black Lake is also a must for witnessing one of the most iconic scenes in Montenegro. Black Lake is usually frozen in the winter, offering as dramatic an atmosphere as any other time of year. Experienced hikers may also want to make their way up the difficult trek to Ice Cave.

When it’s time to unwind, mix and mingle with the locals by hopping from one bar-café to another… and you’ll definitely have your pick. Montenegro (and generally the Balkans at large) is known for its café culture and the mountains are no exception. Sip espresso or try the strong, dark, delicious domestic coffee that is quite similar to the popular libation in Turkey. In fact, its nickname in Montenegro translates to “Turkish coffee” and there is little difference between the two. Also try rakija, a local fruit brandy made from anything from peaches to pears. It has a reputation for generating warmth on a cold winter’s night. Tip: Ask for a good domestic version as they’re worlds away in taste and quality for most of their commercial counterparts. Meet for social beverages by day, and return for a lively bar scene or parties at night. Caffe Club Čudna Suma (translation: “Strange Woods”) is a fun spot to listen to bands play 80’s and 90’s rock music from former Yugoslavia, as well as today’s international pop music hits.

Pine Island, Zabljak

Credit: Dejan Zakic

Montenegrin Cuisine

Montenegrin cuisine is also a delight. Sample the rich, savoury local flavours, including dishes like roasted lamb (pečena jagnjetina), kajmak (an irresistible dairy concoction similar to clotted cream) and prženice (Montenegrin french toast). Go to Caffe Bar OR’O for the best Montenegrin breakfast in the mountains, adding priganice to your order, treats that could be described as a cross between doughnuts and fried dumplings. Finally, enjoy Montenegrin corn polenta - kačamak, with any meal; Konoba Luna serves an especially tasty version of the Balkan speciality. The staff are also extra-friendly, making it a smart resource for stocking up additional insider vacation tips.

Montenegrin Cheese Pie

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