The highest point on the Dinaric Alps and one of the few places in Europe still largely unexplored, the Prokletije National Park is perfect for hikers, bikers, fly-fishers, and other adventurers. This intriguing national park in east Montenegro seems to come from another time, with history that goes back to the Paleolithic era. But the jagged terrain and fierce wildlife of the this national park caused the locals to refer to the area as “Prokletije,” or the “accursed mountains.” Geologist Ami Boué acutally described Prokletije National Park as “the most inexplicable, the most inaccessible and the wildest mountain range in the Balkans” and called the mountains in the park “the Southern Alps of Europe.” We believe that for the adventurous and well-prepared, the Prokletije National Park has some incredible views and experiences in store for those willing to brave its slopes.
Hiking and Biking in Prokletije National Park
Prokletije boasts opportunities for every type of adventure vacationer. With the robust size of the park and the geographic isolation of the area, hikers will be overwhelmed with opportunities to explore breathtaking natural scenery. One of the three starting points for famous Peaks of the Balkans hike is in Plav, Montenegro, at the base of the national park. This trail spans three locations (Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania) and hovers among the clouds with elevations of up to 2300m. While this hike is very popular and has received a lot of attention from media outlets such as National Geographic, hikers who prefer a more solitary, rustic experience should try hiking the Katun Road. This hike begins with a stay in the beautifully rustic Čakor Katun, where hikers can experience true Montenegrin culture and delicious food. Additionally, opportunities for shorter day-long hikes and family-friendly expeditions exist at any katun or farm stay within Prokletije National Park.
Besides hiking, MTB lovers will definitely find the adventure of a lifetime here. Miles of mountain bike trails for single-track and cross country riding wind through villages, farms, and mountains, with breathtaking scenery visible in every direction. Maps for all the trails are found in the visitor information centre in Plav, as well Also, MTB trail info is available.
Waters of Prokletije National Park
The unique arctic-alpine climate of Prokletije National Park creates the perfect environment for beautiful bodies of water within the national park’s boundaries. All of the waters in Prokletije are either snow or spring-fed, giving rise to crystal clear streams, rivers, and lakes perfect for fly-fishing. The largest glacial lake is Hridsko Lake, a pristine pool of beauty 300 m long by 160 m wide, and up to 5 m deep in the summer time. Legend has it that this lake was originally created by the gods as a place for fairies to bathe, and in the process gave the waters supposed healing powers. While we do not claim any existing supernatural powers at the lake, we can say that the combination of clear mountain air and beautiful glacial waters definitely made us feel healthier and more in tune with nature. Other glacial lakes include the Visitorsko, Tatarijsko, Ropojansko, and Bjelajsko lakes.
One absolutely spectacular water system is the Ali Pašin springs, crystal clear water that gush forth from under the mountains into the River Ljuča. These waters then empty into Lake Plav, overall the largest lake within Prokletije National Park, which empties into the River Lim. This particular water system actually played host to the 2019 European Fly Fishing Championship.
Biodiversity of Prokletije National Park
Prokletije National Park contains 1611 distinct species of plant, which means that this national park is home to over 20% of the 8000 species of plants that can be found in the Balkans, making Prokletije one of the most biodiverse spots in the entire Balkan Peninsula. Of these plants, over 50 species are considered endemic to the park, and over 100 species can be used for medicinal purposes. Medicinal plants include wild thyme and yarrow, which locals use for steeping delicious teas.
Prokletije National Park is home to several different types of mammal, including deer, chamois, wolf, fox, bear, and lynx. The highly endangered Balkan lynx lives within the borders of the park, but only 20-50 members of the species are still believed to exist, making them a very rare subspecies to encounter. Aside from mammals, Prokletije contains very diverse insect fauna and herpetofauna. With over 130 species of butterflies, Prokletije National Park contains the highest butterfly diversity in all of Europe. Animals to watch out for include the most venomous snake in Europe: the horned viper. Known in the local language as the “poskok,” or jumping snake, this particular viper can jump up to 50 cm vertically. Thankfully, the poskok is a mostly laid back snake that only bites when threatened. Another interesting reptile is the Prokletije rock lizard (Dinarolacerta montenegrina), a shy gray-green lizard that makes its home in and around tall pine trees.
Navigating Prokletije National Park
Driving can be difficult here. Hiking or MTB are the best ways to navigate Prokletije National Park.
Food and Lodging in and around Prokletije
Due to the fact that Prokletije National Park remains one of the few spots in Europe still largely unexplored, finding hotels and traditional accommodation can prove difficult. However, there are several beautiful rustic katuns, or traditional Montenegrin shepherd huts, that provide farm-fresh food, wonderful hospitality, and easy access for hiking, MTB, and fly-fishing. Here are our top 4 spots in for staying in Prokletije National park:
- Dedushi Guest House – excellent for groups of thru-hikers or family adventurers. Great opportunities for biking with marked MTB trails, hiking, horseback riding, and fly-fishing.
- Merak Country House Near Gusinje – ideally located for fly-fishing in the Plav and Gusinje waterways as well as the Ali-Pašin springs. Available apartments for up to 4 people and cottage for up to 6 people.
- Bungalows and Samel’s Cottage – the Bajrovića katun has a beautiful two-story cottage great for groups of hikers or families as well as rustic bungalows for one or two guests. Breakfast is included with an overnight stay, with additional lunches, dinners, and sack lunches available for an additional charge.
- Čakor Katun – a beautifully rustic katun near Prokletije NP with 3 separate structures housing up to 6 people. Camping space also available for larger groups or hikers who prefer sleeping under the stars. Starting place of the Katun Road thru-hike.
*Many thanks to so many of our friends and partners who continue to show us the beauty and wonder of Prokletije National Park.
Srečan put! (Have a nice trip!)