Skadar Lake is one of Montenegro’s five national parks and only 30 minutes away from the capital Podgorica. Many people come for a day trip to the lake, do a boat trip, walk around the tiny village and go back again. In my opinion, the lake has more to offer. It’s worth spending a couple of days around the lake to explore more of it. You can take Virpazar as starting point, as it’s easiest to reach and has most of the tourist facilities (but please, don’t expect too much, it’s tiny).
The village itself has little sights to offer apart from the lake. There is an old castle (€1 entrance fee) from where you can enjoy a nice view over the lake. But in order to really enjoy the beauties of this park, you will have to get moving. Whether by boat, foot or bike, beautiful views and peaceful nature are guaranteed!
Boat tour on Skadar Lake
This is the tourist attraction of Virpazar: taking a boat tour on the lake. You can either go in groups and follow a specific 2-hour route or you can rent a boat and make a private tour to wherever you like. As a solo tourist I, of course, opted for the group tour. The tour costs €10 euro and an additional €4 entrance fee for the national park.
Even though I am not a huge fan of touristy activities, I did enjoy this tour. The highlight is when the boat meanders its way through a vast landscape of lotuses. As if the water plants were not beautiful enough, the mountains in the background give the finishing touch to this incredible scenery.
If you’re into birds, you can do some bird watching on the tour. Apart from a pelican we didn’t see much, but you might be more successful when you take some binoculars 😉
Bike from Virpazar to Rijeka Crnojevića
From Virpazar you can follow the road along the lake in both directions. I would suggest going into the direction of Rijeka Crnojevića as the views are a lot nicer on this side. Actually one of the famous postcard views is to be found just after Rijeka Crnojevića, Pavlova Strana viewpoint. Unfortunately, I only found out about this after biking all the way to Rijeka Crnojevića (24 km one way). I hope by reading this post I can prevent you from making the same mistake!
But even if you miss the viewpoint, there are viewpoints all along the way. That’s why I’d suggest this route by bike as it’s a bit far to hike. The road is pretty straight forward (so no maps needed), but be prepared to a lot of ups and downs. I was very grateful for those beautiful views which allowed me to stop once in a while to take a picture and catch my breath.
Hiking trail to the Natural Pool & Bjelasica Peak
Before coming to Lake Skadar I tried to find some information on the hiking trails. All I could find was that “there are loads” of hiking trails, but no one would give me specific advice on where to go. All I could find was a site in which two hiking tours were promoted for the price of €30 a day. I generally don’t like guided hikes, let alone for these kind of prices.
Fortunately, I was told at the tourist center that one of those hikes, the hike to “the waterfall” (I never reached any waterfall, but did find a natural pool which is definitely also part of the trail) could be done self-guided. The lady at the center was a bit vague on where exactly I had to go, but she told me the trail was marked, so off I went.
If you have maps.me or any other map, walk towards Dupilo (you could also go by car until Dupilo). Especially the first part of the trail is rather uninspiring along an asphalted road with barely any views. Even the river that is streaming next to the road is hidden by the trees. Fortunately, there’s a change in scenery once you start ascending a bit (after roughly about 1.5 hours).
At a certain point you see a trail leading down again towards the river, but the lady at the tourist center advised me to just continue the main road as the lower trail might be flooded due to the heavy rainfall. Even though it felt counter-intuitive, she ended up being right.
The trail is indeed (sporadically) marked, but the most important mark is where the trail ends on maps.me. Make sure not to follow the trail all the way to Dupilo, but to turn left to the trail which seems to end in the nowhere. Just before the end op the trail you’ll see a wooden sign with a red arrow, pointing to the left. Shortly after, you’ll see another arrow pointing to the left again.
Now you’re on the trail that will lead you directly to the natural pool, via forests and down the hill. It will take about 30 minutes before you reach the pool which is just in front of a picturesque old bridge.
After admiring the pool for a bit, I continued the trail over the bridge, as the trail continues to be marked. Unfortunately, I couldn’t continue much further as the trail was flooded (just like the lady at the tourist center told me).
I hoped to still get to see those “waterfalls”, so I randomly chose another trail which was leading to the right, right after the old bridge. I soon noticed the sound of the river fading away, knowing that this trail was definitely not going to lead me to any waterfall.
But judging by the direction I was going to on maps.me, it looked like I was steering towards the next village. From that village I could easily get back to Virpazar via a normal road (which meant I didn’t have to hike up the hill again). At that moment, a “normal road” sounded very good to me. All throughout the hike I barely met a single person, but I did meet a rather big snake in the forest. A bit of civilization suddenly sounded very appealing to me.
Furthermore, I saw a peak called “Bjelasica” which seemed like a nice detour on my way back to Virpazar. So, I continued this path through the forest and indeed ended up in Donji Brečeli, the village I had spotted on maps.me.
The moment I left this small village, I realized my “normal road” turned out to be a kind of highway. Well, there I had my civilization, but I didn’t want that much civilization! Anyways, turning back made no sense.
At least, I got a little break from the highway when I made my way up the Bjelasica peak. Also here I got a little bit disappointed. The trail turned out not to be a hiking trail, but a trail leading up to what looked like a telecommunication pole. The view was nice, but definitely not worth the hike along the highway.
All in all, I can recommend the hike, as long as you skip the last part. Don’t try to be as adventurous as me and just stick to the official hiking trails and you’ll be rewarded with a pleasant hike surrounded by wonderful nature.