Breathtaking Balkans: Montenegro

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Breathtaking Balkans: Montenegro

Montenegro is a study in extreme parts coming together to make an exquisite whole. This small Balkan country—bordered by Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania in Southeast Europe—packs a big adventure punch. Its varied landscape includes beautiful and jagged mountain ranges that soar to nearly 8,300 feet and the Adriatic Sea on its southwestern border. The fjord-esque coastline, highlighted by the Bay or Kotor, is juxtaposed by the characteristic Mediterranean red-tiled roofs. From the deepest gorge in Europe, the Tara River Canyon, to its soaring peaks, Montenegro is heaven for any explorer … be they adventure junkies, gourmands, or history buffs.

A specialized tourism outfitter, Black Mountain is owned and operated by Hayley Wright and Jack Delf. The duo and their staff work to create trips for niche groups such as mountaineering associations and birdwatching clubs in addition to a number of direct tours. As an outdoor adventure company, the guides are driven to create strong cultural interactions during tour activities while leaving minimal impact to ensure long-term sustainability to both the environment and the economy. Wright explains that Black Mountain strives to “connect clients with local guides, local accommodation providers and local restaurants” to return business into the local economy.

Giving back to the community is an integral component of Black Mountain’s philosophy. The company staged an annual adventure race, which has since been given by a triathlon club which the company supports. Each year the profits from the race benefit a local charity or youth project. To experience all that Montenegro has to offer with a philanthropic twist, Paste Travel recommends these three tours showcasing this beautiful country that melds East and West traditions.

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Hike the Via Dinarica Mega-Trail

The Via Dinarica is a 1,000-mile hiking trail connecting eight Western Balkan countries. Montenegro is approximately halfway along this cultural corridor. A regional collaborative effort among private operators, the trail unites members through the Via Dinarica Alliance. As the Montenegrin Alliance member, Black Mountain offers an eight-day trek from the mountains of Montenegro and Durmitor National Park to Sarajevo, Bosnia. This itinerary visits remote highland communities and travels along ancient trade routes to bring travelers a look at cultures and traditions.

Tour the Bay of Kotor

Kotor’s Old Town is a picturesque medieval settlement protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979. Ideal for architecture lovers and historians, this tour includes stops at St. Tryphon’s Cathedral and the maritime museum. Built in 1166, St. Tryphon’s Cathedral contains 700-year-old frescos and a unique collection of work from Kotor’s master craftsmen. The maritime museum presents the region’s extensive naval tradition dating to the Middle Ages. At its height, the fleet reached three hundred ships during the 18th century and posed as a rival to both Croatia’s Dubrovnik city-state and Italy’s Venice.

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Overnight Rafting in the Tara River Canyon

Take advantage of the warm months between May and September with an exhilarating descent down the Tara river. The starting point in Durmitor National Park leads adrenaline-seekers to the deepest depths of the canyon (the second deepest in the world behind the Grand Canyon), where the walls are so steep the only way out is by raft. Through the twenty-five miles of wilderness, paddle to the sound of waves and rapids. Enjoy the view with a lunch break on the river banks. After approximately six hours of rafting, dinner awaits at the cabin camp. Unwind over a campfire while savoring traditional dishes and taking in the stunning natural landscape.

No matter the experience, be sure to interact and connect with local Montenegrins. Wright notes “their warmth, hospitality, pride in their country, traditions and food” welcome foreigners in a way that will leave travelers with a yearning to return.

Top image: Trish Hartmann, CC-BY

Molly Harris is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.