THE BIGGEST LAKE IN THE BALKANS
Lake Skadar is the largest lake in Montenegro and the Balkan peninsula, with an area of 369.7 km² (of which 221.8 belongs to Montenegro and 147.9 km² to Albania). Its length from Vranjina to Shkodër is 40 kilometers, and its width in some places is 14 kilometers. During the summer, the surface of the Skadar lake is 370 km2, during the winter it is 540 km2, the average surface being 475 km2.
In the past, Lake Skadar represented a large tectonic basin, which was once a sea bay. With the rise of Taraboš and Rumija mountains, this bay was separated from the sea and thus turned into a lake. It is also a crypto-depression, which means that some parts of its bottom are below sea level. Such places are called “oko” meaning eye. There are about thirty of them in the area of Lake Skadar. The deepest such “eye” is called Raduš and is 60 meters deep, so it is very well known as an area rich in fish.
The largest amount of water, about 62%, is brought in by the Morača river with its tributaries Zeta and Cijevna. With its cold water and enormous amounts of sediment, it has a great influence on the transparency and the water quality of this lake. The lake is also supplied (about 30%) with water by numerous underwater springs.
It is known that lake Skadar has over 60 islands, called “Gorice”, most of which are overgrown with wild pomegranate, laurel and ivy. The lake is rich with traces of history and valuable cultural heritage: Žabljak Crnojevića (15th century) – the capital of former Zeta, Lesendro – a fortress in the middle of the lake and Grmožur fortress – a former prison. Clear water and a preserved environment enabled the development of an extremely rich eco-system.
NATIONAL PARK AND BIRD RESERVE
Skadar Lake was declared a National Park in 1983. It has been an area of international importance for birds since 1989. and is part of the Ramsar list -the World List of Wetlands of International Importance, since 1995.
The National park is dominated by water and wetland ecosystems. Geologically created by tectonic phenomena, where water masses have created a landscape that is equally wonderful, both for plant and animal life. There is a variety of plant life both in the lake itself and in its surroundings, and in the summer months the meadows of water lilies and water chestnuts can stretch for kilometers. The northern marshy coast of about 20,000 hectares provides ideal conditions for the development of wildlife, especially for the birds. Thanks to the preserved ecosystem, lake Skadar is a “bird’s paradise” for 280 species of birds! The symbol of Lake Skadar, the pelican, which the locals call “panac”, is a phenomenon in this part of Europe. Furthermore, there are 48 species of fish living in the lake, the most numerous and important of which are: bream, carp, crucian carp, flounder, bream, bream, eel, mullet, and grasshopper.
EASIEST WAY TO REACH THE PARK
If you are planning to visit the Skadar Lake National Park, your main point of interest will be Virpazar. Virpazar is well connected to Podgorica by railway and highway. If you are driving from the direction of Podgorica, you will exit Podgorica and drive through Goričani and Bistrice to Vranjina. You will pass konoba “Starčevo” and soon see a parking lot on your right and a sign for Virpazar on the left. Here, you must be careful not to miss the sharp turn on the left side of the road, which leads straight across the bridge into the village. Due to a lack of parking places in the season time, it is recommended to leave your car on the parking lot before the village, it is free of charge. The houses in Virpazar are built in a circle with the front facades facing the wide square and the back facing the water. In the middle of the tree-covered square there is an old fountain with drinking water, and around the square there are three restaurants and a tourist information center. You will be greeted by locals selling their home-made products such as famous Crmnica wine and grape brandy, but the best day for shopping is Friday – the local market day.
Of course, you can also get a bus to Virpazar which might take some extra time if you are visiting in the high season. There are buses going from Podgorica two times a day (around 9.30 AM and 5.00 PM), only one bus per day from Budva (around 7.00 AM), and night buses from Bar (around 9.00 PM).
There are also many agencies offering taxi and transfer services.
WHAT TO DO HERE
The most important question is – what should you do as you arrive to Skadar Lake National Park? Why is it so popular?
Well, there are many reasons! The whole area around the lake has great tourism potential and is becoming more and more known as it has such a wide range of possible activities for different groups of people. For the ones seeking active tourism, there are various kayaking and boat tours available, cycling routes, hiking opportunities and even horse riding! If you are more into relaxing and gastro tours, you are in the right place as this region is famous for good wineries. And it all starts from the center – Virpazar.
Boat tours and kayaking
There are plenty of options for boat tours across the lake. You can choose short 1-2 hour tours to Lesendro and Grmožur islands or take a long cruise (5-6 hours) to famous Rijeka Crnojevića, the picturesque village Karuč, with swimming break included. Best of all, you have the choice to book a group tour or rent the boat just for you and enjoy a private cruise with your friends and family for reasonable prices. Why book the boat for yourself you ask? Imagine listening to your own music, eating some snacks, taking photos and choosing your own route – for only 20-30,00 EUR per person!
Some of the most popular boat tours to book with Balkan Adventure:
At Virpazar you can also rent kayaks, per hour or for a full day. The local providers will give you important insights and ideas about possible routes and information along the way. There are single as also double kayaks for rent, with waterproof bags for your personal belongings. Wondering about kayaking routes on Skadar lake? Here are some suggestions:
- Island Lesendro and Grmožur (2-3 hours)
- Island Grmožur (a former prison) – Raduš fishing village – secluded Pješačac beach (3-4 hours duration)
- Southern coast – Starčeva gorica and Beška monasteries – Murići beach (6-7 hours)
Cycling and hiking routes
For cycling lovers, there are various trails to choose from. And the best of all – you don’t need to be an advanced biker to explore Skadar lake region by bike.
Best biking routes in Skadar Lake National Park:
- Rijeka Crnojevića – Village Vukovići – Poseljani and Komarno villages – Virpazar – Donji Murići – Ckla (technical difficulty 2, 65 km)
- Rijeka Crnojevića – Karuč village (technical difficulty 1, 9.5 km)
- Virpazar – Crmnica – Virpazar (technical difficulty 1, 17.5 km)
- Virpazar – Limljani – Boljevići – Virpazar (technical difficulty 1, circular route 20 km)
Hiking options are various and are not demanding in general, which makes them perfect for the summer time and the high temperatures. The hikes can be combined with visits to local wineries, swimming breaks in one of the picturesque fishing villages or can be finished up with a boat tour on the lake.
Hiking trails in Skadar Lake region:
- Route 1: Zabes village – turning for Brčelice Pass – Brčelice Pass – Ćelista Stream, Nikači – Sveti Nikola Church – Godinje village – threshing circle (gumno) – NOB monument – Smolac Spring – Nikači – Zabes – 4.5 km return
- Route 2: Novi most (new bridge in Rijeka Crnojevića) – turning for Mracelje – riječki grad (Obod) lookout – Skakala (river crossing) – stara HE (old dam) – Obod cave – stara HE (old dam) – nova HE (new dam) – turning for Košćele – Djevosčki Vir – stari mlin (old mill) – Pazar – stari most (old bridge) – house of St Petar Cetinjski – novi most (new bridge) – 7 km return
- Mount Sutorman – fortified medieval village of Upper Godinje – back to Virpazar
- Virpazar – Walnut Valley – Virpazar – 10 km
Contact Balkan Adventure on firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about renting bikes or hiking tours around Virpazar.
Horse riding in Žabljak Crnojevića
Don’t confuse this place with the town Žabljak in the north of Montenegro, like many do. Žabljak Crnojevića (The old capital of Montenegro) was first mentioned in 1403, but it’s widely believed the fortress dates back to the 10th century, when this area was part of the Roman Empire and called Doclea. Žabljak Crnojevića served as a Turkish stronghold for 400 years until Montenegro’s territory was handed back at the 1878 Berlin Congress. You can reach it easily from Podgorica via Vukovci. As you drive through the villages to the well-known “Karlov splav” (river floating cafe), you will see a horse riding field on your left side. With Balkan Adventure you can book a 3-hour horse riding tour to Dodoši village for a swimming break. Check the tour description here.
Best gastro and wine tours around Virpazar
For those who would like to enjoy Skadar lake on a slower pace or just want to end up their active day by tasting delicious food and great wines – you will be overwhelmed with the fantastic offer in this region!
The most famous vineyard areas: Crmnica, Nahije, Komani, Bjelopavlići, and other settlements around Skadar Lake that are engaged in viticulture.
The largest vineyard in Montenegro – the vineyard of the Montenegrin company July 13 – Plantations spans an area of about 2.300 ha (annually produces about 22 million kg of grapes).
Wine tourism is one of the fastest growing branches of tourism in this part of Montenegro. If you search for the best wine and gastronomy tours in Montenegro, it will lead you to Skadar lake and Crmnica region. The local winemakers’ love and commitment to their craft can be tasted in every sip. How many generations have carried on this custom? Find out more about it by visiting the local wineries.
A very special thing – Šipčanik wine cellar, a former secret military airport located over 30 meters below ground in a 356-meter-long tunnel!
You will find a wide range of international wine varieties in Montenegro, so you can find good wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Marselan, Malvasia, and others. Try pairing the wines with local cuisine. The most well-known delicacies from national cuisine, including Njeguški pršut, wide cheese selections, and fish specialties are paired with local wines by friendly hosts in Montenegrin wineries.
Check the most popular wine tours and book your tour to the best wineries with Balkan Adventure. Visit this link for more information.
If all this still doesn’t sound impressive to you and you want to discover some less known parts of Skadar lake National Park, head to our website and check out the “Hidden gems of Skadar lake” private guided tour. This panoramic tour will give you the opportunity to enjoy the best views (famous “Pavlova side” viewpoint), hidden picturesque villages (Komarno and Poseljani) and best dining spots – all tailored to your wishes!
Visit www.balkanadventure.me for more information.
The Circuit around Korita is the first fully signposted panoramic road in Montenegro. The so called route “4” is 65 km long and is a perfect option for a day trip from Podgorica. It starts from the capital and leads into the mountainous area of Kuči and to the edge of the Cijevna Canyon.