Lake Skadar in Montenegro is possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been!
As you may have seen, Montenegro has been at the top of my travel wishlist for a rather long time, mainly due to the incredible lake and mountain scenery that I seem to covet like nothing else. I finally booked my trip back in March, whilst in search of something I could do on my own for a week at the beginning of May, and have been beyond excited ever since.
Nestled at the edge of the Adriatic sea between Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, and Albania, Montenegro benefits from a stunning coastline, hot temperatures in Spring & Summer (it was up to 24 degrees when I visited in the first week of May!), incredible mountainous terrain which gets capped with snow in the Winter, and Eastern Europe’s largest freshwater lake – Lake Skadar.
This was where I was to be staying for my trip, on a week-long hiking & yoga holiday with Undiscovered Montenegro; a Lake Skadar based activity holiday & tour company run by Ben and Emma – two British expats who have made Montenegro their home for the past 8 years.
Myself and 6 others (who all ended up being solo travellers except one couple who were there together) met at Villa Miela (miela meaning honey) – Ben & Emma’s renovated property in the mountains near the village of Virpazar – on Sunday evening and were treated to a delicious welcome dinner together on the terrace.
We honestly couldn’t have had a better, more like-minded group; everyone enjoyed exploring the outdoors, we were all (nearly) at a similar level of yoga (which we would be doing each morning on the terrace), and – best of all – we were all keen to eat plenty of delicious food and drink plenty of delicious local wine!
We started our first day with early morning yoga at 7:30am, followed by a hike through the mountains to an old village, bordered with waterfalls and natural pools where we went for a wild swim! Along the way we had quite the nature walk, not only enjoying the views, but also stumbling across a wild tortoise, two legless lizards (basically giant slowworms, fyi) who we found out later were in the middle of a mating session (nice!), the most grotesque sack of caterpillars (who even knew they made sacks??), and several rainbow-coloured wild orchids. Phew!
Walking through a couple of rural villages on the way to the waterfalls, I was amazed at how peaceful it was. These villages are more like what we’d call hamlets, with families usually outside working on their small holding & vegetable patches. We stopped off to fill up with natural spring water for our hike at one of the village’s wells, where everyone collects their water from in the area.
After our waterfall swim, we got a boat back to Virpazar; one of the most beautiful boat rides I’ve ever been on for sure – and that’s saying something when you live in Cornwall! Lake Skadar was crystal clear and still as we went floating through the reeds with views of the mountains.
I took a ridiculous amount of photos on this boat ride so bear with!
Day two saw us visiting a local freshwater beach, and kayaking around the nearby islands to visit Beska monastery – a truly breathtaking trip. There was not a breath of wind that day, and I’ve never kayaked on water so still! It was like glass.
We met with the nuns at the island monastery, and they offered us homemade pomegranate juice and gave us a tour of their beautiful restored chapels.
We paddled back to the beach afterwards for lunch and a quick dip in the cool water (I should say refreshing, it was definitely warmer than I’m used to in the Atlantic!), before heading back to the villa and out for dinner with a local family who run a winery.
Honest to God I don’t think I’ve eaten that much food or drank that much wine in a while… you’d finish a glass and the next thing you know, our hosts would fill it back up (to the brim, I might add!) – even with the most stern ‘no thank you’ I could muster. Turns out the Montenegrins are a ridiculously generous folk.
Thankfully it wasn’t that strong and EVEN MORE THANKFULLY, the local wine-makers don’t use sulphate or tannins, meaning somehow none of us ended up with a hangover the next morning, and were all up bright and early for yoga in the morning with no problems!
^ Amazing yoga-wear from Island Feather! More on that in a future blog post…
On the Wednesday we started off with a walk down to Besac Fortress, an Ottoman fort from the 15th century, where we were allowed special access to do our yoga practice from the roof terrace! It was quite an experience, to be practicing ‘warrior pose’ in a place with such history.
The rest of our day was technically a ‘free day’, with no planned excursions, but we all decided as a group to get the train to the coast of Bar, and then head to ‘Stari Bar’ (aka, Bar’s old town) for a delicious lunch at the highly recommend Kaldrma and an explore of the Old Fortress.
Kaldrma certainly lived up to expectations; the old town was full of quirky Moroccan/Middle Eastern inspired eateries serving up a feast of vegetarian food (yay!), along with strong Turkish coffee. After we’d eaten, we explored the old town and fortress looking out over the bay, and even went to see a famous 2,000 year old olive tree!
Thursday was spent hiking through the mountains to the medieval Godinje village, with stunning views across the lake again. From our hike we could see across the water to the snow-capped mountains of Albania, and also to an old (inactive) island prison – pictured above – that apparently has underground cells you can and visit by boat if you feel compelled!
Godinje village was beautiful, and we even fitted in an afternoon yoga session on the old corn grinding circle underneath the hot sun! Luckily there was a bit of a breeze to keep us cool, and it was super relaxing. This, followed by another delicious winery meal and a walk back to the villa at sunset, meant another great day was had!
Before our final free day of chilling out and sunbathing, we had another activity filled afternoon on the Friday, with a hike to Obod caves and natural pools. With headtorches at the ready, we braved the huge bat caves, clambering over the rocks (and being followed by goats!) right to the back of the cave where we found the river source, rushing past in the darkness. It was amazing and something I’ve never done before (though sadly, due to the whole ‘pitch black cave’ thing, I have no photos of that part of the trip).
After the cave, we headed to the river pools for a dip – though only two of us ended going in as the temperature decided to drop right at that moment. It was truly beautiful though – the colour of the water was amazing!
After stopping off on a ‘photo safari’ of some of Lake Skadar’s most infamous views (pictured at the beginning of this post), we went to another local family’s home for dinner, and BOY did they put on a spread! The amount of food was crippling, but it was some of the best food I have ever tasted – particularly the homemade honey and fritule (donuts/fritters) that we mistakenly ate as a starter… not leaving much room for the rest of the feast. Honestly I can’t believe the generosity and the way we were made to feel so welcome in these peoples’ homes.
So as you can see, I had an amazing week, doing all the things I love; hiking, exploring, kayaking, swimming, yoga, eating and drinking! All with a fantastic group of people who were wonderful to be around for the whole trip.
What surprised me most about Lake Skadar was how peaceful and untouched it really was. Being with Undiscovered Montenegro was the best way I can think of to visit this area, as they take their responsible tourism seriously, and everything we did was neutral to the environment – just enjoying the nature, really!
I was also made aware of some potentially devastating development plans on the lake, which would dramatically threaten much of the wildlife and habitats in the area. There is a petition to the government available to sign online, so I urge you (before you consider visiting) to sign this and keep it in your mind!
Predictably, I made a travel video of the trip (managing to condense hours of footage I took into just under 4 minutes!), so take a look, and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel!