Hiking to the top of Montenegro: A Guide to Climbing Bobotov Kuk
The second I learned you could hike to the highest peak of Montenegro on a day hike - I knew I had to do it. Blissfully ignorant as to what I was getting myself into, I headed to Žabljak, the unofficial center of mountain activity in Northern Montenegro, ready to adventure to the top of Montenegro.
The Mountain: Bobotov Kuk
Bobotov Kuk is officially the highest mountain in Montenegro coming in at 2,523 meters high or over 8,200 feet (note: three higher peaks are shared with Albania on the border, but Bobotov Kuk is still considered the highest point in Montenegro...).
Located in the center of Durmitor National Park in Northern Montenegro, the limestone rocks of Bobotov Kuk encapsulate the iconic beauty of the Dinaric Alps.
Four trails lead to the summit and can be combined for different route options, but beware: accessibility can be compromised to some routes depending on time of year and weather conditions. Inquire within Žabljak before attempting a route.
All trails are easily marked along the way with the traditional red spray paint circles with white centers.
A longer and more challenging trail leaves straight from Žabljak itself, passing Crno Jezero (Black Lake), and approaching Bobotov Kuk from the northeast. It takes around 5 hours to reach the summit. The other three trails begin from the south and west, all joining together at Zeleni Vir Lake and continuing as one route until they meet up with the Žabljak route on the Velika Privija Pass.
Although I was there in July, the snow had not melted on much of the Žabljak route, effectively causing the trail to be unpassable. So I was left with the easy decision to complete the popular Sedlo Pass Route.
The Sedlo Route
Getting There: Approximately 14 kilometers outside of Žabljak, the Sedlo route begins at the top of Sedlo pass which is easily accessible by car or taxi. There is plenty of parking available in the main lot, or some spillover areas to park over the pass. My accommodation at Hostel Hikers Den organized a large van to take a group of us who were braving the mountain for the day, costing €3 per person. A private taxi should cost between €15-20 from Žabljak for the 30 minute drive.
Entrance Fee: Before beginning the hike, be sure to pay the attendant in the parking lot the national park entrance fee of €3 per person. Budget tip: there is a special 3 day park pass for €6, if you plan to spend three consecutive days hiking around the park.
Difficulty: The hike itself is considered moderately difficult. Although there are parts that will really get your heart pounding, anyone in reasonable shape can complete the hike. There are some technical areas which require chains, and a bit of scrambling towards the top, but as long as you are mindful, it is completely safe. Overall, the hike really isn't too strenuous.
Timing: The route takes the average hiker around 3 hours to reach the top. At a slow, comfortable pace with lots of picture stops, it took me 3.5 hours to summit. Due to the steepness of many areas of the hike, going down is a bit shorter in time, but not by that much. Personally, I go super slow downhill (especially since by the end my shoes had ZERO traction left...) and it took me 3 hours to get back down. An active, fit hiker should be able to complete the hike in 5-6 hours, but if you want time to enjoy the summit and leisurely take in the gorgeous views throughout the hike, I would cushion in 7-8 hours to be safe.
The Route: The trail is absolutely picturesque, every step of the way. The first part of trail passes through gorgeous open pastures with panoramic views of towering rocks on all sides.
So many times throughout the hike, I got the humbling sense of feeling so small when approaching the wall of surmounting pinnacles, which made the the grandeur feeling I got when standing on the top of the summit even that more invigorating.
Since ice fields around the trail were still melting in July, and the past few weeks had been especially rainy, many areas on the trail were muddy, completely destroying any sense of traction my ill-prepared gym shoes still had. That made not completely falling into the mud quite the perilous task! I hilariously was sliding down much of the trail to the complete horror of a passing guide. But slow and steady, won out in the end without too much mud damage!
After about an hour and a half of hiking, the three southern trails merge at Zeleni Vir Lake, and the path becomes mainly rocky and easier to grip when hiking up.
From there it is about another hour up to Velika Privija Pass where the path finally meets with the Žabljak trail, and I got my first full on glimpse of the 500m (1,640 ft) vertical boulder peak of Bobotuv Kuk.
The final stretch of the ascent takes 40-60 minutes to complete, and covers the greatest gain in elevation. Here I had to scramble a bit up large areas covered with slippery gravel and loose rocks. The fineness of the ground really requires good traction and concentration - which is why the trail really should not be completed in bad rainy weather when possible. The last sprawl consists of a very thin path at the edge of a cliff, so has ropes and cables installed to help. If the mountain is busy, this can be a bottleneck as there is limited space for hikers going up and down, but a great chance to catch your breath and take in the views!
Once on the summit, I actually feel as if I were on the rooftop of Montenegro. Geological wonders surrounded me on all sides as I gazed across Montenegro and parts of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and even Albania. Simply breathtaking.
Getting Back: If you didn't drive your own vehicle or come with a guide, most people try to hitch a ride back to Žabljak from fellow hikers or people driving by, which is what my group did. There is a bar about 2km down Sedlo Pass road which you can go to after for a much deserved drink and have them call a taxi.
Some Wanderful Advice:
Remain flexible with your dates. Weather unfortunately does not always cooperate, and you don't want to miss out on the hike, so leave yourself some buffer room when visiting Žabljak. Luckily activities such as rafting and other hikes do not require perfect weather, or advance bookings, so flexibility will give you more chances to hike under the best conditions.
Bring plenty of water. I drink a lot...like a lot... People seems to think I'm a bit mad carrying my 2L camelback and 1.5L extra water bottles - but I went through all the water, and glad I had it all! There are no places to fill up on the Sedlo trail, so make sure to bring enough water.
Wear good shoes! I did the hike in sneakers, and yes, you technically can do the hike in trainers if your packing situation does not allow room for hiking boots. But you really do need good traction and grip to safely hike the trail, so do your ankles a favor and wear good, sturdy shoes!
Layer up. Weather changes fast up there, make sure you have a windbreaker/rain jacket and extra layer for the top
Pack some snacks. It is a long hike, you need to fuel up! Make sure you have a lunch and some snacks with you.
Start early. The best weather and smallest crowds seem to be earlier in the day, plus you want to make sure you aren't rushed.
While there are many brilliant hikes to choose from in Durmitor National Park, the exquisite views and feeling accomplishment from reaching the top of Bobotov Kuk is an experience to be reckoned with, and one I would recommend not to miss!
Interested in climbing Bobotov Kuk? Learn more about visiting Durmitor National Park here!