Durmitor National Park

An easy hike around the Black Lake and Zminje Lake in Durmitor National Park, spotting mushrooms and visiting Tito’s World War Two bunker…

For the second day of our Montenegro Odyssey, we went into Durmitor National Park. The morning started foggy, and we were greeted with the sort of beautifully mysterious views of Crno Jezero (Black Lake), only afforded under such weather conditions. To be honest, while some people find this sort of weather sub-optimal for hiking, I actually love it.

Crno Jezero, a caldera in the mountains of Montenegro on a foggy morning in Durmitor National Park
The Black Lake viewed on a misty morning

It’s not too fun when a thick fog is blocking your view from the top of a mountain, but when you’re in the forest, it’s exciting and atmospheric. Fortunately the cover gets thinner the higher you climb and I feel this weather makes for some wonderful photos, both among the trees and on the peak.

Fog dissipating over the treetops on a misty morning in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro.
The fog that shrouded the coniferous trees slowly dissipated as the morning wore on

By walking around the lake, you get to see it fully: It’s really two lakes, aptly named Big Lake (Veliko jezero) and Small Lake (Malo jezero). A narrow strait connects the two lakes most of the year, but during summer months, it dries ups and the lakes are separated. Crno jezero is the largest and deepest of lakes in Durmitor, formed when glaciers receded after the last ice age, roughly 10,o00 years ago.

Malo jezero, the little lake, on the other side of the strait that divides Durmitor National Park's Black Lake in Montenegro
View of Malo jezero, or Little Lake, the smaller of the two bodies of water that make up the Black Lake

During the walk around the lake, we spotted a small stairway leading to a bunker hidden in the slope of the mountain. It was Tito’s bunker, the place where he’d hidden during World War Two while the partizans planned their attack against the Germans.

A plaque marking Tito's bunker, in Durmitor National Park, where the partizans planned their attack against the Germans.
The plaque reads: “Comrade Tito and his Supreme Command stayed here from 20th to 29th May 1943 and decided upon a breakthrough via Sutjeska river”

Being autumn, all sorts of mushrooms were in full bloom. Many of them were clearly poisonous, and some appeared to be of a more recognisable stock, like chanterelles and porcini. There were many I hadn’t seen before, and we all found them rather fascinating.

The hike from Crno jezero to Zminje jezero was pleasant and beautiful. The park is well maintained and the paths are easy to follow. We were there early, and were on our own for most of the hike, undisturbed by other tourists. There were many picturesque twists and turns along the way, through narrow trails framed by tall pines.

Tall, thin, coniferous trees in the dappled sunlight make a beautiful tree patterned wallpaper.
Many of the tall and slender trees of Durmitor National Park are covered in lichen. Seen together under the dappled sunlight, they make a beautiful pattern

Along the way we took a rest in a little picnic spot. On a tree beside one of the benches, there was a plaque with a message for all visitors to the area, written by the farmer who had made the furniture that stood there.

Zmijinje Jezero, a small, secret caldera lake hidden in the park, its perimeter covered in pine trees in Durmitor National Park
Zminje jezero, the small, secret lake hidden in the park, completely surrounded by pine trees

Zminje jezero is smaller but equally as beautiful, if not more so, than Crno jezero. After a couple of hours walking (we like to take our time), we finally descended down a gentle trail onto the secluded banks of this lake. We would strongly suggest you get here as early as possible, as the walkable area around the lake is not large, and this lake is definitely best enjoyed with as much privacy as possible. We were fortunate to have the space to ourselves for a good half hour, which was perfect. It was a privilege to catch that precious moment for meditation in such a contemplative and private setting.

A small caldera with a fallen tree trunk, its surface covered in little water lilies, coniferous trees surrounding it
Zminje jezero is covered with many small water lilies and other aquatic plants

There are two information points/ethnographic centres in and around the park. One just inside, after the entrance, and one right outside. Both had lots of fascinating objects and boards with information about the park and its endemic flora and fauna. Oddly, there was a skin of a brown bear, a protected species in these parts, lined with lace and pinned on the wall of the info-point inside the park.

The peak called Medjed, which means bear in Montenegrin

As we exited, we were greeted by a line of stalls selling local fruit, preserves, jams and honey. Most of the items were attractively placed and we were sorely tempted by them. The items are a little pricey, but they are at least wholly authentic home-made Montenegrin produce. Also, there’s nothing quite like a cup of wild berries on the way out to end a hike in the forest!

Vendor at Durmitor National Park selling jars of local honey and jams made with forest fruit
A vendor selling locally gathered honey and home made conserves

We’ve created a compilation of timelapses from a few of the best lookout points in Montenegro. In this collection is a timelapse of Zminje Lake, in Durmitor National Park.