Lake Skadar National Park (or skadarsko jezero national park ) in Montenegro is not probably a top destination among global travelers, even it is not well known, yet Lake Skadar is a glorious place to investigate. Balkan’s largest lake and one of Europe’s largest bird reserves is surrounded by majestic mountains and lush greenery. Its unspoiled natural beauty with timeless villages along the shore, island monasteries, clear water and lovely meadow of water lilies is waiting to be explored.
Beside many attractive destinations in Montenegro, such as Kotor, Sveti Stefan, Lake Skadar is another spot my husband and I like to visit when we are in Montenegro. Wild beauty all around, the silence interrupted by birds, kind-hearted locals, unpolluted and fresh air, organic, local food and traditional dishes…
This is the right place to see Montenegro’s heart and soul…
Lake Skadar Map
Things to do in Lake Skadar
This lake is shared between two countries, Montenegro and Albania, of which two-thirds of it belongs to Montenegro, while the remainder in Albania. The Montenegrin part of the Lake was designated as a National park in 1983 and was added, in 1996, to the World’s List of Wetlands of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention.
The lake is mainly filled by the river Morača, as well as numerous underwater springs. The lake, drained into the Adriatic sea, is 44 km (27,34 miles) long and its size of about 400 – 500 square kilometers (154 – 193 square miles). The average depth is 6 m (19,68 feet), yet some parts of a bottom are under sea level and create depth up to 60 m (196,85 feet).
Reasons for your visit
The lake is the most important fish and bird natural habitat of the Mediterranean, in fact, Europe’s biggest reserves for birds. Its unique ecosystem is home to over 270 species of birds, some of which are endangered species. A good example is a Dalmatian Pelican that became the landmark of Lake National Park. There it is possible to find also storks, herons, falcons, gulls, geese, eels, etc.
The Lake contains almost 50 fish species, from which carp is the most important food source for the locals. This place is also home to eel and bleak, also other animals including snakes, swamp turtle, lizards, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and more.
The flora contains mainly Mediterranean plants, more than 25 endangered species, including wild chestnut. Vast areas of the lake are covered in marshes and water lilies, along the shore covered by bamboo.
The Lake is also famous for its medicinal plants and wild orchids.
The gastronomy of this area is connected to the Mediterranean cuisine. Local specialties are rather simple and humble yet nutritious and delicious, using olive oil, aromatic herbs, fresh vegetables and fruit, local dairies from cow and sheep, various types of home-grown hams and meats and. Of course do not forget to try lake fish such as carp, bleak and grey mullet.
Make sure you try the classic Montenegrin wine Vranac from the Plantaže vineyards.
3. Outdoor activities
This is a good place to experience a diversity of Montenegro’s wild beauty. How? There are many activities for all ages and any taste. I assure you will not be disappointed.
You can explore the lake:
- do a boat tour: Taking a boat tour is one of the most popular activity on the lake and I highly recommend it. You will see the lakes’ attractions – islands, monasteries, remains of a fortress and more. The locals will take you around the lake either a few hours or the whole day. Check for one called “Milica”
- hiking trails: Yes, there are also hiking trails around the lake. A local guide will show you all the natural beauty or you can discover it on your own. The paths are well-marked with scenic landscapes. Recommended departure point is Virpazar.
- fish: Fishing is permitted only by buying a license.
- car safari tours
- try delicious local specialties
- you can even bird watch. The lake contains a number of towers and platforms built specifically for bird watching. A guide will take you to all the places you need to see various species of birds.
4. Charming lakeside towns and islands with its attractions
When traveling the Lake Skadar you will encounter numerous small fishing villages surrounded by greenery, bays with ships and different flora and fauna you can’t see in other parts of the world. Furthermore, also islands with fortifications, holy monuments, monastery complexes, and ethnographical funds.
Rijeka Crojevića is a village on the very shore of the lake. It’s a tucked-away of place, yet charming and quiet with arched limestone bridge, built by Prince Danilo in 1854. There you can rent a boat and enjoy a lake tour and eat
What impresses me each time when passing by is one of the most scenic, famous and most photographed sights in Montenegro – Pavlova Strana.
Virpazar is another main place to visit. A little fisherman’s village offers many attractions, activities and is the most touristic place on the lake, a favorite starting point for most boat excursions and hikers. What I love there is also seeing people selling locally produced fruit and vegetable, honey, olive oil and other products.
You will find an old stone bridge leading to the town center, numerous restaurants offering local dishes and plenty of accommodation. The main activities there are exploring the lake by renting a boat, kayak or cycling.
The island of Grmožur is the most memorable historical place, also called the “Alcatraz of Montenegro”, as in the past the fortification King Nikola Petrović used it as a prison for criminals. The island was known to be almost impossible to escape off because prisoners were non-swimmers. Today the island is more known as the island of birds, lizards and snakes.
This island can be approached if you take a boat cruise.
Other islands you can see on the lake is Lesendro (known for its ruins of fortification), Beška (the Monastery Beška with two churches), Vranjina (island connected to the mainland by a bridge; the feature of the island is the Monastery Vranjina)
5. Walking in Montenegro
Walking in Montenegro is an activity that is becoming more and more popular. There are so many hiking trails in the area with beautiful views that is impossible to miss this oportunity.
You can approach Lake Skadar in various directions.
As Virpazar represents the main getaway to Lake Skadar and all the boat cruises start there I’m sharing distances from Virpazar:
Virpazar to Podgorica – 29 km (18 miles)
Virpazar to Budva – 42 km (26,1 miles)
Virpazar to Kotor – 65 km (40,34 miles)
The best way is, of course, traveling by car but you have also the option by train or bus. Reaching Virpazar by public transport is easy and tickets are inexpensive. The bus travel time from Podgorica is about 40 minutes.