Undiscovered Montenegro 2021 Trip Report

By Luka Esenko on Nov 17, 2021

Montenegro is one of my favorite European countries. Its small size and diverse geography remind me of my home country, Slovenia. I was very happy to greet our intrepid photo group participants who arrived at Kotor, the historic city on the coast of Montenegro. This was one of my first tours to lead since the pandemic lockdowns in Europe and it was great to be out in the field again!
The first part of our tour was focused on UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the Bay of Kotor. This picturesque Norwegian Fjord-looking piece of mountainous coast was our base for three nights. One of the highlights here was a boat ride to a small islet—home to “Our Lady of the Rocks” church. There, we were treated to amazing afternoon light and a rainbow! Our first dinner was at a family-run seaside restaurant, Školji. Seafood and lamb there were simply delicious, and we all agreed this was one of the best meals we had on the trip!
The next day was truly adventurous. We took the mountain road into Lovćen National Park that transported us from sea level to 5413 ft (1650 m) vertically up the mountain! The hairpins, as narrow as they were, offered us unparalleled views of the Bay of Kotor and the mountains surrounding it. The Petar Petrović Njegoš mausoleum at the top offers 360-degree views of Montenegro and we were able to view the rest of the places on our itinerary from there—Durmitor National Park in the north and Lake Skadar and Podgorica in the east!
The sunsets on the coast were spectacular. One night we decided to photograph the Kotor town from the opposite side of the bay when the city walls are lit up. What an amazing sight! The other night we had a dine & shoot experience—photographing sunset over St Stefan Island while having dinner. 
The best part of the trip was ahead of us—the mountains of the north! First, we drove to Durmitor National
 Park where we were based for the next three nights. We used our time in Durmitor well, hitting all our planned locations and getting lucky with atmospheric conditions more than once. Particularly mesmerizing was a sunrise shoot at Black Lake. When we arrived, it was completely shrouded in fog so we could hardly see the lake. Patience paid off as the morning sun started to penetrate the mist creating amazing light. This was our favorite morning of the whole trip! The multiple mountain drives around the Durmitor plateau were very productive photographically. Not only the mountain landscapes, but also encounters with shepherds and farmers that created some unique photo opportunities. We also witnessed the first autumn colors of the season here.
Next stop was Biogradska Gora National Park which features the oldest primeval forest in Europe. The lake here was a little disappointing as it was almost completely dry—so no forest reflections. The long drought period had taken its toll. So we changed our plans accordingly and took our 4x4 cars to the top of the mountain. That was a great call as we were surrounded by the most amazing autumn color palette. The large meadows of dark red blueberry bushes were complimented by birches, pines, and maples, creating a cocktail of colors. The views were incredible too! We could see all the way to Prokletije (the Accursed mountains) on the border with Albania!
The last part of our Montenegro tour was around Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro and Lake Skadar. The weather turned sour, but we still managed to shoot some moody scenery driving the scenic roads around the lake. We also used the opportunity to photograph some unique Eastern Orthodox churches and monasteries. 
We concluded our Montenegro trip with great photos and priceless experiences. But Slovenia was waiting for us. Everybody from this trip continued their journey to Slovenia. That, too, was a great trip! I really look forward to leading another Photo Safaris trip to Montenegro (and Slovenia) in 2023.