Durmitor National Park
Durmitor is a stunning limestone massif located in Northern Montenegro and belonging to the Dinaric Alps or Dinarides. It is also the name of Montenegro's largest protected area, the Durmitor National Park, which constitutes the heart of a landscape shaped by glaciers, numerous rivers and underground streams of which are embedded in the much larger Tara River Basin Biosphere Reserve. Some fifty peaks higher than 2,000 metres above sea level rise above plateaus, alpine meadows and forests, including Bobotov Peak (2,525 metres above sea level). Numerous glacial lakes, locally known as “mountain eyes”, cover the landscape. Despite its many attractions, Durmitor is best known for the spectacular canyons of the Draga, Sušica, Komarnica and Tara Rivers, the latter stands out as Europe's deepest gorge. Durmitor is a popular tourism destination, known for superb hiking, climbing, mountaineering and canoeing opportunities. The nearby town of Zabljak is Montenegro’s primary ski resort.
Besides the extraordinary landscape beauty and the fascinating geological heritage, Durmitor National Park is also home to an impressive biological diversity. At the habitat level, a rare old-growth stand of European Black Pine deserves to be mentioned. Favored by the altitudinal gradient of more than 2,000 metres and both alpine and Mediterranean climatic influences, there are more than 1,600 vascular plants in the wider Durmitor Massif. A great percentage is found in the park and many are rare and endemic species. Large mammals include Brown Bear, Grey Wolf, and European Wild Cat. Among the 130 recorded birds are Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Capercaillie. Likewise noteworthy is the rich fish fauna, which includes the endangered Danube Salmon. The park is inhabited by farmers and shepherds, traditionally using the high-altitude meadows as summer pastures. The property is well protected and its status and international recognition have helped to prevent irreparable damage from threats, such as upstream pollution and proposed dam construction.
Durmitor National Park's exceptional scenic beauty has been shaped by glaciers and rivers. The alpine meadows on plateaus and smooth hills are set against the stark backdrop of the numerous high and rugged peaks. The dense forests and the glacial lakes add to the scenic diversity and appeal. The most dramatic elements of the spectacular mountain landscape are the deep river canyons, most notably the famous Tara River Gorge, Europe's deepest gorge and one of very few unaffected by dams and roads. Even the underground offers stunning natural beauty in the form of numerous caves, most notably the “Ice Cave”, with its impressive ice stalactites and stalagmites.
Durmitor National Park harbours a wealth of geological and geomorphological features of major scientific interest which have been shaping the landscape, such as the many remarkable Karst phenomena. The dominant geological features are very thick, often savagely contorted limestone formations of the Middle and Upper Triassic, Upper Jurassic and Upper Cretaceous though more recent rocks are also present. One particularity is the so-called Durmitor Flysch, a term used for tectonic layers inclined at an angle of 90 degrees in the Durmitor Massif. The sheer walls of the many canyons, and in particular, those of the spectacular Tara River Gorge of more than sixty kilometres, are not only fundamental landscape features of the Park but also expose magnificent rock formations. Less known but no less fascinating is the underground world of the property. It includes Montenegro's deepest cave and subterranean rivers draining some of the glacial lakes. In particular, the “Ice Cave” is a visually stunning and a rare relict of past glaciation.
The diverse mountain landscape encompasses altitudinal zones ranging from only 450 to more than 2,500 metres above sea level and a broad array of ecosystems and habitats. Among these are rocky peaks, forests, alpine meadows, lakes, rivers, canyons and caves which include underground freshwater systems. Of particular importance is an old-growth forest of European Black Pine, where 400 year-old specimens can reach heights above 50 metres. Many of the roughly 700 vascular plant species are floristically of alpine and Sub-Mediterranean origin, including a rich karstic and calcareous grassland flora with many rare and endemic species. Overall, 37 plant species are reported to be endemic to the wider area and six specifically to Durmitor. Among the large mammals are predators like Brown Bear, Grey Wolf, European Wild Cat and River Otter. Some 130 bird species include birds of prey, such as Golden and Short-toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard and Peregrine Falcon but also Capercaillie and Black Grouse. The endangered Danube Salmon, under heavy pressure from overuse and dam construction elsewhere in its natural habitat, continues to live in the rivers of the park.
A small town at the foot of Durmitor Mountain, is the place where "the most beautiful cruelty of nature" attracts tourists from all over the world. Lucky for them if the flight is canceled so they can spend another day in Zabljak. Here, at 1450 meters above sea level, snow remains up to six months, and the height of the snow cover sometimes exceeds two meters.
The territory of the municipality of Žabljak covers an area of 445 km2, or 3.22% of the territory of Montenegro and it is the 15th largest out of 21 municipalities in Montenegro. The municipality of Žabljak represents a "Geographic roof" of Montenegro, since over 30% of its territory lies at an altitude above 1,500 meters. Zabljak is the highest urban settlement not only in Montenegro, but also in the Balkans. It is surrounded by 23 mountain peaks over 2,200 meters (among which Bobotov Kuk dominates with its 2,523 meters above sea level), by 18 lakes and the Tara Canyon, the deepest canyon in Europe.
The first Slav name of Žabljak was "Varezina voda" (“Vareza’s Water”), probably because of the strong source of drinking water, around which the settelment was formed. Later, the settlement was renamed as "Hanovi" (originally "Anovi"), where trade caravans were resting. The settlement was officially named Zabljak in 1870, when in a single day began the building of a church, school and captain's home. During the wars old buildings were destroyed. All that has remained is the church of Sv.Preobraženja (Holy Transfiguration), built in 1862 as a monument to a Montenegrin victory in the battle against the Turks (Ottoman Empire).
Snowball fights, sledging, skiing, snowboarding on the slopes of Durmitor Mountain, represent the part of tourism offer of this place. Ski slopes of resorts Savin kuk and Javorovača are adapted for all disciplines. The bravest rafting enthusiast go down the Tara River even in winter conditions while, in summer, rafting is inevitable activity for visitors of Žabljak.