Montenegro Express (4 of 4): Northern Highlands

For as undeniably beautiful as the Montenegrin coastline is, the country’s most scenic vistas may well be hidden away in the mountainous northwest and within the sweeping canyons of the eastern highlands. During the summer months, mist-shrouded peaks of The Durmitor overlook some of the most pristine countryside in the region, providing nature enthusiasts with breathtaking overlooks along hundreds of miles of hiking trails. In the winter, skiers can find a ready supply of outdoor activities and pristine powder on the slopes near Zabljak and Kolasin.

Northwestern Montenegro
105mm @ 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 100

The eastern highlands boast similarly enticing activities for adventurous souls. Within Tara River Canyon (Europe’s deepest gorge) churns some of the continent’s most thrilling whitewater, making rafting a major draw for locals and tourists alike. Nearby Biogradska Gora national park shelters the largest old-growth forest in Europe and an awe-inspiring glacial lake (below).

Verdant Forest
5-frame HDR @ 14mm, f/3.5, ISO 640

The mountains’ numerous other offerings include, but are not limited to, cliff-side monasteries, delicious artisanal cuisine, quaint historic villages and friendly locals that treat visitors like honored guests. Thus, in a country blessed with myriad natural marvels, the mountainous north stands out for its unspoiled magnificence and cultural treasures. The following photos convey only a fraction of the wonder that this region inspires but should at least serve as a primer for better understanding Montenegro’s best kept secret.

Despite its cliffside redoubt, Ostrog monastery is one of the most popular destinations for Orthodox pilgrims, many of whom make the harrowing journey up the mountainside to the chapel barefoot to prove their piety and atone for sins.

Ostrog Monastery
5-frame HDR @ 185mm, f/4, ISO 100

A closer look at Ostrog monastery shows how the upper church has been built into the face of the mountain.

Monochrome Ostrog
95mm @ 1/1600, f/2.8, ISO 100

A pilgrim prays at an altar carved into the mountain in Ostrog’s lower church.

Pilgrim's Refuge
14mm @ 1/50, f/2.8, ISO 1600

Three rafters tackle whitewater rapids inside the Tara River Canyon near Pljevlja.

Tara River Whitewater Rafting
300mm @ 1/640, f/2.8, ISO 800

Frigid glacial meltwater carves its way through the Tara River valley like a turquoise ribbon.

Turquoise River
42mm @ 1/400, f/4, ISO 800

Đurđevića Tara Bridge spans the Tara river between the villages of Budečevica and Trešnjica.

Đurđevića Tara Bridge
5-frame HDR @ 70mm, f/3.2, ISO 800

The main roadway winding along the Tara River Canyon between Montenegro and Serbia is notoriously perilous. Rock falls, narrow shoulders and limited safety barriers between drivers and deadly plunges into the gorge below make for a harrowing journey.

Tara River Canyon Road
5-frame HDR @ 34mm, f/2.8, ISO 200

Rich pastureland dominates the foothills of Montenegro’s northwest region.

Montenegrin Pastureland
5-frame HDR @ 105mm f/7.1, ISO 100

A shepherd tends to his flock in a pasture near Durmitor National Park.

Shepherd's Flock
5-frame HDR @ 300mm, f/8, ISO 800

A thick veil of fog obscures The Durmitor’s peaks high above Valovito Lake, which sits some 1,695 meters above sea level.

Valovito Jezero
24mm @ 1/1000, f/2.8, ISO 400

A lonely skiff rests atop the crystal waters of Crno Jezero (Black Lake), a glacial lake in Durmitor National Park.

Glacier Lake
5-frame HDR @ 20mm, f/3.5, ISO 100

Check out all the high-resolution photos from my trip to Montenegro in my album on Flickr

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