Accursed Mountains and the Lake of Happiness hikes are two more beautiful excursions into remote areas of northeastern Montenegro. Both hikes are in the highlands of Prokletije National Park, the southernmost and highest part of the Dinaric Alps, Like all of the hikes in the series, the starting point each day was a base in a rural location high up in the mountains.
[This post is part five of a six part story about hiking and beer culture travels in Montenegro. Click here to view an index of the articles published to date. Subscribe or follow on Facebook to receive additional installments]
All of these hikes in Montenegro could be challenging in my book — I was humbled more than once by yet another long, steep, uphill jaunt. At the same time, they all offered different environments, viewscapes, and charms. These are all located in very remote places, so they are, with few exceptions, the kind of beer hikes where the beer waits chilling for you at the end of the hike at basecamp. In these rural areas, Nicsicko seems to be the dominant beer brand.
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Prokletije (Accursed Mountains) Hike
Prokletije National Park encompasses a mountainous area of northeast Montenegro. Prokletije can be translated as “Accursed Mountains” and are a sub-range of the Dinarica Alps that straddles the borders of Montenegro, Albania, and Kosovo. The “accursed” label doesn’t refer to any curse or hex as far as I can tell — it is probably more about the terrain being so wild and difficult to travel through. These mountains are gorgeous and spectacularly scenic.
Although there are many hikes in the Prokletije, this one involves a 2300 foot (700m) ascent to a summit called Volusnica which tops out at 6165 feet (1879m). The hike begins in the Grebaje Valley (Dolina Grebjaje) at Karanfil Katun, a small settlement with an impressive view to the Karanfil Peaks. The trail ascends immediately and passes through thick beech forest before reaching a huge bowl of alpine pasture surrounded by Volusnica, Talijanka (2056m), and Popadija (2057m) peaks on a curving ridgeline above. The path cuts through the bowl and climbs steeply to the summit of Volusnica. From there you have spectacular views of the Karanfili peaks and into Albania. I continued around the trail on the ridgeline for a while before dropping back into the bowl and forest below for the hike back to the settlement and a well-deserved beer.
Hridsko Lake Hike
In Montenegrin, a “hrid” is a craggy rock so I have to stay that Hridsko Jezero (lake) is appropriately named. This lake is also known as The Lake of Happiness and Fairy Lake. Legend has it that this lake was made by the Gods for use by fairies – its remoteness provided a place for the fairies to bathe away from the eyes of mortal men. According to local lore, taking a dip in the cold waters will give you health and happiness in your marriage. Supposedly, you can toss a coin or piece of jewelry into the lake and make a wish — I didn’t litter, but I did wish for a cold beer after the hike and my wish came true.
The hike begins at Bajrovic Katun and steadily climbs a photogenic path through mostly dense pine and spruce forest with lush vegetation on the forest floor. The glacial lake is not huge (1000 feet long and 500 feet wide) and I walked to the other side for a view back to the Bogićevića massif. We had a great sunset on the return trip and a big meal with “real” Czech Budweiser to cap the day.