Rising above the spectacular Durmitor National Park, Bobotov Kuk is the highest peak in Montenegro and once you emerge atop the craggy rocks, dripping with sweat and gasping for air, it feels like you’ve reached the top of the world – Bosnia to your left, Albania to your right and the whole of Montenegro laid out before you.
Durmitor National Park is simply full of great hikes, but climbing Bobotov Kuk is the ultimate one and certainly one of the best hikes in Montenegro.
Climbing to a lofty 2,523 m, Bobotov Kuk is a dramatic crest of white rock surrounded by lush green hills to the south and an expanse of rugged peaks and rocky outcrops to the north.
There are two main tracks to reach the summit of Bobotov Kuk – the short one which starts and ends at Sedlo, and the long option which starts and ends in Zabljak. However, best of all and the route we chose to take, is completing the trail as a through hike, starting in Sedlo and finishing in Zabljak.
Both routes are well signposted and meet at the saddle before the final ascent to the Bobotov Kuk summit.
In winter this peak is shrouded in a blanket of white snow, so don’t even think about attempting the hike at this time of year.
Distance: 10km return | Time: 4 to 5 hours
The fastest and easiest way to reach the Bobotov Kuk Summit is via the route that starts and ends in Sedlo which lies 14 km to the south of Žabljak.
This trail is 5km each way and takes you through lush grasslands and alongside lakes before you reach the gruelling climb to the saddle. This final stretch involves about an hour or so of solid and steep uphill, although the path is dirt and grass (rather than scree) which makes for an easier climb than the longer route. Be sure to take a break before setting off on the final push to the summit.
Using this route, the summit can comfortably be reached in 3 hours before returning via the same track.
At around 5 hours return, this route is still a fantastic way to see the area and makes a great option for anyone hoping for a shorter day on the mountain.
For those travelling by car, there is ample parking at Sedlo and a little desk that is set up in the morning where you will need to pay the park entry fee of €3 per person. Alternatively, you can also take a taxi to the trailhead as we did which cost €15 shared between 4 people.
Distance: 24km return | Time: 10 hours
The longest and most challenging route to the Bobotov Kuk Summit begins and ends in Žabljak. At 24km return with a long uphill slog towards the summit and far more difficult terrain, this route is, in my opinion, the least favourable option for the Bobotov Kuk hike.
Starting in Žabljak, follow the main trail out of town toward Black Lake until you reach the main signboard listing all the hikes in the area. Follow the path to the right alongside the lake from where you will be directed across a small stream and into the forest.
Don’t forget to pay the park entry fee of €3 per person on arrival at the lake.
You’ll spend some time meandering through the forest before emerging above the tree line. From here the terrain becomes more of a challenge with several sections of loose open scree which can make you feel a little more like a newborn donkey on ice rather than someone that should really have this walking thing down by now.
Even in summer, you’re also likely to encounter a few snowdrifts blanketing the track, though these tend to have a well-worn path guiding you forward from fellow hikers.
Though there are a few steep sections, the trail mostly follows a gradual incline, that is, until you reach the long and rocky final stretch to the saddle which acts as a tough final test of endurance and just seems to keep going and going.
The return hike takes around 10 hours with an ascent of over 1,000 m. I’d strongly recommend an early start and a reasonable level of fitness if you’re planning to tackle this route.
Distance: 17km return | Time: 7 hours
Taking in the absolute best of routes 1 and 2, we decided to hike Bobotov Kuk by starting in Sedlo and ending in Žabljak which I would highly recommend as the best overall option.
This route allows you to experience far more of Durmitor National Park and the stunning variety of landscapes on offer, including the vibrant green pastures of the southern side of the peak and the rugged terrain of the north, while also providing a far shorter ascent and more manageable total hiking distance.
This route makes for a fantastic day hike and is one of the best things to do in Montenegro.
For this route, you’ll need to arrange transport from Zabljak to the trailhead in Sedlo (we took a taxi which cost €15 shared between 4 people) and follow the trail as described above until you reach the saddle where all three trails meet.
Follow the final track to the summit which is just 500m (more on that below) before returning to the saddle and beginning the long descent toward Zabljak.
Although the return journey is almost all downhill, it is a far longer distance than the ascent and can be quite taxing navigating the sections of loose scree and snow so be sure to allow plenty of time to make your way back down.
That said, the scenery is particularly beautiful as you weave through the mountains here so you’ll want to allow plenty of time for photo stops along the way. Once you’ve reached the forest you’ll know you’re on the home stretch, and be sure to keep an eye out for the pretty countryside scenes as you make your way back into town.
If you’ve read even a little about climbing Bobotov Kuk, your eyes have more than likely passed over a horror story or two about the final section of the climb. These comments alone nearly deterred us from doing the walk entirely.
As Freya gets wobbly knees just from looking out a window a few stories too high, the thought of scaling unstable rock on the side of a seriously high cliff wasn’t something she was a little hesitant to sign up for.
But was it really that bad? Honestly, no.
The path does come precariously close to the edge of the cliff and you do have to scramble across some sections of open rock which can be a little sketchy at times, but we never felt seriously unsafe or considered turning back. In fact, we hopped up to the rocky top without giving it a second thought.
If you take your time and approach this section with care, this final scramble shouldn’t be a problem. The rocks are solid and there are plenty of cracks and holes where you can grasp on firmly. Some areas also have safety ropes, although we felt these were actually more of a hindrance to getting up the rock face.
For those with a serious fear of heights who are really concerned this may be a little too much for you to take, also bear in mind that this final section is only 500m of the entire trail.
If you do decide to turn back, you’ll only be missing a short section of an otherwise stunning hike through Durmitor National Park. But, if you stick it out to the top, sweaty, caked in dust and probably with a strong dose of adrenaline coursing through your veins, it really is worth it.
As Montenegro’s primary ski resort, you’ll find plenty of cosy accommodation within Žabljak, as well as a number of beautiful mountain chalets sprinkled across the countryside of Durmitor National Park. If you have your own car and don’t need to rely on public transport to get you around, you might prefer staying in one of these properties rather in town.
Unfortunately, the guesthouse I stayed at during my visit is no longer in operation, but these are my pics of where to stay in Žabljak on any budget.
Hostel Hikers Den | For budget travellers, look no further than this homely hostel located right in the heart of town which offers both dormitory and private rooms, a communal guest kitchen and a very knowledgeable owner. It also consistently takes home the prize for best hostel in Montenegro. Check here for rates and availability.
Organic Family Farm | Set in the countryside a short drive from Zabljak, this farm stay is a wonderful place to really settle into rustic country life. With a spectacular setting right beside both mountains and an alpine lake, guests also love the warm hospitality and authentic home cooking. Check rates and availability here.
Spruce Hill Village | With a stunning mountain setting just 10 minutes from both Zabljak and Sedlo, Spruce Hill Village boasts a collection of charming double-storey seld-contained chalets, each with a patio to drink in the views. Guests rave about the traditional breakfast. Check rates and availability here.
Casa di Pino Eco Lodge | For a touch of luxury, Casa di Pino is an excellent option boasting modern, comfortable rooms, friendly staff, a great breakfast and sauna to melt away those tired muscles. Located within walking distance from town. Check rates and availability here.
Be Prepared – Particularly for the long route, the hike is as much about endurance as anything else. Take plenty of food and water as there is only one spot to fill up on the way, at a small hut close to Žabljak.
Watch the Weather – Things change incredibly fast in these parts and ferocious storms are not uncommon. A day might begin with beautiful blue skies and sunshine, but by mid-afternoon there could golfball-sized hail stones rapping on the door and gail force winds blasting through town. Check the weather forecast and don’t attempt the hike if bad weather is expected.
Wear Solid Footwear – They don’t have to be state-of-the-art hiking boots, a good pair of sneakers will do just fine, but they should have good grip to tackle the stretches of open rock and scree.
Start Early – On our descent, about an hour out from Žabljak, we met a group at 2 PM, walking at a snail’s pace, who were hoping to make it to the top. Unless they were about to break into a walk with a little more vigour, they would be climbing across the dangerously high rock face in the pitch dark. If you are doing either route ending in Žabljak, leave early enough to complete the walk in at least 10 hours.