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Balkan Road Trip - driving the Lovćen road

Often described as one of the world's most dangerous drives as well as one of the world's most scenic routes, the road between Kotor and Cetinje in Montenegro - the Lovćen road - is certainly jaw-droppingly beautiful.  As a family we love a good road trip and our journey through Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro by car, included driving over this stupendous mountain road. 

Lovcen road Montenegro picnic spot with view

It was with some trepidation that we set out from Kotor as we'd read that this "white knuckle ride" was "insanely precipitous", didn't have any safety barriers and was for the most part single lane despite being two-way.  But we live in an area with some pretty hairy mountain roads and have driven in some fairly crazy places in the world so despite a slight sense of nervousness we were definitely excited.

Lovcen road often single track

The road from Kotor Bay over Mt Lovćen, the black mountain from which the country is named ("monte" or "gora" = mountain "negro" or "crna" = black), to the ancient capital of Cetinje was built in 1879 by the Austro-Hungarians.  It involves driving around 25 hair-raising hairpin bends as it rises steeply above the bay, each switchback providing increasingly gorgeous sweeping vistas across Boka Kotorska, the Luštica peninsula, over to the Adriatic sea and on to Croatia.

Lovcen road the start

Lovcen road hairpin bends

It is these spectacular views which give you the courage to continue driving up and up as the road really is narrow and it's highly alarming passing traffic coming in the other direction, often with no form of security barrier at all.

Lovcen road Montenegro looking down on Bay of Kotor

Lovcen road looking back at Tivat airport

After a short while we found ourselves behind a bus but despite our initial disappointment at not having uninterrupted views infront of us we soon realised the advantage of being behind a large vehicle.  It ploughed on up barely giving way to oncoming traffic, making all descending cars reverse out of the way for it, while we snuck in behind.  It was with a great sigh of relief that we reached the top without having to back up for anyone!  

Lovcen road Montenegro

On the ascent we passed a couple of phenomenal picnic spots, with crazy stand-up tables and sheer drops.  I'm glad my youngest kid was 8 and not a toddler, but even so his standing on the edge gave me the willies.  

Lovcen road admiring the view

Lovcen road unusual picnic bar

We also passed a restaurant with a perilous-looking terrace and million dollar view.  It was closed so I didn't have to face my vertigo demons and have a drink there, thankfully!

Lovcen road terrace with view

There were one or two isolated houses dotted about and we wondered at how often they might just have to pop out for a forgotten litre of milk and what a drive it was to get the groceries when we also passed a number of cows ambling along.  Perhaps that's how they got their milk?

Lovcen road cows

The road finally leveled out and cut across a rocky plateau, but even here it was alarmingly built a couple of metres above the surrounding meadow resulting in a nasty drop if you were to misjudge the width when passing an oncoming car.  

Lovcen road built up high

Midway between Kotor and Cetinje at the summit of the second highest peak in the Lovćen National Park (1657m) lies one of the most revered places in Montenegro, the mausoleum of Petar II Petrović Njegoš, Montenegro's most venerated poet/philosopher.  This stark but magnificent structure sits at the top of 461 steps, guarded by two stone female giants.  Njegoš is buried deep within it beneath a massive granite sculpture of him reclining in the wings of an eagle, under a golden ceiling.

Njegos mausoleum steps up

Njegos mausoleum doorway

Njegos mausoleum inside

When we visited the site was under renovation and the steps were partially closed leaving us to scamble up a rough path at the side.  In a nod to health and safety procedures a handful of hard hats were provided which had been studiously ignored by everyone else but us.  JF, being the engineer he is and never knowingly going anywhere without a hard hat (not!) kitted out himself and the little kid much to the embarrassment of the teenager and amusement of other visitors.

Njegos mausoleum view out back

At the back of the mausoleum a path leads to a circular lookout offering remarkable views over the Lovćen National Park and most of Montenegro.

Njegos mausoleum Montenegro path to lookout

Njegos mausoleum lookout

The spectacular views are endless in every direction famously causing George Bernard Shaw to wonder "am I in paradise or on the moon?" a century ago.  I doubt much has changed since then, there are no signs of modern development or human inteference (the mausoleum aside!)

Njegos mausoleum view over mountains

Visiting the mausoleum is free and there's a restaurant perfectly placed on the side of the mountain with yet more gorgeous views.  We stopped for a drink at this one as it wasn't quite as vertiginous as the one we passed climbing up the mountain.  From the front of the mausoleum you can see right over to Lake Skadar which was the next stop on our tour of Montenegro.Njegos mausoleum restaurant

Njegos mausoleum steps down

Lake Skadar is in the far right of the picture above where you can just make out 2 tiny volcanic-looking domes (much more visible with the naked eye than in this picture!)  Njegos mausoleum view nearby

Leaving the mausoleum we continued on through the former capital of Cetinje towards Lake Skadar.  The countryside was less dramatic, no longer terrifying, rather it was bucolic, calm and peaceful, and still strikingly pretty.

Lovcen road country view

Montenegro is without doubt one of the most astonishingly beautiful places I've ever seen; my photos really do not do it justice and this road trip over the black mountain was one of the highlights in an astounding holiday.  

Have you been to Montenegro?  What are you waiting for!

 

PIN it for later!

Road trip Lovcen road in Montenegro

 

 

 
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Comments

  • Guest
    Amanda Wednesday, 10 May 2017

    Those views are amazing!! We're struggling to find a driver to take us from Dubrovnik, but I don't know if I'm confident enough to make the drive myself. It looks a bit terrifying!!

  • Guest
    Aamir Thursday, 12 January 2017

    Hey, wonderful write up and breathtaking views. Thanks :) I am planning to go this year in April. Do you think road will be open, I am not sure whether it snows in that region or not?

  • Guest
    Claudia M Sunday, 19 February 2017

    Hi! We are also going in April and have the exact question. Will the P1 road be open? Loved this write up!

  • Guest
    Sue Saturday, 07 January 2017

    Hi Catherine, can you tell me how long the drive over the mountain took? We are trying to organise what we can do in a limited stay.
    Thanks.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 07 January 2017

    Hi Sue, if I remember rightly the drive itself (Kotor-Cetinj) was about 45 km and took maybe about 90 mins without stops, but we stopped a lot for photos and then to visit the mausoleum. (PS who's Catherine? Not sure where that name came from but it made me laugh!!)

  • Guest
    Christine @afamilyday Saturday, 08 October 2016

    I was so excited when I saw the title of your post on the linky as I have been wanting to do a trip to the Balkans, mainly Montenegro for ages. The drive looks spectacular and I'm even more desparate to visit now :-) #farawayfiles

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 09 October 2016

    It's such a beautiful part of the world and so interesting historically too, you really should go Christine.

  • Guest
    Lolo Friday, 07 October 2016

    My fiance and I were just talking about how we would love to do a road trip around the Balkans!! I'll definitely be saving this for some ideas! #FarawayFiles

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 09 October 2016

    That's great Lolo, you really should go it's a stunning part of the world.

  • Guest
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) Thursday, 06 October 2016

    All I can say is 'wow' which is pretty much what everybody else has commented too! Those views are extraordinary. Such stunning photos. I think I would be quite nervous about doing this - but it really would be worth it. Thanks for introducing me to this amazing part of the world. Really delighted to have your wonderful post on our first ever #FarawayFiles

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 09 October 2016

    It really is a "wow" place, around every corner, it's just so stunning! Happy to support your new linky Clare.

  • @OregonGirlWorld
    @OregonGirlWorld Thursday, 06 October 2016

    Oh my WOW! That is such incredible scenery. I can't deny that I would probably be having panic attacks about the unrestrained and windy road though! We are heading to Croatia this month and wish we had more time to add on Montenegro - will have to dedicate another visit to the region just to that beautiful country. Thank you so much for engaging with new blog community #FarawayFiles - we are happy to have you on board! Cheers from Copenhagen!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 09 October 2016

    Croatia is amazing too, you'll have a great time. Happy to join in with your new linky.

  • Guest
    Trish Thursday, 06 October 2016

    Well thank god you did the drive and took photos so I don't have to!
    Gorgeous scenery but I think I would find it all too stressful. I would need to find a bus to follow, like you did.
    #farawayfiles

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 09 October 2016

    The bus turned out to be a godsend!

  • Guest
    Katy Thursday, 06 October 2016

    Wowee - what an amazing drive! I must admit I would probably find it a bit difficult as I have a terrible fear of heights but I would do it anyway. Those views are incredible. Eastern Europe is calling! Thanks for linking up as the first ever linker-upper on Faraway Files! You rock Phoebe :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 06 October 2016

    Happy to support you Katy, you're such a great supporter of #AAF. Eastern Europe is one of my favourite parts of the world, you must go!

  • Guest
    Laura Wednesday, 11 May 2016

    How long did the drive take you?

  • Guest
    Vlad Tuesday, 02 June 2015

    Bookmarked your post because I want to do a road trip around the Balkans next year. Your photos are gorgeous! :D

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 03 June 2015

    Great, thanks Vlad! :)

  • Guest
    Cathy (MummyTravels) Monday, 01 June 2015

    Wow! What amazing views - although I agree, I don't think I'd trust my two-year-old at the top... #mondayescapes

  • Guest
    Packing my Suitcase Monday, 01 June 2015

    Sorry, no Lou, just you :D

  • packingmysuitcase
    packingmysuitcase Monday, 01 June 2015

    WOW!! Lou you have been to some amazing places... this is stunning!!
    And this road is certainly dangerous, on top of it there are cows, oh my!
    But with these views it is totally worth it. The other day I was thinking about visiting Montenegro, seems to be a very beautiful place. I would love to drive around too.
    Beautiful photos

  • Guest
    Notmyyearoff Monday, 01 June 2015

    WOW That is an absolutely stunning place and what a brilliant adventure capturing all of those beautiful sights.

  • Guest
    Kate Monday, 01 June 2015

    Those views are just amazing though the driving does sound 'exciting'. All depends a lot on the other drivers I guess . Would love to explore those mountains though - just beautiful. #MondayEscapes

  • Guest
    ickle pickle Sunday, 17 May 2015

    WOW your photos are simply stunning, what a beautiful place. Kaz x

  • Guest
    Margherita Sunday, 17 May 2015

    Great timing! I'm thinking of going to Montenegro in the summer - would LOVE to go this road trip! Thanks for joining Weekend Travel Inspiration!

  • Guest
    Nancie Thursday, 14 May 2015

    How gorgeous! The white knuckle drive was definitely rewarded with those amazing views. Although, I think you were lucky going up behind a bus. I would not have wanted to back up on that road. Thanks for linking up last week, and sorry i have been slow in getting around:)#TPThursday

  • Guest
    Victoria@celebratetheweekend Wednesday, 13 May 2015

    gorgeous pictures! I have been on some of these scary roads and despite all the breathtaking beauty would not want to go back:) you don't always know though how scary the road is. In our trip via Tioga Pass in California we were not prepared to go through what we had to go through but luckily it was only for 15 minutes!

  • Guest
    Marisol@TravelingSolemates Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    Ugg..why do the most scenic drives always have to be so treacherous. I've been to several gorgeous and harrowing drives and I can relate to your feeling of vertiginous. But most often, they're worth the white knuckles. Your drive certainly is very spectacular. The sceneries you captured are definitely worth stopping for. I'd love to visit Montenegro someday. It's nice to hear that you found it really beuatiful. And thanks for letting me know what to expect on this Lovcen Road drive.

  • Guest
    agata Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    Oh wow! what a stunning views! I bet with roads like this (and views) driving is a pure pleasure.

  • Guest
    Mary {The World Is A Book} Sunday, 10 May 2015

    This looks like such a harrowing experience and I'm not sure my heart can take it :) But, wow..those views are just spectacular. It may just be worth it though but I'd definitely be the passenger. I love how they have turnouts and standing picnic tables. I'd love to hang out at that restaurant though. This would make me very nervous with a an active son too.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    It was harrowing at times but luckily it's not too long and the views really do make it worth it.

  • Guest
    Paula McInerney Sunday, 10 May 2015

    Wow the Lovćen road is definitely white knuckle territory. I appreciate you doing it for us and sharing the photos, because I can't see it on my agenda too soon :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    But if you ever do get the opportunity Paula you must go for it!

  • Guest
    globalmouse Sunday, 10 May 2015

    What an amazing road trip - your photos are fantastic! I am so scared of roads like this, I always have to have my eyes closed (obviously I'm not the driver!!) and then I end up missing out on views like these.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    That's so funny! Well I guess it's not really! I think I'd feel really sick going round all the bends with eyes shut.

  • Guest
    Rhonda Albom Sunday, 10 May 2015

    Wow, that is quite a road. If we did it, hubby would be driving. I wonder if I could enjoy the stunning scenery, or if my eyes would be closed up tightly. Fabulous photos. Thanks for sharing at Weekend Travel Inspiration.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    My husband drove too, I don't think I could have done it but my eyes were wide open!

  • Guest
    Ruth Sunday, 10 May 2015

    I would not hesitate to do a drive like this (my husband will have to drive though). But, I guess I would be horribly nervous. By the way, how long is the drive?

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    The good thing about how nerve-wracking it is, is that it isn't a long drive. Kotor to Cetinje is only about 45 kms though it takes a couple of hours with the slow pace and plenty of photo stops (not including a longer stop at the mausoleum).

  • Guest
    Jill Saturday, 09 May 2015

    Wow! That looks phenomenal. Love the picnic table photo!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    Thanks Jill!

  • Guest
    bettyl-NZ Saturday, 09 May 2015

    What a wonderful place to visit. Your photos are just awesome, even if the tables are a bit weird.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    Weird but photogenic don't you think?

  • Guest
    Kara Friday, 08 May 2015

    Wow, those views are spectacular - one to do when mine are older - I would be having a panic attack if they got near the edge

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    Yes I'm glad my kids weren't too young.

  • Guest
    ninjcat Thursday, 07 May 2015

    What a road trip and oh my what an awesome view

  • Guest
    Louisa Thursday, 07 May 2015

    Absolutely stunning views. Although I don't think I could brave the drive there, I get scared driving in the Welsh valleys!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    You make me chuckle Louisa!

  • Guest
    Sarah Bailey Wednesday, 06 May 2015

    Wow what an absolutely stunning place! Your pictures are amazing and make me want to go there right now!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    Thanks Sarah! :)

  • Guest
    cass Wednesday, 06 May 2015

    Your photos are absolutely stunning - such a gorgeous area x x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    Yes it really is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.

  • Guest
    angela hamilton Wednesday, 06 May 2015

    What a breathtaking place. Amazing scenery just wow wow wow

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    Wow wow wow indeed! Justified!

  • Guest
    Kate Williams Wednesday, 06 May 2015

    Wow, what amazing views! Although admitedly it made my legs go a bit weak looking at the pictures ;)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    The views were gob-smackingly gorgeous for sure.

  • Guest
    Mama Syder Wednesday, 06 May 2015

    Wow, wow, wow! What amazing scenery! It looks stunning x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    yes, for once stunning and wow are really justified!

  • Guest
    jen Wednesday, 06 May 2015

    Wow, it certainly is jaw droppingly stunning. I remember driving in South Africa on similar roads wondering what would happen if we crashed, would anyone find us!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    I always think about what would happen if we went over the edge...well I know the answer...that would be the end...it's hard to avoid thinking like that on such scarey roads, but the thing is to go slowly and try hard NOT to think of the worst!

  • Guest
    lisa Wednesday, 06 May 2015

    omg wow look at that view , if only this mummy could go too

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    Put it on your bucket list Lisa!

  • Guest
    Sam (Happyhomebird) Wednesday, 06 May 2015

    Stunningly beautiful! Oh my those views down into the valley. I could look at them for so long. Reminds me a little of when I drove the Amalfi Coast as that was so twisty turny. Edges! And that bar, best not have a few in there - eek! I'd be like that behind the bus too, ha, ha very grateful.

    How interesting about the mausoleum, I'm really into history and would be loving that. Beautiful post

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 09 May 2015

    Thank you Sam!

  • Guest
    Catherine Wednesday, 06 May 2015

    What a road and what spectacular views. How brave you were to travel this road. Is it more Scarey to drive or be driven. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 09 May 2015

    I couldn't drive it Catherine, I'd be too scared if I had to reverse back up to let another car pass.

  • Guest
    Richard Tuesday, 05 May 2015

    Do you remember driving up to Kashmir, and eventually right up to the Sonamarg Glacier hut, when you were fairly small? And also up to the top of the Rohtang Pass north of Manali (about 13,000 feet?). Those roads, in Seventies India, were pretty hairy too. Perhaps they gave you your taste for exciting motoring in modern Montenegro? But what fantastic views in your photos.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 09 May 2015

    Yes I do remember, and used to get recurring nightmares that we went off the road over the precipice. I still find mountain roads scary but not enough to avoid them. I wish I could go back to Kashmir, Manali etc.

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