Even back when we first decided to visit Montenegro, we knew that a visit to Lake Skadar would be a must. For one, it’s only a short 30 minute drive from Podgorica’s city center. This allows us to get all the benefits of staying in a fun city, while still being able to easily escape to nature for a day.
Lake Skadar is also the largest lake in the Balkans, and one of the largest lakes in all of Europe. Yet it is still relatively unvisited by tourists, since it borders Montenegro and Albania–two countries whose tourism industries are still in the early stages.
The lack of significant tourism is actually a very good thing for Lake Skadar visitors. We barely even passed other boats while we were out on the lake! We pretty much had the place to ourselves. Ahhh, peace and quiet.
Our experience at Lake Skadar was incredible, and we would recommend it to anyone traveling in Montenegro or Albania. We even got to see two endangered pelicans, as well as many other foreign-looking bird species. Lake Skadar is actually home to over 250 different bird species, so it’s no wonder this national park earned protected land status.
About Lake Skadar
Lake Skadar is a beautiful lake located on the border of Montenegro and Albania. About 2/3 of the lake is located in Montenegro, and the southern 1/3 is located in Albania. The largest lake in the Balkans, Lake Skadar is a popular place for boat rides, kayaking and nature watching.
In 1968, Lake Skadar was established as a national park to help protect the lake and its shoreline. The size of the lake varies depending on the season, but it generally ranges from 530 to 370 square kilometers. Entry to the park costs 4 euros per person.
Birds of Lake Skadar
There are over 250 different types of birds that inhabit Lake Skadar. And of these species, about 90% are migratory and don’t stay in Lake Skadar all year round. We saw a bunch of different bird types during our time on the lake, and it was really amazing! Many of them have colorful feathers on their head, some of them appear to run across the water, and others dive underwater for extended periods of time.
Among the birds that live on Lake Skadar is the endangered pelican. The pelican population initially began dropping because of fluctuations in the water level. Lake Skadar’s waters rise and recede throughout the year, and pelican nests are smothered when they lay their nest in the water and then the water level changes.
To help promote the stability of the pelican population, the park service created floating islands in the northern area of the lake. This allows the pelicans to nest without being effected by the rising and receding waters.
Boat Trips, Tours & Kayaking
One of the best ways to enjoy Lake Skadar is on a boat tour across the water. We arranged a boat tour through Boat Milica, an awesome boating company located in the town of Virpazar, Montenegro. Since Virpazar is right on the water, that’s usually the best place to start your day in Lake Skadar.
The boat tour with Boat Milica was awesome, because it’s on a boat with a shaded cover so you can avoid too much direct sunlight. The tour takes you to a bunch of great parts of the lake, pointing out historical sights along the way. At the end, you are dropped off in the small fishing village of Rijeka Crnojevića.
Kayaking is also a great way to enjoy the lake. However, since the lake is so large, you likely won’t see as much of it if you are kayaking. That being said, it’s a great way to explore the lake in peace and quiet. Boat Milica also offers kayaking rentals, so feel free to reach out if that is something you are interested in.
We were hoping to go swimming in Lake Skadar since it was a hot summer day, but it didn’t end up happening. Swimming probably wouldn’t be the best idea in Lake Skadar. This is because the water is very shallow in a lot of places, plus there are tons of plants growing on the surface. The water is best enjoyed from the confines of a boat.
Historical Sights on Lake Skadar
There are numerous historical sights located on the shore and islands of Lake Skadar. During a boat tour, your captain would point all these out to you and explain the historical significance. Here are a few of the highlights from our boat tour:
- Kom Monastery: This Serbian Orthodox monastery is the only monastery of Lake Skadar that hasn’t been destroyed. It is located on a tiny island in the middle of the lake. You can barely see it as the boat passes by, since it’s set so far back from the shore.
- Žabljak Crnojevića: This abandoned medieval fortress was one of the coolest historical sights we saw on Lake Skadar. While most of the fortress has disintegrated, the foundation is still there and can be seen clearly from a passing boat. It is believed to have been built during the 10th century!
- Besac Castle: Located in the town of Virpazar, the Besac Castle was originally built by the Turks in 1478. Many bloody battles were fought here, and it was even used as a prison by Italians during WWII.
Transportation to Lake Skadar
A day trip to Lake Skadar is very accessible for anyone staying in Podgorica or Kotor, because it is located between these two cities. To arrive at Lake Skadar, you have a couple of transportation options.
- Driving: If you have your own car or you rented a car, arriving at Lake Skadar should be fairly straight forward. There is plenty of parking located in Virpazar, the main area where boating tours start from. The drive should take about 30 minutes from Podgorica, and about an hour from Kotor.
- Take the bus: We took a bus from Podgorica to Virpazar (the town on the lake), and it only took 30 minutes and cost 2.50 euros per ticket. You can purchase your ticket in the Podgorica bus station. Just make sure to check the bus schedule ahead of time.
- Take the train: If you are staying in Podgorica, you have the option of taking the train to Virpazar. The train station is right next to the bus station in Podgorica, so you can check what is most convenient when you arrive.
The small fishing village of Virpazar is a main area for boating tours on Lake Skadar. There are many restaurants, cafes, shops, and beautiful views of the lake. We recommend leaving time to exploring Virpazar before your boat tour, since it is a beautiful little town with lots of history.
Lake Skadar is a must see for anyone visiting Montenegro or Albania. This beautiful lake is full of natural beauty as well as rich history. We loved taking in all the beautiful sights, while learning about the history in the area.
If you decide to plan a trip to Lake Skadar, don’t forget to schedule your boat tour with Boat Milica! They were an awesome trip organizer and we can’t recommend them enough.
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