Lake Skadar (Skadarsko Jezero National Park), Montenegro, Albania

The vast Skadar Lake in Montenegro and Albania is the largest lake in the Balkans. Often referred to as the heart and soul of Montenegro, Lake Skadar was once the summer residence of Montenegrin ruling families and offers spectacular landscapes that are still largely untouched by civilisation.

Lake Skadar in the south of Montenegro is a natural jewel 7 kilometres off the Adriatic coast. In Italian, Lake Skadar is also called Lake Scutari, but this is hardly known in Montenegro or Albania. Since 1983, the Montenegrin part of Lake Skadar has been under special protection as Skadarsko Jezero National Park.


Covering an area of 40,000 hectares, the national park includes not only the lake itself, but also extensive shoreline areas. As one of our top 10 sights in Montenegro, it should definitely be on your bucket list for a holiday in Montenegro!

PICTURES: Lake Skadar

Photo gallery: Skadar Lake (Skadarsko Jezero)

With an area of 550 square kilometres, Lake Skadar is slightly larger than Lake Constance at its largest extent in winter, but many times less busy. Under the warming Montenegrin sun, the lake's surface is mostly deserted.

Lake Skadar is fed by a multitude of underground tributaries from the surrounding mountains.

Flora and fauna at Lake Skadar

Lake Skadar is fed by a multitude of underground tributaries from the surrounding mountains; these cool springs prevent the lake from becoming too warm and tilting in summer, Montenegro - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

Over 250 species of birds inhabit the skies and shores of Skadarsko Jezero. About 40 species of fish can be found in Lake Skadar, 7 of which are exclusively found here. The animal highlights of Lake Skadar include one of the last pelican colonies in Europe, as well as storks, herons, sea eagles, cormorants and ibises. On land, lizards, turtles, snakes and even wild boars can be found.

On the road in Skadar Lake National Park

The first port of call for visitors is the information centre on the Vranjina peninsula. In addition to a small exhibition on the flora and fauna of Lake Skadar, a helpful map of the national park area and a fishing licence are also available here. Camping is not permitted.

Monastery Route

Under the warming Montenegrin sun, it is rare to see a boat or water sportsmen on the deep blue Skadar Lake - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

In 1233, the monastery of Sveti Nikola was built on the life-giving waters of Lake Skadar near today's Vranjina, which became the episcopal see of the newly founded diocese of the early Serbian Zeta state. Gradually, other monastery buildings followed, a total of nine in number.


After Lake Skadar was repeatedly the scene of battles, especially against the Turks, some of the monasteries were destroyed. However, some are still inhabited by nuns and monks today.

The so-called Monastery Route is one of the most fascinating panoramic roads in Montenegro. The almost 60km long route leads from Ulcinj to Virpazar and takes about 2 to 3 hours by car. Alternatively, you can cover the route by bicycle, but it is quite demanding.

Tip: The most beautiful views on the monastery route are to be had when travelling the route from south-east to north-west. If you go the other way, you should plan frequent stops to take in the panorama.


The first village you pass on the monastery route is Ostros. The village is not much to look at, not even the lake can be seen from here. However, every Wednesday there is a traditional market here: an atmospheric spectacle full of colours and scents.


View from Montenegro towards Albania over Lake Skadar, whose ecosystem is still completely intact - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

The once Albanian village on the western shore of Lake Skadar lies at the foot of the almost 1,600m high Rumija and has access to the lake. The village is hardly worth seeing, but the long, clean beach and the clear, pleasantly warm water are. There is a small restaurant on the beach and you can rent simple cabin rooms or camp.

Murići is also the starting point for excursions to the offshore islets in Lake Skadar. The island of Beška lies just opposite Murići and can also be reached by swimming. On the island of Beška you can visit the monastery church of Sveti Đorđe, which was built in the 14th century.

The island of Starčevo can be reached by boat from Murići. If you are lucky, you can visit the church there on request.


The village of Skje is almost non-existent. The access road to the old harbour pier is single-lane and steep. If you want to avoid driving back uphill in reverse gear (sometimes the fishermen park their vehicles in the middle of the road), you should tackle the last kilometre on foot. If you feel like it, you can swim here quite undisturbed.


The village of Godinje is worth seeing especially for its unique 17th century architecture typical of the Grmnica region.


In the bay off Godinje, you can make out the former tiny prison island of Grmožur, which was built by the Turks in the 19th century. The island is completely deserted today.

Tip: Godinje is home to members of the Montenegrin Wine Route!


The sleepy village of Virpazar is the tourist centre of Lake Skadar in Montenegro and Albania - © Aygul Sarvarova / Shutterstock
© Aygul Sarvarova / Shutterstock

Virpazar, a tiny village with not even 400 inhabitants, is the only "tourist" settlement on the beautiful Skadar Lake. The largest lake on the Bar spreads out on the border between Montenegro and Albania, but is still almost untouched by tourism.

PICTURES: Virpazar on Lake Skadar

Photo gallery: Virpazar on Skadar Lake

Virpazar is situated on the western shore of the lake and on the Crmnica River, which flows into the lake nearby. The backdrop of river and lake, rolling hills and lush vegetation, combined with the sparse population, is a balm for any stressed soul.

"Tourist Centre" on Lake Skadar

Virpazar's backdrop of river and lake, rolling hills and lush vegetation, combined with its sparse population, is a balm for any stressed soul, Montenegro - © Nikiforov Alexander / Shutterstock
© Nikiforov Alexander / Shutterstock

To call Virpazar a tourist centre is an exaggeration. Some of the houses have fallen into disrepair and there is hardly anything to see here. The biggest attraction is the idyllic lake and the beautiful landscape around it.

Tip: Go around Lake Skadar on the monastery route, which starts directly in Virpazar. The 60km route to Ulcinj takes about 2-3 hours by car.

Nevertheless, Virpazar is the only settlement on Lake Skadar with small guesthouses and the Virpazar Hotel, as well as a few restaurants. Since the dock was built in 1905, the tiny village has become the traffic hub of Lake Skadar. The konoba, with its sunny terrace directly on the water, is particularly inviting.

Transport hub at Skadar Lake

The vinotheque Konoba in Virpazar is particularly inviting with its sunny terrace directly on Lake Skadar, Montenegro - © Oleg Znamenskiy / Shutterstock
© Oleg Znamenskiy / Shutterstock

In summer, excursion boats start from Virpazar across the lake. The train between Belgrade and Bar also makes a stopover in Virpazar, as do buses from Podgorica or the coastal town of Sutomore. So anyone travelling to Lake Skadar by public transport will do so via Virpazar.


"Sights of Virpazar"

From Besac Castle near Virpazar, there is a magnificent view over the Crmnica River and Lake Skadar, Montenegro - © Nikiforov Alexander / Shutterstock
© Nikiforov Alexander / Shutterstock

The only noteworthy sights in the sleepy nest are the picturesque seaport and the huge war memorial at the bridge, where wooden soldiers are enthroned on a huge rock. A short hike also leads to the ruins of Besac Castle, from whose hill there is a magnificent view over Crmnica and Lake Skadar.

Fortresses on Lake Skadar

From Virpazar after the bridge over the lake is Lesondro, where the fortress of the famous poet prince Njegoš once stood enthroned, whose mausoleum is a popular excursion destination in Lovćen National Park. The fortress was built in 1843 to reinforce the border with the Ottoman Empire.

The Žabljak Crnojevića fortress north of Lesondro was once more important. Today's ruined town was once the seat of the ruling Crnojević dynasty, the dynasty that founded the then capital Cetinje after being expelled by the Turks.

Rijeka Crnojevića

View of a meander of the Rijeka Crnojevića river near Virpazar, Montenegro - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

From Virpazar, you can circle Lake Skadar even further north on a narrow track - there are always alternative routes. Fantastic views of the lake are guaranteed. The only village you pass through is the picturesque Rijeka Crnojevića in its fairytale river valley at the end of the lake.

The Rijeka Crnojevića is a picturesque river course in Montenegro, which makes its way through the lush green slopes in the north-west of Lake Skadar near Virpazar with a sluggish flow.

Following the meandering, dark blue ribbon of the river, which shimmers between moss-green water plants, you get deeper and deeper into the fairytale landscape until you reach the village of Rijeka Crnojevića. Looking at the untouched expanses, with mountain peaks dimly visible on the horizon, you think you have reached the end of the world.

Royal summer residence

View of the fairytale landscape of Rijeka Crnojevića in the northwest of Skadar Lake, Montenegro - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

But Rijeka Crnojevića is not only visited for its breathtaking scenery. It is hard to believe, but Rijeka Crnojevića was once the summer residence of the rulers from Cetinje, who established a fortress, a monastery and even the bishop's seat here in the 15th century. In the 19th century, the wonderful green valley served Prince Nikola as a hunting ground.


Stari Most

A highlight of the village is the Stari Most ("Old Bridge"), which is actually called Danilov Most after its builder Prince Danilo II. The pedestrian bridge in the centre of the village was built in 1855 by the successor of the poet prince Petar II Njegoš. If you have any interest in Montenegro's history, you have probably heard of him. By the way, his mausoleum in Lovcen National Park is well worth seeing!

The Stari Most stretches 43 metres in length in two arches over the narrow river. Incidentally, the restaurant right next to the bridge is recommended both for the view and for its fish specialities.

Tip: The Stari Most of Rijeka Crnojevića is even more beautiful at night when it is skilfully staged with the help of underwater spotlights.

View of the Rijeka Crnojevića

From the Hotel Gazidova opens a breathtaking view of a meander of the Rijeka Crnojevića around a lush green hill, which is THE showpiece of the region, Montenegro - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

Those who continue from Rijeka Crnojevića in the direction of Podgorica should once again have their camera ready. From the Gazidova Hotel, there is that breathtaking view of a meander of the river around a lush green hill that is THE showpiece of the region.


View of the fairytale landscape of Rijeka Crnojevića in the northwest of Skadar Lake, Montenegro - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

And the dreamlike views are not over yet. From the village of Karuč, which is located on the nearest "spur" of Lake Skadar after Rijeka Crnojevića, the eye can't get enough of the intense blue and green tones. The breathtaking picture of the curved river between green slopes, gentle hills and the blue sky really borders on kitsch!

Related links:

Official website of Lake Skadar in Montenegro

Recommended accommodation in Montenegro


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