The Cicerone Guide The Mountains of Montenegro is a great guide to the hiking opportunities in Montenegro, with all the main National Parks covered, plus Orjen, Komovi and the Tara Canyon.
Like most Cicerone guides, it is packed with useful information for the hiker, including an introduction to the history, geography and culture of the country as well as details of routes, access and logistics for a number of hikes of varying difficulty and length. Available as both printed volume and e-book.
Also very useful is the Bradt guide to Montenegro which incorporates information on hiking along with a broader look at the country as a whole including sightseeing in the main towns and cities, history and politics, culture and religion, car hire, accommodation, food and drink, sport and other activities and practicalities. Available as both printed volume and e-book.
As far as hiking maps go, they seem to be fairly scarce in the UK. Even map and travel book specialists Stanfords (www.stanfords.co.uk) has very few.
However, they do exist. The most likely to be available in the UK is the official 1:60,000 map of the Peaks of the Balkans route, published by Huber Kartographie. Besides that, we have picked up a copy of a Prokletije 1:50,000 hiking and biking map published by the Serbian arm of Kartographie Huber.
Both are of decent quality on good paper, but the surveying is not quite as detailed as, for example, the Ordnance Survey mapping we are used to in the UK. However, they are perfectly acceptable and at least the equivalent of much Alpine mapping.
The best plan may actually be to pick up copies from National Park and Tourist Offices in-country, and use one of the hiking guide books available in the UK (see above) to do any outline planning beforehand.
Travel Writings & Literature
As a destination, Montenegro seems not to have attracted the travel writer in quite the same way as, for example, an Albania or Croatia has done. Consequently, there is a shortage of travel writings specifically about the country: rather, it appears more frequently as part of the broader spectrum of Balkan travel writing.
However, there are some notable books that feature Montenegro. Probably the single most referenced book on the Balkans is ‘Black Lamb & Grey Falcon’ by Rebecca West. First published in 1942 and subtitled ‘A Journey Through Yugoslavia’, it is something of an epic – our copy running to some 1,200 pages of densely-packed type – during which there is ample opportunity to get under the skin of each constituent part.
The great thing about the book is that is comes as close as anything has done to crystallising the issues relating to the complex history, geography, culture and religion of the region in the pre-Tito era, although some of West’s views may well seem a bit outdated these days.
If 1,200 pages seems daunting, maybe the way to tackle it is by reading it a country at a time. It is, however, surprisingly readable, and anyone with more than a passing interest in the region will find it engrossing reading.
For me, though, the most essential read is ‘Through the Embers of Chaos’ by Dervla Murphy. In simple terms, it is the story of her bike ride through Albania and the former Yugoslavia. However, as this ride took place in the 1990s, as tensions in the area boiled over into war, the book goes much deeper than a basic travelogue.
By travelling slowly and staying with families whose tradition of hospitality had not deserted them, Murphy’s meetings and conversations illustrate the suffering faced by ordinary people on all sides, giving a voice to the unheard. Much of her ire is directed at the efforts of the International Community to police the situation; equally so at the arms manufacturers and dealers who profited from such tragedy, but ultimately it is the futility of it all that fuels the passion on every page.
Another of the classic books is Jan and Cora Gordon’s ‘Two Vagabonds in Serbia and Montenegro’ which recounts the authors’ experiences in the area in 1915. It is perhaps a little dated now, certainly in language and the “never mind, we’re British” outlook, but worth reading as a glimpse into the war-torn Balkans of the early 20th Century. Almost certainly out of print now, this may be best picked up from second-hand shops or auction sites.
‘On the Shores of the Mediterranean’ by Eric Newby also includes a Montenegrin sojourn, in particular his recollections of a stormy night in Cetinje.