Have you ever made a trip along the western shore of Skadar Lake? I believe that it is one of its most fascinating sections. Indeed, the road between Virpazar and Murići, which turns further inland to Ostros and then descends to Ulcinj, is narrow, winding and often steep. There is no public transport, so you will need your own car. But you will be awarded with spectacular panoramas, picturesque monasteries and churches, solitary islands and authentic little villages (photo 1).
The first warm and sunny day in March was an ideal opportunity for us to explore this magnificent and still unknown part of Montenegro. Leaving Virpazar, we kept left and climbed steadily along the shore. After a while, we passed the historic settlement of Godinje (this authentic village will be the topic of my next blog post!) and the road became narrower and steeper, offering us magnificent views of the Lake and its little islets.
Grmožur, the stony island in the bay of Godinje that was once infamous as a prison during King Nikola’s reign, looked like a fairy tale castle (photo 2). The story goes that no one who was able to swim could be locked up here. And if somebody did succeed in escaping, his custodian was condemned to serve out the prisoner’s sentence. It is told that only two prisoners made it, using a prison door as a raft.
Several villages on the western and southern shores of Skadar Lake have a strong Albanian character; their inhabitants are Muslim or catholic. In the village of Šestan we found a beautiful old bell tower (photo 3) and a simple catholic church, built instead of the old ruined one. Just follow the signpost to Karanikići, downhill on the left side of the road: it is a wonderful place!
The Starčevo monastery, founded in 1377, is located on the island of Starčevo, lying just off the shore opposite to the village of Djuravci. From the road we had a great view of a small church in the shade of beautiful cypresses, surrounded by an old stone wall (photo 3).
But the goal of our day trip was Donji Murići. The view from the road, high above the village, was unique. We could see the pebbly beach, the numerous olive groves, the calm blue waters of the Lake and the high mountains on the Albanian side. And close to the shore we discovered the island of Beška with its beautiful 14th century monastery.
We descended the steep road to the shore, as we had the intention to make a hiking tour around the village. A nice 7 km trek was described in the Skadar Lake map, issued by the National Park, but apart from the signpost for the start of the trail near the visitor center (now closed), there were no other red-white marks (or maybe we could not find them).
Never mind! We found our own way, walking along the beach (photo 4) in front of the tourist settlement “Izletište”. In the season (May-September), this settlement offers accommodation in the form of wooden bungalows, a small camping area and a large restaurant. The view from the lake-side terrace is magnificent!
We continued our hike uphill over stone footpaths through the well-maintained olive groves (photo 5) and then turned left through the center of the sleepy village that is dominated by a white mosque. A friendly old man came our way and greeted us cordially. His donkey was stumbling under the heavy load of a few big logs (photo 6).
Climbing further to the rocky area above the village, we found a perfect picnic place. Sitting in the sun on a big rock with our sandwich, listening to the bleating of sheep and with a spectacular view of the Lake, we felt, once more, the magic of Montenegro…