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Virpazar: A Comprehensive Guide to Montenegro’s Best-Kept Secret (2024)


Nestled on the shores of the expansive and breathtaking Lake Skadar, Virpazar is a charming yet often overlooked destination in Montenegro waiting to be explored. Despite being small in size, this picturesque town boasts abundant natural beauty, a rich history, and a fascinating and diverse cultural heritage.

Virpazar is a destination that appeals to travellers seeking a brief escape or an extended adventure. Whether you have just a day to spare or an entire week to immerse yourself in its charms, Virpazar offers many experiences.

Spend a leisurely day cruising the serene waters of Lake Skadar on a boat tour, or embark on a week-long journey filled with hiking expeditions, cultural explorations, and culinary delights. With its captivating scenery, rich history, and vibrant culture, Virpazar invites visitors to tailor their experience to their desires, ensuring that every moment spent in this enchanting town is one to be cherished.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or a history fan, Virpazar promises an unforgettable experience filled with exploration and wonder.

How to get to Virpazar: A journey worth taking

If you plan to travel to Virpazar, consider your transportation options. This charming town is located between the Montenegrin coastline and the capital city of Podgorica. It can be easily accessed by car, bus, or train. Whether you’re arriving from Podgorica, the capital, or Budva, a popular coastal destination, reaching Virpazar is a breeze, thanks to well-connected road networks and efficient transportation options.

Convenient transportation options make reaching Virpazar a breeze, allowing travellers to easily access this hidden gem nestled along the shores of Lake Skadar. For those seeking an affordable and scenic journey, hopping aboard a train presents an excellent option. Trains departing from Podgorica or Bar offer budget-friendly transportation to Virpazar, with tickets priced under 3€. Travellers from Sutomore can also opt for train travel, adding another convenient route to reach this charming destination. To plan your journey efficiently, you can check the train timetable here.

Alternatively, bus travel provides a flexible and accessible mode of transportation to Virpazar, catering to short and long-distance journeys. Buses departing from Podgorica or Sutomore offer direct routes through Virpazar, ensuring hassle-free travel for visitors from various destinations. You can find bus timetables here.

It’s worth noting that longer-distance buses, such as those travelling from Ulcinj or Bar towards Podgorica, also make stops in Virpazar. However, due to the town’s small size, it’s essential to inform the bus driver of your intended stop to avoid being bypassed. Look for the modest “bus stop” shed along the roadside, across the railway tracks from Hotel Pelikan, where travellers can embark or disembark from buses.

Whether arriving by train or bus, planning your journey to coincide with daytime hours is advisable. This allows for optimal visibility and ease of navigation upon arrival. With convenient transportation options and straightforward accessibility, reaching Virpazar is just the beginning of an unforgettable adventure in Montenegro’s hidden gem.

What to do in Virpazar: Discovering the charms

If you plan to visit Virpazar, you’re in for a treat! This charming town has much to offer, and you would want to experience its attractions. To make the most of your visit, we have prepared a detailed guide to help you explore Virpazar’s captivating atmosphere and enjoy everything it offers. So, get ready to immerse yourself in the town’s beauty and discover its hidden gems with our expert tips and recommendations.

Start with a short walk: Visit Besac Fortress and the July 13 Uprising Memorial

Upon arriving in Virpazar, I recommend beginning your exploration with a walk across the old bridge, passing by the July 13 Uprising Memorial. This striking bronze sculpture atop a watchtower pays homage to Montenegro’s rich heritage and the courageous acts of the Partisans during World War II. Take a moment to admire the memorial and reflect on the resilience of the Montenegrin people while enjoying panoramic views of Virpazar.

After passing the memorial, continue your journey by strolling towards the ancient Besac Fortress. This ancient stronghold, constructed by the Turks in 1478, stands proudly atop a hill, offering commanding views of Virpazar and its surroundings. Within the walls of Besac Fortress, delve into centuries of Montenegrin history, gaining insight into the region’s turbulent past.

Next on the list: Virpazar boat cruises & kayak tours

Embarking on a boat tour from Virpazar to explore Lake Skadar promises unforgettable memories and a deep connection with Montenegro’s natural wonders. The town sits at the heart of the Balkans, serving as a gateway and an integral part of the Lake Skadar experience.

Virpazar’s accessibility is unmatched, making it the perfect starting point for your Skadar Lake adventure. Moreover, Virpazar’s strategic location offers unparalleled views of Lake Skadar’s breathtaking landscapes. As you set sail from the town’s harbour, you’re immediately greeted by a panorama of rugged mountains cloaked in verdant greenery, their reflection shimmering in the calm, azure waters below. The sight of traditional wooden fishing boats bobbing gently against the backdrop of dramatic cliffs creates a scene from a postcard.

Once aboard your boat or kayak, Lake Skadar’s enchanting charm reveals itself in all its splendour. Whether you opt for a short one-hour cruise or an immersive five-hour journey, each tour promises an unforgettable experience, celebrating the region’s natural beauty. The renowned three-hour trip to Monastery Kom offers a perfect blend of relaxation and exploration, where you’ll encounter captivating sights, from swaying lily pads to enticing secluded islands. Private boat or kayak cruises offer tailored experiences for those craving a more intimate adventure, whether you’re a birdwatcher spotting rare species or an angler testing your skills. Guided by knowledgeable locals, you’ll uncover hidden treasures and pristine coves, creating memories to cherish for a lifetime.

Looking for a longer walk: Visit the Godinje Viewpoint

For beginner hikers looking to explore the stunning surroundings of Virpazar, the hike to Godinje Viewpoint offers an accessible and rewarding experience. Just a 5-minute drive or a leisurely 35-minute walk from the city centre, this hike boasts beautiful views and easy access.

Once you arrive at Godinje Vidikovac, you’ll find a bench to sit on and soak in the breathtaking scenery. From this vantage point, you can admire the pristine beauty of Lake Skadar and have a nice view of Montenegrin Alcatraz (Grmožur). You’ll also gain insight into the origins of Montenegro’s name, which translates to “black mountain.”

Hike the beautiful Virpazar surroundings: The Mijela trail

The Mijela trail presents an exciting opportunity for those ready to delve deeper into the natural wonders surrounding Virpazar. Despite its stunning views, the Mijela trail offers a moderately challenging hike with steady footing suitable for hikers of all levels. Along the way, you’ll encounter remnants of ancient settlements, including Byzantine tombs from the early Middle Ages and various archaeological treasures, adding a layer of historical intrigue to your journey.

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Starting from Virpazar, follow the narrow asphalt road towards Godinje until you reach the intersection of the old road to the town of Bar, known as Mijela.From here, a narrow path descends steeply to the left, leading you towards the tranquil shores of the lake. As you traverse the trail, you’ll encounter fascinating quarries, lush maquis vegetation, and serene groves of pine and cypress trees. Along the way, take advantage of the opportunity to admire the stunning viewpoints overlooking the glistening expanse of Lake Skadar.

Continuing through the forest, you’ll ascend a steeper hill to reach the Mijela passage, where panoramic vistas await. As you return to Virpazar on a leisurely stroll along the narrow asphalt road, be sure to soak in the picturesque scenery surrounding you.

Ideal for families, the Mijela trail features beautiful resting points and natural adventure playgrounds, complete with small streams, meadows, forests, and intriguing rock formations. Whether seeking a peaceful nature walk or an immersive outdoor experience, this trail promises to captivate and inspire with its natural beauty and historical significance. To explore more hiking routes, please click here.

Virpazar: Culinary delights and friday market

Allow yourself to be transported by the rich flavours of authentic Montenegrin cuisine. Each bite is a testament to centuries of culinary tradition and the warm hospitality of the local community.

Virpazar beckons with its charming restaurants, inviting you to savour the fresh fish sourced directly from the pristine waters of Lake Skadar. But the culinary adventure continues beyond there. Venture into the town’s vibrant cultural scene as you meander through its quaint streets adorned with traditional stone houses and bustling market stalls.

Every Friday, the market comes alive with a delightful array of local produce from nearby villages. Here, you can indulge in the finest offerings, including savoury goat cheese, handcrafted by skilled artisans, and flavoured olives. These culinary treasures add depth and richness to your dining experience, complementing the succulent lake trout, flavorful carp, and renowned Crmnica wines that await you in Virpazar’s cosy eateries.

Explore Godinje: A Wine Lover’s Paradise

Just a stone’s throw away from Virpazar, the enchanting village of Godinje awaits. It is a haven for wine enthusiasts seeking to immerse themselves in the rich flavours of local wines amidst idyllic countryside surroundings.

As you meander through the charming cluster of stone houses and verdant vineyards, indulge in the opportunity to sample exquisite wines from the region’s esteemed wineries. Let yourself be enraptured by the serene beauty of Godinje, where the essence of time seems to pause amidst rolling hills and picturesque landscapes.

Situated in Crmnica, an area with a winemaking tradition spanning over 500 years, Godinje is a testament to Montenegro’s viticultural heritage. This quaint village holds a wealth of historical significance, with written records dating back to the 13th century and remnants of the Balšić dynasty from the 15th century still visible today.

Godinje’s architectural charm is characterised by its traditional stone houses adorned with vaults and taverns reminiscent of medieval fortified settlements. The village’s compact layout, with dwellings nestled closely together, evokes a sense of antiquity, complete with walls boasting loopholes up to one meter thick.

While these houses have been adapted to modern living standards, they have retained much of their original form and appearance. They delight aficionados of traditional architecture and pristine nature and connoisseurs of top-quality Crmnica wine.

Planning your visit to Virpazar: Tips and Recommendations

Before embarking on your Virpazar journey, here are some essential tips and recommendations to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience:

Travel logistics:
  • Plan your arrival in Virpazar around check-in time to maximise your stay. Be mindful of potential delays, especially during peak seasons.
  • Consider various transportation options, including buses, trains, or driving. Remember that roads may be busy, so allocate extra time for travel.
  • For added convenience, consider flying to nearby airports such as Podgorica or Dubrovnik. From there, you can easily arrange transportation to Virpazar.
Accommodation in Virpazar: 
  • Choose accommodation that aligns with your preferences and budget. Options range from charming guesthouses and rooms suitable for solo and on-budget travellers to luxurious lakeside villas.
  • It’s advisable to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak seasons, to secure your desired lodging and take advantage of early booking discounts.
  • Research different accommodation options to find special offers or package deals that include activities or meals, enhancing your overall experience.
What to bring:
  • Pack essentials for outdoor excursions, including sunscreen, comfortable walking shoes suitable for various terrains, and a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated.
  • Remember your camera or smartphone to capture the stunning landscapes and memorable moments throughout your journey.
  • Consider bringing a daypack for shorter hikes or excursions, with snacks, a map, and any necessary medication.
Local customs:
  • Immerse yourself in the local culture by learning basic greetings such as “Dobar dan” (good day) and respecting local customs and traditions. While many locals in Virpazar speak English, learning a few basic phrases in Montenegrin, such as “hvala” (thank you) and “molim” (please), can enhance your interactions and show respect for the local language and culture.
  • Engage with the community by visiting local markets, attending cultural events, or participating in traditional activities to gain insight into Montenegrin heritage.
  • When visiting religious sites or historic landmarks, dress modestly and adhere to any guidelines or rules outlined by local authorities.
Safety precautions:
  • Prioritise safety when engaging in outdoor activities by following guidelines provided by experienced guides or tour operators.
  • Be cautious when hiking or exploring rugged terrain, and always inform someone of your plans before setting out on an adventure.
  • Respect wildlife and natural habitats by observing animals from a safe distance and refraining from littering or damaging the environment.
Weather:
  • Check the weather forecast before your trip and pack accordingly, especially if you plan to engage in outdoor activities. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather, particularly in mountainous areas.
ATM availability and payment methods:
  • While there is an ATM in Virpazar, it’s important to note that it can occasionally run out of cash, especially during peak tourist seasons. To avoid inconvenience, ensure you have sufficient money for your expenses.
  • Since shops and restaurants in Virpazar may not accept credit cards, bringing cash for your purchases and meals is advisable.
  • Alternative ATM locations in nearby towns can be found for additional cash. Sutomore, located on the coast, is a 20-minute train ride away and offers ATM facilities. Golubovci, situated a 15-minute bus ride toward the capital Podgorica, also provides ATM services.
Environmental responsibility:
  • Respect the natural beauty of Virpazar and Lake Skadar National Park by minimising your ecological impact. Dispose of waste responsibly and avoid disturbing wildlife or natural habitats during your explorations.
Health and medical considerations:
  • There is no pharmacy in Virpazar, so it’s essential to plan accordingly for any medical needs during your stay.
  • Carry any necessary medications or prescriptions with you, taking into account the duration of your stay and potential medical needs.
  • Familiarise yourself with the location of nearby pharmacies or medical facilities in surrounding towns or cities, such as Sutomore or Podgorica, in case of emergencies or unexpected health issues.
Photography etiquette:
  • When taking photographs, respect the privacy of locals and seek permission before capturing images of individuals or private property.
  • Avoid using flash photography in sensitive environments such as churches or historic sites. When documenting your journey, be mindful of cultural sensitivities.

Whether you’re drawn to the tranquillity of a boat cruise on Lake Skadar, hiking through lush landscapes, or indulging in Montenegrin cuisine, Virpazar offers something for every traveller. Allow yourself to be swept away by the charm of this enchanting town and the warmth of its welcoming inhabitants.

As you bid farewell to Virpazar, take memories captured in photographs and the intangible essence of this unique destination. Let the spirit of Virpazar linger within you, inspiring future adventures and reminding you of the beauty that awaits when you dare to explore off the beaten path.

In Virpazar, the journey is not merely a means to an end but a destination, where every moment is infused with wonder and possibility. So, as you set out to discover this hidden gem, embrace the unknown, savour the experiences, and let the magic of Virpazar captivate your soul.

Kingfisherly,

Milica Vujošević

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© Milica Vujošević | Kingfisher, 2023. Unauthorized use and/or reproduction of this material without written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Parts of the text and links may be used, provided full and clear credit is given to Milica Vujošević and Kingfisher, with appropriate and specific reference to the original content.