Amazing Valleys of Prokletije!

Amazing Valleys of Prokletije!

Hiking dates: 21. – 22. September 2016

The reason why Prokletije are marked as one of the last undiscovered places in Europe may, at least to some extent, lies in its not so convenient accessibility. Montenegro is the country without a single meter of a highway and there are two roads lead to this spectacular mountain range if you are coming from the capital of Podgorica. One, shorter by distance but more exhausting, since the quality of the road is poor and terrain mountainous. We used this one to reach Prokletije. It goes over Kolasin and Tresnjevik to Andrijevica and this part of the road is particularly tricky since you are forced driving approximately 40 kph during most of the distance. The second one that we used for going back goes over Berane, and even though is 50km longer it is more pleasant for driving and takes less time. Regardless of the chosen option you will need approximately three and a half hours to reach Gusinje (small city closest to Prokletije mountain range, located just 5 km north from Rapojana Valley and 7 km north-east from Grebaja Valley). It is almost unbelievable how the country did not recognize potential of this unique place and did something to promote it and make it easy for the tourist to come, spend time and enjoy in what is officially recognized as fifth National Park in Montenegro (as of 2009). Montenegro is the fourth European country by percentage of protected area (7,9% of total country area). Only Iceland, France and UK have higher protected areas in relations to a total territory.

National Park Prokletije
National Park Prokletije

According to the legend name Prokletije (Cursed Mountain) was given based on a story of three brothers who lived poorly beneath the mountain range and every day went into the mountain for hunting. One day they saw a fairy and immediately were captivated by her astonishing beauty. While fighting each other over her heart all three lost their lives. After few days of searching for her children, a mother was visited by the fairy who told her what happened with her sons. Devastated mother cursed the fairy and entire mountain range was named after her.

Prokletije (Cursed Mountain) - name given by the legend
Prokletije (Cursed Mountain)

We only have two days at disposable so we want to be as efficient as possible and see the mountain’s most beautiful highlights. A good friend from this area who knows the mountain well advised us that for the first time we should focus on two valleys, Rapojana and Grebaja. That’s exactly what we did! The weather forecast was not so promising since rain was announced for the first day and additionally, gigantic mountains like Prokletije have its own microclimate, which usually means that if there are clouds anywhere near the mountain they will be easily attracted. So, even though a little skeptical we were also excited at the same time since this means that Prokletije’s (Cursed Moutain) drama will be even more enhanced by weather itself, which ultimately means that we are going to create some pretty much compelling and astonishing photos. Adrenalin kicks in and as we parked the car at the very entrance in Rapojana Valley this is the first scenery we saw.

Entrance in Rapojana Valley in the Naitional Park of Prokletije
Entrance in Rapojana Valley

I have only see the Alps from the distance and on photos, but there it was, right in front of me, incredible resemblance, standing, the most beautiful wallpaper sceneries, just a couple of hours driving from home and yet it took me over 30 years to discover it. This is not something that I am proud of. Only later I learned that Prokletije are also called as “Southern Alps of Europe”. Rapojana Valley is incredibly beautiful! On the very entrance on the right side od the Valley you can see waterfall Grlja, just 50 meters from the restaurant. The route goes further in the valley following the right bank of the river Skakavica. The river spring known as Oko Skakavice (Eye of Skakavica) is a must see place in Rapojana Valley. You will reach it after 1.5 km of a walk from the waterfall. The name was given because of its shape and crystal clear blue color. It is deep 8 meters and the water is so cold (around 5 degrees celsius) that you need to warm it up in order to drink it.

As we are living Rapojana Valley we are already overwhelmed with a feeling of satisfaction and had a sense of fear that we already saw the best of Prokletije and that remaining part would not be so compelling. But we were wrong. The rain was falling while we were approaching our next station – Grebaja Valley, equally imposing and spectacular! Grassy field surrounded by 600-meter tall “walls” gives a sense of extraordinary calmness and security. This is just a perfect place to play “Peace” by Paul Kelly.

Entrance to Grebaja Valley in the National Park of Prokletije
Grebaja Valley Entrance

In the morning we had a breakfast and short thinking on what to do on our second and the last day here at least for this time. Weather is still not so favorable but we decide to give it a try and went on hiking while the clouds were still wrapping up all the peaks above Grebaja Valley. The majority of the Prokletije hiking routes starts from this point. So if you are planning to try more of them during the same visit than it is a good idea to stay at one of two eco-villages in the Valley. We choose to climb Volusnica (1879m). Volusnica is an entry level route when it comes to hiking on Prokletije. It does not require any special technical skills and if you are in some average hiking shape you will be able to do it without a problem. The first half of route goes through beech forest, after which you reach meadow and start second, slightly heavier part of the route over steep sides of Volusnica. But as previously said nothing to worry about. After 4km of hiking, we reached the top. It took us 2 hours including breaks for taking photos. From Volusnica is the best view on Karanfili peak (Carnation Peak). Also, several other peaks are clearly visible like Karaula, Talijanka, Popadija and also Valley of Plav and Gusinje in the distance.

While we were going down clouds were going up leaving Grebaja Valley entirely visible for the first time since our arrival.

Grebaja Valley in the National Park of Prokletije
Grebaja Valley

Prokletije are the perfect weekend getaway. Pack up your things on Friday after work and set out to “Southern Alps of Europe”! Recently a new road was opened through Albania, which significantly reduces the amount of time needed to reach Prokletije. Even though you need to cross border two times in order to come to Gusinje it is still more convenient than to go around.

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