Travelling to Montenegro? Here’s how to hike to the edge of the Tara Canyon – Europe’s deepest gorge – in Durmitor National Park.
I was in Durmitor National Park, the mountainous and rugged alpine region of the Balkan nation of Montenegro and I was hiking to the Tara Canyon.
The Tara Canyon cuts through the national park like a deadly blade. This is Europe’s deepest gorge, and I wanted to hike to the viewpoints high above it, to stare down into the vastness of the canyon and river below.
I had failed desperately, and dangerously, to summit the mighty mountains of Montenegro after a reckless attempt at mountaineering around Crno Jezero (The Black Lake) in the days before. I decided that perhaps mountaineering wasn’t for me.
Instead, it was time to hike to the edge of Europe’s deepest gorge, to the edge of the Tara Canyon, on what I hoped would be a relatively flat hike through the forest. My target was the Curevac viewpoint, where I’d have epic views over the canyon below!
** Editor’s Update: I hiked to the edge of the Tara Canyon in 2015, updated this guide again in 2018, and again in 2023 **
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How to hike to the edge of Tara Canyon
The Tara Canyon is 1300 metres deep at its furthest extension and is 82 kilometres in length. The Tara River, Montenegro’s longest river, runs through the canyon for some 60 kilometres of its 150-kilometre course. The only deeper canyon in the world is the Grand Canyon in the United States, although there are many longer ones, including the Copper Canyon in Mexico.
The Tara Canyon is prime ground for white water rafting, and tourists flock here in the summer months for the thrill. But, for me, it was the dry season. So rather than hurtling along the river in a dingy I would take the hard route, the hiking route. Right to the Curevac viewpoint on the edge of the gorge.
The canyon slices its way through the Durmitor National Park, a spectacular area of glacial lakes and outrageously high mountain peaks in Montenegro. I set out from Zabljak, the main town in the park, and crossed the forests and hills of Durmitor to a mountain known as Curevac, a view point which stands at 1625 metres high and offers a view along the whole length of the canyon, and far down into its depths.
The hike from Zabljak to the Tara River Canyon
The walk from Zabljak was around 10 kilometres long. I had vague directions from Google Maps, the safest source for hiking trail knowledge of course, and surprisingly, the route was fairly simple, through small villages and along roads and dirt tracks that cut through the dense foliage of the forest.
You can see the hiking route I took on the map below. Expect to take around 2 hours each way.
What was the hike like?
I was even joined by two dogs, who ran alongside me as I hiked my way to the edge of the canyon from the town of Zabljak, through forest, mountains and along rivers to the deepest gorge in Europe.
The route was gently sloping uphill, and then suddenly, the forest ended, and it looked as if the whole world had simply fallen away. This was the canyon. And now I had to climb the peak, for the most spectacular, all-encompassing view of this natural marvel.
Read more: Durmitor: The Mighty Mountains of Montenegro
This was where things got a bit more difficult.
The trail led up from the open ground, following closely- almost too closely- the edge of the Tara Canyon. There was a sheer drop below, but the view across to the other side made the element of fear bearable. There was even a nice ‘death seat’ to perch on halfway up, right on the edge of the crumbling cliffs.
The dogs were more reckless than me, running along the edge of the rocks and peering over the edge like the drop was nothing to them.
These mountain dogs were from strong stock, clearly, and nothing about the depth of the Tara Canyon phased them, although even these dogs were mesmerised by the spectacular views that were ahead of them.
Read more: The Walls of Kotor
The Curevac Peak
And at the highest point- the peak of Curevac – I could see for miles in all directions. The cliffs spread out beneath me into a wide valley, and the gorge kept dropping even deeper, the river a gleaming blue scythe through the rocks, before the cliffs rose again to form an impenetrable wall that contained all within it.
It was marvellous, and I savoured the moment by eating a packet of crisps and downing a can of Fanta in the Montenegrin sunshine. A suitable celebration if ever there was one.
I had hiked to the edge of Europe’s deepest gorge, but next time around I’m waiting for the rain, and then I’m going to take a raft through it.
The Tara Canyon: Hiking and travel advice
Are you travelling to the Tara Canyon but don’t where to start, where to stay or how to get there? Here’s my quick guide on travelling to the Tara Canyon in Montenegro!
Where is the Tara Canyon?
The Tara Canyon, also known as the Tara River Canyon, is the deepest gorge in Europe. The canyon is around 80 kilometres long and although much of it is found in Montenegro, parts run along the border of Serbia and Bosnia. The Tara River runs through this long canyon, which reaches depths of 1,300 metres in some places. It truly is spectacular!
In Montenegro, the Tara Canyon forms a World Heritage Site within the equally spectacular confines of the Durmitor National Park.
The Best Place To Stay Near The Tara Canyon
The town of Zabljak is the best base from which to access Durmitor National Park, and the best place from which to hike to the edge of Tara Canyon, organise rafting trips and just generally experience the awesome nature of Monetenegro’s mountains.
You can find Zabljak on the map below:
Zabljak is mountainous and remote but has all the amenities, hotels and restaurants you will need to get out hiking. The town is easily reached by minibus from Podgorica and from other cities in Montenegro. I travelled directly from Kotor on the coast. There is at least one departure a day.
How to travel to Curevac, and the edge of the Tara Canyon
Curevac is the mountain that looms over the canyon. It stands at an impressive 1625 metres in height, but actually, the hike here is relatively easy in comparison to many of the other much more challenging hikes within Durmitor National Park. Curevac also gives the best views out over Tara Canyon and the Tara River.
The hike to Curevac begins in Zabljak and it took me around 2 hours each way. Google Maps has the route down as 15 kilometres return. Follow signs for either Curevac or Tepca once you leave Zabljak and just keep heading uphill. Unfortunately, the trail isn’t all that well marked at the end, there should be a sign saying Curevac, follow that along the canyon’s edge and you will get a rather spectacular view even if you can’t find your way all the up to the summit.
When I made the hike, it was extremely quiet, but I was hiking outside of peak season. It’s still a relatively unknown spot though as most people will take the rafting trip down the river to see the canyon over the hike. I’d recommend doing both if you are there in the right season, they are both very different experiences and equally spectacular.
Here’s the rough route on Google Maps for the hike from Zabljak to Curevac and the edge of the Tara Canyon:
Awesome things to do in the Tara Canyon
- Rafting The Tara River Canyon – This is the most popular activity and one of the most exciting ways to experience the Tara Canyon. Many tours run from Zabljak, starting 18 kilometres or so upstream and taking the day to raft down the river. It’s an epic trip, but be warned the rafting only runs during peak tourist season, generally March – September.
- The Tara Bridge – Spanning the Tara Canyon is the Tara Bridge, a spectacular feat of engineering that arches over the gorge. You can walk along the length for epic views out over the canyon. It’s easily reached by car from Zabljak.
- Hiking Durmitor National Park – Using Zabljak as a base, there are literally hundreds of hiking trails heading out in Durmitor National Park and along the Tara Canyon. There are many challenging multi-day hikes and mountain summits as well as easier day hikes. Definitely make sure to visit the Black Lake, a beautiful glacial lake not far from the town.
All Words and Photos by Richard Collett