When you think about hiking in Europe, the Alps are probably the first thing crossing your mind. However, there are so many less well known mountain ranges in Europe that are very much worth visiting. Last summer we visited some of them, including the High Tatras in Slovakia and the Dinaric Alps in Montenegro. Small villages called Ždiar and Žabljak were my favorite stops last summer. Both have a great atmosphere, are great places to relax and the locals are super friendly. In addition, some great hostels, where you can meet likeminded people, are situated in these small towns.
The High Tatras, Slovakia
The High Tatras mountain range is situated in the border of Slovakia and Poland. It is easy to reach both from Bratislava and Krakow/Zakopane by a train or a train and a bus, depending where you will stay. We stayed in Ždiar because Ginger Monkey, one of the best hostels ever (with the happiest hostel dog in the world), is situated in that tiny little village. Ždiar is a lovely, quiet and very traditional village, and it is close to many hiking trek starting points. There are plenty of small and super cheap restaurants in the village as well as a couple of small markets. If you stay in Ždiar, I recommend the hostel, just because everyone should experience its atmosphere. In addition, when visiting the Tatra Mountains, it is a necessity to try some Tatra Tea, which is a traditional Slovakian liquor.
There are plenty of hikes you can do, no matter if you were a beginner or a more advanced hiker. Most of them take around 6-8 hours and the time just flies. The best thing about these hikes is, that the scenery changes constantly and keeps things interesting. We had some cloudy days during our whole stay but at least it wasn’t too hot to hike. We only stayed in Ždiar for four nights but could have stayed for fourteen!
Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
I saw a picture of Durmitor on my Facebook wall a year ago and decided that I really need to visit that beautiful national park. Because there’s so much to do, we already knew that we wanted to stay at the mountains for a bit longer and booked six nights. We stayed in Hiker’s Den Hostel, in a small town called Žabljak. Žabljak is also very easy to reach both from Kotor and Podgorica as well as from Bosnia and Serbia. Hiker’s Den was another super nice hostel with a great atmosphere and awesome staff. Both of the hostels are very popular, so they might be fully booked days beforehand during the high season.
In Durmitor, we went canyoneering on one day and hiking on two days. The hikes were a bit extreme to me but also lots of fun. The challenging part was that there was a heat wave in Montenegro, and it was +30 degrees even in Žabljak, which is situated 1400 meters above the sea level. Also, the hiking treks were almost completely exposed to the sun, which made a 8-hour-hike quite draining. The first hike was to the highest peak in Montenegro whereas the other one was to a peak with an ice cave, which was still covered with ice in the beginning of August. I enjoyed the latter one a bit more, because it had more variety to it, and visiting the ice cave was a nice way to cool down.