Rijeka Crnojevica, Skadar Lake Boat Tour + Zabljak Fortress

How do you fancy spending a few hours aboard a boat, gliding across the still waters of River Crnojevica Lake Skadar (Shkodra Lake), watching the wildlife on Lake Skadar and taking a small walk up to the abandoned Zabljak Fortress overlooking the mountains? It sounded pretty idyllic to us so at 8 am we met Mico (pronounced Micho) and set sail.

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
A bird on the River Crnojevica Lake Skadar

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar

Lake Skadar is a protected, freshwater lake and national park and is currently part Montenegrin and part Albanian with the borders straddling the centre of the lake. (Although the Montenegrins do not patrol their Lake border we did hear that the Albanians do and this is subject to controversy with unknowing tourists who venture into the area when renting their own boats)

Home to more than 260 species of birds, traditional stone-built villages, islet monasteries and beautiful beaches, the area holds significant importance to Montenegrins who report it as their country’s heart and soul.

The Lake has a big history of being the battleground for five centuries after the Turks invaded in the 13th century. In WW2 the Lake made history again as Virpazar provided the first Partisan uprising in Montenegro.

It was also the choice of summer holiday location for the no-longer Montenegrin royal family and now where some of the best wines and organic food in Montenegro can be found, cultivated by the producers of the Crmnica and Godinje valleys which sit high above the lake.

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
Lake Skadar from the boat

Which route should you take?

Mico offers a number of routes around the river and lake that you can choose.

All of the routes start at the town of Rijeka Crnojevica (pronounced sryn-oy-vecha) and we opted for the €80 tour so we could see the majority of the Montenegrin lake and climb up to the old castle.

We were gone for nearly four hours. These prices were correct as of season 2017 but they’re obviously subject to change.

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
A map of Lake Skadar (2017).

How to book Mico’s boat

In order to book Mico’s boat, you need to

  1. Call or directly SMS: Mico +382 67 418 109
  2. Sasha +382 67 339 429
  3. Visit the restaurant in Crnojevica where Mico’s boat is moored

Payment is in cash and in Euros €.

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
Out on the boat on Lake Skadar

Get ready to set sail early on River Crnojevica Lake Skadar

Montenegro in the summer months is really starting to attract the hoards in the form of mass coach tourism and after Kotor, Lake Skadar is next on their itinerary! By midday the waterways are full of boats so it’s best to leave at 8 am to miss them. Luckily the tourists do not leave from the river, they start their journey from the town of Virpazar.

We left at 8 am and had the river and lake to ourselves until about 10:30 am by which time we were already on our way back and even then we only encountered one other boat. Perfection – Thanks Mico!

I think it helped that we were in Montenegro between May and June and missed the peak tourist season.

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
Lake Skadar

Leaving the town of Rijeka Crnojevica

We stayed in this little town for a few days and this is where the boat is moored up. Leaving early the sun is already very bright (in the summer months) but the river is still and calm. Great for reflections.

It’s also incredibly peaceful and you can hear the faint buzzing of noise from the insects and crickets with the odd jump of a fish. Slightly further down the river you can hear the quacking from the plump of ducks which live there.

It’s all really pleasant and relaxing and provokes a big smile! We are big fans of spending time in nature (as you can probably tell) as we think the psychological rewards are incredibly fulfilling and there’s a ton of research to back this up too.

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
The boats moored up

Admire the view and those mountains

Having already been up to photograph the famous horseshoe bend (if you want to know where this is, head over to our post detailing where to go), it was thrilling to sail around it and be the only boat in the water.

We headed to the far side of the lake close to the small village of Zabljak so we could find and climb up to an abandoned fortress.

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
Just past the famous bend
River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
The one other boat we passed at 10:30am
The white hotel that sits above Lake Skadar

Take the chance to walk up to Zabljak Fortress

At the north-eastern tip of the Lake, at the confluence of the Moraca River sit the remains of an abandoned castle; the medieval fortress of Zabljak.

It is believed that this fortress was founded in the tenth century during the reign of the Vojislavljevic dynasty however written testimonies of the fortress only originate from the mid-fifteenth century. The fortress served as the capital of Zeta under the Crnojevic dynasty from 1466 to 1478.

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
The fortress remains

Watch out for slithery creatures!

Keeping an eager watch out for snakes which like to bask in solitude under the sun, we climbed up the hill, past the cemetery to the long abandoned castle on the hill.

If you climb up, take a stick with you and bang it on the ground every 20-40 seconds. Any potential snakes will feel the vibrations and slither off very quickly.

The hindrance of having to bang the stick frequently is surely worth it for that view!? We think so.

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
Stick banging to ward off snakes

I want a drone!

I wish we had a drone!! The view from the top is spectacular and to heighten that view I’d love to see it from a bird’s eye perspective.

We always want what we don’t have, don’t we?


River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
The view from the fortress
River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
River Crnojevica Lake Skadar

Skadar Skadar

You’ll see thousands of birds

We saw a gazillion birds and if you’re into ornithology this is an excellent place to see a wide range of species. Some of the birds included cormorants, multiple species of herons, ducks, gulls and terns.

I was incredibly disappointed not to see a giant Dalmatian pelican but they are apparently very rare to see. If you see one I will be very envious!

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
River Crnojevica Lake Skadar


Making flower necklaces

Mico was kind enough to stop the boat and pick two lillies to turn into necklaces.

Montenegro is still quite a ‘traditional’ country where masculinity is measured in macho-ness. Although Mico made a quip about necklaces not being for boys, it was quiet enough for our boy not to hear and he was thrilled with his home-made necklace which smelled divine and came with a free caterpillar.

Mico made flower necklaces for the kids
Flower necklaces made by Mico
Both kids very happy with Mico’s necklaces (I now have this photo printed and hung on my wall)

Boat through the reeds

Part of the lake is covered in reeds although there are narrow passages through them. The kids thought it was AWESOME to ride through them touching them as we passed.

I was so impressed by how Mico made it really fun for them and they thoroughly enjoyed being out on the boat. He would make your trip a brilliant memory to have.

Skadar Skadar


Other wildlife you might see

Other wildlife to see on the lake itself include (harmless) water snakes, frogs, toads, fish, butterflies, dragonflies and a plethora of insects and bugs.

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
Harmless water snake
River Crnojevica Lake Skadar
Water snake

Skadar SkadarSkadar

River Crnojevica Lake Skadar

Returning to River Crnojevica Lake Skadar

Sadly our time on the lake was up and we started to head back to the village.

You know you’re close to arriving back in the village when you see the two bridges.

Skadar SkadarWhy you should book Mico

If I haven’t already sold the trip to you, some other reasons to book Mico and spend some time out on the lake would be

  • Mico is incredibly thoughtful and considerate, especially with the kids. He was always pointing animals out to them and stopping to allow them a closer look or for me to take photos. We made some brilliant memories.
  • Montenegro is a beautiful country and being out on the lake really epitomises that. You’re surrounded by the natural beauty of mountains, water and animals not to mention being part of and understanding their history.
  • Trickle-down economics doesn’t happen unless we spend money in local communities.
  • Mico is much cheaper (and personal) than the organised tours which start at €250.


The face of happiness

A map of our route

This is a map of our route on the lake. You can see it directly on AllTrails too

Where could you stay?

See our post for where we stayed or use the interactive map to see where you could stay.

Stay In Rijeka Crnojevica To See Zabljak Crnojevica Fortress

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Find out how to book a morning on the River Crnojevica with Mico. Montenegro is a beautiful country and Lake Skadar is definitely worth a visit.