Plavsko Lake and the Ropojana Valley
Heading south-east from Durmitor National Park, we stopped at one of Montenegro’s largest lakes, the Plav Lake. It’s in the area of Montenegro that borders Albania, and we noticed a change in the culture of the people that live in the area. Orthodox traditions gave way to the Islamic ones, and in some ways, it felt like we’d crossed a border into a different country.
The scenery in the area was stunning, especially the views across the Plav Lake. We stayed in a peculiar place called Etno Selo Kula Damjanova, with uninterrupted views of the lake from its restaurant terrace. The hotel itself had much left to be desired, but it was fairly clean and comfortable, and there were many things I enjoyed about it. It was here I had my first taste of the Plazma pancake, a sweet snack of cult status invented in recent years in the Balkans, and I’ve yet to have better.
The lake nestles at the foot of the towering Prokletije mountain range, and like most lakes in Montenegro, it is a glacial lake, formed as the last ice age ended, roughly 10,000 years ago. It is surrounded by green rocky hills that lead up to the towering peaks behind them. When we were there, it was quite a foggy day, as are most days in the mountains. However, the beauty of a foggy day is that at any moment, the sun may shine through and disperse the clouds, leading for some dramatic views.
A short drive from the lake are two attractions – waterfall Grlja, a waterfall that collapses into a hole in the limestone bedrock of the land, and a small lake called Savino’s Eye. The waterfall is quite peculiar, gushing into a cavernous hole in the ground. I’ve no idea how long it took the water to weather the stone so, such that what was probably once a small pothole is now a small cavern, but it’s certainly a testament to the passing of time.
Savo’s Eye (Savino Oko) is a large spring in the Prokletije massif. It’s something quite special. Its waters come from an aquifer almost a mile under the ground, and its diameter is around 30 meters. I’ve certainly never seen a spring this large or deep. In fact, I’ve never seen any mountain springs, this was the first time I’d seen one, and it was quite mind blowing to think about how deep underground it went.
In fantasy books, the source of any river was always a special place that often time held some kind of magical power. Here, by Savo’s Eye, I felt we had discovered some sacred space whose existence only we knew about.
In this region also is the beautiful Ropojana valley. I saw so many beautiful things in Montenegro, but the Ropojana valley is high up on this list. There was something magical about this place. I especially loved the tall, black cliffs that ran along the valley, with their weird, chiselled patterns in the rock face, and the beautiful, verdant green vegetation that covered the valley floor.
Our guide, Vanja, told us that the trail we took that day was part of a ring that crossed into Albania, and if we were to continue walking onward, we’d soon cross the border. As I looked ahead, I could only see nature, beautiful and untamed. I don’t think anyone would notice when they pass from one country into the next, the surrounding landscape would remain equally as breathtaking from one step to another.
There still remain many places in the world we would love to visit, but as we walked through the valley, we both decided we’d love to return to this area to do the full ring hike one day.