Hiking in Prokletije national park in Montenegro was on my bucket list for many years. This summer we planned two nights in Grebaje valley which is a popular base for hikers for this mountain range. The Volušnica – Taljanka – Popadija trail offers the best views on mighty Karanfili peaks. This is a full day hike, quite strenuous but incredibly rewarding in terms of views and photography. Here are the photos and a vlog from this hike. You will find some useful tips on hiking and photography.
Our Montenegro Photography Trip
A little bit of background first. I visited Montenegro in summer, with two of my photography friends, Jaka and Jošt. We have hiked together in Slovenia a lot so I knew they are the right guys for this mountain photography trip. Our first stop was Kapetanovo jezero in Moračke planine. We spent two nights there and next we planned hiking in Prokletije or the Accursed mountains. Next destinations were Kučke planine, Sinjajevina and Durmitor national park. In total, we spent nine days hiking in Montenegro.
Grebaje (also known as Grbaja or Grebaja) is a beautiful mountain valley in the north side of Prokletije massif. The access to the valley is via Plav and Gusinje towns. Grebaje is a convenient base when hiking in Prokletije. There are a few “ethno villages” where one can stay overnight as well as a couple of decent restaurants. One can decide to climb Mt Očnjak or one of the Karanfili peaks from here. Or simply take a scenic hike to the head of the valley. Photographers will opt for the hike along the ridge from Volušnica, Taljanka and Popadija peaks. This hike offers amazing views on Karanfili peaks with a grassy ridge in the foreground. In short, epic views.
Hiking in Prokletije – Volušnica to Popadija Trail
In my opinion, this is the most scenic hike in Montenegro. First reason is the view on the mighty Karanfili peaks. Second is the grassy, gentle ridge on the opposite side of Grebaje valley. These two combined form a perfect mountain scenery for photography.
This hike starts in Grebaje valley, just after the last restaurant. The trail will first lead you through a beautiful forest behind Volušnica mountain. In about an hour of walking, you will get out of forest and there is a decision to make. Option one is to go to Popadija (the farthest peak) or to Volušnica (directly above Grebaje valley). It is also possible to make a round trip from this point.
We opted to go to Mt Volušnica first and then hike along the ridge to Mt Taljanka, the highest peak of the trail. The latter is located on Albanian side of the border and there is an Albanian flag on top. At the end we decided not to go to Popadija peak because we were already loosing sun on the ridge and Taljanka offered great opportunities for photography.
Photography from Mt Taljanka nad Mt Volušnica
Mt Volušnica is the first spot that offers great views on Karanfili on the opposite side of Grebaje valley. but the views only get better as you hike along the ridge towards Taljanka. Once you ascend to Mt Taljanka, the views to Albania open. The layers of the mountains go into infinity and just below in the valley there are a few mountain pastures. This is a great location to photograph sunset. There are photo opportunities on all sides, the Karanfili peaks to the east, mountain layers on the west. My advice is to get here in late afternoon, because the sun will still be lighting up the ridge and Karanfili peaks. Best season would be early summer, for wildflowers and vivid green grass. Or winter on a ski tour with an experienced local guide.
Photos from Prokletije mountains
Volušnica to Popadija Trail – Conclusion
We waited for the night in order to get some night shots before we returned to the valley. All together we spent about 9 hours in the mountain, most of it was doing photography and waiting for the right light. The hike can be strenuous if the weather is hot. So bring enough water! The total altitude different is about 1000m and the trail is technically not difficult. If you are reasonably fit, this trip is highly recommended!
Hiking in Prokletije – Resources
Here are a few links that can be of use to plan your trip to Montenegro and Prokletije mountains.
nestvarna.blog – Nebojša is an experienced hiker and climber plus a great photographer. His posts are invaluable resource for the mountains in the Balkans
Peaks of Montenegro – All the trails in Montenegro you can imagine. Probably the most extensive descriptions for Montenegro.
PhotoHound – All the best photo spots in Montenegro and around the world. (Disclaimer – I am one of he cofounders and contributors)
Mountains of Montenegro photo tour – if you prefer to travel in a group, this is my small group photo workshop in Sept 2022.