Canyons of Montenegro, ask someone to name one in Montenegro, and Tara is the answer you will receive. It being the second largest canyon in the world, renowned for its beauty with his emerald water of the Tara river and high cliffs, it’s rafting became one of the most popular excursions. But it leads you wandering, what about the others, what’s wrong with them? Whence comes the lesser recognition? Are there names causing it ? Probably, Mrtvica roughly translated as “backwater” and Nevidio as “never seen”, honestly doesn’t sound really inviting.
Susica meaning tears isn’t really doing it either. Piva and Moraca being left, nothing really wrong with those, but being the main road passage from the North and Northwest to the middle and coast of Montenegro makes it a lot less suitable for visiting and outdoor activities.
But leaving the names out of it, is the absence of lesser exposure and recognition build on some logical reasoning and are those canyons really not that interesting to visit? Just to set that straight away right, that’s not the case for sure! All of them have their own charm and their own natural beauty. And Mrtvica canyon certainly belongs on that list. And the most beautiful thing of the Mrtvica canyon it’s the best hike able of all of them, because of its length and location. So it’s gorgeous nature can be nicely absorbed by strolling through the heart of it. That’s the most fascinating element of visiting the Mrtvica canyon, the trail is really the only path through it with no other human interference in the distant area.
The canyon itself is 8 kilometer long and the trekking part takes you to 7,5 kilometer of it. With returning to Medurijecje, the nearest settlement to the canyon and access point to the main road it will take you approximately around 6 hours. Off course with the common rest breaks and photographing stops that certainly will be made. There is also the possibility to walk the whole path covering the canyon and continuing to the remote located small village of Velje Duboko. It will make an extra 4 kilometer, so it could be a good suggestion to be picked up there and not be walking all the way back.
Geographically the Mrtvica canyon belongs the slopes of Mt. Maganik part of the Moracke Planine. From both sides of the canyon the steep cliffs reach up 600-700 meters, covered with pine trees making it an inaccessible wall. With both sides being remarkable close to each other at some spots, is really giving that real canyon feeling, were u really have to stretch your neck as far as possible to see the canyon’s top and bottom.
The Mrtvica river is a tributary of the Moraca river and at the village of Medurijecje they meet each other. It is filled with rapids, whirlpools, waterfalls, springs and typical deep canyon vegetation and flora. And certainly not to forget the green bluish crystal clear water flowing down that’s drinkable. Unforgettable making the hike are the sights of the two fairy-tale two bridges, the natural formed ‘gate of wishes’ and the military carved tunnel path. All accompanied by the many water flows that can be heard almost through the whole hike.
The canyon can be visited all year around with exception of wintertime when snowfall makes the canyon to hazardous and inaccessible, and the start of springtime when the melt water is flooding the river. Every season is having its own charm with its own distinct color patterns and atmosphere. Keeping in mind that in the beginning of spring as mentioned before the seasonal melting water might impede the path on some parts, spring is generally regarded by most as the best time to visit the gorge when the Mrtvica river water levels are still very high and fast-flowing, fed by the many springs and waterfalls.
The wide variety of mountain flowers are coming out in full force, and are filling the meadows and the canyon nicely, giving that vibrant colors and the abundance of vegetation is really celebrating the seasons of life. The canyon can be best reached from the small village of Medurijece, 35 km from Kolasin, located on the main road (E65) from Podgorica.
And this will be the most difficult part for most visitors, and that’s is how to find the way to the canyon! The signage to it is seriously lacking and even a little bit confusing for a canyon with so much to offer. To find the starting point and assuming you start from Podgorica or coast and follow the main road to Kolasin, you cross two bridges, and after having reached the first you will see the sign that you have reached the village of Medurijece. Now after passing the second one you must carefully watch out for a small red sign at the right of the road. There is small side-way on the left, follow it down and you will come to a wooden bridge, cross it and turn left and you will come on an open field close the conjunction of the Moraca and Mrtvica rivers.
This is a private area and u quickly will notice the warnings signs with the directive that you must pay when parking here. When still deciding to park here, the owner will marvelously will find u to charge a +/- 3 euro parking fee. Coincidence this owner is also one of the not many tourist guides to the Mrtvica canyon. If you are not willing to pay this fee u can return a little back were u coming from and find a parking place along the road, but return back to the open field as starting point.
From here the first decision must be made, you can stay at the right side of the river and walk through the meadows to find a little path that goes up above the river of Mrtvica. Or you can choose to go down to conjunction of the rivers and you will see a steel bridge. When crossing it you will stumble on a small sandy path going through the forest and ending in a small asphalt road, and there you must turn left. Both ways will lead to the stone bridge of Danilo II Petrovic, the landmark for going into the right direction. When chosen to not cross the steel bridge and willing to staying on the right side of the Mrtvica river, follow the trail earlier described. The trail is marked and will lead you through the forest giving the first glimpses of the crystal clear waters of the river Mrtvica. Just keep following this trail until you will arrive at the Danilo bridge.
If decided to take the steel bridge route and you turned right on the asphalt road, continue along it until you will reach the white sign table marker of the Danilo bridge. Do not pay attention to the red marking you will see, because by coincidence they will also take you to the house of the parking lot owner / guide. Of course you can choose to use his services, you can of course follow them. The white Danilo bridge sign, direct you to go down there through a narrow sandy path that leads to the bridge.
1) Red sign from main road, go down here – 2)Wooden bridge, turn left here – 3)The parking place, cross the field and follow the trail to go the Danilo bridge from the right side of the Mrtvica river.
1) The steel bridge to the left side of the Mrtvica river – 2) Danilo bridge sign, down right here – 3) The path to the gravel road close to the Danilo bridge, go up here.
The Danilo bridge was built in 1858, by Danilo II Petrovic, the Prince-Bishop of Montenegro from 1851-1860 in memorial to his mother. An idyllic small bridge with its two arches fitting perfectly in the scenery. Now seen from the side were the bridge inscription is made, there is small trail close to the bridge going up. Notice not the one really close to the bridge inscription but the one a little farther on the road. Winding up through the forest again and the hiking signings reassuring you are still on the right track. It ends on a gravel road, and luckily this will be the last important split on your trip. Once again turn right and from now one its easy on. Just follow this gravel route descending slowly up for around 4 km and you will walk straight to into the Mrtvica canyon.
Only two obstacles left that have to be conquered in some manner. This road will lead you across and alongside the houses of the only residents in this area. Several landowners have put wooden fences on the road, and at one they will try to indicate that its private are, what it really is, and you must pay admission to pass their territory. But do not become scared off of this. The first fence just can be totally ignored and after it the route will start to begin to become more interesting. The gravel route is slowly transforming into a smaller sand path passing an orchard and a rustic cottage, with all kind of livestock wandering around. The local living here is gladly to have a little chat, but can sadly only communicate in his mother tongue. But with some gestures it’s possible to buy some of his homemade fruit lemonade, cheese or domestic honey. Shortly after this cottage you will arrive at your grand final obstacle, in the distance you will see arise the last fence with behind a grass meadow and small stone house. And this meadow is really the garden of one of the locals living here, and is his terrain. You will see his warnings written around his terrain and if he is there and willing he will try to charge you for passing. From hearing his admission fee ranges from 3 to 10 euro. So there is a little path made above this meadow to surpass the charges and not violating of privacy of the owner. So be sure to take it and don’t walk the meadow.
The sound of the tumbling water start to betray that you now really are starting to enter the canyon. You will see a small sign on the ground with a small path leading down. Take it ! It’s the start to one of the most photographed sights in the Mrtvica canyon, a real picture postcard place. It’s an authentic old wooden bridge that really confirms the national tourist organization used slogan “wild beauty”. The Mrtvica streaming down in small rapids over the boulders with the rocky shores and the sun reflecting in the emerald water. Here on the side of the bridge there is a small little shore, were u can refresh, drink or who’s brave enough tip a toe in the water. But be warned the water is still even in the hot summers day really cold and there is an every lasting current so be careful in all matters. To continue into the canyon do not cross this bridge because if will lead you sideways to the mountainous village of Mrtvo Duboko.
The small trail has a good rise and fall, walking sticks are not required but they come in handy for the sure. The cliffs are starting to get higher, and the vegetation is getting more diverse and you will start to see the rain-forest ecosystems with an abundance of moss. But still accompanied by the typical Mediterranean plants as figs, asparagus and the many pine trees. In the river there can be found fish, include salmonids, but they are not easy to spot. Also there can be found amphibian and lizards. The Mrtvica river is perplexed with whirlpools, rapids and stream falls. With sunbeams constantly coloring the water differently flickering into it. Huge boulders lie at the bottom of the ravine, eroded and formed by millions of years. When you reach a moss dense part there is the opportunity to get closer to Mrtvica river. Here u find the third sight and one who can make your wishes true. It’s called “Kapija Zelja” explained as “Gate of wishes”. A by nature formed gate and according the legend, when you throw a rock as had as possible through it, a fairly from Mt Maganik will come down and fulfill your wish.
From here the trail is getting rockier now, and is turning into movie scenery mountain path. Climbing up, winding along the cliffs, with only the mountain sides on the left and the perpetually deeper becoming abyss on the right side. Just beautiful scenery all around you. You are now around 5 kilometers deep into the canyon and you will shortly notice some strange edge running through the upcoming cliffs.
This is the last sight in the canyon and one were humans tried to conquer the wilderness and it made up the most impressive sight. It’s a man-made passageway carved like a tunnel open at one side, named “Mrtvice Grede”, meaning deadly beams referring who hard it was to carve through this karst rock walls. The passage was cut out by the Yugoslav army during the time of republic, with the idea to connect the village of Mrtvo Duboko and Velje Duboko. As a good retreating harbor in times of need. The army didn’t deliver half measures and the passage is large enough for a nice picnic or rest stop.
After Mrtvice Grede the trail continues another couple of kilometers to hike, most will go to a place called Plaza, to return from here. For those willing to venture there is the possibility to walk all the way to Velje Duboko or even farther into the Moracke Planine. One thing is certain the Mrtvica Canyon will not leave you untouched.
• Hike duration = +/- 6.00
• Descend = Rise and fall
• Marking = Sincerely lacking, especially from the starting point.
• Starting point(s) = Village of Medurijecje, located on mainroad Podgorica-Kolasin, or the village of Velje Dubuko, not recommended because the very remote location.
• Amount of visitors = Very low
• Hike duration = +/- 6.00