The Magnificent Tara River Canyon
The Magnificent Tara River Canyon
Welcome adventurers and explorers - to the magnificent Tara River Canyon, an unexplored gem of Europe! In the south of Europe, surrounded by Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Albania, rests a charming little country called Montenegro, where Tara River emerges in all its glory. Even though its name means “Black mountain”, Montenegro’s mountains and nature are kaleidoscopical - the rivers and glacial lakes turning from blue to turquoise, the flowers of all colors covering the fields, the earthy textures of centuries-old houses splashed by the sun-kissed Adriatic sea, and between the green mountains and snow-white peaks of this country flows the crystal clear Tara, a diamond in the rough. Come with us on an exciting trip down the Tara River Gorge to see what else lies around the river bend!
Flowing through Montenegro and a part in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tara River is a creation of two rivers in the Komovi mountains in Montenegro - Opasanica and Veruša. In some parts, the walls of the Tara Canyon are 1.333 m deep, making it the second deepest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon on the River Colorado, but the first canyon in regards to its beauty. Known as the “Tear of Europe”, the Tara River is 158 km long, has 14 different rivers flowing into it, 7 from each side and has 69 rapids on that path. Another interesting feature is the cascades. The loud noise of the cascades can be heard even in the upper parts of the canyon. There are over 40 cascades on the Tara river, the most important being Crna Vrela, Bijela Vrela, Djavolje Lazi, Sokolovina and Bijeli Kamen. The most important spring that flows into the Tara river is Bajlovica Sige waterfall, which crashes into Tara with 100 liters of water per second, falling from the Bucevica cave which is over 30 m high and an astonishing 150 m wide!
Tara river takes pride in being on the UNESCO’s list of protected areas in the “Man and Biosphere” program from 1977 because of its diverse flora and fauna! A lot of animals call Tara canyon their home, such as trouts, huchens, graylings and other types of fish, birds like hawks, eagles, capercaillies, griffon vultures etc, then bears, wolves, foxes, chamois, and the rarest of them all in these areas are otters swimming in the Tara river. In the valleys of the Tara Canyon, there are certain herbs and trees that date all the way back to the ice age. Forests are rich with oaks, ashes, birches, beeches, and black pine trees. Most of the year the water level is a class 3-4, only in the spring when the snow melts, and when there are heavy storms in a short period of time, the river is a class 5-. The average temperature of the water is 8° C, and it is drinkable throughout the whole stream.
The last 40 km of the river acts as a natural border between Montenegro and BiH. Not many people know that each rapid has a name, most exciting being Gornji Tepacki Buk, Donji Tepacki Buk, Borovi etc, and that most of them are grouped in the lower part of the river, which is why the lower part is the best for organizing outdoor activities, such as rafting and kayaking - the rapids speed up the river flow and the rides down that stretch are extremely adventurous! If one is standing on the Šćepan polje bridge, which is the custom border between Montenegro and BiH, he can hear the exciting screams and laughter of the rafters echoing off the canyon walls and see them riding the river downslope. It is near the border where Tara and Piva rivers join hands and create Drina river.
Tara Canyon Bridge - Djurdjevica Tara bridge
About 30 min of driving from Žabljak, the Djurdjevica Tara bridge stands gloriously 172 m above the Tara river. Built from 1938 to 1940 and designed by prof. Mijat Trojanović, this picture perfect bridge connects two sides of the Tara Canyon with a 365 m long road between the villages Budečevica and Trešnica in the northern part of Montenegro. It becomes obvious that Djurdjevica Tara was built 80 years ago once you start crossing from one side to the other - the road is not too wide, but it is the most important connection in that area. In that time, the Djurdjevica Tara bridge was considered the most beautiful bridge in the Balkans - so beautiful that, according to one of the legends, it is believed the fairies helped build the bridge.
Two world records were broken by Djurdjevica Tara, and still holds one to this very day - the first record is that never before has a bridge had an arch 116 m long, making it the leading pioneer in that time and the second record, which will most likely not be beaten due to the advancement in technology, is that the wooden scaffoldings, which were necessary in order to build the bridge, have cost 40% of the total budget for the building. Tourists come to see the bridge, enjoy the view, to go hiking on the hills of the canyon and to enroll on an exciting zipline tour at the Tara Canyon bridge. The bright green nature around the bridge puts the construction on the “Must-visit in Montenegro” list!
Historical fact: Did you know that the bridge was blown up during the war, just two years after it was finished?! In the beginning of 1942, the Italians and the chethnics were moving their forces towards Durmitor, where the partisans were based. In order to stop them from penetrating the area, it was ordered by commander Tito (who later became the president of Yugoslavia) to blow up the bridge, but in such manner that it can be easily restored after the war. One of the engineers during the built, Lazar Jauković, was chosen for that task, and on the 6th of May, 1942 he blew up the smallest arch on the left river bank with explosives. The same engineer was caught by the chethnics three months later and shot at the bridge. Once the war was over, the bridge was restored from 1945 to 1946 back to its previous state and a monument dedicated to Lazar Jauković was built near the bridge, in memory of the brave engineer.
It is interesting that there is still a veil of mystery involving these events after some rumors started circling in the post-war period. Legend has it that because he was assigned to blow up the bridge, the real creator of the Djurdjevica Tara bridge was Jauković instead of Mijat Trojanović, and allegedly Trojanović, out of respect towards Jauković, never claimed that it wasn’t true. This is how eng. Lazar Jauković is known as the “creator who was forced to destroy his most precious masterpiece”.
Tara Canyon activities
The north of Montenegro has the perfect setting for organizing outdoor activities. Being out in the nature and engaging in such trips is very healthy, available for adults and for children, as well, and, most importantly, it is fun to do them with family, old friends and some new friends that you have just met on the tour. The fresh air, the breeze in your hair and splash of the river water will keep you on your toes and your adrenaline pumped up! You can choose from a wide spectrum of different activities - rafting and kayaking on the Tara river, horse riding, hiking on Durmitor and Maglić, or doing a jeep safari tour in the Durmitor area, ziplining at the Djurdjevica Tara bridge or Piva lake cruising, canyoning in Canyon Nevidio near Žabljak,... the possibilities are endless! Like all sports, outdoor activities will fill you up with energy and you will return home as a new person. If you are looking for things to do in Montenegro, here are some of the most popular activities in the Tara Canyon area that you could join:
Tara River Rafting
Rafting is an activity done on fast rivers, in rafts (small inflatable boats). Each raft can take up to 9 people - 8 rafters and one rafting guide. On Tara, you can raft from the upper part or from the lower part of the river. The most exciting part is the lower part, the last 40 km - on that stretch there are more rapids and the speed of the tour can come up to 30 km/h. The season runs from the beginning of April, when the water level is a class 5- and the activity is more for the adventurous souls, throughout the entire summer, with water level gradually decreasing to class 4 and class 3 later on, making the tour fantastic for families with young children, and ending in October. Rafting is suitable for children above the age of 4 (for such young children only from the month of June) and there is no upper age limit. Depending on the water level, the rafting in the lower part usually lasts between 3 and 5 hours. Earlier in the season it takes less time to cross the same distance, because the river is faster and rafting trips later on in the season take longer - so, the higher the water level, the less time it will take for you to get from the start point to the end point and vice versa. The temperatures in these areas can be around 20-25° C in the beginning of the season (in May), and up to 40° C in the summer months. However, keep in mind that this is the mountain area - the weather changes quite quickly, nights are quite chilly, as well, so make sure to bring light clothes, as well as warm clothes. Swimming suits are a must! Water temperature is mostly around 8° C and in the summer it goes up to 13° C max. All participants get neoprene suits and boots to keep their body temperature high in the cold water.
The tax for the entrance to the Regional park Piva is 5 € per person. During the activity, you will be overcoming the rapids with the water splashing you, paddling down the river while enjoying the magnificent view of the Tara Gorge, with some swimming and taking pictures during the breaks. You will in safe hands of professional rafting guides with IRF licenses. Rafting tour down Tara river can easily be combined with other tours, such as hiking on Durmitor, Maglić or Zelengora, because of the close proximity of those locations. It is worth mentioning that Tara river was the host of the World Rafting Championship in 2009 and that TaraSport and TaraSport’s team leader, Igor Papović, was one of the organizers and hosts of this exciting event. So, come and flow down the same path as the champions did one decade ago - Tara river awaits for you!
Zip lining at Djurdjevica Tara bridge and Piva Lake
Fly over the Tara Canyon from one canyon wall onto the other! Zip lining was originally used in remote areas, for helping people cross a certain path faster or as an only solution for overcoming natural obstacles. Nowadays zip linings are quite popular and people book this activity for fun. Built in 2013, the cord on the Djurdjevica Tara bridge starts from the left side of the canyon, 800 m above ground and ends on the right canyon wall 50 m lower. The speed of the participant doing the zip lining hits up to 50 km/h, and the best feature is that two people can ride the zip line at the same time. The length of the double cord is 700 m, a thrilling experience, with the most beautiful river under you and the clear blue sky overlooking your slide. Another exciting cord is above Lake Piva, opened for visitors in 2018. The zip lining in Plužine is 1,4 km long, making it the longest zip cord in Montenegro! This tour contains of two rides, with a pit stop on the rocks on the edge of the lake. So, depending on if you would like to do a quick slide above Tara or a two-part glide over the Piva Lake - the choice is yours!
Hiking on the Tara Canyon
“The best view comes after the hardest climb” says the quote that absolutely applies to any of the hiking tours in our broad offer. These areas have the most magical routes that you will ever have the chance to overcome. Mountaineering is available for all - young and young-spirited, the ones who see hiking as a challenge and the ones who see it as an enjoyable walk, for families and experienced climbers… Pick the pace that is the best for you - easy, moderate or challenging. All hiking and trekking guides have licenses from the PSRS and the PSBiH, certified by UIAA. For hiking, make sure to bring your hiking shoes (for challenging tours wear hiking boots), active clothes, windproof jackets, caps to shield you from the sun, backpacks and hiking poles. For winter hiking, it is necessary to bring hiking boots, crampons and ice-axes, gloves, warm hats, and layers and layers of clothes, but make sure not to wear materials such as cotton, viscose, modal and similar, because they take too long to dry.
Tara Canyon and Durmitor area are very popular for organizing hiking tours. Apart from seeing the views of the Tara river in the bottom of the canyon, it is worth visiting old villages of Montenegro during the hike, in which there are still old houses preserved, the so-called “savadake” houses and watermills and katuns scattered next to Durmitor’s brooks. The hiking tour on Tara Canyon, which also includes a jeep safari tour, takes you to some of those villages - Meštrevac, Zavait and Čelebiće. Tara Canyon cuts through four mountain areas, with Durmitor being the one with the most admirable features. Many people book tours to this National park to visit the sightseeing platforms called Sedlo and Curevac, then Trsa area, Canyon Sušice,... Having over 48 peaks higher than 2000 m, Durmitor is the home of the highest peak in Montenegro, as well. Bobotov Kuk is 2523 m high, and is one of the most popular for hikers, next to the hiking tour on Savin Kuk and the tours in search for glacial lakes. Known as “mountain eyes”, there are up to 20 glacial lakes in this area, one of them being Black Lake in the bottom of Medvedja mountain. It is interesting that some lakes appear only when the snow melts and then vanish after the summer period.
Two more mountain areas lean on Durmitor’s shoulder - Maglić and Zelengora. Maglić is the name of the mountain, but also the name of the highest peak in BiH, located in a triangle between Maglić, Durmitor and old Herzegovina. The peak is 2386 m high. Zelengora (meaning Green mountain) is a part of the National park Sutjeska, and its name does reflect its appearance - rich with vegetation, glacial lakes, a lot of springs with drinking water and diverse animal life, it is adequate for families with children to come and visit for a daily hiking field-trip. The highest peak is Bregoc and in this area rests the lovely Lake Orlovacko. Other than hiking tours, cycling tours are often organized on Zelengora, as well. In between these mountains, lies the romantic Lake Trnovačko. Shaped like a heart, the lake is a popular spot for campers with tents and hikers. Water temperature during the summer is 20° C, which means that it is great for taking a swim and spending a whole day there just enjoying the view and the sun. Another hidden attraction is the Skakavac waterfall, loudly stumbling over 80 m down with a misty splash. Skakavac waterfall is located in the area called Perućica, which is the only rainforest in Europe! Sounds appealing, doesn’t it - care for a walk?
How to get to the Tara Canyon?
Happiness is multiplied when divided, and that is why we invite you to join us in our Tara Canyon expeditions! Are you tempted by this gem of nature? Do you dare to chase after the wild spirit of the Tara Canyon? Come with us and explore the old villages of Montenegro, conquer the highest peaks, take a dip in the shiny lakes between the mountains, and let's say “panta rhei” together while standing in the Tara River!