Montenegro is known for its beautiful coast, and every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive in order to enjoy their summer holidays here. During the summer season, all the roads from Pogdorica, the capital of Montenegro, to the Adriatic Coast are packed with cars, motorbikes, tour buses and even campers. One of the most popular routes leads to Bar, the largest municipality of Montenegrin seaside.
So many tourists pass through this route with no knowledge of Virpazar, a small fishing town located just by the mentioned road, somewhere in between Podgorica and Bar. I’d like to induce that knowledge to everybody who reads this blog.
The old Marketplace
It is known that Virpazar exists since the middle age. Back then it was a significant trading center and a busy port just by the Lake Skadar, the largest lake of Southern Europe. Through the ages, Virpazar has been conquered multiple times, most notably by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, and by Italy, in World War I. During the Ottoman rule, the Besac fortress was built on the hill just above Virpazar. It has been devastated and restored several times since then.
In the 18th century, Virpazar reached its peak as a Marketplace. It was known, as it is today, for its wine of outstanding quality and delicious fish species in vast numbers. After that, it became more of a touristic place, with much to offer.
What to do in Virpazar?
For a small town of just below 500 inhabitants, Virpazar offers surprisingly diverse content for almost every type of visitor.
If you’re up for a lazy walk, you can stroll through the town and explore unique products made by locals. These include high-quality wines from Crmnica, a famous wine region. Also, you can buy all sorts of souvenirs, homemade goods, and Montenegrin brandy called Rakia.
Then, you can visit the Besac fortress that I mentioned before. It’s a 10-minute walk from the town center. The route to the fortress is slightly uphill, but it’s also beautiful, because of the sights you can catch along the way. You can find spots that can provide you a great view of Lake Skadar. Along the road, you can see antique abandoned houses and enjoy the shade thrown by forest placed on the hill above.
Inside the fortress walls, you can see some artifacts from Montenegrin past, and on the top of the fortress, there’s one pretty much surreal prison cell which was last used during World War II. The cell has two little windows, through which you can see three different landscapes, every spectacular in its own way. The fortress roof represents a great viewpoint of Lake Skadar and the town of Virpazar itself.
As I mentioned before, Virpazar was a very busy port once. Today this port is a base for many lake cruisers. Lake Skadar is a national park with a lot of endemic and protected animal species. Among those, birds are the most impressive. Lake Skadar is home to almost 300 bird species, including dalmatian pelicans, eagles, herons, and cormorants. Also, there are many intimate islands and rustic monasteries all across the lake. A cruise through the lake is a no brainer for anyone who visits Virpazar. The biggest lake in Southern Europe won’t leave you disappointed. That’s for sure.
For more adventurous people, there are kayaking and hiking tours. Check out Undiscovered Montenegro for some great photos from their hosting experience. The hiking trails that are located inside the national park Lake Skadar are truly magnificent and fairytale-like. In the forest which surrounds Lake Skadar, there are hidden streams and mini rivers, along with few waterfalls. In case you’re looking to escape from the summer heat, don’t miss out on these tours.
The last but not the least…food! Yes! There are numerous restaurants in Virpazar that can provide not only beautiful landscapes, but also some phenomenal food, especially if you’re up for some bleak. Virpazar is widely known for its annual festival of bleak and wine. During the festival, people from all over come to Virpazar in order to enjoy some high-quality bleak and wine. The wine region of Crmnica I mentioned before is well known among wine lovers all across the Balkan peninsula. Homemade wine made by locals is sought-after by many Montenegrin households.
How to get to Virpazar?
Virpazar can be reached easily in more ways than one. It’s located about 20 miles from Podgorica, so a car (or rent-a-car) wouldn’t be a bad option of transport. Just head from Podgorica to Bar, and you will see traffic signs which will lead you to Virpazar. In case you get a bit confused by the location of Virpazar, GPS device should be there for you to resolve the dilemma.
Another interesting way to get there is by train. Virpazar is connected to the international railway Belgrade – Bar and guess what…it has been a part of the first ever Montenegrin railway, built in 1908. The railway connected Bar and Virpazar and it was just short of 30 miles in length. The trains that have operated on this line weren’t permitted to go faster than 15 miles per hour.
Today, this railway is out of function, but it remains the cornerstone of the Montenegrin transport infrastructure.
Traveling by train offers beautiful landscapes and cheap transport as well. You can get to Virpazar from Podgorica or Bar for just 1 euro. Imagine that.
I was thinking of all the reasons one should visit Virpazar. It wasn’t hard to be fair. Virpazar is pretty and authentic town that has endured multiple tests of time and came back in great fashion every single time. There you can rest, enjoy nature, swim, cruise, hike or just have a romantic dinner with a loved one.
Then, I thought… wait…why should anyone avoid to visit this place ? It was much harder to come up with an answer for that question. Yeah, maybe someone just doesn’t like to visit old rustic places, but for all of you that do, the question isn’t “Why should I visit Virpazar?”. It’s “Why not?”.