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Your entry into Montenegro will likely be via the capital city of Podgorica, which sits at the confluence of the Ribnica and Moraca rivers. The latter waterway has carved a massive, dramatic canyon into the mountains north of Podgorica, its water funneled into the equally impressive Lake Skadar National Park.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Two-thirds of this massive lake sits within Montenegro; the final third lies on the other side of the Albanian border, and covers up to 341 square miles, the largest lake in southeastern Europe.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Water levels fluctuate each season, affording a variable environment for a diverse array of flora and fauna. The dense marshlands in the northern shores bloom with yellow and white lilies, water nutmeg, and willow each spring, while the rocky, steep southern shore boasts aromatic and medicinal plant life.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The lake also serves as the largest reserve for wetland birds in Europe, with more than 280 species—including the endangered curly pelican.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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With such an expansive watershed, paddling option proliferate, from mellow cruises near towns like Rijeka Crnojevica (pictured) to multi-day guided sea kayaking excursions organized by local outfitters like Kayak Montenegro.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Traveling in Montenegro can be unpredictable. While heading out of Podgorica through Moraca Canyon, I encountered road construction that closed the road for over an hour. But the country’s take on roadside refreshment—as seen in this quaint hut—offers a keen lesson in the right way to offer respite from the road.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Montenegro has an operatic history, with records dating back to the 9th century. It declared independence in 1910 and sided with the Allies in World War I. In 1929 it became part of Yugoslavia and was annexed to Italy during World War II before becoming part of Socialist Yugoslavia, which disbanded in 1992.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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During the Bosnian and Croatian wars (1991-1995) that ensued shortly thereafter, Montenegro sided with Serbia and later endured attacks from NATO forces in 1999. Finally, on June 6, 2006, it declared independence.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Through the centuries, a number of religions have called Montenegro home. Today, Orthodox Christian is the dominate religion, alongside sizeable populations of Muslim and Catholic Christians. Its religious treasures dot the landscape, like these wall paintings at a monastery just outside of Podgorica  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Other churches, like Saint Nicolas in Podvrh, reside in more remote areas, where Damaskin, an Orthodox Christian monk, lives.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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But today's Montenegro is more than history, religion, and waterways. While the coast and a few mountain towns near the capital have benefited from an influx of tourist dollars, the further inland you travel, the more remote and wild the landscape becomes. And tour operators like Rams will help you find the country's wild side.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Wherever they take you, there's likely a local outdoor enthusiast club that knows every twist in every trail in the region. From century-old hiking and alpine clubs in the mountainous regions to crews like this local mountain biking group, the outdoor attractions are a secret to almost everyone except the Montenegrins. The local clubs are also a great source for guides.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Canyons and cave systems honeycomb the mountainous regions of the country, carved by waterways like the Skakavica River and its Grija waterfall. The water drops into a deep pool and continues to cycle through the seldom-explored canyon.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The falls lie near the small town of Plav in northeastern Montenegro and the foot of the Prokletije Mountains.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Nearby Prokletije National Park offers easy access to the eponymous mountain range, which extends from northern Albania to southwest Kosovo and includes 8,313-foot Zla Kolata, Montengro's highest point.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Despite its relative anonymity when compared with other European mountain ranges, the trails throughout the national park are very well-marked, and a donation from the Austrian Development Cooperation has yielded detailed regional hiking, mountaineering, and biking maps.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Some of the region's more peculiar features—like this rock formation that looks like two cats kissing—don't require an hours-long slog into the backcountry.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Other sites, like Hridsko Lake—the highest glacial lake in the country—are an easy day hike from the trailhead near Plav.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Montegrins are universally friendly. From katuns (pictured), roughshod homes in the more remote mountainous regions occupied from spring to fall, to small-town residents to folks in the cities, expect easy hospitality…  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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and more than one shot of slivovitz (plum brandy). Other Montegrian fare is decidedly Mediterranean in influence, including soft white cheese much like mozzarella, polenta, seafood, and cured ham similar to spec, as well as heavier meals like stews.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
 
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