Mount Lovcen rises immediately behind Kotor and the steep “old road” that winds from town to its peaks is one of the great, if vertigo-inducing, Montenegrin drives. The sweeping views it offers of the Bay of Kotor are beyond compare and can be accessed from the town in approximately one hour. Once up on the mountain, there is an adventure park, countless walking and biking trails, as well as a year-round restaurant named Ivanova Korita that serves up hearty local fair.
Marking the divide between the country’s two cultures and climates – coastal and mountainous – Lovcen served as the centuries-old border between ancient Montenegro, which occupied the highland, and the Venetian or Austrian ruled coast. Scattered with authentic villages and settlements, rich in historical, cultural, and architectural heritage, the 6,400-hectares mountain range was proclaimed a National Park in 1952. Prince-Bishop Petar II Petrovic-Njegos, a poet and intrepid warrior, whose enlightened, early 19th-century reign transformed Montenegro from a theocracy into a secular state. On the modest assumption that someone greater was yet to come, Petrovic-Njegos chose Lovcen’s second highest peak as his final resting place. While the chapel that marked his grave was later destroyed, the Njegos Mausoleum that rose in its place makes a fascinating stop for students of art and history. Designed in 1974, this modern memorial is the masterpiece of celebrated sculptor, Ivan Mestrovic (1183 – 1962), a Balkan artist whose bold figurative pieces and elegant bas-reliefs won him such venerable admirers as Auguste Rodin. The first living artist to be honoured with a solo exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mestrovic was awarded the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Gold Medal for sculpture, and was commissioned by Lord Beaverbrook for commemorative WWI memorials. In an enduring symbol of Montenegro’s legacy, Mestrovic created a monumental tribute interposed with an array of large-scale sculptures centered on one of the great philosopher-prince perched on his mountaintop contemplating eternity.
- Make the steep, scenic drive along the old road, stopping frequently for photos
- Drive or hike to Njegos Mausoleum featuring works of noted sculptor Ivan Mestrovic and sweeping views of Montenegro and Italy across the Adriatic
- A midday snack of surprisingly good bread, ham and cheese at the restaurant below the Mausoleum
- An afternoon of fun at the Adventures Park in Ivanova Korita
- Combine a morning drive from Kotor to Njegos, with a drive to pretty Cetinje, 20 km away, for lunch
Lovcen’s twin peaks, Stirnovik and Jezerski Vrh, crest at roughly 1,700 meters and overlook the entire country with views stretching as far as the Italian coastline on a clear day. Crowned by the fabled hamlet of Njegos, Jezerski Vrh is considered the Mount Olympus of Montenegro with well-preserved architecture that includes the ancient seat of the royal house of Petrovici (1696 to 1918) – a clan that claims the country’s first great writer and most distinguished ruler.