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Fill your ski-boots in Montenegro

Published date: 19.11.2009 13:54 | Author: Kliping inostranih medija

Ispis Print

With the ski season about to kick off - and holidaymakers still conscious of their spending - its an ideal time to check out the snowy slopes of Montenegro.

The little country on the Adriatic has some of the best value ski holidays in Europe and also some of the most spectacular scenery.

Known mainly for its gorgeous sun-kissed coastline Montenegro is also blessed with incredible mountain scenery, lakes and the longest canyon in Europe, through which the unspoilt Tara river flows.

The country only gained independence from Serbia three years ago and its fledgling tourist industry has yet to make the most of the countrys natural assets.

As a result its ski fields in the north have for decades been the preserve of locals and visitors from elsewhere in the Balkans, with just a smattering of Brits, French and Russians.

But the skiing on offer is first-rate and you can explore the area on snow mobiles or, if youre into mountaineering, climb the bluffs of Mount Bjelasica near Kolasin in the countrys north.

The simplest way to reach there from the UK is a flight from Londons Gatwick airport on Montenegro Airlines, which will cost about £200 return. You can also fly to Tivat on the coast, get a connecting flight or train from the Serb capital Belgrade or even fly to Dubrovnik, in neighbouring Croatia, and take the short drive across the border.

Montenegro has numerous modern and luxurious hotels, but you will also find a growing number of private B&Bs which are listed with local tourism authorities.

A two-day stay at Kolasins four-star Bianca Resort & Spa costs can cost as little as £164 for two adults which includes breakfast, a mini-facial and back massage.

The rates go up to about £141 per person a night over Christmas and New Years, but are exceptionally good value either side of the festive season.

There is also the four-star Hotel Lipka, which costs from as little as £45 per person a night, with breakfast included.

Both these hotels have fantastic offers all year round, and the use of parking facilities, swimming pools, saunas and Turkish baths are free of charge for all the guests.

Ski day passes for adults are around £18 and you can hire all the equipment you need for about a tenner a day.

Kolasin is roughly 45miles from the Montenegrin capital Podgorica, where the international airport is the easiest access point. A cab ride, usually organised by your hotel, will cost just 35 euros or about £31. Alternatively you can get from the airport by bus or via the Bar-Belgrade Railway.

Driving is recommended, but be aware of the tricky, sometimes hazardous mountain roads. These mostly single carriage roads wind for hundreds of miles through the mountains, and many an impatient driver has lost their life overtaking at the wrong point. So if you are driving exercise caution and drive sensibly!

Kolasin is a small town surrounded by the mountains of Bjelasica, Komovi and Sinjajevina. The immediate delights of the town include champion-standard Alpine skiing, fishing, canoeing, mountain biking, river rafting, horseback riding, Nordic skiing, hiking and snowboarding.

Ten miles away is the national park Biogradska gora which, covering 1,600 hectares of land, is one of the last three virgin forests in Europe.

Within the park is the glacial Biogradsko Lake, however not far away in Zabljak is an even more stunning natural feature - the Black Lake - which you can hike around the shores of and also get an excellent meal at the lakes log-cabin restaurant. The area is also rich in archeological sites, monasteries and water-mills.

Meanwhile fifteen minutes away in the nearby ski resort of Jezerine on Bjelasica mountain, over a kilometer above sea level, the slopes remain snow-covered throughout autumn, winter and spring only melting at the start of summer.

Maintained to an Olympic standard for international competitions they stretch for over nine miles. A cable car can take 1,200 skiers up and down the mountain every hour, and ski lifts carry another 900 skiers an hour.

The slopes at Jezerine can take 8,000 skiers at any one time, with the main run nearly three miles long. But the truth is your unlikely to encounter anywhere near this number.

In fact because the ski season is so long you can find yourself bombing down well-maintained trails in March and April with only a handful of fellow skiers to bother you.

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The runs themselves are divided into Super G slopes, giant slalom and slalom slopes, snowboard slopes and easy slopes for beginners and children. There are also sleigh and Nordic slopes.

In addition the ski lift also operates late for night skiing.

While Bjelasica and its foothills receive snowfall up to early April, during the summer months the area is pleasantly hot, with daytime temperatures between 25-35°C.

In the Durmitor region the town of Zabljak provides steeper ski slopes with great powder fields and some hair-raising chutes.

Here there are just four ski lifts operating and far fewer skiers than in Kolasin. But it is also home to the incredible Tara, a river so blue and clear it looks almost like a Disney animation.

The whole area is covered in dozens of peaks above 6,500ft and dotted with deep lakes. And on the river itself, you get some of the best white water rafting in Europe.

One of the many attractions near Kolasin is the Moraca Monastery. It was built in 1252 in the Byzantine style, typical of the region, and its icons and frescoes are regarded by art historians as precursors of the Renaissance.

Being situated in the south of the Adriatic, Montenegro is unique in many ways. It is hard to find in one small place so much natural wealth and beauty, gorgeous beaches and lakes, beautiful mountains and fast rivers.

With big investments in infrastructure and hotel developments, Montenegro has also become an attractive destination for corporate tourism.

The diversity of Montenegrin nature also reflects in the cuisine. The Mediterranean cuisine is based on fish, olives and cereals, and the northern parts of the country are known for their meat and dairy products. There, you can indulge yourself in the most exquisite tasting lamb prepared traditionally with sour cream called skorup and a mash made of corn flour called cicvara.

Montenegrins are very welcoming hosts and known for their hospitality. If you are a guest at someones house, they will bring the best food and drink they have.

But beware. If you wolf down what you're given out of politeness your host will immediately refill your plate and glass and expect you to eat that as well. So pace yourself. If you visit several different Montenegrin homes in a day you probably won't need to eat for the rest of the week.

And be careful if youre drinking Loza, the national grape brandy - the strength of it is 50 degrees. Because of its pleasant aroma, its also very easy to drink, and even easier to get drunk on. It is best to drink with smoked meat and cheeses. There are also Vranac and Krstac wines, and Niksicko beer.

Whatever your preferences - swimming, skiing, hiking, biking, paragliding or exploring the cultural heritage of Montenegro - one thing is certain, you are guaranteed a fantastic holiday.

Montenegro Tourism Organisation,