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-   -   Sofia / Skopje to Podgorica (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/europe/sofia-skopje-to-podgorica-42071)

Graham_Kawa 10 Apr 2009 18:23

Sofia / Skopje to Podgorica
 
Hi, looking for local advice (or anybody who has done this, I can't find any posts!) on getting from Sofia or Skopje to Podgorica in Montenegro.

Would prefer to stay largely on tarmac if possible. More scenic the better (e.g. mountains etc.).

My maps don't show many roads (but they are not super-detailed). Don't mind if it goes up via Kosovo or how exactly we go about getting there.

Will be late July or so. Any advice on route / how long etc. would be really appreciated. I was guesstimating it will take a couple days so stay somewhere in the middle.

Graham

markharf 10 Apr 2009 19:08

I don't have my maps here, so I'm a bit hazy on the details, but I went north from Sofia through some nice hilly country, did some dayhiking around the famous rock formations near a place I remember (maybe incorrectly) as Belgradchik--these were pleasant, but not remarkable. Then crossed the border to Serbia on the main paved route, paying far too much for insurance, wandered a bit before dropping down into Kosovo--a very worthy side trip, I thought.

I can't remember the routing, but if you go for a look at the famous "Tower of Skulls" and then head south but cut west through the hills just north of Kosovo towards (I think) Raska, you'll have it. This was a pretty area, with roads that looked worse on the maps than they turned out to be on the ground. Those hills are chilly, though, so there might be snow and ice this time of year. FWIW, I found that asking people to talk about the history of those skulls led me into some interesting discussions; people are reticent about approaching recent historical topics directly, but once they start talking they can hardly stop.

Kosovo is great fun, though heavily militarized. Lots of people eager to talk with outsiders, some good riding and nice scenery, monasteries to visit, etc. I tried to follow my map west from Pec into Montenegro, but the road petered out way up in the hills and some locals told me it was impassable. I doubled back through Pec, followed the main road a bit north to a signed intersection where the Montenegro road headed west up (and up and up) over the passes. This was a great route all the way across to Dormitor(?) Park, but again you'll want to ask about snow and ice. The park itself is very pretty, though heavily commercialized. If you can find the inland route from there across towards Sarajevo there's a lot more wondrous country to explore along the way.

Hope that's helpful. Enjoy!

Mark

Edit to add: oh, I see you're thinking of July. No worries about snow or ice, but probably you'll see more crowds than I did. The route I described is pretty much all paved on the main routes, gravel and dirt on side roads. Don't think you'd be very happy trying to do this in a couple of days, though; if you moved steadily along my route, riding long days and doing no sightseeing whatsoever, you might make it. But you'd forever be kicking yourself for not taking more time.

Of course there are probably faster routes, too. The direct road between Sofia and Skopje is pretty good, but it's relatively boring and you'll miss most of what's nice about Macedonia, a nice corner of Bulgaria and all of Serbia. And northern Montenegro is spectacular as well.

Linzi 10 Apr 2009 19:14

Roads
 
Hi, I can only add that you'll never do that distance in a couple of days. The roads are very time consuming indeed at least due to tight corners and longer distance than a map suggests. Also in Durmitor National Park, Montenegro there will be no snow in July- the risk will be sunburn. Try ukgser.com/forums balkans section for details. I'd expect something to be found there. Linzi.

Graham_Kawa 12 Apr 2009 17:22

Thanks for help both of you. Any estimate on how long it would take? Linzi mentions 2 days not realistic?

Linzi 12 Apr 2009 17:49

Times
 
Hi, I'd not offer a guess as to duration as from me that's what it would be. I have found though, the roads in the Balkans can be very twisty indeed due to the incredible terrain. Taking a mileage off a map is way too inaccurate. Some people posting on ::. UKGSer.com .:: - Powered by vBulletin must have done that journey and written about it. In addition it is an area full of interest for photos as well as local culture and architecture etc etc. In the EU we've got used to roads that have been updated man times over about 50 years. Your intended route could well include the first version! I looked into getting a train from Sofia into Montenegro and found there isn't even a track due to the terrain. You're on your own, sorry. Linzi.

markharf 12 Apr 2009 19:06

Quote:

Originally Posted by Graham_Kawa (Post 237382)
Thanks for help both of you. Any estimate on how long it would take? Linzi mentions 2 days not realistic?

Well, we're agreed that two days is far too ambitious. Taking even the wildest of guesses at how long you might actually need has to begin with a routing, and I'm not sure that you've got one just yet. Do you want to include Serbia? Durmitor? Or take the most direct path? And furthermore, do you favor 14 hour days on the bike, or would you prefer to spend afternoon happy hour in the pub each afternoon? Do you want to stop and take some walks, snap some photos, talk to the locals? Etc.

As best I remember, Sofia to the Croatia coast via Sarejevo on the route I tried to describe above took me 5 days. I was moving steadily, with only minor sightseeing and exploration, but it was late fall--short days and cold temps. I rode a few bits at night. I spent some time negotiating insurance and backtracking to find moneychangers. I got cold, and sometimes wet. Most people, saner than I, would want longer.

But I think you could take a more direct route and make it in three days, if that were your goal. Perhaps even two, if that were your only goal. At some point I'd have to wonder why anyone would want to bother.

Hope this helps.

Mark

Vaufi 12 Apr 2009 19:38

Whichever road you take - they are time consuming. Sofia to Skopje is roughly 200 kms, and shouldn't be too bad. But from there you either go via Pristina or Prizren through Kosovo, passing Pec. From there you'll have to go via Rozaje/Montenegro to Berane and further on to Podgorica. The shorter road through the beautiful Rugova canyon is severed since the last war.

Alternatively you could go from Skopje - Prizren into Albania via Kukes/AL to Skoder and further to Podgorica. Brilliant landscape, very mountainous, but also time consuming.... All tarmac, but in a miserable state :eek3:

Graham_Kawa 12 Apr 2009 23:39

Quote:

Originally Posted by Vaufi (Post 237403)
Whichever road you take - they are time consuming. Sofia to Skopje is roughly 200 kms, and shouldn't be too bad. But from there you either go via Pristina or Prizren through Kosovo, passing Pec. From there you'll have to go via Rozaje/Montenegro to Berane and further on to Podgorica. The shorter road through the beautiful Rugova canyon is severed since the last war.

Alternatively you could go from Skopje - Prizren into Albania via Kukes/AL to Skoder and further to Podgorica. Brilliant landscape, very mountainous, but also time consuming.... All tarmac, but in a miserable state :eek3:

Thanks. I expected it would be slow going, but it's very hard to guesstimate on a timeline sometimes! It never looks very far on google:) My maps don't show the border cross between Pec/Rozaje you mention, but that would be ideal. So i'll work on that Pec - > Rozage route, and see how it goes! It does sound like a great ride!

Thanks again - big help!

markharf 13 Apr 2009 00:08

Quote:

Originally Posted by Graham_Kawa (Post 237444)
My maps don't show the border cross between Pec/Rozaje you mention,

Get a better map. Really. Even the little on-line maps that Google finds for me show that route....which is the one I recommended earlier, starting with a signed junction just north of Pec. Without a better map, you're going to have a hard time finding your way around and (worse) you'll miss out on all the scenic back roads. There's no sense trying to make advance plans if none of the obvious options are shown.

The Rugova canyon route is spectacular, leaving town at a beautiful monastery guarded by Italian UN troops (who told me, incorrectly, that the road continued on into Montenegro) and following the gorge way up into the high country, eventually turning to dirt. It took me quite a bit of blundering around up there before some farmers managed to convey by hand gestures and scratching with sticks in the dirt that the way was closed. Nice side trip, though, and the monastery itself was very powerful, being well off the current international tourist trail.

enjoy,

Mark


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