Feature image of the landscape surrounding the The Mausoleum Njegos at Lovcen National Park

The Panoramic Mausoleum and Karst Landscape of Lovcen National Park

The Lovcen National Park attracts visitors to its elevated Mausoleum Njegos to honour the memory of one of Montenegro’s most important leaders, Petar II Petrovic-Njegos. The position of the Mausoleum Njegos provides expansive panoramic views over Lovcen National Park and its beautiful and intriguing karst landscape.

Main Themes
  • Lovcen National Park
  • The Mausoleum Njegos
  • The Craggy Karst Landscape

Lovcen National Park is located just 13 kilometres from Cetinje and is situated above the city of Kotor. The park shares its name with Mount Lovcen by courtesy of the elevation of its two formidable peaks, Stirovnik (1,749 metres) and Jezerski (1,657 metres). These elevations make Mt Lovcen the highest mountain in Montenegro. The Mausoleum Njegos is located atop Jezerski where a lookout provides a 360 degree panorama of the Lovcen National Park.

The major natural feature within the 62 square kilometres area of Lovcen National Park is its rugged landscape made up of craggy, whitish rock. This landscape is a karst field which is broken intermittently by dense forests of beech, oak and linden trees. Wild flowers in thin soils scattered on hilly spaces compete for nutrition during the warmer months. Grasses abound in lower depressions and provide heavenly softness underfoot.  

Image shows the two peaks that make up Mount Lovcen, Stirovnik and Jezerske
The two peaks of Mount Lovcen, Stirovnik (L) and Jezerski (R)

The Mausoleum Njegos in the Lovcen National Park

The Mausoleum Njegos at elevation atop Jezerski in the Lovcen National Park
The Mausoleum Njegos at Lovcen National Park

The Mausoleum Njegos was constructed on the top of Mt Jezerski in 1971 to honour Petar II Petrovic-Njegos. It is the second most elevated mausoleum in the world. Petar II Petrovic-Njegos is revered in Montenegro for his contributions as a poet, philosopher, prince-bishop and statesman. His family occupied the Billiard Palace in Cetinje.

The Mausoleum Njegos on Mt Lovcen overlooks Cetinje

The Mausoleum Njegos
Lovcen National Park is easily accessible from Cetinje by car. When you arrive at the mausoleum you will see a small car park at the base of the mausoleum. Stairs from the car park lead into the entrance of the mausoleum. There is then a climb of 461 steps to the top of Mt Jezerski.

Buckle up the backpacks, fill the water bottles, collect some food and set off. Whereas 461 steps doesn’t sound nearly as intimidating as the 1364 steps that you may have climbed up to the fortress at Kotor, the structure of the steps is different and some visitors find the ascent just as challenging.

The panoramic views from the mausoleum are spectacular and reach well beyond Cetinje and easily take in Skadar Lake National Park.

Panoramic views from the Mausoleum Njegos at Mt Lovcen across Cetinje to Skadar Lake
View of Lovcen National Park towards Cetinje from Mausoleum Njegos

It is easy to linger at the mausoleum when on t op of Mt Jezerski. The 360 degree panoramic views across the Lovcen National Park and beyond are breathtaking.If you pack a snack you can happily munch away on sandwiches and slurp coffee as you stare around mindlessly, content to soak up the view and allow your other senses to indulge in what is on offer.

The Drive Through Lovcen National Park up to the Mausoleum Njegos

The ever ascending drive up to Jezerski through the fresh natural environment of the Lovcen National Park passes through forests, their limits contrasting against the vast fields of whitish rock.

The road up to Mt Lovcen cuts through the craggy but forested landscape of the Lovcen National Park
Ascent to Mausoleum Njegos through the Lovcen National Park

During the ascent through the Lovcen National Park there is a variety of spring flowers growing in an inhospitable environment doing their best to decorate an unyielding host.

The Lovcen National Park Visitors Centre within the forest

The road up to the Mausoleum Njegos passes by the Lovcen National Park Visitors Centre. The centre provides information about available hikes through the park.

The Craggy Karst Landscape of Lovcen National Park

As you drive slowly down from the mountain, relieved of the attention and focus given to the mausoleum and its panoramic gifts, spare some time to focus on your immediate surroundings. Stop the car and get out. Enjoy the lovely forests that are sprinkled throughout the park. The air is clean and the odour of the forests invigorating.

Secondly, the landscape we see is telling us some stories. What could they be?

Firstly, it just isn’t possible not to notice the whitish landscape that surrounds us on all sides. All the white rock is limestone and dolomite. Surely this craggy landscape is a karst.
A karst is a region where carbonate rocks have surrendered to dissolution by acidic water. Karsts form when carbon dioxide enriches rain water to produce carbonic acid. The acid reacts with the main mineral in limestone, a carbonate named calcite. The solubility of the bicarbonates that result is responsible for the surface features we see at Lovcen National Park.

Secondly, what about the shapes of the valleys, including the valley between Stirovnik and Jezerski Vrh? The shapes are not the characteristic V-shape we would expect. Add to this the smoothed appearance of the landscape in some places, as well as changes to the structure of the limestone. It appears that Lovcen National Park has experienced glaciation.

The exploration of the landscape is an unexpected reward for visiting the Lovcen National Park. The landscape is itself a spectacle that adds to the visit of the mausoleum. So fill the water bottles again, on go the backpacks and set off hiking through the National Park and look for evidence. Finding it will be so satisfying. What to look for?

Look for Karst Features

The effects of the soluble bicarbonate solutions can be readily identifiable. The exposed surfaces of the limestone become etched. Joint fractures across the rock surfaces become widened. You may also find areas where the limestone appears to have been polished by smaller aggregate which was transported across it. And perhaps the limestone you are now walking over was once part of the sea floor!

Fine scatches across surface of limestone due to glaciation at Lovcen National Park
Fine surface scratches in limestone at Lovcen National Park

Look for Evidence of Glaciation

The lack of V-shaped valleys, replaced by U-shaped valleys, the absence of surface water, and the wearing smooth of the valley walls are all indicative of glaciation. Additionally, the shape of the valley floor between the peaks of Mount Lovcen suggests that it had been raised by glacial deposits.

Finding the field evidence will be fun! It’s great when you have a day when things go well; when enjoyable, unexpected things happen. Such will be today. Just a great day out in the open.
The most apparent evidence of glaciation across the karst you will find is the scratches and grooves in the limestone. These indicate the direction of the detritus when it was carried by the ice across this region of Montenegro.

As you continue your search across the Park for evidence of glaciation you will also observe some minor depressions. Solution holes marked by conical depressions often form in the soil overburden. These can lead to caverns if affected by underground streams.

The Dinaric Alps is the limestone spine that runs the length of the Balkans, appearing as far south as Greece as the Pindus Range. The mountains are the result of thrust faulting and folding, and Mt Lovcen lies within the range.

The carbonate rocks of the karst zone in which the Lovcen National Park is located have been heavily fractured by tectonic events. This is very apparent when you look at the images. These events included processes familiar to most of us, folding and faulting, as well as overthrusting. The glacial period across the Balkans had a significant impact on the landscape of Montenegro. The Montenegrin mountains were the most ice-eroded. This resulted in all the evidence of karst and glaciation that can be happily tracked through the Lovcen National Park.

If you are interested in other types of limestone and associated landscapes, you might enjoy the dolomite landscapes described in our post A Guide To Your Scenic Road Trip Through The Dolomites. This region was formed from the uplift of the ancient sea floor and then subjected to glaciation and tectonics.

Final Thoughts on Lovcen National Park

The mausoleum on Mt Lovcen is worth visiting, particularly if extra time is taken to enjoy the beauty of Lovcen National Park, including its craggy karst and forests. The National Park is a safe, family friendly venue but seek advice about safe trails for hiking. Entry into the National Park is not expensive, nor is the fee into the mausoleum. Parking is available throughout the National Park but parking at the mausoleum can be difficult to obtain on popular days. You may have to park down the road a bit. A visit to Mt Lovcen can be a one day excursion around the area by car or as a hike that originates in Kotor.

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