Roll, Race, and Float through Mountains, Plateaus, and Canyons: This is Montenegro

Roll, Race, and Float through Mountains, Plateaus, and Canyons: This is Montenegro.

Piva Canyon Kayak Stage

Find yourself crossing over, through, and under every imaginable geological feature imaginable when you try Montenegro’s 48-hour Expedition Challenge.  You’ll raft the Tara Canyon (the deepest canyon in Europe) and do your best to avoid flat tires as you race through the Sinjajevina plateau.  Not to mention about 80 kms of trekking,15 kms of kayaking and other unknown surprises thrown into the mix.

Although these feats themselves are worth a few months of bragging rights they are almost incomparable to the raw beauty that each racer has the chance to experience up close through each kilometer that they cover.

Troy Farrar, President of the United States Adventure Racing Association (USARA), noted the growth in Adventure Racing, and took interest in Montenegro’s Expedition Challenge.  USARA has decided to award this year’s Number One Nationally Ranked team, free entry into next year’s challenge.

Adventure Races in Montenegro have been open to locals for a long time. The idea behind the sudden rise in recognition of these many races and challenges being issued out by Montenegro and local adventure enthusiasts is to bring together local businesses, tourism, and non-profits in a way that benefits the entire community and creates lasting value among all participants.

“I have long wanted to do something to protect Montenegro’s ‘big 5′ (Bear, Wolf, Lynx, Chamois and Wild Boar),” says Jack Delf, Director of Black Mountain and Adventure Race Montenegro. “All of the ARM directors wanted a strong conservation goal for the race,” funds raised from the race will fund the first scientific census of large mammals species in Montenegro and continue the work of promoting a national ‘Leave No Trace‘ educational program, dedicated to the responsible enjoyment of Montenegro’s pristine wilderness.

If 48 hours is 24 hours too many, take a look at Montenegro’s Coastal Challenge taking place September 25th around the Bay of Kotor.

These races are all a part of a yearlong Adventure Series taking place throughout Montenegro. Check out past events that have taken place this year and start marking your calendar to participate next year.

If you are interested in registering for the race or would like more information send an email to: or contact the following people:

Hayley (English) +382 (0)67 268 971

Janko +382 (0)67 603 712 (Crnogorski).

To register online visit : Montenegro Expedition Challenge

From – ‘Off the Radar’ Online Magazine for Adventure Travellers


Some of our work for the Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance

Tourism Working Group Forum in Montenegro a Success.

The STARS Program aims to improve Northern Montenegro’s tourism sector by attracting investment, enhancing linkages, increasing marketing capabilities, and developing cohesive regional branding.

On May 25th and 26th 2009, STARS held two Tourism Workgroup Forums in Zabljak and Kolasin for forty-one individuals from private, non-profit, and government sectors. The participants included representatives from local and regional tour operators, restaurants and accommodations, and destination management organizations.

Jack Delf, owner of Black Mountain tours and former advertising executive, introduced the workshop’s goals and explained the emergence of an adventure-driven European market in which northern Montenegro could position itself as a leading destination. Mr. Delf previewed the STARS marketing and packaging workshop that occured in late June 2009 by offering best-practice techniques for running successful operations, identifying target markets, attracting western European travelers, and creating networks for future cooperation among tourism businesses.

Participants wish to continue to discussion in-between monthly workshops. They held interim one-on-one meetings in order to fully prepare for the June Workshop, where they will received further information from STARS tourism development experts, Costas Christ and Christina Heyniger.

The Forum concluded with a frank roundtable discussion on current business needs and their potential solutions, helping to define target areas for STARS project assistance.

As workshop participants acknowledged the need for additional dialogue on tourism business needs, STARS will be conducting small group sessions to further identify business-specific and cross-sectoral assistance opportunities.

“This project will be much help for our future business development. We need assistance bringing more tourists into our beautiful Northern part since we still have not shown them the true beauty of it.”

-Bijelp Polje, local tour operator

The STARS Program aims to improve Northern Montenegro’s tourism sector by attracting investment, enhancing linkages, increasing marketing capabilities, and developing cohesive regional branding.

Taken from the Global Sustainable Tourism Newsletter – December 2009

The value of cooperation and ‘adventure travel’ tourism in Montenegro.

Innovation at its simplest is the introduction of something new. New ideas, new products, or a new approach. In 2006, ‘Black Mountain’ was founded because we felt that Montenegro, as a tourist destination, was falling far short of it’s potential. Montenegro was marketing a homogenous product which was vulnerable to changes in demand. We believed that Montenegro needed new tourist offers to play to its strengths, to differentiate it in the market and to increase tourism revenue in a way that minimised harmful impacts for the country’s wild beauty and unique culture.

Official destination branding

In recent years the rise of ‘Adventure Tourism’ has created a new demand which Montenegro is very well placed to meet. Adventure Travel includes any 2 out of three aspects; nature based experience, cultural education and an activity. The sector now accounts for 25% of European ‘outbound’ holidays, and worldwide is worth 64 Billion Euros and growing.

Inland Montenegro -Black Lake

Montenegro is spectacularly beautiful, very mountainous, rugged and sparsely populated. Of the 660,000 population, more than 3 quarters live along the coast or in the three largest towns. In the winter 50% of Montenegro is uninhabited and during the summer 25% remains unpopulated. Local customs and a traditional way of life still exist,exist; many families move their flocks up to the high pastures and live in the Katuns, without amenities. Add to all this, the deepest canyon in Europe, numerous white water river courses, primary forest and surviving wild populations of large mammals including brown bear, 3 national parks and 2 UNESCO protected areas.

Despite this richness, the Tourist master plan for Montenegro until 2008 took no account of this potential. The stated aim of Montenegrin tourist development was to become ‘a high quality Majorca!’ The antithesis of innovation, to copy, not to develop a new approach.

We determined to make the most of this incredible potential and launched some very innovative products. For corporate and academic training we have developed unique programs such as a 3 day ‘earthquake survival exercise, titled “Escape from Mount Orijen” or the team building program on an offshore island, modeled on the TV show ‘Lost’. We have produced a range of unique hiking, biking and multi-activity tours geared for any level of ability. All of our activity programs contain authentic cultural elements, and we allow our customers to modify each itinerary to suit their own tastes.

'Escape from Mount Orijen'

In order to survive the private sector SME’s who wanted to develop new adventure travel offers had to cooperate to form clusters and to lead change themselves, to find ways to promote Montenegro’s unique offer and to develop their own product.To deliver new product, we needed local partners who are ready to embrace change, who were innovative and able to take risks. Motivation was the key. A number of aid sponsored ‘adventure travel businesses’ existed, but were motivated more by aid funding than the desire to generate tourist income. We discovered that the less vocal, more active businesses made the best partners. The number of customers they serviced told us most about their willingness to adapt. Many outdoor clubs and associations exist; their passion for their sport keeps them informed of the latest developments. They were less motivated by profit but wanted more exchange with international enthusiasts.

Adventure Race Montenegro - 'cluster'

We have sought to bring these two groups together, to form informal clusters which cooperate, share information, joint marketing initiatives and ultimately develop new product. We launched the Montenegro Adventure Race with the voluntary unpaid help of these organisations. This is a charity race has involved SME’s, sports clubs and municipalities. We have all learned through shared experience, and now offer tours based on events. We have been working to establish a leave no trace program and part funded the training of 24 educators among Tourism businesses, National Parks and clubs and clubs.

During the past 10 years Montenegro has been among the fastest growing tourist destinations, inward investments has poured in to the country to develop new hotels, marinas and villas and apartments. Tourism revenue is expected to be 620 million in 2010. But there are still problems.

The tourist season is extremely short,short; July and August account for 70% of overnights, June and September a further 20%. The wealth created by tourism was very localised, 95% of tourist visits are to the coast, one resort Budva, accounts for 47% of visits. The concentration of tourism into such a small area in a short season inevitably lead to capacity bottlenecks on beaches and in high end accommodation.

The opportunities to offer high end accommodation and spa retreats in the mountains are limited, journey times from the arrival airport are longer than in other hiking destinations like Portugal, or Italy. However adventure tourists will accept more limited tourism infrastructure if they gain a more authentic experience.  ‘Adventure travelers’ almost by definition are not seeking sunshine and beaches. They want to travel ‘off the beaten’ tourist track and away from the congestion which can be seen in some coastal areas in peak season.

Projected location of Hydro power station ?

And finally… by attaching an economic value to  un-spoilt natural beauty and traditional culture, Adventure travelers can demonstrate to legislators and locals alike that both should be conserved.

Jack Delf

(…Extracts from a presentation to the European Parliament Conference of Innovation in Tourism- 2010.)