The quaint Montenegrin fishing village with surprising East Asian charm

News Jun 6, 2024

The birds had quieted, the beer started flowing, and the fishermen were lost in thoughts of sleep. I tried to discern the shore from the floating greenery on the lake, but it was impossible. The mist lifted, dividing the scene into mountain heights and river lows. This tranquil village exuded a sense of harmony with nature typical of East Asian fishing villages – yet this was not Asia. It was the small village of Karuč in Montenegro, on the banks of Lake Scutari, Europe's largest freshwater lake.

The beautiful village of Karuc sits at the edge of Lake Scutari, Europe's largest freshwater lake

Karuč carries a tangible sense of impermanence, its residents, fishermen, only home when the elusive fish are too. The tower of St Peter of Montenegro stands beneath a viewpoint overlooking a bay, a short hike away, where the young country's flag flutters gently among the ruins. Chosen as a winter retreat for its seclusion and mild climate, the fishermen established their trade here after the tower was constructed in 1808. The tower, though weathered and small, offers a stunning view of Lake Scutari, inspiring the birth of Karuč.

Karuč: Uncovering the Spirit of the Past in a Quaint Fishing Village
Source: Lake Skadar Boat Tour

Back at the bay, villagers were busy cutting wood and transporting it to the jetties. They invited me for a quick sail to a nearby restaurant. Carp, a Montenegrin delicacy, is marinated in oil, garlic, and dill for hours before being fried to a crisp perfection. I enjoyed my meal with Nikšićko, a local beer made with mountain water, reminiscent of a classic pilsner with a hint of saltiness – a unique experience after a swim in the freshwater lake.

Welcome to Montenegro
Source: Mountainous-Continental cuisine

“Do you want to go to the Amazon?” called the boat taxi skipper. Lake Scutari, home to over 200 bird species, is a designated important bird area. Like migratory birds, the lake transcends borders, crossing into Albania and sharing fishing rights like an international waterbody. Karuč lies on the northern side, a few hours from neighboring villages. To reach them, one must navigate the "water jungle" to enter the winding river Rijeka Crnojevića, named after the old capital and its royal inhabitants.

“Take me to the Amazon,” I declared. We set off, slicing through blankets of golden lilies in our shallow boat, a traditional čun (pronounced chune), perfect for skimming over reeds and shallow clear waters. Ahead lay a vast expanse of water bordered by land. Triangular forested mountains receded into the distance, transforming into deeper shades of blue, layered like a cake. As we glided, pygmy cormorants joined our journey, and for a moment, the mirrored surface of the water made it feel as though we were flying too.

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Karuč isn’t a place for seeking artifacts or shopping for souvenirs, but a retreat into stillness and seclusion – a true escape from the chaos of the world. Here, you can dive into teal waters under teal skies, savor fresh fish, and sit with wet hair, gazing at an undisturbed natural landscape.

Montenegro prides itself on its laidback lifestyle, and nowhere is it easier to embrace this than in Karuč. Visit, find a good view, enjoy the delicious food, and take your time – the real world will seem wonderfully distant.


Oliver Hughes

Oliver has over 15 years of experience in travel journalism. He focuses on European travel, providing expert reviews of vacation rentals and cultural experiences across Europe.