Kuci Mountains – Žijovo range

Region called Kučka krajina or sometimes Žijovo area /«the Region of Kuči»/, situated next to the Albanian border,  north-east of Podgorica – the capital of Montenegro, is one of not so known gems of the Montenegrin Dinarides. Kuci Mountains – Žijovo mountain ranges make almost untouched, pristine, remote and quiet area of Montenegro, populated with the Montenegrin tribe of Kuci that feature courage, honor, honesty, religious devotion, unity and heroism since its foundation more than five centuries ago. In fact Kuči Mountains area is a vast karstic plateau (povrs) from which rise more groups of summits, single mountain-like summits and mountains. While some Montenegrin sources consider Kučka Krajina Mountains – Kuči or Žijovo Mountain group a western continuation of Prokletije mountain range /some Montenegrin Government papers even call them Kučke Prokletije, Prokletije of Kuči/, because they share more similarities to neighboring Malesija e Made and Prokletije/Bjeshet e Nemuna in Albania, the sources from other geographical schools and mountaineering clubs, as well as old JNA (former Yugoslav National Army) maps keep the name Prokletije for central parts of Prokletije Mountains only, namely to a mountain range that stretches east of Cijevna river to Cakor mountain pass, not even counting north-eastern extensions of the range over Hajla and Žlijeb mountains. The Cijevna River springs in Prokletije mountains  in Albania, with total length of 58.8 km, whereas 26.5 km flows through Albania, while 32.3 km flows through Montenegro and joins the Moraca River. Waters of the Cijevna River have extraordinary quality and comprehensive number of plant and animal species. Along the western side of Kuči Mountains – Kučka Krajina Mountains or Žijovo mountain range, rivers of Moraca and Mala rijeka («Small river») and road Podgorica – Lijeva Rijeka – Verusa, make the limits of the area. River of Cijevna and vast river valley of Zeta make south and south-western borderline of Kučka krajina – area of Kuči or Žijovo.

To east, the Kučka krajina area extends to the summits along Montenegrin-Albanian border and a smaller mountain ridge that over Vermoshi enters into Albania and finally, from the northern side the first neighbor of Kučka krajina is Komovi Mountain group. Mountains of Kuči area are connected with ranges of central Prokletije Mountains at theirs´ northeastern side – starting east of Vila mountain and Rikavačko Lake in Kučka krajina, and continuing over mountains of Vermosh in Albania and Maja e Grebenit (1,842 m) they meet Prokletije Mountains of Gusinje and Plav area (Trojan and Popadija) more to the east. Kučka krajina Mountains – Žijovo range is enriched by two beautifully set and picturesque glacial mountain lakes – Bukumirsko Lake and Rikavačko Lake. Bukumirsko Lake is placed in the heart of the range and with its outlook gives a great contribution to the uniqueness and recognizable beauty of Kučka Krajina mountains – Žijovo range. Main climbing routes to the highest peaks of Žijovo massif start from Bukumirsko Jezero lake, which is the most recognizable symbol of Žijovo (Kučke Planine) mountain range. The Bukumir Lake is situated only some 50 km north of Podgorica, along the road which goes through Kuce, direction foot of the Komovi Mountains, which makes the place of magnificent beauty and history full of legends. The Bukumirsko Lake is located at 1448 m above sea level, between Torač, Velji Vrh and Gozd peaks. The surface of Bukumirsko Lake is 19.320 square meters, maximal depth is 16,8 m. The Bukumirsko Lake takes a water from the rain, by snow melting and from periodical springs from Katun Ivanović. About 15% of the Bukumirsko Lake is enriched by lush vegetation. The stunning panorama of Bukumirsko Lake with Pasjak, Štitan, Velji Vrh and Surdup peaks dominating over it makes truly one of the most beautiful mountain scenery of Montenegro. Rikavačko Lake is situated below the impressive and elegant Vila (2093 m) peak, on the place where the mountain range Žijovo (Kučke Planine) is separated from Prokletije Mountains. The Rikavačko Lake is situated at the altitude of 1313 meters. The surface of the Rikavačko Lake is 117.755 sqm. The lake is 525 m long and 235 m wide. The coastline of the Rikavačko Lake is 1640 m long, and its maximal depth is 13,9 m. A part of the water of the Rikavacko Lake goes to Cijevna and Ribnica rivers. Rikavačko lake takes the water from the rain, by snow melting and from periodical Rikavac stream. One can reach the Rikavačko jezero only by terrain vehicle or on foot along the very narrow and gravel road, which, besides the fact that there are no electricity and phone signal here, makes special joy and dangerous challenge to a a number of visitors which grows every year.

On northern side Kuci Mountains are connected to Komovi Mountain and Planinica-Mojan mountain ridge with another mountain ridge. The physical features of Kučka Krajina Mountains show many traces of glaciation, as it is case with Prokletije mountain range. Also the relief of the Kučka Krajina Mountain group is very indented. Like the main part of Prokletije Mountains, whose shape resulted from a collision between Dinaric and Sara-Pindus tectonic plates, the mountains in Kučka krajina too, deviate from usual Dinaric Alps´ NW-SE stretch and they stretch here in all directions – no dominant direction. The highest summit of Kucka Krajina Mountains is Surdup with 2,184 m. There are more than 15 summits higher than 2,000 meters in Kuci Mountains. Because of the fact that the mountains/summits rise from already elevated undulating plateau you will not always have feeling of such height when looking at the mountains of the Kučka Krajina region. But despite the false feeling of their real height, the Kučka Krajina Mountains show a full dramatic high-mountainous appearance – sharp tops, glacial ridges, glacial chasms, lakes and valleys. The wide glacier that stretched over the plateau of Kucka krajina Mountains in the older geological period was up to 200 meters thick. Only northern, and even more, the southern parts of Kučka krajina mountains have more woods. The most of the Kučka Krajina Mountains region is woodless, a magnificent mix of wild karstic and glacial structures and feature combination of nice green grassy pastures. Numerous peaks of Kuci Mountains are excellent climbing terrains and provide magnificent view points from Surdup, Stitan, Pasjak, Treskavac, Smojan, Toljevac, Bigeze, Torac, Debeza, Velji Vrh peaks….