Danilovgrad

After an approximately 10-minute drive from Podgorica towards Niksic, you will see a landscape unusually green for this part of Montenegro opening up on the right side of the road. This is the valley of the emerald green River Zeta, the Bjelopavlici plain, named after the Bjelopavlici tribe. Located in this green and fertile oasis is the municipality of Danilovgrad covering an area of 501 km2. According to the last census, the municipality has a little more than 16,000 inhabitants, of which some 4,000 live in the administrative and cultural centre of the municipality, the town of Danilovgrad.

Historically, the area of the Danilovgrad municipality has always been attractive for establishing settlements, as indications of human presence in these areas may be traced all the way back to prehistoric times. There are numerous localities all around Danilovgrad where remnants of ancient cultures have been uncovered. The reason for this is that this area stretches along what has always been an important communication route, connecting the basin of Lake Skadar with the northwest of Montenegro.

By the end of the 8th and beginning of 9th centuries AD, the first significant settlement was established in this area - the ancient city in the place today called Martinici (check Gradina Martinici). Historians assume that this ancient city was Lontodoclea, built by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII. It was the centre of early medieval Zeta. Records of another fortified settlement, located in the area of today's village of Spuz, close to Danilovgrad, date back to 1378. This fortress was extended and renovated while the area was governed by Pasha Hodaverdi Mahmutbegovic, at the beginning of 18th century. Danilovgrad, as we know it today, was conceived in the 19th century. After Omer-Pasha's second campaign in Montenegro in 1863, Prince Nikola I came up with the idea to establish a market on the right bank of the River Zeta, in order to improve trade in this area. This was the nucleus of the future settlement, later to become what we know today as Danilovgrad. Architect Dragisa Milutinovic (1843-1900) was hired to develop the layout of the new town, which Prince Nikola I named after his uncle and predecessor, Prince Danilo. According to the original plans, Danilovgrad was supposed to have a population of 15,000 inhabitants and be the capital of Montenegro and its main commercial centre.

But, after the Berlin Congress in 1878, the town lost its attractiveness, due to the expansion of Montenegrin territory, which led to economic activities being moved into those places previously occupied by the Turks (like Podgorica). Danilovgrad never lived up to the original plans in terms of its size, importance and population. Nevertheless, in a cultural sense, it is an important place because it kept to the outlines of its original layout and retains many buildings with their original 19th century architecture. For the contemporary tourist, if not for the abundance of historical monuments and archaeological sites, Danilovgrad is worth a visit for the sheer beauty of the surrounding landscape, plus, in the near vicinity of this town there are very nice mountainous terrains, ideal for hiking and spending weekends in the freshness of clean mountain air during the hot summer days. This region is also attractive in terms of religious tourism. Close by are Ostrog and Zdrebaonik monasteries.