Balkan Tour 2024 – Part 7 – Tivat, Montenegro

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Today’s flight had the Garmin Aero announcer going completely nuts. TERRAIN, TERRAIN, PULL UP, PULL UP. And this was before we had even got to final.

Ohrid, North Macedonia to Tivat, Montenegro

It’s a six-hour drive by car from Ohrid, North Macedonia through Albania to Tivat, Montenegro. We could cover the same ground in less than an hour by plane, although we did have to climb up to 8,500 feet to get over the mountain ridges.

Orhid Airport departures

Ohrid was open all morning for three scheduled flights. We turned up around 9 for our 10am departure, and this worked out quite well. After dropping off the hire car, it took a little time to sort out the landing/handling fees. Security then fired up their scanners and gave us the same treatment as any commercial passenger. Border staff almost raised an eyebrow when we stated our next destination, then stamped our passports. Then we were escorted out to the apron where I took my time to pre-flight and check that all was good.

Departure routing from Ohrid – a climbing left turn to fly over Struga towards BONZI on the Albanian border

I asked ATC if we could depart runway 19 out to the lake and make a gentle 270 degree left climbing turn to depart to the north west remaining within North Macedonian airspace. This was approved, and shortly after take-off I was asked for an estimate for BONZI on the international boundary. We flew up the valley from Struga. with high mountains that form the Albanian border on our left. Ohrid tower gave us the Tirana QNH and next frequency in good time in case we lost radio contact.

Just after take-off heading south over the lake. Ohrid city is behind the hill on the left
Albania is ahead (south) and right (west); shortly commencing a gentle left climbing turn
Turn completed. Now heading west with Ohrid on our right to the north
Ohrid airport looking north
Struga. We would fly up the valley inside North Macedonia then turn west into Albania

Tirana Approach instructed us to fly our flight plan as filed. Some miles before the border, Tirana relayed instructions from Montengro to fly direct toward PERDO.

Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, is in the middle of the picture, slightly back from the lake shore
It’s difficult to descend much earlier than we did
The Adriatic shoreline and the town of Bar, where we circled to lose altitude
Circling offshore Bar

Once in their airspace, Podgorica Approach instructed us to descend at our discretion to be at 1,000 feet at PERDO. That’s quite a tall order given both the short distance and high terrain around us. I asked for and was granted a descending orbit over Bar then handed over to Tivat tower. They instructed me to fly to KUPAN and expect to hold there at 1,000 feet.

Terrain over 5,000 feet high is close to the coast, where ATC want you down at 1,000 feet

I had read the AIP the night before which explains the two VFR inbound routes, so this was not a surprise, but nonetheless it’s still slightly uncomfortable to be orbiting 1,000 feet above the sea with a mountain between you and the airport. Tivat asked me for position reports a couple of times which suggests they can’t “see” you until you are visual with the airport itself. An Embraer jet was departing to the north and after just one orbit we were cleared to make our visual approach to runway 30. At this point you are quite low down (less than 1,000 feet AGL), approaching the final approach track at a 45 degree angle, with high mountains on both sides but no airport in sight. With about five miles to run, we were cleared to land and it was time to put the flaps and gear down.

Orbiting offshore at 1,000 feet
Heading in towards the final approach
Still down at 1000 feet, creeping through the valley floor towards the airport
The valley opens up and you can see the airport ahead

I had used the Garmin visual approach feature to assist with lateral guidance but it wasn’t going to provide any sort of glideslope. With our Garmin aero constantly warning of the terrain and urging us to “Pull Up”, it was a relief when on short final that she said “Five Hundred” in a comforting voice. Time for full flap and an easy touchdown.

Another follow-me car

A follow-me car was awaiting, making it easy to find the right parking spot. We quickly packed up and after immigration stamped our passports one more time, we were outside the terminal in no time.

Video of the flight

17 minute mostly 8x speeded up video from take-off to landing.
The visual approach into Tivat starts around 09:30 and is mostly at normal speed, and includes ATC.

Cockpit video of the flight from Ohrid across Albania to Tivat, Montengro; Approach into Tivat starts at 09:30

Kotor, Montenegro

We chose to spend the day and overnight in Kotor, about six kilometers away through a road tunnel. The “easy” part of the trip was over, and we were now at the mercy of a mob of taxi drivers keen for our cash. They prefer to negotiate a fixed fee rather than using a meter, language was a barrier and traffic congestion is a serious problem in Kotor.

Montenegro isn’t officially in the Eurozone, but uses it as their standard currency anyway. It does make figuring out the prices much easier than in other countries. As with North Macedonia, I had bought an eSIM card for my phone.

It’s a historic and scenic city, fortified extensively by the Venetians in the middle ages, and packed with small streets, churches, cafes and tourist shops. There was a large cruise ship in harbour, so it was also packed with thousands of tourists which was such a contrast to Ohrid. I’d recommend the Pržun restaurant which is hidden away in a square which was quiet in the evening.

The city fortifications rise high up the mountainside
We saw a film shoot of what looked like traditional dancing

After exploring, I spent some time researching the next legs of our journey, checking where it was possible to land and refuel, weather forecasts, hotels and then emailing border control documentation and filing flight plans.

PIC today: 1:15

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