A home away from home

It is rare for me to write specifically about a hostel (unless it’s a hostel horror story of course), but every now and then when you come across a hostel that ticks all the boxes, especially when you come across a hostel such as the Hikers Den, you feel that everyone has to know about it.

The Hikers Den Hostel found in Zabljak, the heart of Montenegro, really is a home away from home.

Run by Alex and Gina, you really do have everything you need at your fingertips in one of the most beautiful settings in the whole of Montenegro.

Zabljak really is one of the most beautiful parts of Montenegro

The hostel is a hostel much like many found around the world (though I have to say with particularly comfy beds), but it seems to lure in the certain type of person to create an atmosphere rarely found.

Now, you have to understand, when I arrived at the Hikers Den Hostel it was in the pouring rain, rain that barely abated for the three days that I stayed there.

Rain and bad weather is invariably the ultimate test of a hostel because everyone is hanging around the communal areas at all hours of the day, often cold and tired, when all they wish is to be outside. Because of this, tempers rise and boil over, but not at the Hikers Den.

Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s found in the mountains, that it attracts a certain type of traveller, but I’d say there are two reasons why the Hikers Den Hostel is such a pleasure to stay at; Alex and Gina.

Tara River bridge crossing the canyon, about 30 minutes from the hostel

Alex, 26, from Montenegro, and Gina, 28, from Australia, own and run the hostel, so they have got a vested interest in it as opposed to the usual hostel employees you find on the road.

With a rating of 98% on HostelWorld, they aren’t actually chasing reviews. Rather, their philosophy is “if you deliver a good service, everything else will take care of itself.” You can’t argue with that.

When I arrived at the Hikers Den Hostel in the evening, Gina went through the different hiking opportunities (wishful thinking on her behalf) while Alex came over and said: “You look cold. This will warm you up,” and proceeded to place a vial of pear rakia (the local spirit found in the Balkans) in front of me; and he was right, it did warm me up.

You can hire bikes for free at the Hikers Den Hostel

Being the stereotypical backpacker, I didn’t exactly have the necessary kit, so when I finally wanted to go hiking (it was still raining I might add), Alex lent me his hiking boots and a waterproof jacket.

I took off on one of their bikes (which they hire for free), and when I returned wet through to the bone and my phone water damaged, Gina quickly ran off to the shop to buy rice (which she paid for as well) to see if we could resurrect it.

And finally, on my last morning at the Hikers Den Hostel, and a mere 20 minutes before I had to catch a bus back to the capital of Podgorica, the sun finally broke through the clouds.

Moments later, Alex burst into the common room and said: “Macca, let’s go. We’re going to the Devil’s Eye. Finally we’ll be able to get you some photographs,” and off we went.

When the sun finally broke through the clouds, Alex took me to the Devil's Eye

Both Alex and Gina bent over backwards to help me – as they did with everyone – and they really went above and beyond the call of duty of hostel owners, not because they needed to, but because they wanted to.

All of this helped create a home away from home, if only for a few days, and I can’t recommend the Hikers Den Hostel in Montenegro highly enough.

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Author

Macca Sherifi is a presenter, photographer and videographer who has worked in the travel industry for the past six years. He has travelled to over 75 countries, volunteered in Bangladesh and worked in both China and Australia.

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