Birdwatching and urbex in the Salina of Ulcinj

by Fabian Jürgens
Published: Last Updated on

Stretching across the vast hinterlands of Montenegro’s infamous Long Beach, probably lies the country’s most unique biosphere: the Salina of Ulcinj. Once the epitome of Yugoslavian salt production, the saline has since transformed into an absolute birdwatcher’s paradise, as well as an exciting urbex destination.

Covering an area of 1.500 hectares, extraction of the white gold began in 1935 and soared after the end of World War II. During her heyday, the Bajo Sekulic saltworks provided hundreds of jobs, contributing greatly to the local economy, and nearly 60% of Yugoslavia’s entire salt production, roughly 60.000 tons annually.

In the early 2000s, the Salina had already been in decline for quite some time and finally closed her gates in 2013. Since then, environmentalists have advocated to protect the man-made habitat as a bird sanctuary. Ultimately, in summer of 2019, the former saltworks were designated as a nature reserve by the city council.

Today, more than 250 different bird species populate the shallow waters and muddy basins, including flamingos, the Dalmation pelican, and sea hawks, and use the area as breeding, feeding, and wintering grounds, creating one of the most crucial bird sites in the Adriatic and a vital stopover for the annual migration between Europe and Africa.

Morover, no less than 20 endangered species find sanctuary amidst the rocking reeds, such as the Albanian water frog, the European pond turtle, and the European otter.

a black bird flies across a lake with reeds in the background
reeds grow inside a lake with rolling hills in the background
a dirt path runs along the shores of a lake

URBAN EXPLORING IN THE SALINA

When production ceased in 2013, the saltworks were ultimately abandoned and soon fell into disrepair.

Once the pride of the local industry, the main complex has been in a state of decay for over a decade but has now become an exciting playground for urban exploration, consisting of ransacked workshops, crumbling depots, and dilapidated buldings slowly being reclaimed by nature.

You can easily spend an hour or more exploring amidst the debris.

BEFORE YOU GO

| From the city centre follow Bulevardi Nëna Terezë until you reach the M1 highway. At the roundabout take the exit towards Shkodër, Albania. After roughly 500 metres, you will spot a brown sign pointing you towards “Ulcinj Salina”. You will find the entrance to the Salina at the end of the road.

| I highly recommend renting a bike both for reaching the Salina and moving around once there. At a certain point you will reach a sign asking you to leave your bike (there are wooden bicycle racks) and continue on foot.

| At the entrance gate, a guard will ask for an ID to let you onto the premise, so make sure to bring one!

| Visiting the Salina is completely free.

| Which birds can be observed depends on the season.

a partly destroyed channel between dried up water basins in a former saline

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