// M O N T E N E G R O
Grab your bags and get ready for a pleasant balkans surprise!
Well, since you asked, Montenegro is a tiny country wedged between Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania.
Should you visit?
Short story: Yes.
Long story: Also, yes.
But here's why.
Montenegro is famous for its soaring mountains, glittering beach resorts along the Budva riviera and UNESCO World Heritage-listed Bay of Kotor. The best thing about it though… it’s nowhere near as touristy as other European destinations and you get a little slice of paradise to yourself!
There is no wrong time to visit Montenegro. Each season brings a different take on the landscapes and offers something a little different. The southern coastline has a Mediterranean climate, which means warm and dry summers, while the winters receive most of the year’s rainfall, but are still quite mild.
Wondering what to see and do when you're in Montenegro?
Well, wonder no more.
So, uhhh, Podgorica is very interesting. I think it’s a good place to start because things do get better (trust me). Podgorica is not the capital city I envisioned Montenegro having – it’s a little lack luster and dull, a little lifeless and sparse. The summer brings quite a bit of heat and locals are hesitant to venture outside. It means it’s a literal ghost town and you’re forced to wait till the evenings for restaurants to open and the city to come alive.
I ended up staying in Podgorica for a few days but simply because it was a convenient base to explore some interesting parts of Montenegro that could all be reached within less than an hour by public transport. In hindsight (which is a magical thing), I would probably choose to stay in Kotor if I were to re-live my Montenegro experience again.
A UNESCO world heritage site, the well preserved medieval walled town of Kotor sits at the foot of Mt. Lovćen at the southern end of the Boka Bay. It’s so charming with its maze of winding streets and narrow paths that wind around the Old Town.
The Old Town of Kotor dates back to Roman times, first being mentioned in 168 BC. Occupying a strategic position on the Adriatic Sea, it has been fortified since the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, the town has been occupied by Illyrians, Serbians, Hungarians, Venetians, Austrians, and the French. The town has also been subjected to numerous earthquakes, with notable ones in 1537, 1563, 1667, 1729, and 1979. Montenegro was subsequently a part of Yugoslavia, and finally achieved independence in 2006.
I recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons of late spring or early autumn. I went in October and the weather was perfectly clear every day and just hot enough to go swimming. If you are spending a few days in Kotor, you should definitely go to the bazaar in Kotor, do a walking tour of the city, arrange a boat tour of Boka Bay, see the cat museum or hike to Kotor fortress. Hiking to the fortress is a must do and i've done a little post on it to give you a helping hand!
Perast is an idyllic Adriatic town located in the Bay of Kotor. Perast has stood for over 1000 years and has faced numerous sieges during the last few centuries. First the Byzantine Empire held control over the tiny town, followed by the Serbians, Hungarians, French, Austrians and eventually as part of Yugoslavia.
Its narrow streets and numerous, mostly abandoned renaissance, and baroque palaces, testify about the former richness of the Kotor bay, and about the days when it was inhabited by those living their best luxurious lives.
Besides the town’s sheer beauty, it has a fascinating history and culture with the Our Lady of the Rock Church. You can view the church from Perast or you can catch a boat tour and get a closer inspection for yourself.
Budva is one of the most popular cities on the coast of Montenegro. Beach lovers flock to Budva in summer to hit the beach and party. It’s not as charming as Kotor. It’s kind of like the Kuta of Bali, with cheap sunglass huts lining the streets and tipsy tourists drinking cheap alcohol at all the bars. I only spent a few hours in Budva and most of this time was at Sveti Stefan. Unless you have a crazy desire to be one of those topsy turvy tipsy tourists, then i'd highly recommend the same.
Sveti Stefan is 5 kilometres from Budva. It’s a tiny, yet spectacular island of 15th Century terracotta-roofed buildings connected to the mainland by a spit of bleached sand. The island itself is now entirely taken over by the luxurious Aman resort which is definitely one of the best places to stay in Sveti Stefan, and the whole of the riviera. I spent my time wandering around, taking people’s pictures for them and frolicking on the beach.
You can easily get to Budva from Kotor by catching a bus. The whole journey takes about 45 minutes and only costs equivalent to a few euros. Just walk to Kotor’s main bus station and catch any Podgorica-bound bus. Easy!
Durmitor National Park
For my birthday I decided to do one thing that I love: hike. And Durmitor National Park’s exceptional beauty, shaped by glaciers and rivers, alpine meadows and smooth hills, was the perfect place to do a spot of adventuring. I mean visiting Durmitor and not indulging in some hiking would be akin to visiting Paris and not bother with the Eiffel Tower. The trails on offer are some of the most well defined in Europe … the hard bit is choosing which one to do.
By the time I reached Durmitor National Park it was nearing noon. I chose to spend the afternoon by going to the Black Lake (Crno Jezero) and lazing there for a little while. The magnificent body of water is found at the foot of the imposing Meded Peak, the mountain that shadows it and gives it its name. I’ve seen a few lakes in my time and this one was pretty impressive.
If I had more time in Durmitor I would have liked to have done 1. more hiking and 2. The zip line across the Tara River Canyon. Did you know that Tara River Canyon in Montenegro is the second deepest canyon in the world? The first is America’s Grand Canyon.
The zip line offers a dramatic explosion of nature that simultaneously pummels you with verdant cliffs and soothes you with glimmering emerald water. There are also opportunities to do a spot of rafting if you have time. It is said to be equal parts exhilarating and easing, as serene as it is stimulating. Find out more about rafting and prices here if you want!
So, like every place I have ever visited, I have so many more things on my Montenegro bucket list. Hopefully I will make it back sometime soon and tick these things off. In the meantime...