After visiting Montenegro, I simply can’t understand why people still travel to Croatia!
Montenegro is a very friendly little country down by the Adriatic sea. It is home to perfect beaches with clear turquoise waters, charming medieval villages and impressive fjords. The very tall mountains also offer excellent skiing opportunities if you decide to go in winter. But best of all – the herds of tourists haven’t discovered it yet. We’re glad we have.
The reason we went to Montenegro was originally my fiancées fascination with Game of Thrones and its filming location which is the little medieval town of Dubrovnik, Croatia, just north of the Montenegrin border. We spent 4 days exploring Montenegro, and after having done so, I simply can’t understand why people still travel to Croatia! The beauty is definitely located south of the border.
This is a little Unesco town and I demand you not to miss it. It was our highlight of the trip, simply thanks to the beauty of it. This is your postcard from Montenegro! Please allow plenty of time for a swim in the crystal clear waters – you might see plenty of fish, and take a boat out to the islets of St George and Gospa od Skreplija.
Another Unesco town, and also the most popular tourist destination in the country. Both the harbor and the small alleys of the medieval town are lovely, but our highlight was to climb the fortress of San Giovanni to witness the sunset over Kotor Bay. The fortress is located a little bit over 1,2 kilometers above sea level and the trek is 4,5 kilometers. We took the southern path up and the main path down, which also led to the well-known chapel of St Ivan. Bring water and some hiking shoes, although a Russian lady we met was perfectly fine with high heels.
3. Sveti Stefan
Sveti Stefan is a little island that resembles Dubrovnik. There is a wall around it, and the bridge is still guarded. Nowadays it is mainly because the entire island is a premium luxury resort, so I guess there is an incentive to keep the rif-raf out. But visitors are allowed to enter this historical village with a guide. If you don’t fancy taking the tour, a hotel stay might be something to remember as it is a one-of-a-kind property. Expect to fork up 800 – 4000€ per night, though.
4. Lake Skadar and The European Horseshoe Bend
I bet you’ve seen photos from Horseshoe Bend in Arizona. Good news is a similar phenomenon exists in Montenegro, although less rocky. The road is narrow but very accessible as it is just a short drive from the M2 highway that connects Podgorica with Cetinje and the coastline. This is the exact location.
5. Lovcen National Park
In summertime – a perfect mountainous landscape to hike. In winter – a darling for local off-pist skiers. Nijegos Mausoleum is a tomb located 2 kilometers above sea level, and it is also one of the most impressive peaks in Europe. You can drive up almost all the way, but the last 400 meters of altitude need to be done by foot. And don’t miss hiking Bobotov Kuk. The views of the valley and the fiord compare to both Norway and Switzerland.
Avid skiers should take the opportunity to ski in Kolasin in Northern Montenegro. It compares to many of the alpine resorts in Europe but it is significantly cheaper.
Tivat is a lovely coastal town with beach access and plenty of harbouring opportunities if you arrive in Montenegro by yacht. Porto Montenegro is a luxury marina under construction. Most of it is finished today and some people refer to it as the new Monaco of the Balkans, although I would wait a couple of years before I make that comparison. It is built and owned by the Rotschild family.
Another medieval walled village, but also home for new high-rises. Èze meets Benidorm. While it has its historical charm, it is also the beach town where the most tourists come for the summer holiday and the herds might already be unbearable. Bear in mind though, that it has some really nice properties and you get a lot of bang for your buck in town. We were very satisfied with our stay at the 5-star Hotel Budva which provided excellent room service and had a very spacious rooftop pool. The prices are half of what you would pay in Croatia, and a third of what we’re used to back home. I don’t recommending spending too much time in Budva, but as it is centrally located, it might be a great base.
What to eat
Montenegro offers a wide range of foods, but as it comes to restaurants, we found dining in our hotel to be the best option, as all restaurants allow indoor smoking. We stayed in Hotel Budva – their food and service was great and we had the pleasure of not walking away with lung cancer.
Quality of service
Outstanding. One of the best in Europe.
Montenegro uses the Euro, although they aren’t an official member of the Eurozone. We didn’t need cash on our entire stay there, as they accept all kinds of credit cards. We even paid amounts under 1€ by credit card and we always got a smile and full paperwork in return, with the tax receipt and transaction approval slip stapled together. In this case, Montenegro is Utopia for the accountant-turned-traveller.
Montenegro is home to two international airports – Tivat and Podgorica. You can also fly in to Dubrovnik, but I’d advice you to pay a slightly more expensive airfare to be able to land in Montenegro, as rental cars and border crossing permits are way cheaper if the car is rented with MNE plates.
Rental car. Don’t forget winter tyres (and snow chains for driving up the mountains) if you go in winter. The country is very mountainous which means vast elevation changes. Bring water. Always use headlights, never drive too fast. The traffic police is everywhere! If you don’t have a license, taxis are very cheap.
When to go
We went there in late January, which is a time of year I really recommend for travel to that region if you want to combine a perfect ski trip in the high mountains with a summer holiday down by the beach.
Summer, spring and fall are equally rewarding. The lack of snow in the mountains by then will present a great opportunity for hiking.
Montenegro is just as safe as any other European country, but it never hurts to flash your valuables moderately.