Back when I was drawing up my bucket-list of must-visit places around the world, I had not even thought of going to Montenegro. I didn’t know about the place, haven’t heard yet of its beauty. However, when I was in the region, I realized the the small country was on the route. My trip there was a simple case of “Hey, since we’re here, why don’t we head over?”.
When I arrived in the country, though, the only thought playing in my mind was “shame on me!” There are so many beautiful spots in the area, and the Bay of Kotor is hands down one of the most beautiful in the world. I am so glad I went there.
How to Get There
Most tourists go to Montenegro on a day-trip, which is great. But if you really want to enjoy the country, take the time to spend a few days with the place. There is a bus from the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, which only takes 2 hours on the fastest route (on the slowest, it can take around 4 hours). Depending on the bus, the fare usually takes around 15 EUR.
If you will be coming from the Albanian city of Tirana, the bus trip can take up to 6 hours. This costs around 25 EUR. There are two international airports in Montenegro, one in Tivat (in the scenic Bay of Kotor) and another in Podgorica (the country’s capital and largest city).
Kotor. A town heralded by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, this is Montenegro’s Old Town with a lot of historic spots. It’s also the perfect spot to begin exploring the beautiful Montenegrin views.
Perast. This is yet another UNESCO town, and is completely closed to cars! It’s slow, quaint lifestyle is ages away from Kotor despite being just 10 kilometers away. Take a trip to St. George and Our Lady of the Rock, the two islands easily reachable via boat. There is also a sandbar where you can swim!
Cetinje. Just behind the previous two towns, this was Montenegro’s former capital. There is an abundance of churches and museums, and the town is mostly dedicated to exploring the Montenegrin culture.
Lovcen National Park. Speaking of culture, this park is a perfect place for a stroll while observing the people around you. It also houses the Njegos Mausoleum, which is on the second-highest peak. At the very top, you can see almost 80% of the whole country!
Sveti Stefan. An exotic, picture-perfect place, Sveti Stefan is also an old town that has now turned into a luxury hotel (the rooms start at a withering $1,000 a night!). It’s now closed to public use, but you can still take pictures. There’s a “free” beach beside the hotel (it’s $65 to use the beach within hotel premises) is also good.
Castle of San Giovanni. This is one of the historic fortifications of Kotor. It’s a step hike that can take around half an hour, but at the top is a stunning view of the nearby towns and the great bay beyond. The Castle is worth a visit in itself, but the panoramic background is just priceless! The fee is at 3 EUR per person, which is well worth it.
Great Montenegro. This is not a site, but an entire tour operated by 360 Monte. From the otherworldly views of Boka Bay to the slopes of Mt. Lovcen (for the best prosciutto in the Balkans), from the wide expanse of the Skadar Lake to the impressive heights of Stirovnik and Lake Peak, the Great Montenegro Tour shows off the nature, culture, and allure of the beautiful country.
Northern Montenegro. Many consider the Northern Montenegro region to be the most stunning when it comes to natural beauty. The 360 Monte Travel Agency also has a tour running through it, taking you to the dizzying Tara River Canyon (and its epic zipline!), the legendary Ostrog Monastery, the famous Black Lake, and more! I covered this tour in another post.
Despite being an advocate of DIY trips, I highly suggest taking the tours when you’re in the country. The roads of Montenegro are serpentine, with cliff edges you don’t want to drive into. What you think may be one-way roads are actually two-way! The weather is mostly windy, which can be disorienting. I think driving alone in Montenegro is the perfect recipe for a panic attack, so I advise getting one of those local drivers on tours.
Where to Stay
Old Town Kotor Hostel. This is a great hostel, housed in a building that has historically been a part of the Old Town during its glory days. Carefully restored, the building sports pretty interior and exterior structures. The service is also great, and the best part is that you’re just a few places away from the tourist spots of Kotor.
Montenegro has a host of a LOT of great places to eat. We encountered a place that serves really great lamb on our North Montenegro tour. Aside from that, there are also lots of restaurants around that serve traditional food. This includes Kacamak, which is made of wheat, sour milk, and cheese (there are those that serve a potato variant of this dish). Simple food items like cooked potato taste a lot better when served with the traditional mixture of cheese and sour cabbage. Indeed, Montenegrin cuisine uses a lot of vegetables and potatoes and cooks up really mean thick soups. For something a little closer to home, you can try the japraci, which is a flavorful mix of beef, pepper, rice, and more. Eating out doesn’t have to set you back much, either — a good meal costs around 5 EUR, but you can go up to less than 10 EUR for a more luxurious one (with truffles and all).
That’s right, the prices in Montenegro are also downright amazing! If ever you wished to cook your own food, you can get them at the grocery for a very low price. I can say this especially coming from Dubrovnik. Prices for beer and wine are absurdly low in comparison with surrounding areas. While it costs 2 and 3 EUR respectively in establishments, supermarkets sell them for next to nothing. Also, if you’re concerned about keeping hydrated while touring around, no need to shell out extra for bottles of water. For most of the Balkans, you can drink straight from the tap.
Aside from being a small country, it’s very easy to get around Montenegro because of its friendly people. While the streets may be long and winding, it’s easy to ask for directions because many people speak English well. Overall, Montenegro is just like the ideal tourist’s haven — a little bit of everything in one, easily accessible and affordable package. And it helps a lot that the package is incredibly beautiful, too!