Carrying the title of the smallest fully recognised Balkan countries and one of the smallest countries in Europe, Montenegro has become one of the favourite travel destinations in recent years, and all with a very good reason.
Being the seventh country in the world with the largest number of UNESCO protected areas per square meter, Montenegro is a home to deepest canyon in Europe and the second in the world just after the Grand Canyon – Tara River Canyon, the longest sand beach of the Old Continent – Ulcinj, southernmost fjord in Europe and one of the most beautiful bays in the world – the Bay of Kotor.
That is to say, with its exceptional landscapes, imposing mountains, enchanting Adriatic sea, idyllic villages, top notch gastronomy, and incredibly rich history and culture, Montenegro is boasting magical contrasts that manage to satisfy even the most demanding world travellers and explorers.
Still not convinced? Here are some of the reasons to visit and experiences to seek while in Montenegro:
Montenegro’s geographical position makes it one of the budget friendliest European destinations. With its small area, you can travel quick, easy and cheap while visiting the abundance of locations from north to south.
Moreover, due to its favourable geographical position, Montenegro can be reached very quickly from the largest European emitting markets.
Besides great transport connections with the rest of the Europe (Rome: 1 hour 20 minutes, Vienna: 1 hour 35 minutes, Istanbul: 1 hour 45 minutes, Zurich: 2 hours, Frankfurt: 2 hours 10 minutes, Paris: 2 hours 40 minutes, London: 2 hours 50 minutes, Moscow: 3 hours 10 minutes, Belgrade: 45 minutes) and due to its central position in the region, Montenegro is also an ideal destination and starting point for all of those who want to get to know the whole Balkans.
❐ In case you opt to visit Montenegro by sea, there are great ferry connections from Bari and Ancona (ITA) to Bar (MNE).
The fact that Montenegro is so small that it even represents an extreme inconvenience for cartographers who are struggling with mapping the country with even just a number is absolutely incredible having in mind the abundance of natural diversity you can find with each move you make.
Skadar Lake National Park, with an area of 475 km² is a lake which, at several places, even goes below the sea level and is known for its unique flora and fauna and paradise for birdwatching. Moreover, this is a place where you can see the Dalmatian pelicans – the only surviving pelican species in all of Europe.
Despite the incredible water abundance, more than 40% of Montenegro is rugged by forest carpets and Montenegro is home to one of the three remaining rainforests in Europe located in the Biogradska Gora National Park.
On the other hand, while speaking about waters, The Tara River Canyon at Durmitor National Park has a depth of 1300 meters and is the longest canyon in Europe, and the second in the world after the Grand Canyon of Colorado.
❐ Black Lake is the most beautiful of all 18 glacial lakes located at the Durmitor National Park in northern Montenegro.
Compared to Croatia’s coastline which is no longer the undiscovered hidden pearl which used to be, the magic of the Montenegrin coast is still quite off the beaten tourist trails.
From pebbles in Kotor, sand in Budva and long ocean-like beaches in Ulcinj, no matter which one out of 117 stunning beaches you choose, you can’t go wrong and will simply fall in love with the crystal clear turquoise sea.
Just imagine a beach that you would like to enjoy and rest assured you will find it in Montenegro which, among all, is known to have an average of as many as 240 sunny days a year.
Forever tied to the beauty of the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro sea will leave breathless all of those who have the opportunity to enjoy this symbiosis of perfection, islands, peninsulas, luxury marinas, bays, diverse beaches and river confluences.
❐ Beautiful pebble stoned beaches of Budva and Sveti Stefan region.
The Bay of Kotor is one of the most beautiful bays in the world and is rightly known as the ‘jewel of the Montenegrin crown’. Known primarily for its true beauty and family atmosphere of coastal towns and cities, Boka Kotorska is also known for its amazing abundance of rivers and streams flowing from the mountains into the sea making the water less salty.
❐ The Bay of Kotor is a unique natural and cultural entity dominated by Kotor town and well preserved medieval towns of Risan, Tivat, Perast, Prcanj and Herceg Novi.
This city was once the main cultural, administrative and commercial address of this region. Impressive walls and rugged ramparts are the dramatic backdrop of a city that is ‘framed’ by the sea and two rivers. It is home to numerous palaces and churches, of which the Church of St. Luke stands out with its two altars – Catholic and Orthodox. The city gate from the 16th century facing the sea is the main entrance to the Old Town, and has retained the features of the Renaissance and Baroque.
The oldest cathedral in Europe – the Cathedral of St. Trifona is located in the Old Town of Kotor, which is considered the main attraction of the city. At the same time, this church building is 69 years older than the world-famous Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral.In the Old Town of Kotor there is one of the narrowest streets in the world called “Let me pass”. It is so narrow that it is difficult to pass for two people.
❐ The well-preserved city walls were built between the 9th and 18th centuries and are almost 8 km long, 20 m high and almost 16 m wide. The walls are guarding the city rising all the way to the fortress of St. John at the top of the hill. You will need to set aside about an hour for the tour, and the view of Boka is especially impressive at sunset.
This picturesque city has a reputation of one of the best kept secrets of the Adriatic. Perast is included in the list of UNESCO world cultural heritage and is located in an area of exceptional natural beauty.
The architecture of the city exudes a time when this city was rich and powerful. By its looks it strongly resembles Venice, or at least a small part of it.
Although having only one main street, this town has impressive number of 16 churches and close to 20 palaces.
❐ Beautiful town of Perast is located at the foot of “Ilijino brdo”, west of Kotor, opposite the Strait of Verige.
The island of St. George is a small land oasis in the bay with the eponymous Benedictine monastery from the 12th century. In its vicinity, you will find our Our Lady of Rocks (Gospa od Škrpjela), an artificial island with a church built in 1632.
Legend has it that sometime between the 14th and 17th centuries, after a shipwreck, local fishermen found an icon of the Virgin Mary with a child. Interpreting this as a divine act of God, the fishermen undertook to add a stone each time they returned after a successful voyage.
This way, a small island was created and a church was built on it. Hundreds of years after its creation, the islet is growing every year. Every July 22nd, before the sunset, locals mark the anniversary of the island popularly called ‘Fašinada’ by dropping stones from their boats.
❐ Islets of Sveti Đorđe and Gospa od Škrpjela.
The nautical settlement of Porto Montenegro was built on the land of the former Sava Kovačević institute, called Arsenal. The previously famous military shipyard transformed the local population from fishermen, winemakers and olive growers into hardworking and skilled craftsmen and, in 1889 the Arsenal officially began its work by pulling its first ship out of the sea.
The development of Arsenal was followed by the lightning progress of Tivat itself, which extremely quickly, thanks to the new shipyard, turned into a city with a number of facilities. Today, their descendants are engaged in nautical, catering and other activities which include an elite tourist product in the categorisation of 5-star services.
Porto Montenegro has positioned itself as an eminent nautical, lifestyle and fashion destination. With luxury hotels and grandiose marina, it makes a great choice no matter the season of the year.
❐ Tivat and Porto Montenegro marina.
Apart from the stunning sea and beaches, Montenegro is one of the most beautiful mountaineering destinations in Europe. Afterall, its name derived from the fact that 80% of the country is made up of mountains (Montenegro: ‘Black Mountain’) Prokletije, Komovi and Rumija are some of the best mountains, and it is absolutely impossible to miss the captivating and challenging Durmitor National Park.
Walking along the edge of mountain peaks, discovering the hidden lakes, deep canyons, rainforests, with abundance of canyoning, jeep safari, quad safari, sport fishing, kitesurfing, and during the winter, the three ski centers you can enjoy, will show you Montenegro is not all about being lazy on a sunny beach.
❐ The highest peak at Durmitor National Park is called Bobotov Kuk at an altitude of 2525m.
Due to it being at the edge of east and west, Montenegro has a great legacy of history and culture that has existed ever since the 6th century. Nowadays, you can witness numerous different civilisations colliding and crashing on Montenegrin soil.
Thanks to the impenetrable mountains, compared to some other countries in the region, Montenegro was a hard to get “girl next door”. During the Ottoman empire, the local tribes lured the Turks into the mountains and let them starve to death. Numberless of powers, fighting over the centuries over this small country that is, most likely, the size of the average town in your country (Population: cca. 630,000) made this country immensely proud of its rich and rebellious history.
Just take a stroll in the old towns, admire the ancient Illirian castles, Venetian walls, Roman mosaic and abundance of monotheistic religious objects and its divine ornaments.
❐ Nested high in Lovcen National Park, you will find the mausoleum and resting place of Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, the country’s greatest leader who brought modernity to Montenegro.
Montenegro’s nightlife comes in all forms, with a plethora of varieties and options for each person to find something to their liking. From open-air clubs, bars with live music to parties on the beaches of Budva, better known as ‘Montenegrin Miami’ – the nightlife of Montenegro should not be missed.
Thanks to the favourable weather conditions with hot summers and equally warm nights, a good time is not only an option, but also a matter of course. The liveliest parties are held on the beach, and there is plenty of dancing on offer, but just as much fun can be had by picking up a cocktail and watching the madness of dance fever.
You will choose your best place most likely by the atmosphere and music you like. From trance festivals, blues and jazz cosy atmospheres, hard rock concerts, to cheerful folk and dance podiums, there is not a single thing you will find this country lacks.
❐ Budva is known for its hedonism and numerous beach festivals and parties. On top of everything, this city is a home to the largest nightclub in the Balkans.
It is impossible to visit Montenegro and not enjoy the food. Diverse regions, climate and the influence of Turkish, Austrian, Hungarian and Italian cuisine have left their mark on Montenegrin gastronomy. From seasonal fish and seafood, risotto and salad in the south to cheese, meat and prosciutto in the north.
Food in the Balkans is undoubtedly an amazing taste buds experience but the variation on Montenegrin menus is unlike anywhere else in the Balkans. The fact Montenegro is a fishing paradise brings up many plethora tasty local choices and varieties of seafood dishes.
The basic ingredients of every Montenegrin meal are fish, olive oil, cereals and vegetables in the form of salads. The cuisine includes crayfish, octopus, mussels, clams, and other seafood. Fish is most often prepared here by grilling it with aromatic herbs and garlic, fried, or as a thick fish soup (brodet).
❐ If you are a meat lover, Njeguši prosciutto is probably one of the most famous products that you should seek for while discovering the impeccable Montenegrin local products and meals.
With the average temperature in summer being 27°C and sea temperature 25°C, superb fishing conditions, imposing mountains, only fourteen (small) islands in the entire country, and ancient harbor towns that have retained their character, Montenegro became an ideal destination for yachting.
Whether you own your own yacht, or simply renting one at a very affordable price, the best way to explore Montenegro in depth is surely by heading out to the deep blue waters and discovering hidden beaches and secret caves lurking with each small shore. Depending on your choice or budget, renting a boat is one of the easiest things to do while in Montenegro so treat yourself with a bit of luxury.
❐ It is the country where you will be able to fulfill your yachting dreams no matter the budget you have. The good thing about this unrivaled destination is the fact that it offers a little bit of luxury that was out of reach for most of us, for a very agreeable price.
Budva is one of most popular tourist destinations in Montenegro. It is protected by Lovćen and Pastrovići mountain ranges and known to be as one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic cost.
The whole peninsula is surrounded by monumental fortifications which date back to the 14th century and were built to protect the citadel and the old town. Just take a stroll through the narrow alleys and enjoy the maze like medieval atmosphere of the old town.
Just opposite Budva on the other side of the bay, lies stunningly beautiful island Sveti Stefan. Founded in the 15th century it was established as a fishing village by the twelve families. Each family had a small stone house surrounded by fortified walls that served as a hideout during dangerous times in Ottoman period.
❐ Nowadays, St. Stefan is a home to the most luxurious resort in Montenegro. It is visited by world’s celebrities and known for its amazingly picturesque beaches.
Montenegrins have a lot of respect for family and family traditions and are known to be some of the most hospitable people you will find in the region. No matter if you are treating yourself with luxurious resort offer or simply indulging into small local communities of farmers or fisherman, rest assured you are at one of the safest places you could be.
No one knows when or why it started, but the stereotype that rules the Balkans, which says that Montenegrins are lazy, is the mainstay of many Balkan jokes.
While this is absolutely made out of joke, Montenegrins are indeed known to be very relaxed and like to live their lives fully, hearty and by following some of the statements such as “Love thy bed as you love thyself”; “If you see someone resting, help him”; and “If you have the urge to work, sit down, wait and you’ll see it will pass.”
Despite the jokes, we must say that people of Montenegro are honest and hardworking people who will go above and beyond to make sure you are fully enjoying their piece of heaven.
❐ It is considered normal to sing in the street for no reason but just feeling like it so, while in Montenegro, just relax, enjoy and sing.