Montenegro wasn’t always high on my European bucket list. Actually, I probably didn’t even become aware of it as a summer destination in Europe until a couple of years ago, despite visiting nearby Croatia!
Montenegro only became an independent country in 2006, and since then they’ve been working hard to establish their reputation as a unique place to visit in Europe. I’d have to say they’ve been succeeding, and I can only imagine the popularity of Montenegro will continue to take off! From the beautiful beaches of the Adriatic Sea and the UNESCO World Heritage city of Kotor in the south to the mountainous Tara Canyon and Dorminghejg National Park in the north, Montenegro has a lot to offer.
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How long should you stay in Montenegro?
You should stay in Montenegro for at least a week, if possible. It’s always hard to say how long you should visit a country for, and Montenegro is no different, but you really need time to get out of the main centres and travel to all corners of the newest country in Europe.
Visiting Montenegro on a day trip from Dubrovnik has become very popular, but to really experience this stunning country you need to stay there, and even then, you need to get off the coast and out into the countryside to really explore.
Of course, you’d have to stay in Montenegro for much longer than I managed to be able to really discover it’s hidden gems, but it’s easy to see a few in a short time too.
Where should you stay in Montenegro?
There are plenty of options for places to stay in Montenegro, but I would highly recommend Kotor. It may seem out of the way, tucked into the mountains, but it’s a great base for reaching both the north and south of Montenegro.
We stayed in an Airbnb with the best view I’ve ever had from anywhere I’ve stayed before, honestly. I could have sat on the small balcony taking it in for the entire week. Of all the photos I took in Montenegro, at least 100 of them must be of this view!
If you don’t mind moving every few days you could also split where you stay in Montenegro, spending some time in the north, in Kotor, and then on the coast.
Top places to see and best things to do in Montenegro
This is far from an exhaustive list of the things to see in Montenegro because there are so many off the beaten track little places that will give your really unique experiences. Instead, it’s a list of the top places to see, a highlights reel of sorts, that should just make you want to explore even more!
Kotor is an ancient fortified town surrounded by steep and rugged mountains. Technically it’s on the Adriatic Sea, although it’s so far in-land that it looks more like the fjords of Norway. I spent a blissful week in Kotor in September, and I couldn’t recommend it as a top European destination enough.
The town has a Venetian feel, owing to its turbulent history. Although it’s one of the more expensive places to base yourself in Montenegro it’s worth it for the views alone. Check out my guide on everything you need to know about Kotor for more info.
Budva is another walled town in Montenegro, with narrow streets and a long history. But in contrast to Kotor, Budva is more of a party town, known for its nightlife and sandy beaches. It lies on the Adriatic Coast and is probably the most popular destination in Montenegro. Since it’s not a UNESCO site it hasn’t had to maintain it’s historical structures to the same standard as Kotor, and outside of the old town extensive development means you’ll be hard pressed to find anything resembling a historic building.
The beaches around Budva will be packed during the height of summer, but there’s plenty of adventures further afield if you want to escape and return in the evening tot make advantage of the buzzing Budva Riveria.
You can always pop down to Sveti Stefan, which is basically a 5 star resort with a beach connecting it to the mainland. The beach is only for those staying at the hotel, or anyone wanting the pay to access it!
The Old Road between Kotor and Cetinje
If you want to head north from Kotor then one way is over the old road to Cetinje. Every year part of the road is closed for Montenegrin car racing because of its switchbacks. There are 25 sharp turns so buckle your seatbelt and hold on for the ride. It’s all worth it for the amazing views over Boka Bay from the top.
Njeguši is a small village on the slopes of Mount Lovćen, within the Lovćen national park. It’s a great place to stop and recover after the stomach-turning road from Kotor.
Njeguši is also the home of the prosciutto and cheese are made that you’ll see on many menus and in supermarkets across Montenegro.
Mausoleum of Petar II Petrović Njegoš and Mount Lovćen
Petar II Petrović Njegoš was a ruler of Montenegro, a philosopher and a poet whose works are very important in Montenegrin and Serbian literature. He was born in Njeguši and asked to be buried on top of Mount Lovćen.
Well after his death in 1851 his remains were moved several times until finally in 1974 his wish was granted and he is now permanently interred in a mausoleum on the mountain. It’s located 1675m above sea level and there are 461 steps to reach it. It’s well worth the visit for the spectacular views from the top of the mountain (good weather permitting of course!) and to pay your respects to one of Montenegro’s most esteemed rulers.
Cetinje is the historic capital of Montenegro and a place of enormous historical and cultural heritage. The town dates from the 15th century, with Vlaska Church built in 1450. You can visit the church and the monastery where supposedly the right hand of John the Baptist is kept.
If you stroll through the streets you’ll also see many grand buildings that were once foreign embassies but have now fallen into decay. It was a strange sensation to wander the streets that must have once been so busy, but I love visiting places like this.
This is one of my favourite places in Montenegro and if you visit one place outside of the coast then I highly recommend here! Technically it’s the largest lake in Southern Europe and it’s located on the border of Albania and Montenegro. The national park is teeming with wildlife in the lake itself and among the huge amount of birds that call it home.
But the best thing about visiting Lake Skadar was the view of horseshoe bend. We stopped to take it in on our way there and back, and I didn’t want to leave each time. We took a boat from River Crnojevića along this part of the river and while it was beautiful to see the lilies and the surrounding hills from the river, the best view if definitely from the overlooking road.
Perast is a town in the Bay of Kotor. It’s like another mini Venice in the bay, but it’s most visited for the two islands that lie in the water just by the town. One is a natural island covered by the Saint George Benedictine Monastery and the other is a rather unusual artificial island featuring a Roman Catholic church called Church of Our Lady of the Rocks. The island was apparently formed over many years by local fishermen after they discovered an icon of Madonna and Child on a rock in the sea in 1452.
Rafting Tara Canyon
Tara Canyon is in Durmitor National Park, which is worth a visit alone, but I’d especially recommend rafting the river itself. Both the Tara river and the canyon are under UNESCO protection, given it’s the deepest canyon in Europe at 1333m, and is only second to the Grand Canyon.
The Tara river forms a natural border between Montenegro and Bosnia and to start our rafting adventure we crossed part of the border and then rafted down. I can’t say I’ve ever rafted along the border of two countries before!
Northern Montenegro ranks in the Lonely Planet’s top 10 destinations to travel in Europe in 2017, so I expect it won’t stay as quiet as it is for too long!
How much does it cost to travel in Montenegro?
The cost of travelling in Montenegro is relatively cheap compared to Western European destinations, but not as budget friendly as some of the other countries in the area. Transport and tours were very reasonable, but food and eating out, in particular, was more expensive.
Montenegro is still a budget friendly European destination with plenty of more luxury options available if you want them.
The currency in Montenegro is the Euro, despite them not being part of the European Union.
How do you get around Montenegro?
Getting to Montenegro
We travelled to Montenegro from Dubrovnik airport by private shuttle, and back to Dubrovnik by bus. A private shuttle was more expensive but a more direct way to reach Montenegro, given the bus station in Dubrovnik is the opposite side of the city to the airport and the opposite direction to Montenegro. The bus was a cheap way to travel but it took much longer, passing through
The bus was a cheap way to travel but it took much longer, passing through a main border crossing with longer lines than the simple side road we went through in the private shuttle, where we didn’t even leave the van!
Driving in Montenegro
Driving in Montenegro isn’t for the faint of heart, with narrow roads and lots of cars cutting corners. It’s definitely doable but just be very conscious when you’re driving. I’d recommend a tour of Montenegro unless you’re really confident in dealing with the roads and other drivers. Our driver knew the roads really well and even predicted areas where there may be accidents with tourists involved (there were).
Tours in Montenegro
We took two tours of Montenegro with Monte360. They were located across from the Old Town Hostel in Kotor, although you could also book through them if you were staying at the hostel. Their Great Montenegro Tour gave us the opportunity to see the top places in Montenegro in one day. At €39 it’s a steal!
We also took their Tara Rafting Tour which took a different route north so we were able to see even more of Montenegro, plus have an awesome experience river rafting at Tara Canyon. It was more expensive at €74 but included lunch and the rafting experience. (I have no affiliation with Monte360, I just really liked their tours!).
Montenegro is one of the best places to visit during summer in Europe and has so many awesome places to see. If you haven’t thought about visiting Montenegro yet then I’d urge you to add it to your list!
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