Montenegro is a small mountainous country bordering Bosnia & Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast, Albania to the southeast, Kosovo to the northeast, Croatia to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the southwest.
A decade ago, Montenegro was barely known as a destination. That changed when cruise companies made Kotor one of the major cruise destinations in Europe. Each year, about 450 cruise ships sail into the Bay of Kotor. This tiny Balkan country is an ideal destination for day trippers from the cruise ships, but it’s best to stay a little longer.
There is so much to see and do in Montenegro. In the mountainous region, adventure seekers will find glacial lakes, deep canyons, and fascinating mountain peaks. And sun seekers and beachgoers can enjoy the 117 sandy and stony beaches along the 180 miles Adriatic Sea coast. There is also thousands of years of history to discover in the walled medieval coastal towns.
Where to visit
Herceg Novi is the westernmost city in Montenegro. Located at the entrance of Boka Bay (or Bay of Kotor), this coastal city has over 200 sunny days, beautiful beaches and centuries-old fortresses and churches. There’s a long list of restaurants, cafes, and bars serving the delicious Mediterranean, Turkish and Italian-style cuisines.
It’s a mini version of Kotor, minus the crowd.
Kotor’s Stari Grad (old town) was built between the 12th and 14th century. This triangular-shaped fortified town on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea was an important city during the Venetian period. You’ll find Venetian-inspired architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, squares, and many friendly cats.
Kotor is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A hike up to St. John Fortress is a must for those who are fit and enjoy panoramic views of the Bay of Kotor and medieval buildings.
Perast is the most picturesque old town in the Bay of Kotor. Set just a few miles from Kotor, Perast boasts of two island churches – the 15th century Our Lady of the Rocks on a man-made island and 12th century Saint George Benedictine Monastery on a natural island. Perast is a beautiful place to relax and dine. My favorite is the seafront restaurant at Hotel Conte.
To experience Montenegro’s mountain region, head over to Žabljak. It’s the largest town on Durmitor Mountain, the highest peak in northern Montenegro. At an altitude of about 4,800 feet above sea level, Zabljak is the highest town in the Balkans. It’s the gateway to Tara River Canyon and Dormitory National Park. Go for hiking, mountaineering or cycling.
Budva is another fortified town on the Adriatic Coast. There are Mediterranean-style stone houses, churches, squares, and also sandy beaches. Budva is a great place to discover the history of Montenegro and relax on the beach. Budva is an ideal gateway to explore other parts of Montenegro. It’s about an hour drive to Lake Skater, a 10-minute drive to Sveti Stefan, a 15-century fortified village, and about three hours from Durmitor National Park.
Where to stay in Montenegro
In Herceg Novi, stay at the Palmon Bay Hotel & Spa or Athos Apartments. Check out Pearl Apartments or Hotel Marija in Kotor’s old town. Hotel Soa or Family Farm Apartments in Zabljak. Hotel Moskva or Apartment Budva in Budva.
What to eat and drink
Montenegrin cuisine has Italian, Greek and Turkish influences. Seafood is in abundance and is cooked merely with lots of olive oil. Some of the dishes to try are:
- Grilled octopus
- Jagnjetina ispod saca (lamb slow cooked with potatoes, onions, and carrots)
- Grilled fish with rastan (Montenegrin collard greens)
- Stuffed peppers
- Clear fish soup
- Prsuta (Montenegro Prosciutto)
- Moussaka (eggplant and minced meat)
- Cevapi (sausages)
- Burek (pastry with cheese or meat)
- Priganice (Montenegrin doughnut holes)
- Niksicko beer
- Lozova Rakija (grape brandy)
- Montenegrin wine
How to get there
Podgorica Airport and Tivat Airport are the main airports in Montenegro. There are no direct flights from the US to Montenegro. You can get connecting flights in London, Rome, Vienna, Istanbul or Paris. Low-cost airlines like Ryan Air, Wizz Air, and Easy Jet offer multiple flights per week to Podgorica and Tivat.