For such a tiny country, Montenegro sure packs a punch when it comes to scenic sights. With a prized position along the sparkling Adriatic Sea, its natural wonders include deep, emerald-green canyons, dramatic mountain ranges, cave systems and the spectacular Bay of Kotor which makes for some epic coastal drives. Besides the lush landscape, expect to find a handful of beautifully-preserved UNESCO sites, charming old towns, exclusive islands, blonde beaches and quaint villages tucked into the hillside. Whether you’re planning a quick stop as part of a trip around the Balkans or making weeks-long holiday out of it, here are some of the most beautiful places to visit in Montenegro.
Sometimes compared to Venice thanks to its pretty perch, most of the action in this tiny town is centered around the waterfront which is lined with seaside cafes and restaurants, a towering old church, bountiful fig and palm trees, and colourful bougainvilleas pouring out of window boxes. Wander along the main promenade, duck into a few of the little shops, then turn your attention to the water–specifically towards two tiny islands, including one with a church built right on top of it.
That’s Our Lady of the Rocks, which was built to honour the Virgin Mary. The story goes that two brothers returning from a day of fishing saw a light on a small ridge, and when they got closer they saw an icon of Madonna and the Child. They brought it back to their church, but come morning the image had disappeared, and when they went back out to the water they saw the icon was once again sitting on the ridge they had taken it from. That prompted the villagers to build an artificial island and church on the same spot to mark the phenomenon, and from that point on when a ship would sail out from Perast each sailor would throw a rock at the ridge to ensure safe passage. Today, travellers can book a boat ride out to the island to see the church up close, and many tours also include excursions to the iridescent Blue Caves and island of Mamula.
Click below to book a boat tour around the pretty Bay of Kotor:
Next up on your Montenegro itinerary is a place that needs little introduction: Kotor, the country’s most visited destination thanks to the multitude of cruise ships that include a stop in its picturesque port.
Considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Adriatic, images of its medieval old town Stari Grad and orange terracotta roofs framed by dramatic cliffs and glass-like water have lured many travellers here. Sure, it can be overrun with day-trippers, but avoid the main streets in the UNESCO-protected old town and it’s easy to find solace down a winding cobblestone walkway leading toward the outer stone walls. Duck into an Ottoman-inspired bazaar, people-watch from an outdoor patio, admire one of the historic churches, or get your feline fix by cuddling one of the city’s stray cats which are famously well-cared for by locals and tourists alike.
One of the best things to do when you visit Kotor is to head up–way, way up– to the Castle of San Giovanni, also known as St. John’s Fortress. Perched a perilous 280 metres above Stari Grad, climbing the 1,350 steps to the top isn’t easy but it’s sure worth it for the scenery you’ll enjoy when you finally get to the ruins. Slip on some shoes with a good sole and make the strenuous climb up, stopping at one of the many panoramic lookouts along the way to gaze in awe at the sparkling Bay of Kotor below. This birds-eye vantage point is by far the most iconic site in all of Montenegro, making a trip up to the fortress one of the most popular things to see in Kotor.
READ MORE: Incredible things to do in Kotor, Montenegro
Click below to book one of these recommended Kotor tours:
Where to stay in Kotor:
Hotel Vardar: Hotel Vardar is a great base for exploring Stari Grad, located just inside the main gates behind the Clock Tower. Rooms are clean, modern and elegantly styled, and on-site parking is available. Click here to book
Boutique Hotel Hippocampus: This beautifully-designed hotel includes touches like plush velvet chairs and stone staircases that seamlessly blend old and new. Found in the heart of the old town (which means there can be street noise at night), the welcoming staff and great included breakfast make Hippocampus a gem. Click here to book
In the mood to channel your inner stuntman? Then get ready to put that stick shift to work, during what’s sure to be one of the most thrilling drives of your life.
The Cetinje-Kotor road winds through Lovcen National Park, and this 38 kilometre highway is infamous for its steep, hairpin turns– particularly in the Kotor Serpentine stretch, an eight kilometre section with 16 switchbacks where the steep cliff side looms perilously close. It takes about 90 minutes to complete the full drive, since speeds average only 30 km/h and traffic backups are inevitable if a group of cars are forced to reverse to make way for a passing bus or construction vehicle. If your nerves can handle it, the drive is well-worth making for the spectacular views…and bragging rights.
Lovcen National Park
There’s a good chance you’ll have Lovcen’s lush landscape mostly to yourself, as this serene park sprawls out over 6,000 acres. Home to 20 different habitats, it’s popular with hikers as well as day-trippers from Kotor looking for a nature fix, and no matter where you end up the jaw-dropping views of the surrounding Dinara Alps are sure to give your camera a workout.
If you’re in the mood for a workout the Black Mountain is worth the steep climb, as is tackling the 461 steps leading up to the Njegusi Mausoleum. Situated on top of Lovcen’s highest peak called Jezerski Vrh, the reward for making it all the way up is an opportunity to tour the ornate tomb complete with a gilded ceiling, and an unforgettable vantage point of the surrounding ranges from the panoramic viewing platform.Click here to book
Globe Guide tip: En route to your next stop, Budva, zip over to Lipa Cave. This underground system has 2.5 kilometres of passageways and halls to explore, and offers caving experiences including the extreme tour where visitors descend into the caves via a rope through the ceiling. Click here to book
No Montenegro vacation is complete without some beach time, so head to the city of Budva which is situated on a small peninsula where the sparkling bay is surrounded by more than a dozen sandy spots. The walled city is just a half hour drive from Kotor, making it the perfect place to escape the hoards of day-trippers and soak up the sun on one of the best Montenegro beaches, like Old Town Beach or Pizana Beach which are both just steps away from the gates of the enchanting historic centre. Most beaches in the area have sun loungers available to rent, and facilities like bars, cafes or snack stands. For a family-friendly option, try the expansive Jaz Beach. While it can get crowded in the summer, there are activities like a floating water park for the kids, multiple restaurants, and nearby campsites making it easy to spend a full day here.
Another one of the fun things to do in Budva is wander around the medieval old town, which is just as charming as the one found in Kotor. There are fantastic boutiques and art galleries, beautiful plazas with ancient stonework, great dining options and historic buildings like centuries-old churches, tombs and monasteries. Be sure to wander all the way to the waterfront, to marvel at sites like the Citadela Fortress and St. Sava Church framed by gorgeous sea views.
What to do in Budva:
Where to stay in Budva:
Hotel Kadmo: This property offers a welcome respite from the bustle of the city, thanks to its quiet location tucked away in a neighbourhood less than 10 minutes walk from the beach. Rooms are slightly dated but spacious, there’s an outdoor pool, and the breakfast and half-board dining options offer tremendous value. Click here to book
Avala Resort & Villas: This splurge-worthy spot is in a great location, but chances are you won’t even want to head out to explore since it’s so tough to pry yourself away from the indoor and outdoor pools, including an infinity pool that overlooks the sea. Some of the suites and villas have gorgeous water views, and there’s also a modern fitness centre and dining options on site. Click here to book
Hotel Budva: Guests love the location of Hotel Budva, which is near the marina and old town (though it’s worth noting there can be some noise from the nearby night clubs depending on which room you end up in). Staff are very accommodating, and there’s also an outdoor pool and partial sea views. Click here to book
Get a glimpse of what life is like for rich and famous by making the 15 minute coastal drive along E80 from Budva to Sveti Stefan. There’s a narrow shoulder off the highway (marked by a souvenir stand) where you can marvel at this sun-drenched island, which was once a small fishing village with stone villas dating back to the 15th century. Today, it’s one of the most exclusive Montenegro destinations thanks to a famous resort called the Aman Sveti Stefan. Only accessible by a narrow causeway, the luxurious property is beloved by celebrities, and has hosted the likes of David and Victoria Beckham, tennis star Novak Djokovic and even the actress Elizabeth Taylor.
It’s no surprise rooms can cost thousands of dollars per night in the height of summer, but there‘s one other way to see the property without completely breaking the bank; since all beaches in Montenegro are public, Aman allows access to its pink-pebbled beach with the purchase of a day pass. However, that entrance fee will set you back more than 100 euros per person for the day, so be sure to arrive early to make the most of it!
OK, so the city of Podgorica isn’t exactly one of the prettiest places to visit in Montenegro. In fact, some lament that it’s downright boring. However, Podgorica is worth a stop if you have time to spare or end up having to drive through it during your Montenegro trip, which is inevitable if you’re continuing up to Durmitor or flying out of its international airport.
The country’s capital is home to nearly 200-thousand people, making it the commercial and cultural hub. Badly destroyed during WWII, the rebuilding efforts mean most of the buildings are quite new and modern, with a big focus on parks and green spaces. While there are some historic monuments worth seeing like the ruins of Nemanjica Grad or Petrovic Castle, most travellers end up using Podgorica as a base for day trips to explore Montenegro. Some of the best are Skadar Lake, which is the largest lake in the Balkans and home to nearly 300 bird species, or the impressive Ostrog Monastery which is a famous pilgrimage site built right into a steep hillside that serves up incredible views of the surrounding plains.
Click below to book one of these day trips from Podgorica:
Where to stay in Podgorica:
CentreVille Hotel & Experiences: This modern, minimalist hotel features swish touches like freestanding soaker tubs and Molten Brown amenities, which are remarkable given its budget-friendly room rates. Located close to the city centre, there are plenty of restaurants and shopping nearby. Click here to book
Hotel Aurel: The spacious suites at Hotel Aurel are the perfect place to unwind after a long day of Montenegro sightseeing, and some even have large outdoor patios. Its quick access to downtown makes the hotel ideal for both business and leisure travellers (taxi rides cost just a couple of euros), and guests rave about the friendly staff. Click here to book
Durmitor National Park
Thrill-seekers are sure to love the final stop on this Montenegro road trip, where some of the country’s best adventure activities are found. UNESCO-protected Durmitor National Park is beloved for its stunning natural landscape which includes soaring mountain peaks, thick pine forests, ice caves and 18 pristine alpine lakes.
Spread over 39-thousand acres in the northern part of the country, Durmitor is surrounded by the Piva and Tara rivers which are perfect for boating and fishing. Those looking for an adrenaline rush should walk across the 172 metre high Đurđevića Tara Bridge, which stretches 365 metres above the expansive Tara canyon floor–the world’s second deepest canyon with depths of 1300 metres. Another option is to take an exhilarating ride down Montenegro’s longest zipline or brave a rafting trip down the emerald-green Tara River, which makes for a memorable way to end to your Montenegro tour.
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