From its mighty mountains to the crystal blue sea and rocky coastline, Montenegro has so much to offer you on your next adventure to the Balkans. Nestled between several Balkan countries and the Adriatic Sea, you can explore a smaller country that is very unique with a rich history and culture. Much of its beautiful history remains intact which makes it wonderful to visit these quaint towns and enjoy its long history that includes the Romans, Italians, pirates, and more. And, it’s a wonderful value since it is still relatively less explored than some of its neighbors (aka Croatia). Here are my top 10 things to do in Montenegro!
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Bay of Kotor
The Bay of Kotor, also known as Boka, is one of the most stunning places to visit in Montenegro and goes out to the Adriatic Sea. There are many beautiful beaches, with the height of the season running from June through September, although some venture in during May and October. Located in Southwestern Montenegro, the Bay is also close to neighboring Croatia. You can get great views of the winding bay from the towns of Kotor, Tivat, Herceg Novi, etc.
The Bay of Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage Region, given much of the area that was an important commercial and artistic area during the middle ages and has been preserved. There was some damage to the area with the earthquake in 1979 but UNESCO helped with the restoration. When you visit you will see the stunning blue waters of the bay on one side of these coastal towns and then the large rising mountains behind them. www.visit-montenegro.com
Top Tip: Rent a car so you can road trip around the Bay of Kotor to find beautiful vistas, pull offs for photos, and even have some fresh oysters that are caught right in front of you at an oyster farm.
Old Town of Kotor
The old port town of Kotor is a secluded area on the Bay of Kotor and part of the UNESCO region. Much of its fortification was built by the Kingdom of Venice. It has three main gates and the current population is just under 14 thousand. The Venetian castles, churches, etc. are stunning to see. It must be seen against the backdrop of the cliffs and make sure to see St. Tryphon’s Cathedral, The Clock Tower, and San Giovanni Fortress. St Lukes Church was built in 1195 combining both Gothic and Byzantine architecture. The area was originally settled around 168 BC by the Romans and has a long history. This is a must-see.
Perast is a charming small town also on the Bay of Kotor, North West of Old Town Kotor. You also get stunning views if you go to Perast by boat. Perast is also part of the UNESCO region. During the 14th century, it was primarily a quiet fishing village, but it was later developed with more Baroque architecture. Perast is considered The Pearl of Boka since it is the prettiest of all the tiny towns on the Bay.
There are some pretty historic places to see and I do recommend visiting them. As mentioned below, Our Lady of the Rocks Church is here (described below), as well as the Blue Cave. Don’t miss the bell tower of St. Nicholas’ Church that was completed by the Venetians in 1691 on the central piazza. Notably, after you visit If you head further north of Perast, you can see the popular seaside town of Herceg Novi.
Our Lady of the Rocks Church
This Catholic church is located on the manmade inlet called Our Lady of the Rocks. It was made of sunk and seized ships that were filled and sank in this spot. The island contains the church and mausoleum (plus a small gift store). It is off the coast of Perast in the Bay of Kotor. Notably, the coastal cities were one time part of the Kingdom of Venice, thus likely the reason for a Catholic church vs. Orthodox. The legend has it that the island was started by sailors on July 22, 1452, when the icon of Madonna and Child was found on a rock in the sea. The church was renovated in 1722 and houses many paintings, etc. Some tours can take you to the tiny island too.
The medieval town of Budva also sits on the Bay of Kotor and is part of the Budva Riviera. The city has a stone wall that surrounds it and it also was built by the Venetians. Many come here for the sparkling beaches! There is also great nightlife, especially in the summer, making this town a great destination. From a historical perspective, Kotor has a bit more, but they are both great to visit during your stay. Make sure to visit the historic citadel as you travel the old streets.
Ostrog Monastery www.manastirostrog.com
This beautiful 17th-century monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church is uniquely built into the near vertical cliffside. Besides the monastery, there are several churches as part of this unique complex. Its founder, St. Ostrog. Is buried here in one of the churches and many pilgrims come here to sit near his burial site and pray for guidance and help, saying miracles have happened. On my visit, you can see great Renaissance architecture and magnificent frescos. The monastery is situated 31 miles from Podgorica, the Capital, and 9+ miles from Niksic, the second-largest city in the country. Niksic is on the old road to Budva and has a cute main square and the bridge Carev (also called the Tsar’s Bridge) built in 1896. The bridge is no longer used but is a protected landmark due to its long length.
Lovcen National Park www.nparkovi.me
Lovcen is a national park in Cetinje (www.cetinje.com), the former Capital of the country. This national gem of Montenegro is known for its stunning view of the forests and mountains from the mountaintop that is the home of the Mausoleum of Petar II Petrovic Negros. Petar II was a bishop and a historic leader of Montenegro; he was a poet and philosopher as well. There is a good path to hike to the top to get great views of the lake below. It is only a few dollars to enter. Notably, you can get tickets online through www.viator.com Notably, it is the inspiration for the name Montenegro which means Black Mountain.
Ulcinj is the oldest town in Montenegro dating back to the 5th century and has a long line of occupants including the Romans in 153 BC, the Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans. Its Old Town is a UNESCO site. The town currently has a population of close to 11k, the majority being Albanian and this is the southernmost town in the country. There are many myths about the town that also attracted pirates many years ago. Long Beach and Lake Sas are also favorites of visiting tourists. The town is also home to the historic Ulcinj Castle. Given the large Albanian population, there are reportedly 26 mosques in and around this part of the country. Their beaches are mighty popular too!
Tivat is the smallest town in Montenegro in terms of area and has a population of just under 10k. Notably, it is a pretty seaside area and quite popular and only became a town in the Middle Ages. The town at one time had a navy base that is now a superyacht marina and resort called Porto Montenegro. Tivat also has one of the 2 international airports in the country, making this a popular destination. So if you have a love of nautical tourism, this is the place to go.
Herceg Novi, Montenegro
Located at the foot of Mount Orjen, Herceg Novi is another cute historic coastal town on the Bay of Kotor. I stayed here in the “Town of 100,001 steps” for a week as my base, as I explored other towns, monasteries, and parks in Montenegro. The King of Bosnia founded the town as a fortress in 1392 and it too has a similar history with various conquerors like the Kingdom of Venice, Ottomans, etc. It has a quaint Old Town and Bella Vista Square to explore, but be prepared since it does have many stairs so be prepared to walk a bit. It is lovely with the mountains in the background.
Sveti Stefan is a cute island town on the Adriatic, less than 4 miles southeast of Budva, and it’s known for its pink sand beaches. The population is under 1,000, but it looks so beautiful. Sveti Stefan too was founded many years ago including the Venetians, etc. But it did have a popular hotel years ago that attracted people like Orsen Welles, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, etc. This may be a place to check out if you have some time remaining in Montenegro,
Have a great time in Montenegro. Notably, they do have some wintertime areas with winter sports, hiking, etc. but I will leave that for another trip.
Activities and Guided Tours in Montenegro
How to get to Montenegro:
You can get to this country by plane, train, bus, etc. Many foreigners come to either of the international airports in the country, or some go through Dubrovnik Airport in Croatia given more airlines are flying into that country. Based on my observations, the roads in the countryside and/or mountains may be a little more challenging, but I did get around quite easily, and I did have a driver most of the time.
- Tivat Airport (Code TIV) – this airport is located closer to the coastal towns/regions, being in Tivat. “The Gate of the Adriatic” www.montenegroairports.com/tivat
- Podgorica Airport (Code TGD) – this airport is near the country’s capital Podgorica in Golubovci www.montenegroairports.com/podgorica
- Dubrovnik Airport (Code DBV) – this international airport is just over the border in Croatia. www.airport-dubrovnik.hr
Best Time To Visit Montenegro
The cool thing about Montenegro is there are activities year round for adventure lovers. However, the perfect time to visit to enjoy the waters of the Bay of Kotor, nightlife of Budva, and hiking in the best weather is definitely the summer. I went in May on the shoulder season, which I found perfect in terms of weather and it is way less crowded. In terms of shoulder season I would go between end of April to end of June or September and October. Plus, if you go in October you may see some fall colors.
Is Montenegro Safe?
Traveling solo to Montenegro I felt totally safe. I stayed a majority of the time in Herceg Novi, Montenegro. Plus, I stayed with other digital nomads in a coliving space so I almost always had someone to do something with. However, when I walked around the streets of Budva, Kotor, and Perast, Montenegro I felt safe.
Of course petty theft is possible just like in any country, but be aware of your things and don’t walking around flashing your money. I found people to be very nice and it was not something I was concerned with much. The only place I was warned about being a little more sketchy was the capital city. However, everywhere I went at night or during the day I felt safe.
Is Montenegro Expensive?
Montenegro is actually quite inexpensive as compared to their neighbor to the north Croatia. Here are some general costs to be aware of during your trip to Montenegro. For a decent breakfast it will run you about $4 USD , lunch will be around $7 USD , and dinner will cost around $10 USD. There is a tipping etiquette of around 10 percent.
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