Montenegro is a small Balkan country on the Adriatic Sea. While it is often overshadowed by its neighbour Croatia, if you want the beautiful rocky coastline and old walled cities of Croatia, but with less crowds and some stunning scenery that you won’t be able to find elsewhere, then Montenegro is the perfect choice.
Although it is possible to see all the places on this list by bus or by taking a tour, the best way to get around Montenegro is by having your own means of transport. Cars or scooters can easily be rented in Kotor, Budva or Podgorica.
However you choose to get around, here are the best places to visit in Montenegro and some tips on how to visit them.
If you’re flying into Montenegro or arriving by bus from Dubrovnik, chances are you will arrive in Kotor. Kotor is the main tourist town of Montenegro and with its gorgeous bay and old town overlooked by a fortress, you’ll want to spend at least a couple of days here.
One of the main things to do in Kotor is to climb to the top of St John’s Fortress. It’s a steep and sweaty walk so you’re best to do it either early morning or late afternoon, the latter also having the benefit of all the cruise ship tourists having left for the day. From the top you’ll be greeted with views of the orange roofs of the old town against the turquoise blue waters of the lake. Add to this the grey-green mountains in the background and you have one awe-inspiring view.
Otherwise the main thing to do in Kotor is just to walk around and enjoy the town. With tons of alleyways filled with medieval churches, cute art galleries, bakeries, street performers and ice cream shops it’s easy to while away your days here. And if you want to relax after all the food you will undoubtedly end up eating, there are a number of pebble beaches dotted around the bay where you can lay out a towel and take a nap.
Driving tip: From Kotor, take half a day to visit Perast which is a small and extremely pretty village about halfway around the bay from Kotor. Lined with cute guesthouses and seafront restaurants it’s a great spot for lunch with a view.
Many people stick to visiting Montenegro’s coastline but head inland and you’ll be greeted by some stunning mountainous scenery. Zabljak is a small mountain town about 3 hours from Kotor. It is set in the middle of Durmitor National Park and therefore offers many hiking opportunities. One of the most popular is the hike to Crno Lake (the Black Lake), which is the largest lake within the park.
Another popular but more challenging hike is to Bobotov Kuk. This is Durmitor’s highest mountain and from the top you’ll be able to fully appreciate all the lakes and other mountains that the National Park has to offer.
One of the best things to do in Zabljak is to go white water rafting on the Tara River. At 1300m deep, the Tara River Canyon is the longest canyon in Europe and rafting through it really allows you to appreciate the sheer size of it as the canyon walls tower up on either side of you.
If you’re after more adventure activities, take a visit to the Djurdjevica Tara Bridge where you can zipline across the canyon at speeds of up to 50 km/h.
Driving tip: If you are driving from Zabljak to Podgorica, take the more indirect route via Djurdjevica Tara Bridge and Kolasin. The road goes the whole way along the canyon and the scenery along the drive is stunning. Plus, if you haven’t had your fill of hiking yet you will pass by Biogradska National Park where you can stop and walk around if you wish.
Podgorica is the capital city of Montenegro and if you’re heading from inland to the coast it is definitely worth stopping at for night.
See the old clock tower in the centre of the old town and visit the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ which is beautiful inside and out.
The streets are lined with bars and restaurants and people dining outdoors so grab a beer and people watch. Enjoy the local cuisine in one of the many restaurants for a cheaper price than you’ll find along the coast.
Driving tip: From Podgorica it is only a 1 hour drive to Ostrog Monastery. Avoid the highway out of Podgorica and instead take the more scenic route via Spuz which also has the benefit of having less traffic to contend with.
One of the most unique things to see in Montenegro is the Ostrog Monastery. The historic monastery is built into a vertical cliff face high up in the rock of Ostroška Greda. Not only is the Monastery itself awe-inspiring, but it provides amazing views over the surrounding plains.
Although the Monastery is now a popular tourist destination, it remains one of the most visited holy sites with more than a hundred thousand pilgrims making their way here each year. You should, therefore, aim to arrive early to avoid the crowds.
Driving tip: Continue for a further 30 minutes from the Monastery to Niksic, the second-largest city in Montenegro, where you can visit the brewery of the popular Niksicko beer.
Stretching all the way into Albania, Lake Skadar is the largest lake in the Balkans. Although it is often overlooked by visitors, it’s a beautiful natural spot and definitely deserves a visit. The best view along the lake is at the Pavlova Strana viewpoint, which provides a view of Montenegro’s very own horseshoe bend.
If you want to get out on the water itself, from Virpazar you can take a boat tour which will show you some of the best parts of the lake and even stop for you to have a swim in the refreshing water. Alternatively you can rent a kayak to explore the lake at your own pace.
Driving tip: If you have time, drive the whole southern side of the lake, past Virpazar and all the way to the border of Albania before finally heading to the coast. With narrow empty roads overlooking the lake from above, only broken up by the occasional old lady selling homemade jams and olive oil along the side of the road, it’s a long but worthwhile drive.
Budva has a reputation as a bit of a party town and whilst there is a strip of thumping bars alongside the promenade if that’s what you’re after, if you stay in the Old Town itself you’ll find cobblestone alleys, traditional restaurants and nice bars. Try the traditional Octopus under the Bell or other fresh seafood specialities at one of the local restaurants.
During the day, take your pick of the many sand and pebble beaches lining the riviera. There are many water sports on offer, or you may just want to relax and get ready for the night ahead.
Driving tip: On your way to or from Budva make a stop at the nearby Sveti Stefan. This small islet is a 5 star hotel and makes for a pretty cool photo opportunity. However, if you’re considering lying on the beach there you may find that it’s a little out of your budget. Renting two beach chairs and an umbrella will set you back a whopping 100 Euros!
Lovcen National Park
Between Budva and Kotor lies the stunning Lovcen National Park. Take a day trip here from Kotor and enjoy the scenic views of Kotor Bay as you drive up into the Park. The highlight of the national park is Njegos Mausoleum which sits at the top. From here on a clear day will give you 360 degree views of the whole of Montenegro. It’s incredible to see and 100% worth a visit.
If you want to explore more of the National Park beyond the Mausoleum, grab a map from the Information Centre at the Park entrance and take on one of the well-marked hiking trails.
Driving tip: From the national park continue your drive via Cetinje and Njegusi where you can stop for some of the best locally produced hams and cheeses. Finish the drive down to Kotor via the serpentine road which has 16 hairpin turns all overlooking the beautiful bay of Kotor.
Montenegro may be small but it has a lot to offer. From hiking in the mountains, exploring the old walled cities to relaxing by the coast, there is something for everyone here. And given that it’s still relatively unknown compared to some of its Balkan neighbours, you get all this with less people and at a lower cost. So be sure to visit soon before everyone else finds out just how spectacular Montenegro really is.
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