The 4 most unmissable experiences in Montenegro

Enchanting and spectacular, tiny Montenegro – “black mountain” – has a lot to be proud of. Rich in heritage, medieval villages, dramatic mountain backdrops and crystal clear bays, its beauty is out of this world. Days if not weeks can be spent swimming in the dazzling blue lakes, climbing fortresses, drinking wine along maze-like streets and driving through the very best of lush green national park scenery outside of Austria. It has already caught the attentions of the jet-set yacht crowd, the wealthy and most of all the intrepid traveller spilling over from its glamorous neighbour – Dubrovnik. Here are the top four unmissable experiences.

Budva

Every Adriatic coastal town is worthy of a glitzy Riviera and Montenegro is no different. Beyond the old Venetian walls of Stari Grad and looking out on to the blue waters ahead is a very lovely restaurant-lined promenade. Tables and sofa chairs are well positioned for fashionable locals who flock here to indulge in seafood lunches with views of the latest yacht arrival along the sparkly marina. Sunbathers have a five-minute walk to the nearest swimming beach and for the energetic, boats and kayaks can be hired out to cruise over to the majestic island of Sveti Stefan nestled above an artful pile of slanting rocks. Budva has a certain charm and no more so at night when the old streets come alive with dim lights, romantic narrow medieval passageways and competitive music.

budva

Kotor

Bay of Kotor is a fjord like dream engulfed by mountain peaks and home to the hands down, most handsome ancient walled town in Montenegro. Its colorful history spills out from the winding lanes and pretty cobbled squares awash with cafes, roof terraces and sumptuous seating areas to relax. Kotor in all its glory is best viewed from above, where a must on anyone’s itinerary is to climb the winding hill made up of 1400 stone steps to the crumbling fortress set back into the captivating cliff walls that loom over the entire town. This half hour sticky effort will reward you with sweeping views from across the bay, including one or two super yachts, and intriguingly reveals the jigsaw like pieces which make up the old town below with its appealing orange roof tops and clock tower center piece.

kotor

Perast

Proving that great things do indeed come in small packages, minute Perast further along the Bay of Kotor simply oozes with character from bygone years. Tradition is a way of life and it’s also what makes this tiny town so attractive. Sandstone buildings are decorated with colorful flowers and churches, sixteen in total peek out from almost every bend along the pavement. The highlight is the unmissable main street, dotted with pleasant eateries and viewing benches scattered across the edge of the bay where friendly locals enjoy everything at a slower than average pace. Towards the furthest point are a couple of hidden bars and sun-loungers where a day can easily be lost plunging into the lagoon like swimming waters and sipping one Euro beers all the while admiring imposing mountains and the two main islands that lie ahead – each with its own interesting legacy.

Perast

Tara River

Straight out of a movie set Tara River combines adrenaline and spectacular views of Durmitor National Park. The ice blue river dramatically divides the deepest canyon in Europe – 1300 meters in total – and the best way to experience it is from the river itself. White water rafting is the number one activity here and for good reason, spend an unforgettable day splashing around the drinkable river water surrounded by scenery of rushing waterfalls, bridges with historical pasts and strikingly deep gorges.

tara-river

Afterwards relax with a traditional meal from a traffic-free prime vantage point looking over the enormity of the canyon below and the winding roads that criss cross the landscape.

The eventful past has left Montenegro with a legacy buried deep within its old city walls, small towns and national parks, which shows itself in the most eye-catching of ways. Luckily from a visitor point of view many of these sights are wrapped up in a beautifully preserved UNESCO World Heritage package – as much as the rest of former Yugoslavia, and will largely remain as an un-spoilt living museum for all to admire now and for the predicted busier times ahead.

Comments (14)

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  1. April says:

    We just got back from Croatia and took a day trip over to Perast and Kotor. It’s a shame that we didn’t have more time because I would have loved to have stopped by Budva or drive to the National Park and explore the canyon!
    xo April

  2. Michelle Brant says:

    Hi April, thanks for your comment. The Tara Canyon and rafting on it, was indeed spectacular as was people watching from the promenade at Budva Marina. If you ever do go back, for an extended trip, I recommend Black Lake – close to the Canyon and the mountainous scenic train connecting Belgrade,Serbia to Bar, Montenegro. Happy travels.

  3. Spectacular sights! Makes Montenegro seem like a worthwhile destination in itself, rather than just a stopover city.

  4. Michelle Brant says:

    Hi Ratheesh. This is absolutely a destination in its own right. Although only a small Adriatic country, it really has the best scenery back drops of any coastal towns, villages and of course Canyon in the area….match that with world heritage medieval streets and turquoise seas and you have perfection.

  5. Nicole says:

    I love finding out about the Earth’s best kept hidden travel secrets. I will definitely travel the world one day and this will sure to be on the list if places I will visit.

  6. Emma says:

    I recently cruised to Montenegro, we were meant to be stopping in turkey but the itinery changed. Montenegro was beautiful and I got some gorgeous photos but the children begging did put me off the place… not sure if they’re organised beggars but either was it was very sad to see

  7. Michelle Brant says:

    Hi Nicole, if you follow your dreams to travel,im certain you will be blown away by Montenegro – and the sheer diversity of the Adriatic as a whole, by far my favourite part of the world. Michelle

  8. Hugh says:

    Thanks for this informative article Michelle. I’m really keen to check out the rafting on the Tara River. The deepest canyon in Europe sounds very impressive!!

  9. Michelle Brant says:

    Hi Hugh, yes rafting on the river and the scenic journey to get there – from Kotor was a major hightlight. I booked a small jeep trip incl local lunch with view, very personalised and good full day out.

  10. Alexandra A. says:

    I don’t quite agree with the title: Budva and Kotor are definitely missable places when you visit Montenegro – according to me. Those 2 cities are beautiful old medieval towns, right, like many on the Adriatic coast. And they are totally packed with tourists in the summer months. What I wouldn’t miss while going to Montenegro is to visit Prokletije Park or Skadar Lake instead. Those are much more unique and authentic places, and luckily, they are still not so touristic (yet).

  11. Michelle Brant says:

    Hi Alexandra. Interesting comment. Travel writing is based on some facts that the writer finds at the time and also largely on opinion of personal experience. I happen to have traveled in Montenegro overland from Dubrovnik 1st week in June. It was hot and hardly any tourists except for one cruise dumping people for around 3hrs for lunch one day, which yes, saw them run around like ants while I lingered over my cappucino. But it didnt bother me and it wouldnt bother me going to lots of cobbly heritage towns with beautiful backdrops because I love them. I also love national parks and went to three but rafting on the Tara river to me was most special. The view from my sunlounger in Perast also was great :) Im sure the world is divided as to who prefers heritage to parks. Im sure newbies to the area would be impressed just with the scenic drive i took from dubrovnic to Kotor.

  12. Alexandra A. says:

    Hi Michelle, thanks for your response. I agree with you, travels are always a personal experience. And heritages are something not to miss. I shared my personal opinion of what I like in Montenegro, having spent the last 3 years there and having had the chance to explore it from North to South, though there is still a lot to see and experience, which I am looking forward to do! Let us know when you are coming next time, we’ll show you our little secret gems! :-)

  13. Wende King says:

    As a Flight Attendant I have travelled quite a bit around the world and Montenegro is one of my favorite countries. The walled town of Kotor is so beautiful and not crowded. It is very much a fairytale like place…. a hidden gem. People just do not know about this place. And don’t forget that Perast is just a short bus ride (15 minutes) down the road from Kotor. Catch the bus right outside the entrance to the walled Old Town Kotor. SO easy!
    And in Perast you absolutely must take a boat ride out to the 2 little Islands out in the bay. One Island holds a monastery and the other one of the most beautiful churches (go inside!). It’s a lovely 8-10 minute boat ride out to the Island. Fishermen in their little boats are lined up in Perast waiting to take you out there for s couple of dollars. And they wait for you to finish exploring and bring you back in to shore. Do not miss this if you visit Montenegro. It was one of the best things I did on my visit in June 2016.

  14. Maria Shelby says:

    Montenegro is definitely going on my bucket list. Thank you for sharing this. The pictures that you have included are simply mind blowing. Especially the one of Tara River.

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