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Introduction to the best places to visit in Montenegro
Montenegro is one of my favourite countries in the world. This small and relatively new nation has everything for lovers of the outdoors. In this article, we will explore some of the best places to visit in Montenegro.
From the mountains in Durmitor National Park, to the stunning Crno Jezero (Black Lake), the second deepest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon and pristine beaches; what’s not to love?
You can ski and snowboard in winter and swim in the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic during summer. There is also canyoning, mountain climbing, mountain biking, hiking and kayaking to enjoy.
What’s more, Montenegro is a very cheap destination and sees relatively few tourists (Kotor notwithstanding as it is a destination for large cruise ships). You can spend days hiking in the beautiful national parks and not see another soul.
Things are changing fast though, so now is the time to visit if you want to escape the crowds. The new marina in Tivat, a few miles from Kotor, has set itself up as the Adriatic version of Monaco, with super-yachts of the rich and famous docking there to take advantage of the country’s cheap prices and anonymity.
Weather in Montenegro
Montenegro’s weather is typical of its southern European location. Long, hot summers and mild winters by the coast and snow in the mountains. Spring and autumn are great times to visit. The many national parks look fabulous in autumn as the leaves turn to bright reds, yellows and oranges.
So, without further ado, let’s have a look at some of the best things to do in Montenegro!
Top Things to do in Montenegro
Explore Kotor, one of the best places to visit in Montenegro
Kotor is a beautiful town at the top of the fjord-like Bay of Kotor. You can easily be forgiven for thinking you are in Scandinavia rather than Southern Europe as the bay is surrounded by steep cliffs and mountains as in Norway.
The charming old town is sandwiched between the bay and the mountains. Get lost in the many cobbled streets and lanes that twist and turn like a picturesque maze. This beautiful town is definitely one of the best places to visit in Montenegro.
Enjoy a food and drink at one of the many street-side bars and cafes that are spread throughout Kotor for a fraction of the price of nearby Croatia.
There is more to Kotor than just the Old Town and one of the best things to do is to climb up to Kotor Fortress high above the town for stunning views across the bay.
Feeling hot after sightseeing? Take a refreshing swim at one of the town’s small beaches.
In summer Kotor can get busy as large cruise ships dock here, so try and avoid the high season.
More info: things to do in Kotor
Explore Tivat, the Millionaires Playground
The new playground for the super-rich and the Balkan answer to Monaco, Tivat is a new settlement built around a large marina that is home to some of Europe’s super-yachts.
Tivat is located just around the bay from Kotor and although it is pricier than its neighbour, there is some nice hiking in the area and a few small beaches great for swimming and sunbathing.
Sveti Stefan (one of the best places to visit in Montenegro)
One of the most picturesque places in the Balkans, Sveti Stefan is a small settlement jutting out into the Adriatic Sea as if from a picture postcard.
There is a charming old town full of winding lanes and cobbled streets and surrounded on all sides by the lapping sea.
Note: Unfortunately, Sveti Stefan is now closed to tourists unless paying guests of the resort there. It is possible to visit some of the nearby beaches for a small fee.
Visit Skadar Lake National Park
Lake Skadar is the largest freshwater lake in southern Europe and straddles the border between Montenegro and Albania.
With its water lilies and lush green hills, Skadar looks more like a lake in China or Vietnam than Europe.
Explore tiny villages dotted around the horseshoe-shaped lake.
Skadar is definitely one of the best places to visit in Montenegro for its peace and tranquility!
Hike around Crno Jezero (Black Lake)
Crno Jezero (Black Lake) is located close to the town of Zabljak, Montenegro’s winter sports destination, within the Durmitor National Park and is one of the best places to visit in Montenegro for its untouched nature.
The lake (two lakes actually) sits in a basin beneath towering mountains and is surrounded by pine trees.
Mount Meded rises majestically behind Little Lake (the smaller of the two, obviously). Little lake is the deepest of the two and descends to depths of almost 50 metres. The larger “Big Lake” is only 25 metres deep but covers a larger area.
There is a 3.5km hiking trail that runs all the way around both lakes and which takes at least a couple of hours to complete because of the uneven terrain.
Crno Jezero is a true Hidden Gem of Europe and hiking there is one of the best things to do in Montenegro.
Climb Bobotov Kuk
Bobotov Kuk is one of the highest peaks in Montenegro at 2,523 metres (8,278 feet) and there is a well-signposted trail that leads from Zabljak to the summit.
There is no technical climbing needed to reach the peak, however it is a tough trek with some scrambling over rocky outcrops needed near the top.
Only those with a high level of fitness and mountain experience should attempt to summit the mountain.
The trek should take about 10 hours to complete going at a moderate pace and starting and finishing in Zabljak.
Mountain Bike through Durmitor National Park
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Durmitor National Park is the perfect place for mountain biking, hiking and climbing.
With wide, empty roads and stunning vistas out across the countryside, cycling is a great way to explore this beautiful part of Montenegro.
You can hire bikes in Zabljak from €15 per day.
Raft the Tara River Canyon
The Tara River Canyon is the second deepest in the world after the Grand Canyon in the USA. The canyon starts in Bosnia & Herzegovina and stretches 86km into Montenegro. The average depth of the canyon is 1,300 metres (4,300 feet).
There are two main rafting courses. There is a one-day 18km route and a longer 100km route. Both include many rapids
Party on the Budva Riviera
Budva is by far the most popular tourist destination in Montenegro (mainly for domestic tourists, Russians and Serbs) and as such, the beaches can get crowded and the nightlife a little rowdy.
Shops and restaurants are overpriced compared to the rest of the country and ugly concrete hotels are springing up everywhere, but the old town is pleasant enough to explore.
If you are looking for a beach destination, consider visiting some of the less touristy towns along the coast such as Bar farther south.
However, if you’re looking for a lively holiday resort with plenty of nightlife then Budva is the place to be.
Getting to Montenegro
Montenegro’s main airport is located 12km from the capital, Podgorica, but there are no decent connections to the coast. Dubrovnik airport in next-door Croatia might be a better option as you can take a bus to Kotor and coastal areas.
Montenegro only has one train line connecting Bar to Belgrade in Serbia (with onward connections to Austria, Germany and Hungary) via Podgorica. This is considered one of the most scenic rail journeys in all of Europe and well worth doing for the views alone!
There are regular daily services to neighbouring Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia. Tickets cost under €25.
Getting Around Montenegro
Bus and marshrutka are the best ways to get from city to city in Montenegro. Taxis can be expensive so best avoided. I explored the country by bus and found it easy and inexpensive to get around.
Safety in Montenegro
Montenegro is a very safe country by world standards but petty crime does exist in places that see higher numbers of tourists. Take the same traveller precautions you would anywhere such as keeping valuables out of site and using a money belt.
Landmines & Unexploded Ordnance
The border area between Montenegro and Kosovo may still contain landmines and unexploded ordnance from the Yugoslav and Kosovo conflicts. Keep to main roads and paths.
Crno Jezero © Stephen Anthony Rohan / thetripgoeson.com
Bobotov Kuk © Ivan Tannenberg / mindthetravel.com
About the author: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang and now resides in the tropical paradise of Sanya on Hainan Island.
He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.
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