Apart from it’s geographical location, I didn’t know anything about Montenegro before I left New Zealand. I had read it was a great place to go and it was highlighted by Lonely Planet as a great place to go. In fact it was on Lonely Planets places to visit in 2016 list! We had some time, were already in Croatia so decided to go down for a look. We had about a week spare to explore.
What did we do?
Bay of Kotor
Firstly we headed to the Bay of Kotor which is pretty close to the Croatian border. We decided to stay 3 nights and booked an apartment by the water through Air BnB. There are loads available. Our apartment was about a 20 minute walk from the Old Town and had it’s own little beach.
The Bay itself is gorgeous and on a sunny day the water sparkles. Each morning we were there cruise ships came into the Bay about 6am each morning. This means that the Old Town can get quite crowded but we are not talking about Dubrovnik levels although it may not take long to get that way.
The Old Town is worth a visit and we spent an afternoon exploring the shops and cafes. I found a great shop that makes handmade leather shoes (no I didn’t buy any – my size wasn’t in!), some lovely artisan shops and in the farmers market outside the best pesto cheese ever. It was bright green and so delicious I went back each day to get more.
There are lots of things to do in Kotor but we decided to actually enjoy our apartment and its location for a change!
We chose to rent SUP and paddled around the Bay.
It was 35 euros each for the day and they delivered and picked up from our accommodation! We were pretty happy with that.
We also decided to take a short boat tour out to Our Lady of the Rocks and the town of Perast. When we got to the boat company, they had booked us on the wrong tour so rather than lose our business, they just sent us off on a speedboat on our own to two the tour. Score! It was a great tour 🙂
The church is really interesting with great ceiling art and a small museum. Each year on a certain date, fisherman drop a new rock around the island, each year making the island slightly bigger. This is a town tradition that has been going on for many years. The tour also took us across to the town of Perast where we had a quick look before heading back. Perast has a number of restaurants, churches and some swimming areas. Women selling their lace work can be found here too.
From Kotor we headed further south to the beach town of Ulinj. This is a town that Montenegrin and Albanian locals seem to holiday in. There are a large number of beaches and an Old Town. The beaches are pretty crowded and the streets are impossibly narrow. Some of the cliff beach bars have the most incredible vistas. Unfortunately many of them are spoilt by the large amount of rubbish around. It is the only area in Montenegro that we saw piles and piles of rubbish everywhere.
You can rent a JetSki for cheap (25 Euro for 50 mins) and boat tours and water taxis are easily available. The locals are very proud of their local area – most have some English.
We went out for a look to the famed beach for Kite surfing, Velika Plaza. It is a reasonable drive from the main centre and requires driving on a non-sealed road. The beach itself is pretty rugged with rubbish piled up under the trees, a muddy sandy beach and very little else.
We also went out for a look at the river mouth famed for its great restaurants. Ada bojana is well known for its great food. We didn’t have time to stop and eat but it was interesting looking at the all the restaurants along the river bank.
On the way back we drove over a bridge where fisherman had elaborate fish catching huts in the river. Very interesting to watch.
We stayed here two nights and then decided to move back down the coast to Budva.
I think that Budva has been misjudged! Maybe this is because we arrived in early September and the rush had gone, but we didn’t mind it! It was rubbish free, had a lovely old town, some very nice beaches, a water front swimming pool club and some lovely food stalls and restaurants. It is famed as a party town ( we didn’t see it) and extremely busy. Maybe September is the time to go!
We spent one night here and enjoyed the best part of a full day here.
There are miles of gorgeous beaches to relax on all along the coast. While most of them require you to rent a lounger, the water is so beautiful it is almost worth it. The pool club had lovely food and great cocktails and you can rent a big day bed too. Bliss!
Budva to Lovcen to Herceg Novi
We had initially intended to drive up to the Durmitor National park however time dictated that we changed our plans to visit Lovcen National park instead. By doing this we probably saved 2 to 3 days and we were really happy with what we saw. The National park is an easy drive from Budva and in the National Park (which is lovely and worth staying if you have time) is Njegos Mausoleum. It is worth a visit and sits atop Mount Lovcen. Get there early as there are limited parking spots (less than 10) and the photo opportunities are better without the crowds! There are a large number of steps to climb (felt like 1000 but I think was about 400) to get to the top but it really is worth it. The views are 360 and the mausoleum itself is pretty impressive. It is 3 Euros to get in.
From the mausoleum, we travelled down the road to Kotor. This particular route is famed for it’s extremely narrow (read wide enough for one small car) road with 25 hairpin bends. I will be honest – at times it was terrifying. One of those times was when a camper van came hurtling towards us; another was when we met a large bus coming the other way. We stopped nose to nose just in time. All the same it is a breathtaking drive – for views I mean, not your heart stopping!
From Kotor it is an easy coastal drive to Herceg Novi where we spent the night before our series of 3 border crossings back to Croatia!
In summary, Montenegro is a beautiful place. The people are mostly friendly and are really proud of their country. They need to address the rubbish in some coastal areas (not the international tourist ones). I would say get here quick. It will be the next Dubrovnik!