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Europe’s Western Balkans: Montenegro

Perfectly placed in the south of the Adriatic, Montenegro is a European destination that offers the perfect blend of beach life, fascinating culture and incredible landscapes. If you’re looking for holiday deals on this hidden gem, or are already packed and ready to go, take a look at our guide on the best ways to discover Montenegro.

Perast in the Bay of Kotor. Montenegro
Perast in the Bay of Kotor by Hons084 / Wikimedia Commons

Natural wonders of Montenegro

Take your pick from the five National Parks here: Biogradska Gora, home to Biogradska Lake; UNESCO status Durmitor; Lovćen, on the peak of Lovćen mountain; Skadarsko jezero, the biggest park in the country; and Prokletije, the youngest park in the country. There are also three UNESCO World Heritage sites on hand, as well: Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor, Stećci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards and Durmitor National Park.

Biogradska Gora National Park in Montenegro
Biogradska Gora National Park

Montenegro Beach life

There are plenty of resorts to stay in, each providing excellent dining options, beautiful beaches and nearby cultural attractions. Budva, for example, boasts 25 beaches and is a popular choice for holiday goers! Becici is said to be the most beautiful beach, while Jaz is the longest stretch and Buljarica is a sandy haven. Tivat is a much smaller but equally delightful area and Opatovo is a pebble beach that is divided by a small lighthouse. In addition, there are two nearby islands to visit: the Island of St. Marko and the Island of Flowers. For some quieter beaches, head to Kotor or Herceg.

Jaz Beach in Montenegro
Jaz Beach by Bratislav Tabaš

Cultural fun in Montenegro

Learn more about this amazing country and its rich history by visiting the old towns of Herceg Novi, Kotor and Budva. In Ulcinj you can explore the battlements and Cyclopean walls at Stari Grad Ulcinj or head to the Skadarsko Jezero wildlife reserve. Here you can dine on the fresh sea catches of the day at Ada Bojana in the south region or visit the ancient, small town of Perast in the north with its warm, friendly people and bustling cafes.

The beautiful city of Budva in Montenagro
The beautiful city of Budva

Montenegro is the perfect mix for a European holiday, so you see if you can spot it while scoping bargain getaways. Remember to take some good walking shoes and a camera — there’s going to be plenty of walking and exploration, and even more memories that will be worthy of photos for your scrapbook.

Written by staff for EuropeUpClose.com

Montenegro’s dense mountains hide many of its 700,000 residents and separate its Old World Adriatic coast from the bland Communist-era architecture in its likable inland capital.


I went Old World first. Travel-industry storytellers are accustomed to landing in romantic destinations in non-romance mode. Severely romantic Perast is a soulful, mountain base-hugging village on the Bay of Kotor. This sweet snapshot of local waterside culture can be taken in from several waterfront establishments. Akin to Adriatic Europe, Perast is a bargain, full of locals who seem to enjoy Americans. On the edge of town, the Pirate Bar (not a play on words like it might be in California) is a choice but rugged bayside imbibing and snack venue. It overlooks the bay and mountains, which are all perfectly illuminated by stellar sunsets.

Since Bill Clinton’s presidential farewell, I’ve rarely traveled with long-time friends. People get busy. My pals probably have no idea what it’s like to travel with me, someone married to the road. Those who do consort with me these days automatically acquire the travel wand—they decide everything as I go along tweaking the path. My only legitimate skill (no packing tips here) is recognizing the random locals not so much that you can trust (I usually do) but the otherwise unknown MVPs ready to help hone your state-of-the-art experience in the moment.

For two weeks of this four-country roam, I was joined by a Boston-bred pal I met in Thailand in the 90s. We hit Podgorica, Montenegro’s central city, blind…off the bus without a plan. Steve’s initial doubt and subsequent revelation in Podgorica was about trusting the wander. He insisted we find a hotel first near the bus station, then figure out food and leisure.

I swayed him into our first real not-in-a-rush-at-all traveler moment, which led us into an empty supermarket where we parked our packs, shopped for snacks and a beer, and chatted with the staff about which way to go. Heading in that direction, two mid-life dudes toting small but obvious backpacks met easygoing thirty-something Vladimir who was walking in the opposite direction. After brief directions, we invited him to join us at the riverside place he’d recommended. Steve nodded in agreement to this haloed travel strategy.

A relief from the electronic chirp music that’s consuming the planet, we enjoyed live ethno folk music—where the accordion takes center stage—by Crveno i Crno  (Red and Black) at a breezy, sprawling riverside establishment called Skaline overlooking the cooling Moraca River. Talking about Vladimir’s life, work, play, and the seismic governmental shift in his homeland was a Balkan highlight, because time evaporated, and we enjoyed buying him drinks he wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

Even if we hadn’t sponsored Vladimir’s drinks, he still would have continued guiding us to two more establishments. The first was a trendy Hindu-groove-themed mist-spraying hive with overhanging plants and a fancy drink menu. The other was a chain-smoker disco teeming with would-be Milan models backbending above forearm-length heels all pouting, “I can’t breathe without a butt cemented into my lipsticked mouth.” Vlad’s history and drinking place’s tour was complemented by commandeering us a cheap private apartment for the night.

Despite staying out past bedtime, he made it to work in the morning, and we caught our bus to Sarajevo. We’re still trading nationalistic prods, keeping the reason for roving alive. He can’t afford to visit the States, possibly ever in his lifetime. Often, life isn’t fair on many levels, and spoiled Americans, including me, need to get out there to appreciate that.

Like other Euro converts, Montenegrans are now experiencing price increases. However, for Americans, Montenegro’s cost of goods is still a deal on par with Miller brew prices in Wisconsin. Unlike the other Balkan countries on my itinerary, Montengro’s landlocked capital was chock-full of mediocre, blocky buildings that echoed Soviet block concrete—but Vladimir made it shine as one of those people who helps blossom a journey into a trip, or even better, a special occasion.

Perast’s magical Hotel Per Astrais best in special date mode.

Written by Bruce Northam for EuropeUpClose.com

Veteran travel writer Bruce Northam has reported (mostly good news) from 125 countries. His book, Globetrotter Dogma: 100 Canons for Escaping the Rat Race & Exploring the World, was cited by National Geographic as one of “Ten better choices: insightful travelogues that will inspire rather than dictate.” Bruce’s wander continues on www.americandetour.com.

 

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