I’ve just completed five weeks exploring the beautiful, laid-back country of Montenegro. It’s a nation full of mountains, rocks and forests. There are also deep river gorges, pretty glacial lakes and dozens of beaches along the Adriatic Sea.
No matter where you go, whether it’s a city, tourist destination, small town or countryside, it’s all enveloped in abundant nature, giving it a relaxed, less-developed feeling. A variety of fruit trees, grape vines, flowering bushes, budding wild berry bushes and cultivated vegetable gardens show how verdant the land is.
Food is good; people are welcoming and helpful; public transportation is regular and inexpensive; and over-all costs are quite low.
All in all, I’ve come to really love Montenegro. In fact, it’s going into my Favorite Countries List!
During my five week tour of the country, I visited most of the main towns and tourist destinations at a leisurely pace. Following are the top 10 places I recommend visiting, in no particular order.
Durmitor National Park
Of Montenegro’s five national parks, Durmitor is probably the most spectacular, due to its cluster of bare rocky mountain peaks soaring into the sky above dense pine forests and pretty Black Lake.
Durmitor is situated in northwest Montenegro, just outside the tiny town of Jabljak. The main park entrance, 3 km outside town, is set at the shores of Black Lake, where there’s also a lovely national park restaurant with spectacular views of the lake and mountain peaks. A wonderful forest trail leads around the lake for 4 km, taking about one hour to complete.
Dozens of hiking trails are well-marked through the mountains & forests, ranging from easy, mostly-flat short walks to moderate, heart-pumping mountain hikes to advanced, challenging mountain treks to various mountain summits. Avid hikers could easily spend a week or even a month enjoying all the hikes.
A variety of great accommodations are located in Jabljak town as well as just outside the park borders. I recommend the area called Ivan Do, on the edge of the park, where a cluster of wonderful little wood cabins and a spacious campground offer stunning views of the mountain range and are just a five-minute walk to Black Lake.
Tara River Canyon
Tara River runs for 150 km / 100 miles through Montenegro and onward into Bosnia & Herzigovina, where it eventually joins other rivers that run into the Black Sea. For its long winding course through Montenegro, Tara River has cut a spectacular canyon that’s consider the deepest in Europe and one of the deepest in the World, with cliffs soaring up 1300 M / 4300 ft.
The main canyon area is actually part of Durmitor National Park, where it runs past the main mountain range on its east. Situated just 22 km / 15 miles east of Jabljak is the spectacular Tara Canyon Bridge, with five arches supporting the roadway high, high above the canyon floor.
Visitors to Durmitor can reach the bridge by public bus from Jabljak or their own transportation. Several rafting and bungee jumping companies are based at the bridge, making it easy to join either activity. Walking across the bridge and gazing down on the amazing turquoise-colored river is also quite spectacular.
Another fantastic way to see more of the canyon is to drive or take a bus between the bridge and the town of Mojkovac in the east. The entire road runs right through the canyon for 47 km / 29 miles and takes about one hour without stops.
Moraca River Canyon
Another equally-spectacular canyon is situated just southwest of Mojkovac. The Moraca River begins in mountains southwest of Mojkovac, runs southeast and then southward to the capital city, Podgorica, where it runs right through the city center.
Route E80 heads northward from Podgorica along the Moraca River Canyon towards Kolasin. The highway is soon lined by soaring rock walls and winds through the dramatic canyon for 48 km / 30 miles before meeting Route E65.
That road continues along the canyon and Moraca River westward another 10 km, while the eastern direction heads over to Kolasin. Both public buses and trains pass through the canyon between Podgorica and Kolasin.
Biogradska Gora National Park
Situated just 10 km south of Mojkovac, this national park’s main claim to fame is the virgin forests it protects within its boundaries. Several giant ancient elms, maples, firs and other trees are dated at 300 – 500 years old and reach 30-60 M / 100-200 ft in height. Visitors can admire some of these giants along an easy 3 km / 2 mile walk around small Biogradska Lake.
Like Durmitor NP, Biogradska is centered around the tranquil lake, with a ranger’s station, campground, cabins and a restaurant. From there, many hikes of varying lengths and difficulties fan out through the park.
One of the most popular and challenging is the climb up to Mt. Bendovac, the park’s highest peak at 1774 M / 5854 ft. It’s a change in elevation of 700 M / 2300 ft, but follows a rough forest road on a gentle slope that switch-backs up the mountain. On top is a gorgeous meadow in a bowl-shaped depression surrounded by grassy ridge lines. There’s a family-run restaurant and tiny wooden bungalows.
Spectacular Kotor Bay is one of the most gorgeous areas in Montenegro. It’s a series of interconnected bays that weave inland from the Adriatic Sea near the border with Croatia in far northwest Montenegro.
The most spectacular bay is the innermost, Kotor Bay, which is very narrow and lined by soaring rocky mountains. It’s oftern referred to as a fjord, in which case it’s the only fjord in the Mediterranean and the southernmost fjord in Europe.
Kotor town has a wonderful old walled fortress city, filled with cobblestone roads leading past stone churches, houses, hotels, bars, restaurants and shops. Outside the walled town is a lovely harbor situated at the very end of the bay. Soaring overhead are rocky cliffs and miles of old stone walls and stairs leading up to the stone ruins of medieval San Giovanni Fortress.
Around the bay are several other historic towns, each with its own character and distinct history. Particularly noteworthy is Perast, generally regarded as the most beautiful town in the bay.
Ostrog Monastery & Farmstay Camping
Ostrog Monastery is one of Montenegro’s most famous and popular destinations. It’s a spectacular-looking white stone building set right into the cliffs, way up high on Ostrog Mountain. The monastery is believed to have spiritual powers, thus making it a major pilgrimage site for the pious.
Visitors can reach the monastery by driving all the way up to its base, where there’s a large parking lot. Otherwise, travelers can take a modern electric train between Podgorica and Niksic cities, getting off at remote Ostrog Station. From there it’s a 4 km / 2.5 mile hike up the mountain through lovely pine forests.
Ostrog makes an easy day trip from either city or a stop along the way to other destinations.
However, the wonderful farmstay campground, Camp Pod Ostrog, makes a fantastic over-night stay in the Montenegrin countryside. The family farm is located a 15-minute walk from the train station, making it easy to reach. Travelers with cars can also drive to the property.
It’s run by Milan, who’s busy bringing the 5-generation-family-farm back to life with vegetable gardens, fruit trees and the international campground.
I highly recommend spending a night – or 2 or 3 – at Milan’s place. You’ll get to experience some fantastic Montenegrin hospitality, learn about the history & culture of the area and country, meet granny and probably swig some ultra-strong homemade Rakija (Montenegrin brandy) with Milan and possibly other visitors.
Budva is one of Montenegro’s most famous and popular coastal destinations. It’s the closest beach town to the capital, Podgorica, just a one-hour drive or 1.5 hour bus ride over the mountains.
Budva is quite charming with its old stone-walled historic town, quaint marina filled with small wooden fishing boats, coastal walk past restaurants & bars & nightclubs, and several beaches.
Budva is also Montenegro’s premiere coastal nightclub hotspot, with several late-night discos and dozens of bars to hop between.
But you can just as easily skip all that if it’s not your thing and enjoy Budva’s day-time charms by strolling around the cobblestone streets of the old town, admiring the cute boats & stately yachts and staying cool in Budva’s many small parks that line the back of the marina and promenade.
Sveti Stefan is a tiny stone island situated just offshore some 10 km / 6 miles south of Budva. The entire island was made into a fortified village in the mid 1300s by local fishermen, who erected a dozen homes and a few churches. The village remained that way for over 600 years, until 1960 in fact, when the villagers collectively decided to sell it off.
The buyers created an exclusive luxury hotel out of the entire island, drawing the likes of Sophia Lauren and Princess Margaret to its very private property. Over the decades since, Sveti Stefan has continued drawing the world’s rich & famous, celebrities & royalty. The Aman Hotels now own the property, in conjunction with the nearby Villa Milocer, situated on the mainland. It was constructed in the 1950s by the Montengro royal family as a summer home.
Non-hotel guests can only visit the island by paid, guided tour or by dining at the restaurant. Both options could be worthwhile. However, even if you don’t ener the island, it’s still worth making a day-trip to Sveti Stefan from Budva, a 30-minute bus ride south.
On the mainland directly in front of the island, there’s a stunning W-shaped beach, one side open to the public. From there you can gaze at the charming stone island, wondering what the rich & famous are getting up to behind closed doors.
At the far end of the private hotel beach, a path leads up onto a headland covered in a fragrant pine forest. From there are more fantastic island views. The path leads down to the former royal family villa grounds, where a stone beach, lawns and an old tiered olive orchard are open to the public.
Route through Skadar Lake
Skadar Lake is a massive body of water at the border of Montenegro and Albania. In fact, the legal border between the countries runs through the middle of the lake. It’s a sprawling area and important bird region.
Traveling through the lake (yes, through) between Podgorica and Bar, on the coast, makes another great journey in Montenegro. Both trains and buses pass through this route, with the train tracks and road right beside each other for many miles.
For long stretches of the route, vast tracts of water surround the road & tracks on either side, providing gorgeous scenery. The last section near the coast passes through extremely long tunnels, eventually opening up suddenly to…the Adriatic Sea!
Ulcinj is Montenegro’s southernmost town. It’s situated on the Adriatic Sea, just about 10 km north of the Albanian border.
Quite unfortunately, Ulcinj has been completely develped for tourism, so the town is just jam-packed with un-ending shops, resturants, bars, souvenir stalls and crammed with people during summer months. Most of the beaches are equally crammed with bodies.
Despite that, there are still several great reasons to visit Ulcinj and, luckily, it’s easy to avoid the awful town center and the throngs.
* Ulcinj old town is set up on a hillside over-looking the sea. It looks very much like a castle, with it’s tall stone walls. Inside, the hilly & winding stone streets ramble past some shops, hotels and restuarants, but also past a considerable amount of rubble.
Apparently, the destruction is left over from the massive 1978 earthquake that devastated parts of Montenegro. In my opinion, Ulcinj old town is the most charming in Montenegro.
* The Old Saltworks / Bird Sanctuary is situated about 3.5 km / 2 miles outside Ulcinj. It’s a vast expanse of old salt-making fields and massive waterways. It’s an extremely important bird waterway that harbors a surprisingly large percentage of Europe’s nesting birds, migratory birds and diverse bird species. Its big draw for most visitors is its huge flock of flamingoes.
* A beautiful coastal walk runs about 3 km / 2 miles between Ulcinj city center/beach southward to the Port Milena River. This river separates the Ulcinj area and the sandy 12.5 km / 8 mile Long Beach, the longest in Montenegro. The coastal walk is set on top of cliffs, under a pine forest, with great coastal views and peaks down into secluded rocky coves.
* Long Beach – Not only is this the longest beach in Montenegro, it’s actually the longest on the entire Adriatic Sea. It’s also one of the rare sandy beaches in Montenegro as most are composed of stone pebbles. Finally, it is also famous for windsurfing due to strong winds that blow steadily about six months of the year.
Unfortunately, Long Beach has become as popular and developed as Ulcinj town, at least in the areas closest to the city.
Luckily, the southernmost 2-3 km are still in an ‘au naturale’ state for travelers, which is perfect for travelers like me, who prefer tranquility out in nature.
This is the main kitesurfing area, with several small unobtrusive kite surfing schools in operation during the season. When the wind picks up you can watch dozens of colorful parasails take to the skies and check out the kiters’ skills.
So there you have my recommendations for the best places to visit in Montenegro. Hopefully you’ll have at least 2-3 weeks to explore this beautiful Balkan country. It’s especially appealing to nature lovers and history buffs.
All photos and text is copied from Lashworldtour.com
Lash is passionate about traveling the world nomadically, writing about her adventures and the cultures of countries she visited, then sharing them all with you.
She hopes to inspire you to travel the world, to entertain you with tales from the road, and to help you reach your travel dreams. Find out more on lashworldtour.com
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Lash has visited one of our partners – Camp Pod Ostrog