In my opinion, Montenegro is a hugely overlooked and underrated destination in Europe. With over 100 beaches along it’s Adriatic coast line, the southern-most fjord in the world, stunning national parks, glacier lakes and medieval towns everywhere you look, it’s surprising that Montenegro is not yet a hugely popular destination, especially in comparison to its neighbour, Croatia.
Originally part of Yugoslavia, Montenegro only became its own independent country in 2006. Its size is comparable to Wales, or about the size of Connecticut for the US ladies among us! This means the country is very accessible and makes it easy to see each much as possible in a short amount of time – which is great, because there is A LOT to see.
The town of Budva and the luxury resort island of Sveti Stefan are probably the more well-known images you may have seen of Montenegro. You’ve probably heard of Kotor too, located on the shore of the Bay of Kotor, or Boka Bay to the locals. But there is so much more to the Bay than just Kotor, so I’m here to make sure you make the most of your time around the Bay and to tell you about everything it has to offer. And believe me, there’s something for everyone!
1. VISIT THE TOWN OF KOTOR
No visit to the Bay of Kotor would be complete without a visit to its namesake, the town of Kotor. The entire old walled town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can see why with its winding alleyways and quaint shops. You could spend all day there hopping from café to café, enjoying the street music and sunshine.
2. CLIMB TO THE CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF REMEDY AND THE KOTOR FORTRESS
Make sure not to miss the fortress while in Kotor. Located on a narrow and easily missed path at the back of the old town, the entrance and rocky steps up to the church and the fortress ruins can be a tricky climb, especially if it’s wet – be sure to wear sensible shoes! However, the view of the Bay from the top is not one to be missed; you can see the expanse of the Bay, the cruise ships docking and the picturesque orange roofs of houses below. With the beautiful bay surrounded by dramatic mountains, it’s any photographer or nature lover’s dream!
3. DO NOT MISS PERAST
This tiny little town is so small, it’s more of a village, and being tucked away from the road on the water’s edge, it’s possible you might miss it. But don’t! No cars are allowed, so leave yours parked in the town car park for a couple of euros and enjoy the Mediterranean/Adriatic vibes as you stroll down the main street along the shore.
The small street stalls, roaming cats and swaying palms all add to the charm of this tiny town and the picturesque white-stone clock tower makes for some fantastic shots with the Lovcen mountain in the background. Located at the head of the Bay, Perast is so close to the water that you can sit in restaurants with seating on the beach and dip your feet in while you enjoy a glass of Montenegrin wine, Vranac.
4. A BOAT RIDE OUT TO OUR LADY OF THE ROCKS
This is a must do while you’re in Perast. Boats leave from the small dock on a regular shuttle basis and only cost a couple of euros. Our Lady of the Rocks is a stunning man-made island out in the bay where legend has it that sailors would throw a rock into the Bay to thank the ghostly apparition of a Lady for their safe return from sea. You can read about the legend here. So many rocks eventually lead to this island being properly constructed and is now home to the beautiful Our Lady of the Rocks Church – a colourful baroque style building, housing stunning art collections.
5. TIVAT BEACH BARS
For those who are looking for a faster, more modern pace, try Tivat. With beach bars, such as Ponta Seljanovo right on the Bay’s edge, you can spend hours taking it slow with a cocktail and stunning views, and maybe a swim or two in the bay’s calm waters. The lively vibes in this slightly bigger town make this the perfect base to spend a couple of days exploring everything the Bay has to offer.
6. LOVCEN NATIONAL PARK
For the more adventurous among us, hiking in Lovcen National Park is incredibly rewarding and has some fairly easy hikes for those who are less experienced or some more challenging ones for seasoned hikers. With the Mausoleum at the top of the mountain, the views are as breathtaking as you’d expect with Montenegro’s stunning landscape. Lovcen is known as the Black Mountain from which Montenegro got its name, on a clear day you can see as far as neighbouring countries, Albania and Croatia.
7. DRIVE AROUND THE BAY COAST ROAD
There are so many scenic stops and stunning views you could easily spend all day driving around the bay soaking it all in. Why not take a picnic with you and stop at one of the view points for a breathtaking view of the landscape while you eat? Or explore many of the small communities around the edges of the Bay, each with a unique view of the landscape.
8. TREAT YOURSELF AT PORTO MONTENEGRO
If you like to treat yourself to a bit of luxury while you’re on vacation, why not spend the afternoon at Porto Montenegro. This stunning yacht marina is full of beautiful boats and super yachts overlooked by the impressive Hotel Regent. It also includes a designer shopping mall, restaurants to suit every taste and plenty of waterside dining.
Byblos restaurant was a personal favourite, with authentic and tradition Lebanese-style food at an amazing price and gorgeous Middle Eastern décor. Finish your evening with a stroll along the boardwalk at dusk and watch the sun set behind the mountains.
8. VISIT THE HISTORIC TOWN OF HERCEG NOVI
Before the Yugoslav wars, Herceg Novi was a major tourist destination, now it has been taken over by Budva and Kotor. But don’t overlook this ancient town at the entrance of the Bay. With the ancient castle, Forte Mare, built by a Bosnian king in the 14th century, a clock tower built by Austrians in the 19th century, the Kanli tower built by the Turks and the Serbian churches, there is an eclectic mix of history and culture here. Nearby Igalo is home to healing sea mud called igaljsko blato, which has given Herceg Novi the reputation of a spa town. From Herceg Novi you can also take day trips out on a boat to reach the popular sandy beaches on the Lustica peninsula.
10. TAKE THE FERRY ACROSS THE BAY FOR A ROAD TRIP TO DUBROVNIK, CROATIA
And just in case you’re really stuck for ideas, take the ferry from Lepetane across the Bay and stay on that coast road for about 30 miles until you hit the Croatian border, because who doesn’t love a daytrip to Dubrovnik! The drive is easily doable in one day and follows the main coastal road with epic views the whole way – just don’t forget to take your passport for the border crossing!
You can get the chance to explore the iconic sights of Dubrovnik, the fortress, the old town, the beaches and maybe go on a Game of Thrones location tour if you’re a big fan! While you’re there, be sure to visit Buza Bar. This hidden restaurant bar is also a swimming spot and a favourite for locals and tourists alike. Hidden through a small doorway in the walls of the old town, Buza Bar is on the cliffs of Dubrovnik, overlooking the sea and the island of Lokrum. This is a top spot for a quick swim, a drink and to watch the sunset from.
I hope this has inspired you to visit the lesser-known country of Montenegro and the beautiful area of the Bay of Kotor. Now is a great time to go while tourism has not yet fully taken over the country and it’s still a fairly inexpensive place to visit. As you can see, there really is something for everyone around the shores of the Bay of Kotor, whether you’re an adventurous hiker, a culture buff or a beach lover. The Bay is also an easily reachable destination from Dubrovnik if you wanted to explore some of what Montenegro has to offer on a day trip. The border is easy to cross as long as you have a valid passport. So, what are you waiting for? Start doing your research and don’t miss this beautiful country on your European travels.
We hope that this article has inspired you to visit Montenegro. If you have any questions about the destination please leave these in the comments below.
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We Are Travel Girls Contributor Helena Bradbury
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