Although Montengro is one the world’s newest countries, it has in all actuality, been there for some time. Being such a small country, Montenegro comes with the caveat of having everything within its reach. As a traveller, you can visit with the satisfaction of being able to see almost everything you want. Lush mountains, great beaches, winding roads, and lots of potential for adventure, Montengro is the little country that has it all.
Not too expensive, with almost everywhere accessible by bus, you can make a checklist of what you want to see, and achieve it all within two-weeks. Most flights go to the country’s capital Podgorica - which I personally advise any and all to spend as little time in as possible. There is a small train line connecting the capital to Belgrade and beyond. The rocky countryside is replete with fauna, kiwis, pomegranates, lemons, and walnuts - while the seafood is devine. A little more expensive and touristy than Croatia, Montenegro is worth the visit with a bucketload of adventures to be had. Here are more three takeaways.
1/ Kotor Bay
Perhaps the most stunningly beautiful place I have ever visited. The fjord-like basin is surrounded by mountesque plateaus, which means the sun doesn’t make an appearance until late afternoon. The bay is filled in with crystal blue water. Along its coasts are little inlets for sun-bathing and swimming, with plenty of fish restaurants. At the foot of the bay is the town of Kotor, your standard Adriatic old-town, with city walls, narrow alleyways and golden buildings. You can climb the city walls and look out across the whole bay - a stunning view, but with an EUR 8,- entrance fee it does feel like a bit of a rip-off, especially when you can just climb the hillside and nearby mountains for free.
One of the best things to do in Kotor Bay is sea-kayaking. With the bay protected from wind, the only thing you have to worry about are the huge tourist-liners, and speed boats darting about on the water.
Take a boat out and paddle to Perast, about 12k away, pass the mussel farms and churches. Perast sits at the bays entrance, where the giant boats twist and turn inwards from the sea. Perast is postcard-material, with its little islands and Lady of the Rock church. Its also a great place to chill out on the water and take in the view.
With the bay of Kotor only accessible by driving across the snaking roads above, or by ship, there are very few people here. Across the bay there are a litany of modest AirBnBs and apartments, with a bus connecting Kotor to everywhere up, down and around the bay. Secluded, and serene, Kotor bay is like a little hidden paradise in the middle of nowhere.
2/ Durmitor National Park
It’s mind-blowing to think that this area in Southern Europe, around 80k away from the Adriatic coast, more resembles the Canadian Rockies than anywhere else. You wouldn’t even suspect that you’re in the Balkans. Step through the looking glass, and Durmitor National Park is full of epic mountains, lush pine forests, and water features. The Black Lake, Durmitor’s glacial-centre-piece, features all the colours of blue - from light turquoise, to naval. The park is full of hiking routes and mountain climbs for all different levels - just take note that some of these treks are about 6 - 8 hours in length, so go early if you’re not there in the summer season.
The best way to reach Durmitor is by going to Zabljak, a small mountain town on the park’s boundary. Here the dogs run wild, and the restaurants serve lots of meaty stews. There is a bus that runs once a day to Zabljak from Kotor, the station itself a collection of buses in a large car park. The area of Zabljak is surrounded with remote, winter cottages - with fire places, and not much else. Dreamy log cabin retreats.
Durmitor tips? Pack warm - it gets really cold up there. Look for a cabin that’s close the park, as there are plenty strewn across the wilderness. And rise early to get most of the day.
3/ Lake Skadar
Just half-an-hour away from Podgorica is the amazing Lake Skadar; a huge body of water, and national park with monasteries, churches and farmland. We were occosted directly at Virpazar train station by a couple 'offering us a list', who took us to a restaurant where we were offered a boat tour (for EUR 50 an hour!). But you don’t need to do a boat tour to see the water, with plenty of hiking options available. Walking through the national park through to Godinje we passed through stunning countryside, past lots of farms full of pomegranate trees, selling various flavoured liquors. We ended up at Pješačac, a beachside restaurant with views out across the lakes, where the only thing on the menu was freshly caught fish and wine - not costing more than EUR 10,-. I would have liked to see have seen more of this region, and with a lot more hiking trails, many camping sites, and bike rental options available. Just under 30 minutes from Podgorica, and Lake Skadar has a Mediterranean countryside vibe to it - extremely relaxed, open expanses with extremely welcoming residents.