While having long been a side-trip for visitors to Croatia or overlooked in favour of more popular mediterranean destinations, the small Balkan country of Montenegro is now firmly on the map as a great travel destination in its own right.
With stunning mountain ranges, beautiful beaches, charming medieval villages, and a range of adventure activities to suit all appetites, this not somewhere to miss.
On a recent trip we were lucky enough to experience much of what this amazing little country has to offer. In this article we list 9 of the best things to see and do in Montenegro.
One of the most well-known tourist spots in Montenegro, Budva is famous for its beautiful sandy beaches and its nightlife. There is, however, more to this little coastal town than nightclubs and sunbathing, with its charming old town being one of the most picturesque the country.
Surrounded by medieval walls, complete with towers, gates, and fortress, the medieval old town (or Stari Grad) is a great place to get lost for a few hours. It is also home to a number of significant historic and religious sites.
Don’t miss the iconic islet of Sveti Stefan located just down the coast from Budva for some of the most stunning views on the coast.
2. Durmitor National Park
The glacially formed landscapes of Durmitor National Park are characterised by their deep valleys and dramatic peaks. In winter, it’s one of the most popular skiing and snowboarding areas in the country, while in summer crowds are drawn to its pristine lakes, hiking trails and adventure activities.
Whitewater rafting is very popular here, particularly on the Tara River, one of the deepest river canyons in Europe. The best spot to organise this from is the ski town of Zabljak, which is also located conveniently close to Black Lake (or Crno Jezero), the largest of the 18 lakes in the park. The 3.5km hiking trail around the lake’s circumference is a great way to explore the area and witness the beauty of the lakes surroundings from a variety of vantage points.
For the more adventurous, there’s a huge number of hiking trails in the area, with destinations ranging from seasonal lakes to mountain peaks, including the popular Bobotov Kuk (the highest peak in Durmitor).
Known for being one of the best family friendly beach destinations in the country, Petrovac is a small seaside town with a pleasant esplanade and an interesting history dating back to Roman times.
The main beach has fine red sand and runs the length of the cove in which the town is situated. Take a 15 minute walk south and you will arrive at Petrovac’s second beach, Lucice. This small pebble and sand beach is also located in a small cove and is considered the nicest beach in the area thanks to its crystal clear waters and picturesque surroundings. Walk another 15min south and you’ll find Buljarica, a long sandy beach that enjoys relatively low crowds in comparison to the other two, particularly in high season.
A 16th-century Venetian fortress called Kastel Lastva is located at the northern end of the main bay of Petrovac, a short walk from the town centre. The fortress, originally built to discourage pirates, now contains a museum and an observation deck which provides a great view of the bay and surrounding area. It’s also home to a famous nightclub called "Castello".
On our visit, we stayed at Seaside Apartments. Located less than 100m from the middle of the main Petrovac beach, it’s hard to imagine a better spot to be based during a visit here. Clean, modern, spacious, and fitted out with everything you’d need for a week of beach relaxation, we’d highly recommend this accommodation and hopefully get the chance to stay here again.
4. Lake Skadar
The largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula, Lake Skadar straddles the border of Montenegro and Albania. This vast lake, with its impressive mountain backdrop, is well-known for its immense beauty as well as its important biodiversity, hosting one of the most diverse wildlife populations on the continent, including a huge array of migrating birds. In fact, the Montenegro section of the lake is designated as a national park in recognition of the important role this lake plays in the area and the commitment to preserving it.
Most visitors to Skadar will first head to the small fishing village of Virpazar, from which you can book at boat tour to explore the lake. Aside from soaking up the impressive scenery, highlights of these tours include birds and other wildlife, as well as exploring the many small islands dotted around the lake, some of which are home to medieval monasteries.
Ulcinj is the southernmost city on the picturesque Montenegrin coastline. It's also one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic coast, with a remarkable old town that is thought to have been founded in the 4th century BC.
Part of the Ottoman Empire until 1878, Ulcinj is different in both appearance and vibe to other towns along the coast. The beautiful minarets dotted around town lay testament to the city's rich history and diversity. A large number of Albanians reside in Ulcinj with Albanian language and culture thriving as a result.
The beautiful Ulcinj Riviera is covered in natural bushland and hidden bays and boasts the longest beach on the Adriatic Sea, the 13km long Velika Plaza (or Long Beach). Its Ladies Beach is also famed for the curative effects of it’s sulphuric mineral springs.
On a recent trip to Ulcinj we stayed at the beautiful beachside Apartments Eneida.
While we were unlucky with the weather and couldn't make use of the seaside infinity pool, we really enjoyed the coastal location and amazing views, along with the extensive buffet breakfast. With views of the old town and its own private beach, this place is built for relaxing.
6. Lovćen mountain
The name Montenegro (meaning black mountain) is said to have been inspired by the appearance of Lovcen mountain when covered in thick dark forest. Lovcen mountain has an altitude of 1749 meters and is located in the Lovcen national park.
Within the national park there are facilities for skiing, hiking and walking. A top the second highest peak of the mountain is a monument and mausoleum for Njegos, a famous Montenegrin poet. The remarkable views from the top of this peak make this walk a must for any Montenegro itinerary.
One of the best preserved medieval towns in the Mediterranean, Kotor old town is a unique and beautiful city fortified by walls and gates which ascend up into the mountain of St John. Within the walls, the town itself is a wonderful place to explore and get lost in. Full of picturesque narrow lanes, the old town also houses an array of shops, restaurants and bars.
Near the river gate is the entrance to stairs which climb up the fortress wall to the church of Our Lady of Health and, further up, the castle of St John (San Giovanni). The castle is about 1200 meters up and requires a walk of approximately 1350 stairs. But it is well worth the effort, with spectacular views of the old town and Bay of Kotor.
8. STARI BAR
Stari bar or Antivari is the original Bar settlement, abandoned in the 1970’s after an earthquake destroyed the city’s water supply.
The town is one of the largest and most important medieval sites in the Balkans, set amongst a back-drop of beautiful mountains with view of the Bar coastline. The old fortification is now surrounded by shops and restaurants while restoration work has wonderfully preserved the historical ruins of the old city, making it an excellent day trip for exploring and photography.
9. Monastery of Ostrong
A monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the monastery of Ostrog is the most important religious site in Montenegro, visited by up to a million visitors and pilgrims per year.
It is dedicated to the Saint Basil of Ostrog (Sveti Vasilije Ostroska) who is buried at the site. Visually stunning, the monastery is has been built high into the rock face of Ostroska Greda and a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains can be seen from the site.