There is a reason why Conde Naste Travel named Montenegro as one of the year’s emerging destinations. It takes up less space than Connecticut and has a lower population than Stockholm but the tiny Balkan nation should not be overlooked – especially since it’s quieter and more untouched than neighbours Greece and Croatia. My advice? Start packing before everyone else starts to catch on.
The Djetici, the heroic kinfolk of Montenegro, have years of folklore associated with the strength and dynamism of its people who have climbed the steep Dinaric Alps for centuries.
Perched atop one of the highest peaks in Lovcen National Park is the Njegos Mausoleum, which houses the remains of the Montenegrin most loved poet, philosopher, and icon – Petar II Petrovic-Njegos.
Inside, visitors may view his tomb as well as a 28-tonne statue of Njegos. Outside, you can see more than half of the entire country and on clear days even Albania, from its 360-degree stone-viewing circle.
Naturally, the nations rugged topography lends itself to hiking and camping. There are 17 noted walks and trekking routes through the Dinaric Alps, some passing through the limestone green Tara Canyon and medieval Kotor. The routes range from easy 1-hour long outings to challenging 5-day treks involving exposure and scrambling.
The Christian nation has had a plethora of past inhabitants due to its colourful historic past, being on the crossroads between East and West. Hence, the many religious landmarks left behind by the Ancient Greeks, Romans and more recently, by the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Considering the fear of persecution, many of the ancient Christian landmarks have been built in hard to reach places on islets, built into a mountain wall or even caves.
One such example can be explored by boat off the coast of the tiny town of Perast in the Bay of Kotor. Sveti Djordje has a St. George Benedictine Monastery from the 12th Century and offers spectacular views of the impressive bay.
The pride and joy of the local people, nevertheless, remains to be the Serbian Orthodox Monastery, Ostrog. Founded by Vasilije, the Metropolitan Bishop of Herzegovina in the 17th century, it was built high up on the large rock of Ostroska Greda. It attracts annually 100,000 visitors and rumour has it that many have been cured and helped by praying by the tomb of Saint Vasilije.
The coast of Montenegro has been likened to the sparkling blue fringe off Monte Carlo – palm trees, yachts, and sandstone Old Towns.
No matter where you are based, the best way to explore the region is by sea. The options on hand range from hiring yachts and powerboats for your group of friends to hopping on one of the many private boats for a few Euros moored off the many beaches that dot the coast. Recommended places to visit by boat include glamorous Sveti Stefan, the Old Town of Kotor and the Blue Grotto.
The stunning island of Sveti Stefan has no bad angles and is easily one of the most photographed spots in Montenegro. A playground for Sophia Loren, Kirk Douglas and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960’s and more recently the wedding destination for tennis ace Novak Djokovic, nowadays the only ones allowed to play within the medieval walled island are the fortunate guests staying at the luxury 5-star Aman Resort.
Kotor’s UNESCO-protected Old Town was built like a maze to confuse potential invaders. Backed by steep limestone cliffs and located on the shores of the only natural fjord in the world it attracts visitors for its picturesque qualities and its sense of adventure. Getting lost here is not only encouraged but also expected.
Water babies are always pleasantly surprised to discover that Montenegro has its own Blue Grotto, just like in neighbouring Croatia and Italy. Hop on a boat from Herceg Novi to see the iridescent blue light show filter through the underwater rock formations and sea.
In recent times, Montenegro’s potential for being the playpen for the rich and famous has been noted by the likes of Russian Oligarchs and Middle Eastern Tycoons.
As such according to The World Bank, foreign investment into the tiny nation grew by 17% in 2015 and new luxury developments emerged out of the limestone dust. Superyachts spotting along its many marinas such as for the Eclipse, the 162.5m long yacht owned by Roman Abramovich, is the new norm.
Naturally, to accommodate such high tastes, new Day Clubs can be found scattered in the hidden coves of Montenegro. They are for those in the know and not always widely advertised to maintain a certain level of refinement.
Three of my favourite places to laze on a sun chair, cocktail in hand with endless blue vistas are Adriatica Resort, Porto Montenegro, and Almara Beach Club.
Adriatica Resort is located in the Bay of Kotor in the tiny township of Kamenari – it has 1,100 inhabitants. They offer day beds, bar menu, and restaurant menu as well as having a sister-resort agreement with Montenegro’s newest luxury development, La Perla di Mare. This means guests staying at either property can use their fleet of boats at their disposal to traverse the bay whenever they like.
Porto Montenegro is a huge and impressive development in Tivat. The once dowdy, naval base town has been magically transformed to now house a luxurious marina on par with any global rival, with a 5-star property – Hotel Regis, as well as the unmissable pool at Porto Montenegro.
Almara Beach Club is lesser known, making you feel even more special. Located in Oblatno, many choose to arrive by boat/yacht here as you have a swim up floating bar in the middle of the sea; a private beach and a classy establishment perched over the water. Whether you come to dine and be romanced or just for a little fun – the music, the people and views will inject you with holiday vibes, instantaneously.
Add Montenegro to your bucket list for your next summer holiday – but don’t take your time, reap its natural beauty before everyone else does.
NOTE – The national airline carrier, Montenegro Airlines, connects out of most of the European capital cities to Tivat. While P & O Cruises and Norwegian Star now include Montenegro in a few of there cruise itineraries.