Labyrinthine bays dotted by little islands, coastal towns drawing you in with their Italianate charm, the awe-inspiring Dinaric ridges above and of course, the calm blue waters of the Southern Adriatic below. Montenegro might be tiny, but its breath-taking littoral ought to be the closest the Balkans have to paradise.
Although it might be just a 120-kilometre drive from the Bay of Kotor’s entrance to the sandy beaches of Ada Bojana on the Albanian border, literally the entire coastline of Montenegro is stunningly scenic. Add to that the allure of the local taverns (konoba) with their mix of Mediterranean and Balkan food, and you’d be hard pressed to ever leave.
From a morning walk among some of the oldest olive groves in the world to an evening stroll in the hidden gem of the Bay of Kotor, kashkaval tourist will now take you on a journey to 6 blissful places on the enamouring Adriatic coast of Montenegro!
1. Guarding the gateway to heaven: Herceg Novi
Herceg Novi might be the ancient castle protecting the entrance to the Bay of Kotor from invasion, but it’s a welcoming, benevolent guardian. Its stark medieval fortifications share the streets with gentle Venetian and Austrian-style facades and the menacing slopes of Mount Orjen in the distance are offset by the verdure of palms and fig trees down by the sea.
As the first Montenegrin town you’re likely to encounter if you’re entering from Croatia, Herceg Novi is just the perfect place to say hello to the Bay of Kotor’s beauties. Explore the alleys and stairways of the Old Town before an opulent dinner on the promenade. For the finest beaches around, it’s a good idea to hop on a boat tour to a more remote location like Žanjice.
2. A tale of two islands: Perast
Headed for Kotor or hurrying to Dubrovnik, many visitors are likely to overlook the tiny town of Perast – and that’s the biggest mistake you can make when exploring Montenegro. Just a few kilometres north of Kotor, Perast is an absolute hidden gem of Italianate palazzos, graceful bell towers and mesmerizing island vistas.
Climb the St Nicholas’ Church tower for an iconic panorama of the Bay of Kotor and the two nearby islets of Saint George and Our Lady of the Rocks. From the promenade, you can easily arrange a boat taxi to the latter island and its Baroque church and museum. Or simply enjoy a glass of rakija with some Njeguški pršut and local olives on the side in a seafront konoba!
3. Stray cats and ancient walls: Kotor
Lauded as Montenegro’s rival to Croatia’s Dubrovnik, Kotor is perhaps the most historic port town on the Montenegrin coast. Its extensive and elaborate system of fortifications is deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage site. And the atmospheric Old Town is much more pleasant than Dubrovnik’s, which feels increasingly like a huge tourist trap. The dozy stray cats that Kotor is famous for would only confirm this!
For the most outstanding views of the bay, prepare for a tough-but-worth-it sunset hike up thousands of stairs to the Fort of St. John. As an architectural jewel hosting some curious relics, the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon is totally worth entering. And by all means finish the night with a black risotto dinner and Krstač white wine on one of Kotor’s busy squares or quaint little side streets.
4. Party like a Venetian: Budva
Budva might be best known worldwide as the centre of Montenegro’s busy riviera, and the dozens of sandy or pebble beaches around do invite crowds of tourists every summer. But Budva is not just a bustling beach destination and a trendy Mediterranean nightlife spot. Its walled Old Town is a delightful piece of Venetian history, just ideal for a romantic evening.
Though the central beach Slovenska Plaža might be overcrowded and less than spectacular, there’s no shortage of options around. A brief walk past the ballerina statue and through a cave in the cliffs is the small but lovely Mogren beach. A couple of kilometres away, Jaz beach is one of the more spacious pebble options, as is the sandy beach of Bečići on the other side of Budva.
5. Postcard of the Adriatic: Sveti Stefan Island
Montenegro has its fair share of legendary sea views, but nothing speaks exclusivity and class like the island of Sveti Stefan. Once fortified to ward off the Ottoman invaders, today the island still remains closed to outsiders as the Aman Sveti Stefan luxury resort.
Even if you don’t feel like coughing up tonnes of cash to rent one of those exquisite stone villas, it’s still worth a quick stop to savour this classic view of Adriatic Montenegro… it is, after all, the country’s ultimate selfie background!
6. Fortress among the olive groves: Stari Bar
Maybe deluxe accommodation isn’t your thing, so how about camping among olives, pomegranates, citrus trees and other Mediterranean flora, in close proximity to the Adriatic? That’s what you can do in the seaport city of Bar, and more specifically at the intimate Bartula My Olive Garden Camp.
Situated at the foot of the Rumija mountain above Bar, the campsite is connected to the Stari Bar fortress via an incredibly scenic short hiking trail through thousand-year-old olive groves. Those summer morning walks don’t get any better than that!