Montenegro is a small country (about the size of Northern Ireland) on the Adriatic Sea, bordering Bosnia, Albania, Croatia and Serbia. For a small country, Montenegro packs a lot in – it has a dramatic coastline, stunning lakes and beautiful mountains, as well as historic towns and cities.
Beach Holidays in Montenegro
The Montenegrin coast is a mixture of small beaches and coves broken up by rocks and cliffs. Along the coast there are several medieval and renaissance fortress towns, many of which form the basis for the resorts. The coastline is a continuation of Croatia’s but has fewer tourists.
Budva Beach Holidays
Budva is the most popular beach resort in Montenegro and is centred around a peninsula on which the old town sits. There are lots of beaches in the area, with a range of accommodation. The area has lively nightlife, with lots of bars and nightclubs – the centre of the resort is not the best place for a family holiday.
The fortified old town dates from the 15th century and has narrow alleys linking squares and parts of the fort.
A mile or so down the coast is the resort of Becici, which has one of the best beaches in the area and an old fishing village at the south end of the beach.
A few kilometres outside of the main resorts are the luxury resorts of Sveti Stefan and Miločer that are based around quieter beaches.
Petrovac Beach Holidays
Petrovac is further south than Budva and has been a holiday destination since Romans started building their villas here. Today the beach is guarded by a 16th Century Venetian fort.
Petrovac is much more family-friendly than Budva and has a horseshoe-shaped beach, with a promenade lined with bars and restaurants.
There are some bars and nightclubs in the town, or Budva is a 20-minute taxi journey away if you want something livelier.
Ulcinj is towards the south of the coastline close to the Albanian border. Unlike the rest of Montenegro, the beaches here are long and sandy, making this a great destination for a beach holiday.
The town itself is a mixture of various architectural influences – Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and even Oriental. The fort, Venetian Palace and mosques provide plenty of cultural diversions, whilst great bars and restaurants will keep you occupied at night.
Cities and Cultural Sites in Montenegro
Montenegro’s beach resorts are only part of its draw for tourists. There are also historic towns and cities, archaeological sites, natural parks and lakes that make Montenegro a great all-round destination.
Kotor is a medieval fortified town located in the dramatic, mountain-ringed Bay of Kotor. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the narrow streets were designed in a maze-like way to confuse attackers. The attackers have now been replaced by lost tourists, but there are worse ways to spend a day than aimlessly wandering the streets.
The town has plenty of bars and restaurants and lots of live music at night.
A 20-minute drive from Kotor is the town of Perast. Perast is smaller and quieter than Kotor and has some great restaurants. The main appeal of the town is the Our Lady of the Rocks – a church built on an artificial island in the Bay of Kotor close to the town. Taxi boats will take you out to the church and the museum built alongside it.
Lake Skadar is the largest lake in the Balkans and is at the heart of the national park named after it. The lake is surrounded by mountains and is home to hundreds of bird species, making it a popular location for walking.
On islands in the middle of the lake there are several medieval monasteries. A popular way to reach these, and explore the lake, is by kayak.
Ostrog Monastery is a series of monasteries and churches in the Zeta valley, culminating in the amazing Upper Monastery that is built into caves 900m above the valley floor. The monastery appears as though it is part of the sheer rock face.
The Upper Monastery was built in 1665 and is the holiest site in Montenegro. Pilgrims walk up the steep road to the top, but there is a car park closer to the Upper Monastery if you prefer to drive.
The Monastery is in central Montenegro, an hour’s drive from Podgorica or 2 hours from Kotor.
Stari Bar or ‘Old Bar’ is an ancient town located about an hours’ walk from the modern port of Bar. Stari Bar has been fought over many times and has been taken over by Venetians and the Ottoman Empire. Today the town is in ruins and is often referred to as Montenegro’s Pompeii. You can wander around the old town along the cobbled streets and enjoy the views of the new town and the bay below.
Podgorica is the capital of Montenegro – although it is still relatively small at 200 thousand people. Compared to other towns and cities in Montenegro, Podgorica is less attractive and its history is less obvious.
The city has a long history, including times when it has been occupied by Romans, Austro-Hungarians and the Ottoman Empire. However, due to extensive damage from WWII the city is now a mix of new and old buildings.
Some people choose to spend a few days in Podgorica looking at the art galleries and what is left of the old town, but it is often used only as a stopover on the way to Lake Skadar or the Ostrog Monastery.
Durmitor National Park
Durmitor National Park is in the north of Montenegro. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has fifty peaks over 2000m high with lots of lakes in between. The most stunning scenery is provided by its canyons. The park has plenty of wildlife from golden eagles and peregrine falcons to bears, wolves and wild cats.
In summer the area is popular for hiking and rafting, whilst in winter it is a ski resort.
Cetinje was the capital of Montenegro until 1946 and was home to the royal family. It is now a relatively small town of around 12 thousand people. Cetinje is a mixture of small-town architecture interspersed with old palaces and mansions, and has been through an identity crisis of whether it wants to be an old royal capital or modern industrial town.
Montenegro is a small country and most key sites are within a few hours’ drive of each other. Therefore, if you are mainly planning a beach holiday it is possible to see most of the sites whilst staying in one place.
If you want to explore in a bit more detail a possible itinerary starts off in Kotor (due to its proximity to Tivat and Dubrovnik airports), before heading down to Budva for some time on the beach. From Budva you can carry on down the coast to Stari Bar, and then spend some time at Lake Skadar. After Lake Skadar you can head to the Ostrog Monastery, and up to Durmitor National Park if you have time.
Where to Stay in Montenegro
Montenegro has a range of accommodation options. There are a few luxury resorts although these tend to be outside of the main towns. In the main towns there is a mixture of 3 and 4-star hotels.
When to Go to Montenegro
The best time to go to Montenegro is from May to September when the weather is warmest.
Getting Around Montenegro
The best way to get around is to hire a car, although the driving can be chaotic. Otherwise, the country has good intercity bus and rail networks.
Getting to Montenegro
There are two international airports in Montenegro – Tivat and Podgorica, whilst Dubrovnik just over the border in Croatia acts as a third. There a few direct flights a week to Tivat and Podgorica, with many more going to Dubrovnik.