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Montenegro Top Attractions

Montenegro isn’t high on many people’s list of European travel destinations. In fact, it isn’t even one of the most popular Balkan countries.

It’s a little country surrounded by larger, more well-known destinations. What this location lacks in size, it makes up for a spectacular natural landscape.

You realize how at peace this country is after years of anguish when you take a break in the rocky mountains and look down into the primeval forests and ancient communities below. It is, nonetheless, a haven full of undiscovered stories and a resurgent reputation that will make you want to defend it.

For the majority of its history, Montenegro has been tossed between empires and has been the victim of odious communist regimes. Even so, they are now independent and one of Europe’s most fascinating tourism destinations.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is sandwiched between five Balkan countries and the Adriatic Sea to the north, a sliver of Croatia to the west, Albania to the south, and Kosovo and Serbia to the east.

It’s a shame Montenegro is only now gaining popularity among European travelers, but that means you’re in luck.

Despite a recent increase in tourism, the people of Montenegro remain good people who do not try to take advantage of tourists as some other countries do.

It’s only a matter of time before this tiny country becomes overrun with tourists, clogging the streets and washing away the culture. For this little beauty of the western Balkans, it’s now or never. Take a vacation to Montenegro and see what all the fuss is about before it’s too late!

Table of Contents

PERAST

I know I stated ‘no specific order,’ but if I had to pick the most gorgeous spot in Montenegro, it would be Perast’s harbor town.

Perast is a modest hillside town situated between the coast and the mountains, located in the midst of the Bay of Kotor, near the narrow passage that opens out to the Adriatic. Its single main street is lined with charming buildings, decaying bell towers, and picturesque coastal cafes. A slice of Perak torta, a delectable almond cake, and a local specialty, is the greatest item to eat at said eateries.

The Venetians founded Perast, which is known for its majestic marble palazzos and gorgeous churches. The 18 Renaissance and Baroque palaces that line the seashore bear witness to the city’s former greatness as a bustling port. Perast is now largely residential and, in comparison to other towns along the Boka Kotorska, relatively tranquil.

Small boats, rather than cruise ships, ply the port, ferrying visitors to and from Our Lady of the Rocks. It was built using old shipwrecks and stones at the place where two local fishermen saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. It is the only artificial island in the Adriatic.

One of the most unusual churches I’ve ever seen is the island chapel. There’s also a small museum with artifacts recovered from the bay’s shipwrecks. Perast has its own distinct history and culture, with numerous annual festivals honoring the town’s maritime background.

After the day visitors have left, strolling along the harbor at dusk is a wonderful opportunity to take up the essence of Perast. Although it’s only a 20-minute drive from Kotor, I recommend spending a couple of nights in one of the family-run guesthouses in the hills.

KOTOR OLD TOWN

A vacation to Montenegro would be incomplete without a stop in Kotor, the country’s most popular tourist attraction and a crowning gem. Kotor Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the Adriatic’s most picturesque walled town centers, and a suitable challenger to Dubrovnik or Split.

The heritage of the numerous various empires that have occupied Kotor over the ages may be seen in the medieval Roman churches, Venetian palaces, and towering Byzantine towers.

The ideal way to see Kotor is to stroll around the cobblestone streets early in the morning before the throng arrives. Climb up to St. John’s for a bird’s-eye view of the roofs and turquoise bay beyond (either via the official trail or the Ladder of Kotor).

LAKE SKADAR

Central Montenegro is not only beautiful to look at, but it is also rich in flora and animals. The waters of Lake Skadar are shared by Montenegro and Albania, but the Montenegrin side of the lake is the richest and marshiest.

Skadar, with a surface area of nearly 500 square kilometers, is the largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula. Despite its size, it is a true European hidden treasure that has managed to stay out of the spotlight. It’s a haven for unique and migratory birds to lay their eggs (more than 280 bird species in total). The Albanian city of Skadar, on the other side of the lake, is the entryway to the Accursed Mountains.

There are a few various ways to enjoy Skadar Lake’s natural beauty. The first is to take the train from Podgorica to Bar, which is the final section of the Belgrade to Bar line and is considered one of the world’s most beautiful rail trips. A small gauge railway transports the train directly across the lake.

A boat tour through the wetlands is highly recommended. You can usually find someone eager to take you out on the water for a couple of hours in Virpazar, which acts as the major gateway to Lake Skadar National Park. Basic Fortress, one of the country’s oldest defenses, can be seen from the lake. The best month to visit Skadar for bird watching in May. Parts of the lake are covered in a bed of lovely water lilies in the summer.

From afar, Lake Skadar appears spectacular, which is why you should stop at the Pavlova Strana overlook near Rijeka Crnojevia for a panoramic view of the marshes and the waterway’s horseshoe curve.

DURMITOR NATIONAL PARK

The coast and sea are synonymous with Montenegro, but the country’s spectacular interior vistas are equally as impressive. Mountainous terrain covers nearly the whole eastern side of Montenegro. Durmitor National Park, in the northwestern corner, is a must-see for hikers, kayakers, and other adventurers.

Durmitor is surrounded by towering mountains, glacial lakes, and deep valleys, and rests on a plateau 1,500 meters above sea level. The Tara River, which runs through the park for 150 kilometers, has some of Europe’s best water rapids. Trails abound, with the most well-known being the day climb to Bobotov Kuk’s top.

With wooden houses, meadows, and roving herds of sheep, the nearby alpine town of bleak (the highest settlement in the Balkans) is a great base for exploring Durmitor and is attractive in its own right. The climb to Crno jezero (‘Black Lake’), which vies with Bled in Slovenia for the title of the most beautiful lake in the Balkans,’ is not to be missed.

When the wildflowers bloom in late April, this section of Montenegro is quite lovely.

TARA RIVER CANYON

The Tara River Canyon, which is part of Durmitor National Park, is one of Europe’s largest and deepest canyons, not just in the Balkans.

The river flows down from Bosnia and Herzegovina, forming a natural boundary between the two nations, and eventually opens up into a canyon just outside of Zabljak, Montenegro. Whitewater rafting is popular in Tara Canyon in the late spring and summer.

Trivia Bridge is the most magnificent site along the gorge. It was built in 1940, while Montenegro was still a part of Yugoslavia, and it was Europe’s largest concrete arched bridge at the time. The bridge was nearly entirely demolished during WWII, just a few years later, in an attempt to stop the Italian advance (incredibly, one of the engineers responsible for the design was involved in the plot to bring it down).

The arches, which were rebuilt in 1946, magnificently reflect the sweeping mountains beyond.

STARI BAR

Old Bar, also known as Stari Bar, is an ancient town on Montenegro’s southern coast, close to the Albanian border. It dates back to the Early Middle Ages and is best renowned for its huge castle and Ottoman-built aqueduct, which are set back in the hills away from the sea.

The bar is in a lovely location with a dreadful past. An earthquake struck this section of Montenegro in 1979, demolishing the aqueduct and rendering the community waterless. Residents were forced to evacuate their homes and relocate to the seaside, where they founded a new town (today’s Bar) and began reconstructing their lives. Stari Bar had become stranded in time.

Riding the train to Bar and then hiking up the hill to explore the gorgeous village of Stari Bar on foot is one of the most wonderful things to do in Montenegro. The maze of decaying walls, churches, and mosques is interesting to explore.

The Bar Aqueduct, an astonishing work of engineering that still creates a lovely profile as it winds its way through the hills and residences beyond the fortress walls, can be seen from the back. You can stop for lunch at a number of delicious restaurants located right outside the fortification.

The location is completely encircled by dense olive groves. One ancient tree is known as ‘Stara maslina’ has been standing in Stari Bar for almost 2,000 years and is claimed to be one of the world’s oldest species.

OSTROG MONASTERY

Ostrog Monastery, in Niksic, Montenegro’s second-largest city, is the country’s most revered Orthodox Christian landmark and a key magnet for pilgrims from all over the world. Even if you don’t consider yourself religious, I’m sure you’ll agree that the monastery is a work of art.

Ostrog is located on a steep cliff 900m above the verdant Zeta valley, gleaming white against a bed of ochre stone. The top monastery, dedicated to St. Basil, was founded in 1665. It contains many candle-lit cloisters and open balconies located within two massive caves, giving the impression that the monastery was carved out of rock.

It’s one thing to see Ostrog from the valley’s marked lookout points, but it’s quite another to walk the stairs and see it up close. A set of colorful iconographic mosaics constructed by pressing tiny bits of sparkling glass and stone straight into the surface of the rock is the more stunning feature.

BUDVA OLD TOWN

Budva, Montenegro’s most visited resort and a major cruise ship port in the summer, is a more glamorous (and touristy) version of Kotor. The Riviera and Jaz Beach have become a playground for the wealthy and famous.

Although Budva isn’t for everyone, it’s worth battling the crowds to explore the stone passageways and small streets of Stari Grad, a medieval fortified city that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s not as big as Kotor, but the cobblestone streets and Venetian walls are just as lovely. The popular museum and Gallery of Modern Art are excellent resources for learning about the history of the area.

SVETI STEFAN

It’s easy to see why the island of Sveti Stefan is the poster child of Montenegrin tourism. This is without a doubt one of Montenegro’s most stunning locations.

Sveti Stefan, on the country’s central coast, just south of Budva and the Bay of Kotor, began as a little fishing community in the 15th century. The entire town was fortified to protect its citizens from pirates and Ottoman assaults, as it was built on an isolated islet.

A narrow causeway connects Sveti Stefan to the mainland, but it’s off-limits unless you’re a guest at the Aman Sveti Stefan. That’s right: Aman rented the entire island in 2008, converting the stone settlement into a 5-star resort.

It makes no difference… In any case, Sveti Stefan is best viewed from distance! Walking along the shady walkways that run along the chalk-colored cliffs that line the shore north of the causeway is a terrific opportunity to watch the sunset over the island.

The most spectacular views of the island may be seen at the Church St. Sava, which is a 20-minute drive up a steep road in the hills above the coast. Visit Praskvica Monastery, a lovely monastic complex with gardens and resident goats, while you’re up there.

LOVCEN NATIONAL PARK

Lovcen National Park, located above Kotor near the bay’s south-eastern point, is smaller than Durmitor but offers similar stunning mountain views. You can get a panoramic view of the entire bay – and Montenegro’s spectacular sunset – from the western side.

The Mausoleum of Petar II Petrovic-Njegos atop Mount Lovcan (also known as ‘The Black Mountain,’ the peak that gives Montenegro its name) is a must-see. It’s a strange piece of architecture dedicated to Montenegro’s most cherished national hero – a prince, poet, and philosopher who was born nearby in Cetinje – and can only be accessed by descending a very long set of subterranean steps.

Montenegrins are divided in the design, which features a church with 200,000 gold tiles and a pitch-black burial chamber. Some individuals adore it, while others despise it. Whatever side you’re on, you’ll agree that the view from the mausoleum’s round viewing platform at the back is unbeatable.

The mausoleum is accessible by two routes: the roadway from Cetinj or the dangerous Kotor Serpentine, an 8-kilometer length of road with no less than 16 hairpin curves. You get unrivaled vistas of the water as you zigzag your way up (or down) the serpentine.

PROKLETIJE NATIONAL PARK

Prokletije National Park is the country’s newest protected area, having just been proclaimed a national park in 2009. It is located in Montenegro’s north-eastern region, close to Kosovo and the Albanian border. It encompasses the Dinaric Alps mountain range, one of the most beautiful sections of the Balkans, as well as some of the best hiking paths in the country.

This park stretches into Albania, where it connects with two more national parks, Valbona and Theth. Walking the 200km Peaks of the Balkans, a defined loop trip that carries you through the three nations, is a terrific way to discover the landscape and enjoy beautiful vistas.

Shorter day hikes are also available to introduce you to Prokletije’s extraordinary biodiversity: half of Montenegro’s native flora is found here. Hike to the beautiful alpine Hridsko Lake, cool yourself in the pure water at Ali-Springs, Pasha’s, and see historic towers and churches along the way, some of which date back to the 15th century.

In the nearby town of Plav, which also has a number of stunning mosques, guesthouse accommodations are available. Biogradska Gora National Park, where you’ll find primeval forests, is about 2 hours away from Prokletije (one of the last three virgin forests in Europe, in fact). When traveling by rental car, it is convenient to combine the two.

ULCINJ

Ulcinj, Montenegro’s ancient coastal town, is unlike any other area in the country. Ulcinj tucked away on the south-eastern shore, a world away from Kotor harbor has a very local feel to it and is much more popular with domestic tourists than international visitors.

Long Beach, Small Beach, and Sapore di Mare are just a few of the country’s most magnificent beaches (the only white sand beaches in Montenegro). Away from the center, there are more hidden coves and calm stretches of shore.

Ulcinj has more than two dozen mosques and is home to Montenegro’s largest Albanian minority. The Museum of Local History is a fascinating place to visit if you want to learn about the town’s history, which dates back to the 5th century BC. Go straight to the bustling vegetable market to get a sense of modern life.

One of the area’s most recognized monuments, Ulcinj Castle, sits sentinel over the town and beaches, offering stunning views of the sea.

Ulcinj is an attractive departure point for travel into Albania and Kosovo due to its close proximity to both countries and the frequency of transportation links (particularly in the summer), with direct coaches to Tirana, Prizren, and Pristina.

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