While my previous post was kind of personal story about the stay in Montenegro, this will be a more informative guide to the sights you might want to visit in the country. But before I present my idea of the best places in Montenegro, let me throw some information at you.
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Tips for your trip to Montenegro:
- It is a small country and the bus/train connections are rather decent, so you can survive without renting a car and still see a lot. Also, if you are a group of people, look into the opportunity of getting a taxi – they are cheap, compared to other European countries.
- The currency is Euro – convenient!
- The tap water is drinkable in most places, but there are some locations and hotels, where they don’t recommend you doing it. For this purpose, I would recommend having a filtering water bottle, like this one by Water-to-Go or this one from Amazon.
- BUT it is not in the European Union, so please don’t be deceived by the currency and take your passport with you.
- If you are vegan, please do a little research about places to eat – it is an extremely carnivorous place, so meat can be found where you least expect it.
- If you are allergic to cigarette smoke, take some precautions – it is allowed to smoke in public places, restaurants, offices and even trains.
- Take a guide book with you. Of course, you can also print out this awesome post, but a proper guide book will for sure give be very helpful on the spot and (at least for me) is the best souvenir you will have from the country. The question is, are you more a Lonely Planet or a Marco Polo guide book person?
And now, a list of places I would recommend you to visit.
The Best Places in Montenegro
Kotor is a small coastal town of under 1000 people (or 13,000 people, if you count some suburbs). It has a port and an old town part dating back to the Venetian times. The old town is really worth visiting, as it is one of the best-preserved towns in the Adriatic region.
The town of Kotor lies in the Bay of Kotor, which is narrow and looks almost like a fjord (probably the only fjord, where you would enjoy swimming). It is however not a fjord, but a submerged river canyon. The bay is surrounded by mountains, covered with forest.
I was in Kotor (as in all other places in Montenegro) in April, and at this time it is an empty – as you will see in the pictures – charming town, cool (as in weather) and shaded by the mountains. If you also want to see it this way, try to come outside the season. During the season the sea might be more pleasant, but you will get a sea of people as a bonus.
Here are some ideas for places to stay in Kotor.
Lake Skadar lies on the border between Montenegro and Albania. It is the biggest lake on the Balkan peninsula and very rich in life: some 270 bird species (among them are some of the last pelicans in Europe) and 34 fish species.
It is also home to my dream house. I arrived at the lake by hitch-hiking (yes, here the bus connection failed), got out of the car and there it was right in front of me – the house of my dream. It is pictured in the first picture, and the view I would see from my windows – in the second picture. It was absolutely abandoned but had pomegranate and fig trees growing around. For some reason, I was really feeling very strong about this house and for some time after the trip tried to find the owner online, but failed.
If any of my readers has by any chance recognised the house and can tell me some news about how it looks now, please do! I’ll send some chocolate your way.
So yes, the lake, the house, the beautiful surroundings. That alone already makes it one of the best places in Montenegro for me. What else do you need? Food, obviously. And food it has – really great grilled local fish from the lake (some of those 34, remember?). Recommended!
The lake is easy to rich from Podgorica, but you can also stay around for longer. Do visit Skadar Lake National Park and check out opportunities for lake Skadar boat trip. And here are some ideas for accommodation.
Ulcinj and Ulcinj Velika Plaza
Ulcinj is a town close to the Albanian border and mostly inhabited by the Albanians. It has a beautiful sandy beach and a historic old town, rounded with city walls. Throughout the history, it belonged to the Romans, Slavs, Ottoman and Venetian rule, finally becoming a part of Montenegro.
Again, I visited Ulcinj in April, and it was perfect – warm, but not too hot sun, which lets you explore the city and enjoy coffee on an open terrace. I could read a book on the beach and had a swim in the sea, but this is because I come from the Baltics – it was as warm as our sea ever gets, meaning very cold. Ulcinj Velika Plaza or the Long Beach is particularly worth visiting: it is a stretch of sand of 22 km – the longest beach in Montenegro. And all pure sand.
My friend has actually chosen Ulcinj as a destination for her family holiday in August and hated it, as it was really overcrowded, messy and loud. This shows us that opinions can differ and that at different times you will see a totally different place.
For accommodation ideas in Ulcinj, follow this link to Booking.com.
A fun fact I have heard is that Miguel de Cervantes lived in Ulcinj for some time. But I have no idea whether he liked it or hated it.
Budva Old Town
If you have heard anything about the holidays here, you have probably heard about Budva. Everyone kept telling me that this is absolutely one of the best places in Montenegro and there are just so many things to do in Budva. Also, so many times I’ve heard a question: Budva or Kotor? (My answer would be Kotor). This is the main coastal resort in the country, the place I would have absolutely hated if I had come there in summer, but which again was lovely-empty in April. (At this point you can already start guessing that I don’t like people too much).
So, Budva. It is one of the oldest settlements in the Adriatic, dating some crazy 2,500 years back. Of course, at that time it probably wasn’t filled with night clubs and huge billboards “Villa for sale” in Russian. It is famous for its nightlife, great beaches and mild climate. Maybe I would have preferred it a couple of thousands of years ago.
But there are things to like, even for me. Budva old town is surrounded by city walls, and you can take a walk on the wall, looking down both at the narrow white city streets and blue sea. And it was this town where I for the first time in my life smelled the orange blossom – a smell once you have felt, you will never forget. A kind of present from the town to me, and for this I will always remember it with some fondness. And picture it likewise.
I wouldn’t like to stay here overnight during the season, but off the season it could be fun. You can follow the link for some ideas for your stay.
Best Beaches in Budva
Nothing to add to this except saying that the climate of Budva is indeed nice, the beach is indeed great, and the nightlife I haven’t checked, as I wanted to return back to Podgorica.
Where to stay in Budva:
Black Lake Montenegro (Crno Jezero)
Black Lake, called Crno Jezero in Montenegrin, is a glacial lake. It is located on the Durmitor Mountain on the height of almost 1.5 km and is 50 meters deep.
It was my last little trip from Podgorica during my stay, and it happened exactly on Easter Sunday. Montenegro is Orthodox, like my family, so the churches and Easter traditions are very similar, but somehow that made me feel more homesick than it would have been in some other country.
Early in the morning, I took a mini-bus from Podgorica to the town of Zabljak, which is 3 km from the Black Lake. As it was Sunday, the bus was half-empty, but there was sitting a student girl, probably going to her hometown for Easter, and an old lady with a basket filled with Easter eggs and home-baked Easter cake. It all smelled like home, only I wasn’t home and there was no-one to celebrate Easter with. The old lady asked me in Montenegrin, where I was going, and after I couldn’t explain it properly, using my Russian and a couple of words I just learned a week ago, she turned to the student girl and asked her to ask me in English, and then to translate my answer. After hearing that I was a foreigner going to the Black Lake on Easter Sunday, she couldn’t hide her surprise:
– But why? What are you going to do there? See what? Why don’t you just go home?
And then, as it was her stop already, she gave me an Easter egg and a piece of cake and got off the bus.
In the meantime, the bus went up and up the mountain and when we arrived, I, coming from a totally flat country, couldn’t believe my eyes seeing the snow covering the ground in thick layers, at some places almost up to my knees. How come, I was just bathing in the sea and lying in the sun yesterday! In the same country of just over 600.000 people, how such difference can exist at all. But there it was, and I was freezing, so I decided to walk actively all around the lake – this way I would enjoy the view and stay warm.
And right after I started walking towards the lake, a little dog appeared in front of me, played and ran around my feet, and then ran straight towards the path going around the lake. It followed me all the way around and stopped patiently when I stopped to take pictures. And after I have reached the end of the path and came out from the forest, the dog just ran away. Probably, it was the Black Lake tourist guide. Or guard, I’m not sure.
So, if you go there, the easiest way is to follow this route:
- Arrive to Zabljak
- Walk some 3 km to the Black Lake
- Take a path around the lake. It is around 3.5 km long and very scenic.
- If you want to stay the night in Zabljak and explore the lake more, check some options here.
If you stay in Durmitor national park hiking should for sure be one of the things to add to your list of activities.
And please let me know if you see the dog!
I think all in all Montenegro was one of the most intriguing places I have ever visited. It is one of the smallest countries in Europe, and one of the youngest ones, having in mind it only officially became fully independent in 2006. At the same time, the history dates thousands of years back, and you just walk through all those layers day by day, seeing the footprints of the glaciers, earthquakes, wars, Romans, Ottomans, Venetians, young club-goers, rich Russian tourists, corruption, extreme hospitality and some raw honesty. And while you travel through all these layers (at least in April), you feel the smell of orange blossom.
Booking your stay in Montenegro?
During my 3 weeks in the country, I’ve stayed in Podgorica and travelled to all the other places from there. It is a small country and you will be able to do most destinations as day trips while staying in one base. However, if you prefer, it would definitely be nice to spend at least a couple of days in more remote corners of the country, like Ulcinj or Black Lake.
Alternatively, Booking.com is always a good idea. Check out some deals for Montenegro below: