Boasting a broad stretch of dramatic coastline and massive mountain ranges, the tiny country of Montenegro packs a big punch. Having gained their independence as a nation less than ten years ago and as a current candidate for accession into the EU, the country is an ideal place for the discerning adventurer who yearns for beach-side afternoons overlooking the Adriatic Sea, but could do without the seemingly ceaseless flow of tourism that has become commonplace for the more high-profile destinations in the region.
Montenegro’s newness does not, however, detract from the rich and varied history of the area. Originally known as Crna Gora (or “Black Mountain”), the country borders several former Yugoslav nations and Albania, as well sits a short boat ride from the southeastern tip of Italy. The influence of the surrounding nations brings a unique mixture of Slavic, Mediterranean and Eastern European culture that can be found nowhere else in the world.
The best way to experience the tiny country of Montenegro is to start south from the country’s northern border, then head east into the mountainous region that hugs the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina known as Durmitor. Herceg Novi, in the north of the country, is located just a 50 minute drive from Dubrovnik, Croatia, and can provide a good starting point for exploring the region.
Stay in Kumbor, which is a small beachside enclave a ten minute drive south, and offers much of the perks of Herceg Novi without the large crowds. Catch a seat on the beach in the morning and watch the fishing boats coasting slowly in and out of the bay. Even in Kumbor, which is considerably less busy than Herceg Novi, beach chairs fill up quickly in the high season, so it is best to arrive early. If you’re feeling adventurous, boat tours, hiking, and a host of outdoor activities including paragliding can be easily arranged from Montenegro Travel Service. In the evening, dine on grilled squid caught fresh the same day from one of the waterfront restaurants.
From Herceg Novi, the coastal highway winds into the Bay of Kotor. Fortressed islands jut out from the waterfront, tall canyon peaks hug the sea-level towns, and sunlight shimmers on the still water. Deep into the bay is the ancient city of Kotor. A former Roman settlement in startlingly pristine condition, Kotor is a town of charm and visible history. Hike to the steps leading up to the fortress castle of St. John for one of the most stunning views found anywhere on the Adriatic coast.
If the view overlooking the Bay of Kotor isn’t majestic enough, there’s more. From Kotor, regular shuttles and guides will take you to Durmitor National Park, home to nearly twenty glacial lakes and almost fifty mountain peaks.
The Durmitor region is what is known as a massif, or mountain peaks that form around a fault or break in the earth’s crust. Any number of outdoor sports can be enjoyed here, not the least of which includes gazing up in awe at the surrounding massive snow-capped peaks and the multicolored forest that encircles them. Somewhere in between nights of wine and fresh food, days of ocean and grand views, you’ll forget that you ever called another place home.
Eating & Drinking
Located along the waterfront that stretches the length of the small town of Kumbor, Cafe Mondo serves a variety of freshly made local and international cuisines. Their specialty, however, is seafood, which is all sourced locally and often the same-day from local fishermen.
Stari grad 375, Kotor Old Town
An affordable and excellent business in the heart of Old Town Kotor. Grilled fish plates and mussels are recommended dishes.
Suranj bb, Kotor
A waterfront restaurant specializing in seafood, with a remarkable view of the Bay of Kotor. Good for lunches and dinners.
Places To Stay
35 Kumbor, Herceg Novi, Google Plus
Rooms from $19/night
Boutique Hotel Astoria
Stari Grad, Kotor, Website
Rooms from $185/night
Polar Star Apart Hotel
Borje bb,Zabljak | Durmitor National Park, Website
Rooms from $40/per person
Getting There: Flights arrive from Dubrovnik Airport. From there, shuttles can be arranged to Herceg Novi. You can also obtain shuttles to Herceg Novi from the main bus station in Dubrovnik. Blue line, a Montenegrin shuttle company, has lines that run from the main bus station twice daily to Herceg Novi. From Herceg Novi, a bus or taxi can be obtained to Kumbor from the main bus station, as well as shuttles to Kotor and beyond.
Getting Around: A wealth of shuttle companies run services up and down the coast. Durmitor tours run Monday, Wednesday and Friday from the main hostel in Kotor, and can be arranged via phone or in person.
Weather: The Montenegro coast is blessed with the warm Mediterranean weather of the Adriatic. The winters are mild and the summers are hot. Further into the mountains near Durmitor there is snowfall and colder temperatures. The late spring is an ideal time to visit the region, as accommodations become scarce in the mid to high summer.
Visas: Americans do not need a visa for stays less than 90 days.
Tipping: It’s customary to round small change up to the next dollar for good service, though in more upscale destinations a 10% tip is welcomed.