While crowds have discovered Croatia, which lies just to the north, the compact country of Montenegro remains surprisingly undiscovered. Though tiny in size, Montenegro offers everything from mountain ranges to unspoiled beaches and charming fortified villages, all within a stone’s throw of your Montenegro hotel.
From extreme sports to local cuisine, here are ten reasons to book a city break holiday in Montenegro:
Drop anchor in Tivat
The prettiest port you have never heard of – Sofia Loren once described this town as the “most beautiful fairytale of my childhood.” Her fond memories are well justified because Tivat is the sunniest town on the Bay of Kotor. Yachts bob up and down in the luxury docking station at Porto Montenegro, and there are also 17 beaches perfect for enjoying the sun and sea if you don’t have your own boat but still want a taste of the lavish lifestyle.
Hike Durmitor National Park
It should come as no surprise that little Montenegro is actually home to some very big mountains because the country’s name means “black mountain.” Some of the most impressive peaks can be found inside the stunning Durmitor National Park. Carved out by glaciers, the limestone mountains are a major ski destination in winter months. In the warmer seasons, the park trails fill with outdoor enthusiasts hiking forest paths and seeking out shimmering lakes and lovely canyon views.
Get sporty on the river
Wilderness lovers can up the adrenaline rush with white water rafting along the Tara River. The rapids make for a challenging day, but the scenery is more than worth the work out – the Tara River canyon is the deepest canyon in Europe, with some of its green peaks reaching over an altitude of 1,300 m (4,265 ft).
Pass by the palace
Though no longer a political powerhouse, Montenegro still has a royal family with an official cultural role within the state. Montenegro’s monarchy ended in 1918 but it is still possible to visit the former royal palace in Cetinje. King Nikola’s Palace is simple from the outside, but the interior is full of royal memorabilia and the manor is surrounded by lush gardens.
A different kind of climbing wall
Montenegro’s fortified cities are some of the most charming towns on the Adriatic Sea but few are as impressive as Kotor. Set on the shores of a stunning bay, the city is surrounded by a wall that took centuries to complete. Rather than merely circle the town itself, the protective wall loops around the entire hillside creating a 4.5 km (over 2.5 miles) circuit. Lace up your runners and hike up to St. John’s Fortress for an impressive view of the orange roofed houses set against the shimmering blue waters.
Speaking of Kotor, as if the pretty town were not enough, there is also the bay to explore. Sometimes mistakenly referred to as a fjord, the body of water that surrounds Kotor is actually a ria (a kind of coastal inlet). Boat tours leave regularly from the town, and it is worth hopping aboard if only to visit Our Lady of the Rock – a picturesque church set on a rock outcropping in the middle of the bay.
Find your zen
Set into a nearly vertical cliff face, Ostrog Monastery is one of Montenegro’s most famous sights for good reason. Orthodox Christian pilgrims flock to the shrine of Saint Basil of Ostrog, who is buried here, but no religious affiliation is needed to appreciate the stunning site of the monastery on a mountain (or to enjoy the sweeping views once you finally make it to the top).
It’s all about the mussels
The seafood options are plentiful thanks to Montenegro’s location on the Adriatic Sea, but some of the freshest you can find are mussels from the Bay of Kotor. The mollusks are “farmed” here and there is nothing like digging into a plate simmered mussels in a light tomato and white wine sauce next to the sea.
Charming Kotor is ideal for long lunches and leisurely strolls, but each summer it also become the settings for the SeaRock Music festival. The free music event hosts new alternative rock bands each July.
Bet it all like Bond
The opening scenes of the James Bond film Casino Royale is set in Montenegro. Though the poker game was actually filmed elsewhere, it is possible to place a wager at the country’s luxury casinos.
Have you ever been to Montenegro? Make sure to check out our Montenegro city breaks for more!