To say Montenegro is the new Croatia and Kotor is the new Dubrovnik is a flippant dismissal of Montenegro’s unique and staggering beauty. Although, this is how people are describing one of Europe’s smallest countries.
Possibly one of the most beautiful countries in the Balkans; these incredible things to do in Montenegro will show why this tiny country is worth visiting. You may be planning your Montenegro itinerary sooner than you think.
“At the birth of our planet, the most beautiful encounter between land & sea happened on the coast of Montenegro”Lord Byron
Reasons to Visit Montenegro
Montenegro or Croatia?
Travel trends change. Destinations that would never have made the latest “Must Go” list for one reason or another finally take their turn in tourism’s fickle limelight, which is why many people are now asking whether to visit Croatia or Montenegro? If you can, I would always say both.
As a holiday destination, Croatia’s beauty and value for money are no secret. Regardless of Croatia’s undeniable appeal, to compare a country like Montenegro as being “the new” anything does not aptly describe the unique and breathtaking beauty of this small and relatively new country.
And after Croatia’s Game of Thrones fame, some are looking for a new and slightly less tourist-dense experience along this incredible stretch of the Adriatic.
Day Trips to Montenegro from Dubrovnik
Even if you aren’t planning to stay in Montenegro, a day trip from Dubrovnik is very rewarding. Driving across the border is easy but there are also a wide array of day trips available if you don’t have your own car. You can see a wide selection of Day trips to Montenegro from Dubrovnik here.
The Star Studded Past of Montenegro
Long before the Yugoslav Wars tore the entire region apart, Montenegro was famed as the St Tropez of the Balkans. A playground for the wealthy and elite.
While the war killed off tourism in the region, Montenegro retained a twinkle of that je ne sais quoi that had attracted the likes of Princess Margaret, Sofia Loren, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the 50s and 60s.
So much so, since gaining independence from Serbia in 2006, international investment has been ripe in the region, attracting billionaires such as British financier Nat Rothschild to vacation and invest in Montenegro.
Value for Money
Montenegro is one of the Best Summer Destinations in Europe.
Montenegro’s unique beauty and welcoming culture are once again attracting the rich and famous. And, despite the rapid development of luxury resorts and superyacht marinas, this tiny corner of the Adriatic is still a very attainable holiday destination for the average holidaymaker.
Summer is a great time to be in Europe and Montenegro remains one of the best value-for-money summer destinations we have visited with a genuinely friendly atmosphere and without any of the annoying tourist hustle. So much so, that we have spent numerous extended summers in Montenegro.
Getting Around Montenegro
Montenegro is a small and compact country with very regular and reliable bus services and an old, but decent train service. Public transport is also very cheap.
If you want to see the most of the country, and especially if you are short on time, I would highly recommend hiring a car, even if only for a few days. There are so many great sights to see that are much easier with your own vehicle.
Even in peak season, car rental is very reasonable. You can search car rental Deals in Montenegro with free cancellation and no fees.
The Best Things to do in Montenegro
Experience the Astonishing Natural Beauty of Montenegro
At not even 300km long, Montenegro packs in more spectacular scenery than thought possible for such a small country.
Words like looming, majestic, serene and staggeringly spectacular are often used to describe what we believe may well be the most beautiful country in the world.
Mountains rise dramatically from the crystal clear sea where ancient monasteries cling impossibly to cliff faces. Medieval walled cities and picturesque fishing towns such as Perast blend gently into the water’s edge.
Montenegro is one of those fabulous places where you can spend the morning on the beach, be in the mountains for lunch and back to any of the picturesque old towns for a sundowner and dinner. These are just some of the highlights you can expect.
Cruise The Bay of Kotor
More commonly known as Boka Bay, the star of the show is one of the most awe-inspiring natural spectres we have had the pleasure to witness.
Whether you drive its perimeter or sail the length of this fjord-like bay, you will be hard-pressed not to mutter the word “beautiful” at least twice.
Against a commanding mountain backdrop, picturesque medieval towns line the edge of some of the most stunningly clear waters you will find anywhere along the coast.
Island monasteries overlook elegant water-front eateries, and small organised beaches offer a splash of colour and a delightful experience.
Kotor Old Town
Arrive at the end of the bay, and you will find the UNESCO-listed medieval walled city of Kotor. Unlike Croatia’s Dubrovnik, Kotor’s Old Town is less of an empty museum.
Visiting Kotor is one of the most popular things to do in Montenegro. The recent increase in cruise ships and cruising yachts in the small city is proof of this.
While Kotor does cater to the tourist well and prices may be slightly inflated inside the walls, it has a more authentic, lived-in atmosphere.
Washing still hangs from windows, and people go about their daily business as with any of the old towns in Montenegro.
With more than 2,000 years of history, there is plenty to see within the picturesque squares and laneways within the medieval walls of Kotor. Many buildings date back to the Venetian Empire, which reigned for over 400 years.
- Visit the 12th-century Sveti Tirpun, Church of Sveti Luka, and the Church of Sveta Marija.
- See the iconic 17th century Pima Palace.
- The Napolean Theatre, one of the first theatres in the Balkans, dating back to the 1600s
- Discover Montenegro’s sea-faring history at the Maritime Museum.
- Stroll the Trg od Oružja, the main piazza, where you can find many eateries and cafes serving delicious Montenegrin and Mediterranean cuisine.
Visit the Cats Museum
Discover the intriguing relationship the city of Kotor has had with cats throughout the centuries at the Cat Museum.
It is hard not to notice the hundreds of stray cats in Kotor’s old town, but the word stray is a bit of a stretch. Every single cat is healthy and well cared for. Locals lovingly tend to and feed every feline, as has been done for centuries – the cats are more than just figureheads of the city but also a folkloric symbol of good luck.
The Cats Museum has a fascinating collection of memorabilia, artefacts and art honouring the feline locals of Kotor.
Climb the Kotor Fortress to the Castle Of San Giovanni
Make the lung-busting effort to climb the serpentine track above the city wall of Kotor Old town to the fortress of St John or Castle of San Giovanni, as the locals call it. The fort dates back to the 6th century. It was built by the Roman Emperor Justinian the Great to protect the city from potential threats.
At 280 m above sea level, the huff and puff climb to the top is worth every postcard view of Lovccen mountains, Kotor Bay and Kotor Old Town.
The best time to climb is in the morning to avoid the day’s heat. There are rest stops on the way up, including at the Church of Our Lady of Remedy. But, go later in the day and be rewarded with the spectacle of the special lights illuminating the city walls at night.
Kotor is not the only old town oozing charm. Budva, Montenegro’s most tourist-populated beach town is not just about beach bars, hotels, nightclubs, and shopping malls; it also has one of the most beautiful old towns in the country.
At 2,500 years old, it is one of the oldest settlements along the Adriatic coast. The old town sits on a rocky outcrop along the main beach and now boasts lovely restaurants in quiet lanes and busy piazzas, boutique shops and guesthouses.
While the tourist scene of Budva is not quite our style, the Old Town is very much worth a visit even if only for a day.
15 minutes up the road from Budva is the 15th century fortified village of Sveti Stephan. This is where the rich and famous first discovered the joys of the Montenegrin coast between the 60s and 80s.
Closed as a result of the troubles in the former Yugoslavia, it has recently reopened and is now the exclusive Aman Sveti Stephan Resort. Unfortunately, unless you have around €700 / night to spend, you will only be admiring this old town from afar.
Herceg Novi is a charming coastal town at the mouth of Boka Bay. The old town is nestled amongst castles and forts that cascade from the top of the hill down to the waters edge affording magnificent views of the bay.
As well as restaurants, cafe’s and shops in the Old Town; during the summer, the upper castle acts as an open-air theatre hosting plays and operas and the lower fortress is an open-air cinema.
Herceg Novi is a fantastic town for a beach holiday and for exploring the best in and around the Bay of Kotor. It also has a more laid back and less touristy vibe than Budva or Kota.
Perast may be one of the prettiest towns in Europe. Once the power and wealth centre of the Bay of Kotor, the small UNESCO-listed town has been beautifully restored.
Beautiful stone palaces and churches line the shore while traditional boats wait for passengers to transfer to The Lady of the Rocks church island in the middle of the bay.
Perast is an idyllic town, perfect for a lazy lunch by the sea indulging in locally grown mussels and Montenegro’s world-class wines, neither of which will set you back much.
Visit Our Lady of the Rocks Island
Perast is famous for the two island churches which lie in front of it. One a natural island which is not open to the public is home to a monastery.
The other is a man-made island built up over 600 years called Our Lady of the Rocks. The island has a Catholic church which is also a museum.
You can take a guided tour on the island for around €1 pp or you can explore at your leisure.
How to Get to Our Lady of the Rocks
You can take a boat from Perast for a few euros. The driver will come back to collect you when you are ready to return.
Many of the tours around the Bay of Kotor will include a visit to Our Lady of the Rocks, or you can take a scenic speedboat water taxi. You can see a full list of tour options that include a visit to Our Lady of the Rocks here.
Live the High Life in Porto Montenegro
Often referred to as the Monaco of Montenegro, Porto Montenegro in Tivat is one of the more upscale towns in Montenegro.
Porto Montenegro boasts a beautiful new marina development that attracts the superyacht set and jet-set elite during the summer months.
Situated by the Bay of Kotor, the resort-town has enough high end shops and restaurants to keep you busy for a few days.
Stroll the boardwalk, catch some live music at one of the many restaurants and bars, or head to the Beach Club Porto Montenegro, where you can relax next to the infinity pool and soak up some of Montenegro’s glorious sunshine and hospitality.
You can experience a unique contrast to the older and more historic cities and get a feel for what attracted film stars and royalty to Montenegro before the war.
The Ruins of Stari Bar
Visit the abandoned village of Stari Bar for a look into the tumultuous history of a once important city that may, yet again, see a revival.
Throughout history, Stari Bar has been occupied by the Venetians, Serbians, Hungarians and the Ottoman Empire. Stari Bar was reclaimed from the Turks by Montenegro after an 1877 siege in which locals cut off the water supply by destroying the aqueduct.
One hundred years later, an earthquake destroyed the new aqueduct sealing the town’s fate. Stari Bar is now in ruins, but the town’s former glory is still very apparent.
The new city of Bar was built down the hill by the water, becoming an important port city for Montenegro. And while the old Stari Bar was never rebuilt, some locals have chosen recently to move back up the hill. Around the old city, restaurants and houses are starting to appear, but Stari Bar remains in ruins.
Stari Bar is about an hour’s walk uphill from Bar (you can also take a taxi for a few euros – around a 5-minute drive), head towards the iconic Stari Bar clock tower to find the city’s old fortifications and turrets and the 17th century aqueduct – the demise of the town in both instances.
You can see the remains of a 13th-century Franciscan monastery and the foundations of St George’s Cathedral, which the Turks converted into mosques. An 18th-century bath house shows the Ottoman influence in the area.
A small museum at the entrance will give you information about the old city and its history.
The World’s Oldest Olive Tree
The town of Bar may be considered the “new town” compared to Stari Bar, but there is still plenty of history to explore in the small coastal port town, including the Stara Maslina, the world’s oldest olive tree. The colossal olive tree is over 2500 years old (according to locals).
Oldest in the world, possibly not (I think both Bethlehem and Crete also lay claim to trees dating back as far as 8,000 years), but it is still worth seeing.
Like any country in the region, Montenegro is loaded with intriguing history, but it is also rich with amazing historical sites to visit such as Ostrog Monastery and Mamula Island.
The island of Lastavica is situated at the entrance of Boka Bay and is known simply as “Mamula” named after the fort built on it in 1853.
The island served as a concentration camp in both world wars and as a prison. The remaining ruins lay incredibly intact making it one of the most popular tourist attractions from the town of Herceg Novi.
Unfortunately, regardless of the strong local objection, a 49-year lease was granted for the development of a luxury resort on the island set to open in 2022.
Rumour has it, that part of this agreement includes a museum as part of the restoration of the original structure. Hopefully, this means public access will still be granted.
Getting to Mamula Island
There are many small boat tours leaving from the town of Herceg Novi to Mamula. Many of the tours will be a half-day and include a visit to the WW2 submarine caves and a swimming stop at the Blue Caves. You can no longer explore the buildings as the ruins shown here are now a luxury resort, but tours will take you around the island.
You can find a selection of tours that will take you to the Blue Caves and Mamula Island here. You may also be able to rent a local boat from Herceg Novi.
Another of Montenegro’s fantastic historical sites is the Ostrog Monastery, the burial place of Saint Basil. Located in the mountains between Podgorica and Niksic, Ostrog, one of the most unique churches in the world, is visited by more than 100,000 pilgrims each year.
Carved into the vertical cliff face, it is a tradition for pilgrims to make the 3km journey barefoot from the lower monastery to the top of the mountain to pray in front of the body of Saint Basil. It is quite an astounding place.
Dress Code for Ostrog Monastery
You will need to have your shoulders covered and shorts or skirts at least to the knee to enter the monastery. T-Shirts are fine. This applies to both men and women.
There is nowhere to change there so be prepared to change in the car if required in hot weather. Some women will cover their heads with a scarf but it is not a requirement.
Getting to Ostrog Monastery
We visited Ostrog by renting a car which was the easiest option for us. Unless you have your own car (approx. 2 hrs from Kotor and 1 hr from Podgorica), getting to Ostrog by public transport can be difficult. You would need to get to Podgorica first, then take the train to Ostrog, then a bus and then either taxi and walk. A tour is a much easier option and you can pack other attractions into one day.
This selection of Ostrog Monastery Tours gives you the option to enjoy other activities on one day trip depending on your interest, including national parks, Tara Gorge, Niagara waterfalls and more.
Staying at Ostrog Monastery
You can stay overnight at the monastery. Accommodation is dorm-style and bunks start at €4pp. You can also sleep on the monastery grounds – sleeping mats and blankets are available from the monastery free of charge.
Spectacular Coastline and Lakes
The Adriatic Coast offers some of the most remarkable waters anywhere in Europe. The clearest of blues and greenest of greens, these are some of Europe’s best Blue Flag beaches.
Montenegro’s slice of the Adriatic is set against such a spectacular backdrop and delivered with a particular style you won’t find anywhere else.
This is a summer paradise. It’s not surprising this little country is attracting the superyacht scene and massive resort investment.
The Budva Riviera is a stunning, scenic 35-kilometre stretch of coastline along the Adriatic Sea coast on both sides of Budva. More than 12 kilometres of that coast are beaches.
While the popular beaches such as the famous Jazz beach around the tourist hub of Budva can get quite busy, there are still great beaches to escape the crowds. These are some of the best beaches in Budva:
- Slovenska Beach
- Dobrec Beach
- Kamenovo Beach
- Mogren Beach
- Jaz Beach
- Kamenovo Beach
- Becici Beach
- Sveti Nikola Island
- Przno Beach
- Kraljicina Beach
- Sveti Stefan
- Mogren Beach
- Velika Plaza
- Lucice Beach
- Drobni Pijesak
- Plavi Horizonti
Swim at The Montenegro Blue Cave
The Blue Cave on Lustica Peninsula near Herceg Novi is one of the best things to do in Montenegro. The largest of many caves both above and under the water, it’s called the Blue Cave because of the way the light hits the sandy bottom and reflects up through the water.
It is possible to visit the cave for swimming, or there is also the possibility of a dive trip through the underwater cave systems. A trip to the Blue Cave can be included with a cruise past Mamula Island.
Tour Recommendations for the Blue Cave: Our Lady of the Rocks, Mamula Submarine Tunnels and Blue Cave
Take a half-day boat cruise to some of the best attractions in Kotor Bay, including a visit to Our Lady of the Rocks, and swim in the famous Blue Cave known for its iridescent colour. Cruise the secret tunnels where WWII submarines were hidden and cruise through the scenic Verige Straits along the Herceg Novi Rivera to see Mamula Island, a prison during WWII. See here for full tour details.
Had enough of the coast? Head to Lake Skadar on the Montenegrin / Albanian border. The largest lake in the Balkan Peninsula, Lake Skadar is a nature lover’s wonderland.
400 km of the pristine national park set amongst Montenegro’s premium wine country offers an excellent combination of nature, adventure, and gastronomy.
Tara River Canyon
The Tara River runs through two countries – Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro. The UNESCO Protected Tara River Gorge measures 82 kilometres in length (the river is 146 km). It is the largest and deepest canyon in Europe and the second deepest in the world after the Grand Canyon, with the majority located in Montenegro.
Part of Durmitor National Park, it is a hot spot for outdoor adventure in Montenegro. Stunning lush valleys, clear flowing rivers, and dozens of underground caves give the area an incredible Jurassic atmosphere.
From hiking and biking to ziplining and white water rafting, there is so much outdoorsy fun to be had in Tara River Canyon. Take a walk over the Djurdjevica Bridge, 172m above the Tara River, for stunning canyon views.
Tara River Canyon Tour Recommendations:
Take a full-day all-inclusive whitewater rafting tour with swimming stops leaving from Budva, Kotor and Tivat including breakfast and lunch in the scenic Šćepan Polje. See here for full tour details.
Join a full-day white water rafting tour leaving from Dubrovnik including all equipment and breakfast and lunch. See here for tour details.
Hiking in Durmitor National Park
Durmitor National Park in the north of Montenegro is a highlight for so much more than just the Tara River Canyon.
Situated in the Dinaric Alps, the UNESCO World Heritage site covers an area of 79,000 acres, a mountain area, locally called a massif. The park has 48 separate peaks (Bobotov Kuk is the highest at 8,278 feet (2,523 m) and 18 different glacial lakes.
It is one of the most beautiful natural reserves in Europe, offering endless views of blue glacial lakes, magnificent canyons, and endless alpine forests.
There is so much to enjoy for hiking, mountaineering, canoeing, rafting, or enjoying the diverse wildlife and flora in Durmitor National Park.
If you enjoy skiing, you can visit the nearby town of Zabljak, where the ski resort Savin Kuk has 4.7 km of slopes and six lifts.
Durmitor National Park Tour Recommendation: Hiking Day Trip in Durmitor Massif & Dining – Take a full-day guided hiking trip from Kotor: Hike the summit of Bobotuv Kuk in Durmitor massif. See the serene Zeleni Vir glacial lake, and experience views from the top of the world. Includes breakfast, lunch and a celebratory dinner at a local farm. See here for full tour details.
Black Lake is a must-visit in the Durmitor National Park. It is the largest glacial lake in the park at the foot of the mountain Medjed peak, fringed by a primaeval cone forest. It is made up of two lakes – Big Lake and Little Lake connected by a narrow strait. In summer, the strait dries, creating two separate lakes. You can take the 3km hiking trail around the lake to enjoy the incredible nature and stunning views.
Visit Lovcen National Park
Lovćen National Park (pronounced LOV-chen) is one of Montenegro’s most-visited national parks.
Perched atop Lovćen Mountain and at an altitude of 1749m, the park offers some of the country’s most spectacular scenery and views.
Lovcen National park is also where you will find some of Montenegro’s most important cultural sites and delicious traditional cuisine.
From hiking to biking, lazy picnics or wildlife spotting, you can also get a permit (€5/day) to forage for mushrooms (in autumn), berries, herbs and flowers.
Lovcen is also a popular place to visit in Montenegro in summer as it can be as much as 10°C cooler than the coast.
Tour Recommendation: If you don’t have your own car, it is possible to do a Full-Day Tour of Lovcen National Park. The tour includes Visit Njegusi village, Lovcen National Park with its mausoleum, Cetinje, Crnojevic River and Sveti Stefan with boat ride, swimming, guides and more. See here for full details.
Visit Lovcen Mausoleum
One of the biggest attractions in Lovcen National Park is the mausoleum of Petar II Petrović Njegoš. At 1657m above sea level, it claims to be the highest mausoleum in the world.
Petar II Petrović Njegos is a Montenegrin and Serbian icon who ruled Montenegro from 1830 to 1851. A philosopher considered one of the best Slavic poets of his time, he also united Montenegro’s warring tribes and modernised the country.
There are 461 steps to the mausoleum, but the view from Montonegro’s second-highest peak is worth the effort. On a clear day, you can see Italy. Inside the granite mausoleum is an exquisite golden mosaic and an impressive sculpture of the Prince-Bishop created by Ivan Mestrovic.
Travel Facts for Montenegro.
While Montenegro’s future looks fairly well cemented in the calendars of the wealthy and famous all is not lost for the average holidaymaker. For now, it is a very attractive destination for the budget-conscious.
Cost of Travel in Montenegro
We have stayed in Montenegro for periods of one month to six weeks during the peak season of July and August. While accommodation prices are slightly inflated during these periods, they are still very reasonable. Here is a look at what you could expect to pay during peak season.
Peak season is July – August but the optimum time for visiting would be anywhere from June – October
Accommodation in Montenegro
We have rented a very comfortable air-conditioned one-bedroom, fully equipped apartment with sea views, walking distance to town and the beach in Herceg Novi for €800/month – €26/night. For two people with all the comforts of a fully equipped home. We found this very reasonable.
We also rented a self-contained one-bedroom air-conditioned apartment with magnificent views over the Bay of Kotor, only a short walk to the popular beachfront of Kumbor, just north of Herceg Novi for €600/month – €20/night for all-inclusive, self-contained accommodation overlooking the beach is very reasonable.
Expect these rates to drop slightly during the shoulder and off-seasons. Longer-term rentals of 3-4 weeks like we tend to do may attract further discounts.
You will find guest houses for as little as €6/night up to €700/night for the five-star resorts.
Find the best deals for Guest Houses, Villas and Hotels here.
Compared to many other European destinations, tour prices are very reasonable as shown in the following examples.
A sailing transfer from Herceg Novi through the Bay of Kotor stopping at the Lady on the Rock Church, Kotor and the Old Town and Perast including a full lunch and refreshments starts at around €20pp.
A 3-hour small private boat hire for up to four people with a skipper including a tour of bays surrounding the entrance of the Boka Bay, Mamula Island and swimming at the Blue Grotto starts at €60 for the entire boat. This includes a visit to some very cool abandoned submarine bays hidden in the mountains.
Dental Tourism in Montenegro
Montenegro is also making a name for itself in Dental Tourism along with other Eastern European destinations such as Macedonia and Hungary.
We have put this to the test twice and found the level of dentistry offered to be of a very high standard and at a very reasonable cost. You can find out more about our dental experience here
Montenegro may be small, but access to some regions is difficult by public transport. Day tours are a very cost-effective way to move around the country but if you are more than one person so is car hire. We rented a compact car for €35/day over a period of 3 days.
This enabled us to see many of the country’s major sites and visit Bosnia and Herzegovina for a day. Border crossings in hire cars are no issue, and if you want an alternative drop-off country such as Dubrovnik, one way fees are as low as €40. During the peak summer period, we recommend booking in advance.
Search car rental Deals in Montenegro with free cancellation and no fees.
Getting to Montenegro
While there are two international airports in Montenegro – Podgorica, and Tivat, there is not a great selection of good flight routes available.
Dubrovnik Airport in Croatia is only half an hour from the Montenegrin border and the town of Herceg Novi. Many people will hire a car and drive across or take a taxi. This is a good option as the taxi drivers know the small border crossing which can be faster during the peak months.
Buses depart regularly from Dubrovnik stopping at all the major towns all the way to Bar. Check Bus Croatia for times and prices.