Welcome to one of the most beautiful places on earth, Montenegro! No picture will ever do this place justice (although they are all gorgeous in their own right), and while you’re there you wont be able to get over just how stunning it actually is. More specifically, how stunning the Bay of Kotor is — where we spent a week in 2017.
Originally, we wanted to make this post entirely about the Bay of Kotor. We loved it so much that on our last day, as we finally drove away, we kept looking back in our rear view mirror. Sappy, we know, but true.
However, we decided to expand our sights for this article and focus on reasons to visit any part of Montenegro — something that if you ever get the opportunity to do, you should!
But before we jump in, let’s take a look at how such a beautiful place has come to be hidden from the rest of the world.
VERY Brief History of Montenegro
For being such a peaceful place to visit, Montenegro has had a pretty hostile past. They’ve faced centuries of struggle and fought in numerous wars for independence, eventually becoming part of Yugoslavia. Then, after the Bosnian and Croatian wars in the early 1990s, Yugoslavia split up. And after another 10+ years of political unrest, Montenegro finally gained its independence on June 3, 2006. Today, there are about 600,000 people living in this tiny country on the Adriatic Sea.
Until recently, Montenegro wasn’t politically stable enough to make it a desirable destination for visitors. But ever since gaining their independence, combined with a steady growth in the economy and infrastructure, tourism is booming. For the 6th consecutive year, growth in Travel & Tourism outpaced that of the global economy (2.5%).
Even today it can be difficult to find inexpensive airfare to go to Montenegro. Flying from North America, you most likely have to fly to a surrounding country (the closest being Croatia) and drive to Montenegro. Most people don’t want to fly or travel 20-30 hours to get somewhere. BUT we can say with absolute confidence that if you do decide to make the long trip to Montenegro, you won’t regret it!
Why You Should Visit Montenegro
Below are 10 reasons why you should consider spending your next vacation in Montenegro.
Montenegro is still a Second World, developing country, and because of this, it is a very cheap place to visit. Housing, food, drinks, souvenirs, and everything in between is very inexpensive compared to most European countries. Things can get a little pricey within the walls of Old Town Kotor, but that is to be expected since it is the only real tourist attraction in the area.
2. Nice People
From the moment we arrived until the moment we left the country, everyone we met was so incredibly nice to us. Even if we didn’t speak the same language, it didn’t seem to matter. A few examples of this were:
- We rented an apartment in Kotor. When we arrived we met the owners who offered to upgrade us to a nicer apartment with a better view — for free! Just to help us make the most of our visit! And what an upgrade it was! From one bed, one bath on the first floor, to two beds, two baths on the top floor with a balcony and incredible views!
- During one of our first nights in Montenegro we went to a small restaurant where no one spoke English. The bartender, however, was very nice and patient with us all night. Then, a local man who was sitting next to us — and who happened to be a big fan of Madonna(!!) — paid for our drinks the rest of the night and was very friendly!
- Finally, when we were leaving Montenegro and heading in to Bosnia, the Bosnian border police wouldn’t let us cross the border without our rental car’s original registration papers (we only had a copy). We had to turn around and tell the Montenegro border patrol what happened. They rolled their eyes (they didn’t speak much English either, but we conveyed well enough what happened). The patrolman drew out a map for us to get to an alternate border crossing where they would let us through. Without this map we would have been totally stranded.
We cannot speak highly enough about the people of Montenegro. From crossing the border, to checking in to our rental, to dining out, (and even interacting with employees at the grocery store), everyone was so kind to us. We had a wonderful experience there and wish that it was more like that everywhere we went!
3. Not Many Vendors/Touts
Any traveler knows that when you visit a touristy area there are going to be vendors selling the same old souvenirs and touts trying to get you to buy their goods/services. It’s not like that in Kotor. Old Town is probably the biggest tourist attraction in the area and there are no vendors/touts! It’s such a nice feeling to walk through and feel no obligations.
4. Not Crowded (Outside of July and August)
We visited the Bay of Kotor in January where the weather was mild compared to the snowy Croatia we had just driven through. And, as is the case most of the year, Kotor was very quiet with few visitors. The busiest months in Montenegro are the summer months, during which the beaches are inundated with people. Thousands flood into Old Town Kotor from their cruise ships for a few hours and leave just as quickly as they came. The Bay of Kotor is a popular stop for many Mediterranean cruise ships.
Side note: If you can avoid it, don’t come to Kotor on a cruise ship. There is so much more to see than just Old Town Kotor, and the economy does not benefit directly from these cruises. Take the time and visit!
As we stated in the beginning of this post, this country is so beautiful! Whether you are driving down the coast, hanging out in the Bay, or going up into the mountains, every where you look there’s a dramatic landscape. Mountains meeting the sea, a 17th century church seemingly floating in the middle of the bay, and beaches hosting crystal blue waters. You just can’t stop smiling while you’re there, looking around in awe at the breathtaking scenery.
6. Stunning Coastline
Montenegro is popular in the summer months, as it has some of the most gorgeous coastline and beaches in the world. Eastern Europeans flock to this area in July and August to take advantage of the warm sun and the plentiful beaches.
If hanging by the beach is not your thing, then perhaps hiking is. There is no shortage of hiking in Montenegro! While there, we hiked to the top of the Fortification surrounding Old Town Kotor (which provided for some even more stunning views of the surrounding landscape!). There are other popular areas to hike as well, including Durmitor, Prokletije, and the primeval forest of Biogradska Gora.
8. Historic Towns
There is a lot of history in Montenegro and visiting a few historic towns can give you a glimpse into its past. Kotor, Perast, Sveti Stefan, and Budva just to name a few. Sometimes known as “Little Dubrovnik,” Kotor is the best preserved medieval town on the Adriatic sea and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. As tourism continues to grow in Montenegro each year, the Bay of Kotor — including Old Town — has not lost its charm.
We had some of the best pork belly we have ever eaten at a hole-in-the-wall place while visiting! Traditional Montenegrin cuisine ranges from more typical Mediterranean seafood to hearty comfort food. Traditional plates include Buzara (shellfish cooked in a wine sauce), Cevapi (small sausages made of pork and beef mince), Burek (filo pastry filled with cheese, meat, veggies or potatoes), and Ispod Saca (usually a slow-roasted lamb or goat with potatoes, carrots, and onions). All delicious options!
Being that it was January when we were visiting, we did not partake in any sailing. But Montenegro is a great place to go sailing. It has hundreds of miles of coastline and a fairly mild climate compared to most of Europe, making it an ideal spot for sailing.
We loved Montenegro and cannot speak highly enough about it. While not easy to get there (Kotor is about a 2 hour drive south from Dubrovnik, with a short passthrough in Bosnia), it is well worth the trouble. Do yourself a favor and rent a car and spend some quality time exploring this stunning country!
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