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Montenegro - black mountain and blue sea

Montenegro is relatively unknown as a tourist destination, for example, Croatia, on the other hand, in recent years it has become a particularly popular tourist destination, which many people have already become familiar with. This is a small but beautiful gem! The country is an independent republic in the Balkans. Montenegro borders the Adriatic Sea, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania.

So it's quite a young nation that many in the world are perhaps best known for sporting achievements, namely handball, where both coaches and players have a very short temper.

Aman Sveti Stefan (previously Sveti Stefan Hotel) is a hotel spa in the town of Sveti Stefan, on the Adriatic coast of Montenegro. The resort incorporates the islet of Sveti Stefan and the Villa Miločer as a part of the resort located on the continent. The hotel is a 5-star franchise lodging of the transnational group of Aman Resorts, achieved in 2009 and functioning under a 30-year lease. The Aman Sveti Stefan resort has 58 guest rooms, cottages, and suites. The Villa Miločer was constructed between 1934 and 1936 as the summer residence of Queen Marija Karađorđević (1900–1961). The central dining of the resort on the island of Sveti Stefan is The Piazza, an open-air courtyard in the heart of the island's village which includes the Taverna, Enoteca, Pasticceria, an Antipasti Bar, and a Cigar Room.

We invite you today to Montenegro - a country with a rich history, well-preserved medieval cities, and a colorful and unique culture. In Montenegro, you can enjoy your holiday on the Adriatic Sea beaches, discover the country's affordable gastronomic universe and get to know the folklife in Budva, the family atmosphere in Petrovac, and a kilometer-long beach in Becici. And our local private tour guides, who can be easily found by entering the name of the country - Montenegro - into the search line on our website www.pg.world, will help you understand this cozy country better and walk along its mountainous paved paths in its 5 National parks, which we will talk about below, in search of unique beauties!

What you should know about Montenegro

The inhabitants of Montenegro themselves call the country "Tsrna Gora", which means "black mountain". The country is one of the youngest nations in Europe as it only became independent in 2006. At first, it was part of the old Yugoslavia and then entered into an alliance with Serbia, from which it is now independent.

The Bojana River joins Lake Skadar with the Adriatic Sea, and the Drin River links it with the Ohrid Lake. The lake is a cryptodepression which means it is below mean sea level. The largest inflow is from the Morača river which provides about 62% of the lake's water, and the lake is emptied into the Adriatic by the 42 km (24 mi) long Bojana. The entire drainage area is 5,590 km2 (2,140 sq mi)

Montenegro is a small country, which in terms of area is hardly a third of the area of a country such as Denmark. With the exception of the western coast and the lowlands of Lake Skataru, Montenegro is a country full of beautiful emerald mountains. The average height is between 800 and 1000 meters, and only six peaks reach heights of over 2000 meters.

The culture in Montenegro is heavily inspired by Italy and the Italian language is quite common here. Italy is located on the western coast of the Adriatic Sea, and Montenegro is opposite, on the eastern coast. This can be seen, among other things, in architecture, and in cooking. In Montenegro, you will find many amazing sandy beaches and idyllic port towns with a medieval atmosphere and beautiful Mediterranean weather.

Fresh huge lobsters from the Adriatic sea in the restaurant in Rafailovici town, Montenegro

About 180,000 inhabitants live in the capital Podgorica, but this is still a rare place visited by tourists. Instead, tourists are looking for mountains where they can walk and enjoy outdoor activities, trekking, or go to the 30-kilometer coastline, which offers a beach holiday for any money. Charter holidays on the coast are especially popular among tourists, many of whom visit, for example, Budva or the popular city of Kotor, protected by UNESCO.

 

Popular tourist destinations in Montenegro

Budva

In Budva, you will find beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and ancient history combined into a cocktail of exciting experiences. Budva is one of the most touristic cities in Montenegro, and the Budva Riviera is its center. In summer, you can find many huge and expensive yachts here that shine with glamor and luxury. Here you have the opportunity to walk and eat in one of the restaurants with a beautiful view of the water.

View on the old town of Budva, Montenegro

On a peninsula outside the city, you'll find the old town of Stari Grad, where marble streets and Venetian walls rise above clear water. Here you can explore the old town and, among other things, enjoy a view from the citadel that is unmatched day or night. But while the area's endless golden beaches have made the city increasingly popular with European travelers, Budva has much more to offer than ideal conditions for sun and beach holidays. Thus, the city has a particularly rich cultural heritage, which includes, among other things, the well-preserved, walled medieval quarter, the city gates, St. John's Church, and other old, beautiful Orthodox churches, which will be of great interest to those who are interested in history, religion, and culture.

 

The shore area of Budva town, named the Budva riviera, is the epicenter of Montenegrin tourism, famous for its well-preserved medieval walled city, sandy beaches, and eclectic nightlife. Budva is 2500 years old, which makes it one of the most aged colonies on the Adriatic coast.

When you travel to Budva, it is also recommended to visit the Budva Museum, the old city walls, and the art gallery. Most of the time you will probably spend at the beach or by the pool, where you have the opportunity to enjoy the sun while reading a book and drinking refreshing cocktails. The service here is impeccable!

Budva, located next to two other popular resort towns of Becici and Rafailovici in the south of Montenegro, is known as the “Montenegrin Miami” due to 200 sunny days a year and a 2-kilometer beach on the clear Adriatic Sea.

The city, which with its 2500 years of history is one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic coast, offers, among other things, the most popular coastal area of Montenegro, called the Budva Riviera!

If you can get away from the inviting beaches, then Budva is also a good starting point for excursions to the pearls of the region's most interesting cities and attractions, and local private tour guides will put together the most interesting routes for you! The charming medieval town of Kotor, for example, is just half an hour north, while Dubrovnik, 90 km further up the coast, is an obvious day trip destination. Both places are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Sveti Juraj Island or Island of Saint George is a natural islet off the shore of Perast town in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro. The island shelters the Saint George Benedictine monastery, built in the 12th century, and the ancient cemetery for the old aristocracy from Perast and distant from the whole Bay of Kotor.

Kotor

The old town of Kotor is included in the UNESCO cultural heritage list. It is located in the Bay of Kotor, which is one of the deepest bays in the Adriatic Sea. Mountains, water, and ancient buildings combine to create a fantastic spectacle that you must experience for yourself. Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful places in Southern Europe, you can get a fantastic panoramic view by climbing the mountain about 1200 meters from the center of Kotor.

Panorama of azure waters of the fjord in Kotor bay with two cruise ships anchoring in the harbor in the spectacular natural landscape of Montenegro

In Kotor, you will visit the best-preserved medieval town in Montenegro. Surrounding the city is a four-kilometer medieval wall from the 14th century, while inside the city you will find small cobbled streets, beautiful Orthodox churches, and distinctive Italian architecture.

Visa to Montenegro

Montenegro formally applied for EU membership on December 15, 2008, and membership negotiations began on June 29, 2012. After the opening of all negotiating chapters, the country enjoys broad support among EU member officials, and EU accession is considered possible by 2025. A visa is not required to travel to Montenegro, and entry into the country is quite simple. A visa is required only if your stay exceeds 90 days. In this case, you must contact the Montenegrin authorities.

Old Town Bar is one of those mystical locations where contemporary residents live in the shadow of Turkish baths, Roman aqueducts, and a citadel where the first rocks were laid over 1000 years ago.  The Montenegrin state has been pursuing an ambitious project to totally repair Old Town Bar and make it into a living museum, and this highlights the significance the Old Town Bar has on local Montenegrin tourism, and also as a cultural, religious, and historical idol for the whole nation.  Other prominent landmarks in Old Town Bar incorporate the ruins of King Nicola’s castle, Haj Nehaj fortress, and Saint Veneranda church. Also worth exploring in Old Town Bar: the Bishop’s palace, the antique walls, and the gunpowder shop.

To enter Montenegro, a valid passport is required, valid for at least 3 months after the end of the stay.

 

Orthodox Church of Saint Jovan Vladimir in Bar, Montenegro

Montenegro also offers plenty of activities for active holidaymakers, including the many water sports offered along the coast such as kayaking, parasailing, and excursion boats. After a day at the beach or on exciting excursions with local private tour guides who speak many European languages, you can relax in one of the many restaurants where you can taste delicious Montenegrin dishes that are clearly inspired by both Croatian and Italian cuisine.

A breathtaking zipline flight across the Tara River Canyon in Montenegro using gravity forces along a steel rope in the air, using a special device with blocks. Widely used as an adventure or for fun and thrill. 

Montenegro offers a unique and immersive experience for a very small price to pay as it is a relatively cheap country to travel to (much cheaper than destinations like Spain and even Greece).

The main tourist season in Montenegro lasts from May to September, as this period is the best weather. If you like swimming, it is worth noting that the sea temperature in May is about 20 degrees, and in July-August, it rises to 27-28 degrees. If you don't like excessively hot weather, you should avoid July and August as it is not uncommon for temperatures to reach over 35 degrees.

In the evening in an old fishing town Prijevorac it is nice to sit in a cafe overlooking the Adriatic and  Sveta Nedjelja church located on the tiny riffy island of Katic in the shoal Donkova Seka. Legend tells that a shrine was constructed by thankful sailors, who were rescued from a shipwreck on this isle. The rustic beauty of the islets and the town and the universal marine dynamism makes this location an extraordinary dive expedition. The highest point of the reef begins at only 1 m depth and falls to a maximum of 30m. Both islands which are encountered only about 300m from the reef, also make for a very good dive adventure. This area is selected to become the first MPA zone (Marine Protected Area) in Montenegro. 

Montenegro has a large selection of hotels. The quality varies a lot and the best hotels are usually in Kotor and Budva (on the coast). Kotor is known for its rustic Mediterranean hotels, often in restored old buildings. Budva is known for a slightly more modern selection of hotels where the emphasis is more on minimalism and luxury.

If you want to go camping in the country, there are several campsites that are usually open from June to September. They are mainly located on the coast.

Biodiversity

The diversity of the geological landscape, climate, and soil, as well as the location of Montenegro on the Balkan Peninsula and in the Adriatic Sea, created ideal conditions for high biological diversity. Biological indicators include more than 1,300 species of freshwater algae, about 200 species of seaweed, 569 species of moss, 2,300 species of fungi, 18,000-22,000 species of insects, 425 species of marine fish, 58 species of reptiles, 333 species of regular visiting birds, and a large species diversity of mammals are found in this tiny European country.

View of Canyon of Piva river and lake in Montenegro

Montenegro can be divided into two main biological and geographical zones, which include the Mediterranean Biogeographic Cluster and the Alpine Biogeographic Highlands. The country is also home to three terrestrial ecoregions: Balkan mixed forests, Dinaric mixed forests, and Illyrian deciduous forests. The total share of protected areas in Montenegro is 10% of the country's area, mainly in 5 national parks of Montenegro. The parks are administered by the state agency "National Parks of Montenegro". All of these national parks are part of the World Heritage Site.

The Đurđevića Tara Bridge is a substantial arch bridge over the Tara River in northern Montenegro. The exact location of the bridge is between the villages of Budečevica and Trešnjica. The Bridge was constructed in 1941 in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The 366-meter-long (1,199 ft) bridge has five arches; the largest span is 117 meters (382 ft). The roadway stands 173 meters (565 ft) above the Tara River. In more contemporary years bungee jumping has taken place from the most extended arch straight above the river.

Durmitor

Durmitor is a mountain range in northwestern Montenegro. This is part of the Dinaric Alps. Its highest peak, Bobotov Kuk, reaches 2,523 meters (8,278 feet).

The massif is bounded by the canyon of the Piva River in the west, the canyon of the Tara River in the north, and the canyon of the Komarnica River in the south. To the east, Durmitor extends to a 1,500 m (4,921 ft) high plateau called Jezerska povrch (Plateau of Lakes). Mount Sinyavino is located to the east of the Jezerskaya Plain. The massif gives its name to the national park that includes it. Durmitor National Park was established in 1952 and listed as a World Heritage Site in 1980.

 

The Tara River slashes the Tara River Canyon, the most extended canyon in Montenegro and Europe and the second most prolonged in the world after Grand Canyon, at 77 kilometers (48 mi) in length and 1,300 meters (0,8 mi) at its deepest. The canyon is guarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most gorgeous part of the canyon is the high cliffs of the mountain ridge of Ljubišnja, which are located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Durmitor National Park.

Biogradska Gora

Biogradska Gora is a forest and national pasture in Montenegro. One of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the area is one of the last three large primary rainforests in Europe. The geography is one of the peak ranges, glacial lakes, and temperate forests.

The area of the national park is 55 sq. km. The main components of the park are 

  • virgin forest, 
  • vast mountain slopes and peaks over 2200 meters high, 
  • 6 glacial lakes, 5 of which are at an altitude of 1870 meters, and one easily accessible low-lying lake entrance to the park, on Lake Biograd. 

Trekking path in the most old-growth European primary beech forest in Biogradska Gora National Park, Montenegro

The park can be reached by bus from Podgorica or Bijelo Polje, or by car along the E65 highway. The park has extensive trekker infrastructure, including a welcome center, hiking trails, camps, and cafeterias. Guests have several opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, swimming, fishing, and exploring some areas in 4x4 vehicles. An open-air train takes tourists along the 3.5-kilometer trail from the park entrance to Biogradsko Lake, where rowboats and bicycles can be rented. Nearby is the visitor's headquarters, with the standard area furniture, a bistro, and security. Three other viewpoints are available on higher cliffs in different parts of the park: Crna Glava, Zekova Glava, and Bendovac. According to one source, wooden huts or "katuns" along the footpaths, used by shepherds as summer houses, can be rented out for overnight stays for "traditional village food and lifestyle". The park also allows overnight camping.

The lower Ostrog Monastery consists of the Church of the Holy Trinity and the monks' residences. There are sleeping rooms obtainable for pilgrims, too. 
The Ostrog Monastery is a monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church settled on a vertical cliff, high up in the gigantic rock of Ostroška Greda, in Montenegro. It is devoted to Saint Basil of Ostrog (Sveti Vasilije Ostroški) who was buried here. Ostrog monastery is the most popular pilgrimage place in Montenegro attracting over 100000 visitors a year. It illustrates the commonplace of all confessions: the Orthodox, the Catholics, and the Muslims. According to the legends of pilgrims, praying next to Saint Basil's body cures and helps in reducing the complications in their lives.

Lovćen

Lovćen is a highland and national pasture in the southwest of Montenegro. This is the reason for the names Montenegro and Crna Gora, both of which mean "Black Mountain'' and point to the formation of Mount Lovcen, which is covered with dense forests. Mount Lovcen rises above the edges of the Adriatic Gulf, closing off the long and winding bays of the Bay of Kotor and forming the border with the seaside town of Kotor. The mountain has two impressive peaks: Shtirovnik; 1749 m (5738 ft) and Jezierski vrh; 1657 m (5436 ft).

The slopes of the peak are rocky, with numerous cracks, depressions, and deep gorges, giving it a characteristic appearance. Lovcen stands on the border between two completely different natural entities, the sea, and the continent, and therefore is influenced by both environments. The specific connection of life circumstances determined the evolution of various biological systems. There are 1180 species of plants growing on Lovcen, 12 of which are endemic. A special architectural monument is worth noting on this difficult route, winding uphill from Kotor to the town of Njegusi, the birthplace of the Montenegrin monarchic family, the House of Petrovich.

Lake Skadar

Lake Skadar​ is located on the border of Montenegro and Albania and is the largest lake in Southern Europe. It is named after the city of Shkodra in northern Albania. This is a unique karst lake. The Montenegrin part of the lake and the adjacent lands have been designated as a national park, while the Albanian part has been designated as a nature reserve. Lake Skadar is probably the oldest lake, although it is quite young of the ancient lakes. Most researchers argue that the depression of Lake Skadar is a tectonic source.

The Beška Monastery is a Serbian Orthodox monastery on Beška island on Lake Skadar in Montenegro. It has 2 churches within its complex, the Church of St. George and the St Mary's Church. These churches were abandoned and held by a provincial mosque until a negotiation guided to right comes to the Serbian Orthodox Church. These shrines don’t characterize the neighborhoods that mostly consist of Albanian Muslims.

The question of the source of its water is of particular interest to biologists, as these waters may have provided the source of its first living microorganisms and species, and provided the basis for its current endemism. Lake Skadar is a well-known stronghold of freshwater biodiversity and a haven for a very diverse fauna of local shellfish. Lake Skadar is one of the most extensive ornithological reserves in Europe, home to 280 species of birds, including some of the last pelicans in Europe, which is why these places are so popular among bird lovers for bird-watching. The lake habitats also include gulls and herons. It is generous with fish, especially carp, bleak, and eel, and out of 33 native fish species, 8 are endemic to this miracle of nature - Lake Skadar.

Accursed Mountains (Prokletije)

The Accursed Mountains is a mountain range in the western part of the Balkans. Montenegro's highest peak, Zla Kolata at 2,534 m (8,314 ft), and the second highest peak in Kosovo, Geravica at 2,656 m (8,714 ft), are also part of the range. One of the southernmost glacial massifs in Europe was discovered in the Albanian part of the range in 2009. The Accursed Mountains are ethnographically and sociologically eclectic, and many tribes live in the area as shepherds. The names of various Albanian tribes (Dukadjini, Shala, Kelmendi, Shkreli, Hoti, Nikai, Gashi, Kuchi, Gruda, Rugova, Kastrati, and Krasniki) indicate their geographical settlements within the range. Illegal logging is a major problem. Even federal forest plantations are affected to some extent. In dry summers, forest fires are typical here. All large mammals, including wolves, chamois, foxes, badgers, and wild boars, are hunted regardless of the boundaries of the national park, which also causes great damage to local biodiversity.

 

Local transport

Distances in the country are short and there is a lot to see and learn here. The best way to get to know the country is to travel by bus or car and get off when you pass something interesting. For example, the medieval city of Kotor, whose imposing ring wall winds its way through the dramatic mountain landscape beyond the city, but also don't forget to visit the more exclusive city of Porto Montenegro, where luxury yachts sit side by side in the harbor. There are also many beaches, from small, secluded rocky beaches to kilometers of sandy beaches lined with lively and atmospheric promenades, where life never stops in the summer, day or night.

Highway to the little village of Žabljak in northern Montenegro with 1825 residents. The town is in the center of the Durmitor mountain territory with a height of 1,626 meters, it is the highest-situated Balkan town. Žabljak is a center of Montenegro's mountain tourism. Durmitor's inclines are pretty popular for snowboarders. Žabljak provides the following activities all year around:

  • Skiing – Durmitor's snow blanket stays 130 days per year
  • Rafting – the 1350 m profound Tara River canyon is the second deepest in the world and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rafting on the Tara River is a leading tourist activity in Montenegro.
  • Mountaineering – Durmitor's circumstances are appropriate for this sport.
  • Hiking – The area around Žabljak supplies hiking trails.
  • Mountain biking - Hills of Durmitor are ideal for biking while enjoying the panoramic view around.

Montenegro is a small country, and there are practically no opportunities to fly domestic flights. Roads are often in fairly good condition if you use the popular roads between major cities. On the other hand, if you drive out of the city for a bit, you will be able to experience the roads in rather a poor condition. Therefore, you must be a little observant if you drive alone. There may be potholes and other unpleasant surprises on the roads. Depending on which car rental company you choose, you must be 18 or 21 years old before renting a car. There are many car rental options in major cities and airports.

If you are looking for an alternative to self-transportation, you can book taxis at reasonable prices. However, be aware that foreigners may be charged higher amounts than locals unless a taxi meter is used. Remember to use only official taxis. Major cities also often have local bus companies, but taxis are more convenient and stable. There is also a network of buses running throughout the country. For example, there are routes covering Kotor, Budva, and Bar from Podgorica.

Tivat is a shore town in southwest Montenegro, located in the Bay of Kotor. Being a popular tourist resort, Tivat is developing as a nautical tourism headquarters for the southern Adriatic.
The coastal construction of marinas and yachting clubs tempted Canadian entrepreneur Peter Munk to buy a naval shipyard in Tivat, planning to convert the former naval base into a frill holiday resort and a marina for luxury yachts named Porto Montenegro, then he traded it in 2016 to the Investment Corporation of Dubai

If you are adventurous, there is also a train network that covers the entire country. If you want to get to know the beautiful mountainous country a little differently, it is recommended, for example, to try the route from Kolasin to Podgorica.

Here are some dishes of authentic cuisine in Montenegro that are definitely worth a try:

  • Salata od hobotnice - octopus salad
  • Riblya Korba - Fish soup
  • Jagnjece - Delicious roasted lamb
  • Crni rizot - black squid ink risotto
  • Lignje are octopus rings that are usually baked
  • Riba na zaru - fried fish
  • Pleskavice is a piece of seasoned grilled meat, often a mixture of pork, beef, and lamb
  • Raznici - fried meat on skewers

The right way to cook an octopus and make it soft for the salad: place the octopus in a large pot of water, head facing the bottom with arms facing the surface. So that the octopus does not remain tough, put a cork in the water. Add an onion, a bay leaf, and 3 cloves of garlic to the water. Cook on medium heat for at least an hour. The octopus is cooked when it is soft in the middle of the head near the eyes. 

There are also many interesting local drinks. Both with and without alcohol. Montenegro produces excellent wine, and there are also excellent local brands of beer. In Montenegro, it is customary to give a tip of 10 percent if the service was good, and indeed, it suited you!

One of the first questions you need to figure out if you want to travel abroad is what kind of insurance you need to have. It's about finding travel insurance that covers your trip as much as possible so that you can get proper assistance in the event of an accident or additional illness. If you are not eligible for the EU Blue Card, so you need to take out private travel insurance.

Currency

Since Montenegro is a new state, they do not have its own currency. Instead, euros are used. There are plenty of opportunities to find ATMs, and international credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard are accepted in many places.

Language

And one more curious detail about Montenegro - Montenegrin is spoken here! The Montenegrin language is a South Slavic language of the western subgroup, built on the basis of the Iekaviaт - Shtokaviaт dialect of the Serbo-Croatian language system used in Montenegro; from the point of view of comparative linguistics, is one of its standardized mutually intelligible variants along with Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian!

The fortifications of Kotor are an incorporated documented fortification scheme that protected the medieval village of Kotor including ramparts, towers, citadels, gates, bastions, forts, cisterns, a castle, and ancillary facilities and constructions. They present the military architecture of Illyria, the Byzantine Empire, Venice, and Austria. Together with the ancient town and its natural surroundings the fortifications were signed in the list of World Heritage Sites in 1978 labeled Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor and illustrate the only such site of cultural importance in Montenegro.

 

Read our previous article North Macedonia is bright and original even for a sophisticated traveler!

Read our next article Bosnia and Herzegovina - an ajar pearl of the Balkans

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