With its 295-kilometre coastline, Montenegro may not have the lion’s share of seafront, but it’s no slouch when it comes to the sandy stuff. All in all, there are 120 beaches, with plenty of Blue Flags to go around. Living up to its name, Long Beach on the South Coast is one of the largest in Europe, with 13 kilometres of sand and loads of beach sports to play. Just outside of bustling Budva, Jaz Beach sees big name acts from all over the world performing at open-air concerts, like the Sea Dance Festival in July. When it’s not hosting superstars, this cream-coloured bay is a tranquil place for sunbathing. Or, sample a taste of the high life by the tiny island of Sveti Stefan. Once a haven for pirates, it is now a luxury hotel complex, connected to the mainland by a thin stretch of land which offers two pink-sand beaches. One is open to the public, and is a charming spot to lie back and gaze at the 600-year-old terracotta roofs.
Blinded by the bright lights of Croatia, it’s easy to overlook Montenegro. But with a mixture of both bustling cities and sleepy villages, it covers all bases. In Budva, the white-washed houses with sun-baked roofs are a picture-perfect Mediterranean scene, and the Medieval city is steeped in history – aside from Kotor, it’s got the only walled Old Town on Montenegro’s coast. After dark, the town comes alive with a vibrant nightlife – the big name is Trocadero, a three-storey, open-air nightclub that keeps the party going until 5am. Further north is Rose, a peaceful hamlet on the Lustica peninsula. Far away from the tourist traps, Rose is still traditionally Montenegrin, and offers some of the best locally caught seafood in the region.
One of the deepest in the world, the Tara River Canyon reaches a depth of 1,300 metres. The Tara River is known as the Montenegrin Colorado for its cascades and waterfalls, making it the perfect spot for white-water rafting. Speed down the tumbling rapids, take a breather in the calm pools and then head off downhill once more. All the while, you’ll be flanked either side by lofty tree-decked mountainsides.
This rugged country isn’t called ‘Black Mountain’ for nothing. There are five National Parks, with rivers, canyons and summits to spare, so there’s no end of trails to blaze for outdoorsy-types. In Biogradska Gora, there are 500-year-old virgin trees, six glacial lakes and one of the last three rainforests in Europe. To the northwest, Durmitor National Park has the UNESCO seal of approval, as well as over 200 kilometres of hiking paths.
Montenegro is ideal for water babies. Almost every beach has watersports to try out, from wakeboarding to windsurfing. Plus, there are jet skis, kayaks, flyboards, and even good old-fashioned banana boats to get stuck into. At Long Beach, the wind and tide conditions make it the best spot for kitesurfing on the whole Adriatic Coast.
The jewel in Montenegro’s crown. Here, looming mountains meet the Mediterranean, and a 28-kilometre bay extends inwards between the peaks. A World Heritage Site for nearly 40 years, this submerged river valley is home to many towns and villages, including the fortified hillside town of Kotor, the bay’s namesake. It was once owned by the Venetians, and the influence is very noticeable, with the architecture and cuisine of the bay’s settlements showing off an Italian flavour. For a sweeping view of the bay, you can’t beat sailing into Kotor on board a cruise ship.
Being late to the party means Montenegro is a great choice economically. Because it’s less commercialised than its Balkan competitors, with a firm foothold in its roots, it’s easy to save the euros here. Most cuisine is sourced locally, and prices plummet as you venture away from the main tourist areas. Luxury hotels offer pulse-steadying value for money, and most activities are based around enjoying the country’s natural landscape. Here, some of the best things in life really are free.
Montenegro has no shortage of landmarks, with a rich history behind their walls. Built atop Mount Lovćen, the Njegos mausoleum is the resting place of one of the country’s most prominent royals, Petar II. There’s a chapel to explore, and the view across the surrounding national park is second to none. Further inland, there’s the architectural beauty of Ostrog Monastery which is built into a sheer rock face. To the south, the ancient ruins of Stari Bar dominate the cultural agenda.
On the Lustica Peninsula, there’s a particularly special piece of Montenegro’s natural landscape hidden in the cliffside. Known locally as Plava Spilja, the Blue Grotto is a 15-metre-wide cave accessed through a narrow entrance, and the clue’s in the name. Sunlight reflects off the completely clear water and the sea floor, creating a bright-blue glow which fills the whole space. At five metres deep, the water is ideal for taking a dip or going for a snorkel.
The capital city of Podgorica is home to the high-end George Washington Boulevard, the Mall of Montenegro, and the massive Delta Shopping Centre, which has lots of international brands and is classed as a mega-mall. Elsewhere, in Old Kotor there are charming boutiques to explore, as well as local bazaars and countless souvenir shops to stock up on mementos like a traditional Montenegrin cap or bottle of local wine.
The cleverly designed Avala Resort & Villa offers an infinity pool, private beach daybeds and a panoramic view of Budva and the Adriatic.
Set into a hill overlooking the Adriatic, Becici’s glamorous Falkensteiner Hotel Montenegro has scenic views across the mountains and beach, in addition to its own casino.
A five-minute walk from the main beach at Petrovac in Montenegro, the W Grand is a small, friendly family option with a children's playground and a spa to soothe mum and dad.
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