The tiny new republic of Montenegro is home to dramatic mountains, gorgeous landscapes, picturesque coastal towns and lovely welcoming people. It encompasses an Adriatic coastline, lowlands and high mountain ranges. Half of the country is covered by thick forests and the Tara River canyon is the deepest and longest in Europe. Consequently, there is so much to see and do in Montenegro!
Montenegro is a new tourist destination to many and is becoming more and more popular. Given it’s new beginnings (it became an independent nation in 2006) it is trying to catch up to the demand and is emerging as the must see destination on the Adriatic.
We spent many weeks in Montenegro this spring and are happy to share some of our favorite things to see and do in this lovely new nation.
Here is our list of things to see and do in Montenegro:
The glistening water of Kotor Bay is shouldered by limestone cliffs of Lovcen National Park which jut around charming medieval towns. The mountains are dotted with tiny villages and monasteries with peaceful verdant trails between them reflecting in the tranquil water of the bay. This area is a national treasure and there is so much to see and do.
This fortified town in a secluded bay makes for a historian and nature lover destination that draws many tourists including 1 to 5 cruise ships per day. That can be a major drawback. However the tourists seem to concentrate solely in the old town and show up between 10 am and 5 pm. For planning purposes, here is the schedule for cruise ships visiting Kotor in 2019. Be assured that during peak times, there is so much more to see and do in and around the Bay.
My favorite thing to do in Montenegro was all the hiking! Especially hiking up to the Top of the Old Kotor Fort Trail. Finding the trail into the Fortress (which is a legal and free way to get in) was also a lot of fun. Here is the link to the post about these hikes.
Kotor itself is the main attraction of Kotor Bay and the number one place to see in Montenegro. First ruled by the Illyrians in 3rd century BC, Kotor has had many rulers evidenced by it’s diverse architecture from the Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. It is one of the best preserved towns in south-east Europe!
Getting a guide is a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours immersing yourself in the story of this historic and beautiful old town. Right outside of the gates, there is an information kiosk which offers a handy map listing all of the attractions within.
Dobrota is high on the list of things to see and do in Montenegro. It is a 5 minute walk north on the boardwalk from the old town of Kotor and continues for 5 km along the shoreline of the stunning Kotor Bay. The residential yet palatial feel of this town, gazing over the shimmering water is quite majestic.
Many of the pallazos have been renovated by foreigners and converted into hotels or opulent residences. This residential town has a much more relaxed feel than hectic Kotor. In the evening one of my favorite things to do was to walk along the boardwalk, tracing the water’s edge and taking in the scents of the fragrant jasmine.
Our airbnb apartment was in this town and I am very grateful for that. We felt part of the community for our stay. Running to the market for veggies to roast in our own oven was truly delightful for me.
Just north is a good spot to stop to admire the view. Stari Mlini restaurant allows visitors to come in and explore the grounds. As you enter the cobblestone street there is plenty of parking out front. The restaurant’s name means old mill. And it is a 16th century old mill. The dock overlooking the bay is stunning making it another good thing to see and do in Kotor Bay.
Perast is a must stop on the tour of things to see and do in Montenegro. Located just 12 km north of Kotor, this iconic town is a miniature version of Venice. We left at 8:30 am to beat the flock of cruise ship and bus tourists. The boat ride was necessary to see two interesting and peculiar tiny islands in this area. Hence the importance to beat the traffic.
The most famous of the two islands of Perast is Our Lady of the Rocks. Legend has it that the island was built in the 15th century by devout sailors on a spot in the water where they found a “healing” icon. Prior to any sailing, the sailors would throw rocks in that specific place. And after 32 years the island was established with a church on it.
Next to Our Lady of the Rocks there is a second equally tiny island which is known as the ‘Islet of the Dead.’ A 7th century Benedictine monastery stands on the island as well as a small cemetery, where many prominent people from Perast have been buried. The island is not open to the public but is easily seen from a boat or from Our Lady of the Rocks.
The Bay of Kotor is definitely top of my list of things to see and do in Montenegro. It has all the elements that I look for in a destination: Great trails, phenomenal history, old world charm and stunning waterways. The time to visit the Bay of Kotor is now, before even more tourists descend on this Balkan jewel.
Founded in 1382, this town shows off it’s past through fortresses from the Turkish, Venetian, Spanish, and Austrian periods. Beyond being a medieval town filled with diverse architecture, it offers a great boardwalk filled with shops, cafes and restaurants which runs through the old town, hugging many beaches and shimmering water for over 4 km.
Of all the things to do in Herceg Novi, my favorite was hiking up the mountains behind our airbnb. The Cakotin trail was lovely and provided a lot of needed shade! There are many other trails to check out. I wish we had more time to enjoy them!
Within the old town, the view from Fort Citadela and Kanli Kula were lovely and worth the visit.
More than 2500 years old, this coastal city is the oldest in Montenegro. It sits directly on the sea, with towering mountains on one side of the town and the sparkling Adriatic on the other. If you enjoy beaches and history, this is the town to visit.
Roaming through the narrow, winding cobblestone streets of the Old Town is truly a walk back in time. Marveling at it’s impressive city walls, Mediterranean-style stone houses, small squares, churches and colorful shops and cafes is a wonderful way to spend a few hours.
The marina has many cafe’s to choose from and is a great place to grab a leisurely cup of coffee. Luxury yachts moored in the bay provide for great people watching.
Paradise Food (home cooked 100% vegan meals and desserts) was my favorite place to eat. Their prices are very cheap and the quality is high (our dinner was 7 Euros total). For the best view of the area walk up the hill to the Vista Vidikovac Restaurant and enjoy the stunning views of the bay.
Seven Bay Trail connects Old Town with Sveti Stefan. This 7 kilometer trail (mostly boardwalk) links the town of Budva with the Sveti Stefan luxury resort hotel winding through spectacular beaches and offering stunning views of the sea.
This little islet’s history dates back to the 15th Century. However by 1954 there were just 20 people still living on the island. In 1960, the islet was renovated and opened as a hotel. It quickly became a favorite hangout of film stars and royalty like Sophia Loren, Doris Day and Princess Margaret.
Today the islet has been renovated and is an exclusive hotel again. Aman Resorts Sveti Stefan has 58 rooms and apartments. It’s a beautiful yet very exclusive resort which is priced from around $1200 per night.
You can only visit the island if you are staying there. However, the whole area is quite lovely and used to be the summer residence of the Karadjordjevic family (Royal Family of Serbia). The path winds through Milocer park which is filled with olive groves and exotic trees. It takes you past Villa Milocer and King’s Beach, which are also part of the Aman resort and the Seven Bay Trail.
The beach north of the island is also part of Aman Resort and costs around $90 per person to hire a lounger. The south beach is free for the public. Therefore, if you’re staying elsewhere you can use this beach without incurring a charge. You can hire loungers here for $20 for two loungers and a sun umbrella.
Just a short drive from Podgorica (the actual capital of Montenegro) is the honorary one. The 15th century former royal capital and cradle of Montenegrin culture oozes heritage reminiscent of its heyday. A walking tour is the best way to explore sights in this charming garden town.
What to see in Cetinje:
- The Monastery which houses the relics of St. Peter; a bishop credited with defending the country against it’s many enemies.
- Sprawling National Museum
- Blue Palace; current home to the President
- Stone Vlach church
- Royal Theater
- Notable foreign embassies
Entering Durmitor National Park feels like accessing nirvana for the nature lover. At the northern tip of the national park, the Tara River forms a canyon that is 1300 m deep at its peak. As a reference, the Grand Canyon drops only 200 m deeper. The water color of the river ranges from cobalt to turquoise and is as cold as it looks.
There are many things to see and do in this part of Montenegro. It is a verdant paradise. Top things to see and do:
We wished we could have stayed much longer.
This mountain town is the entree for many outdoor activities in the Bjelasica mountain area. From skiing (9 km from town) to mountain biking this is a city to consider if you are in the area and enjoy these activities. We made the hour drive here for the mountain air and to get a stay credit at a category one Marriott (only 7K points).
We hope you enjoyed reading about the things that there are to see and do in Montenegro. To us, Montenegro is an under rated jewel in the Balkans. This is a place that we will visit again and often.
If you have visited Montenegro and have additional thoughts on what to see and do please do drop us a comment or an email. If you think we missed anything please do let us know!