Zdravo, fellow wanderers!
Those of you who’ve been following my meanderings on Instagram will know that I’ve just spent 18 days adventuring in Montenegro, hence the scarcity of posts these past few weeks. It’s funny I didn’t manage to create and post much over the course of that time, seeing as I was based out of a co-working space for much of it! For me though, immersion in a place I’m visiting is always key; it’s important to be mindful not just when at home, but when traveling too!
Anyway, without further ado, here are 7 reasons that I feel you should consider visiting Montenegro – a small country with a whole lot to offer!
1 – A Warm Welcome Awaits…
Everywhere we went – most especially in the countryside – the locals were overwhelmingly kind and friendly. Every place will have its bad apples, of course, so I’m sure that someone, somewhere in Montenegro has encountered a really unpleasant person; we, however, did not have this experience at all. I was continually taken aback by how welcome I was made to feel by locals, whether they spoke much English or not. Many Montenegrins have, in my experience, a special knack for talking to visiting foreigners like they are beloved neighbors, regardless of any so-called language ‘barrier’ or cultural differences. That’s something I wish more people in more places around the world could do.
Just as an aside though, we found that most people in their mid-30s or younger spoke English quite well. Outside of the more touristic areas like Kotor you may struggle to find anyone who speaks a bit of English, but we had no trouble whatsoever getting by in the countryside with just a few basic words and phrases of Montenegrin and the occasional gesture or bit of miming. It’s always nice to learn a bit of the language when you travel someplace, and it’s generally quite appreciated too!
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Yesterday, we arrived in Montenegro after a top-notch flight. Settling into our lovely studio apartment in Tivat, we then ventured out, wandering up and down the posh bayside promenade at Porto Montenegro. It was a gorgeous day and practically every view was sublime. Today, we've moved on to our more long-term adventure base on the Luštica Peninsula. It's a bit cloudy and misty today so we've made it mostly a planning day. More to come soon! . . . #photography #travel #adventure #explore #wanderlust #travelgram #traveltheworld #lovetotravel #montenegro
2 – It’s Still Relatively ‘Undiscovered.’
Montenegro is still a fairly new country, having voted for independence from Serbia in a 2006 referendum. Just prior to that, both countries had been part of Yugoslavia until it disbanded a few years before. Residents of the other former republics of the communist federation of Yugoslavia – such as Serbia and Croatia, for instance – are well aware of Montenegro’s charms, but the rest of Europe (and indeed the world) has yet to descend upon it in great numbers.
Things are beginning to change, however. Budget airline EasyJet began offering frequent direct flights to Tivat from Manchester and London Gatwick in the summer of 2016, popular European travel agency TUI offers holidaymakers various package deals for Montenegro, and an assortment of cruise lines dock their vessels almost daily in the Bay of Kotor. Hopefully, the growing influx of tourists can be kept to sustainable numbers so as not to impact too heavily the country’s wild beauty and welcoming communities.
A suggestion, if I may? Plan your Montenegrin adventures for the shoulder season as we did, specifically in May or June. Prices are especially low, most places are open for business (unlike earlier in the year when many hotels and restaurants along the coast are said to shut), it isn’t crowded, temperatures are warm and the weather is often glorious.
3 – It’s Budget-Friendly Too!
Montenegro isn’t a member of the European Union yet (although it’s slated to be by 2025), but it uses the Euro as its currency. While you don’t get as much bang for your buck as you used to when converting Pounds to Euros, it’s still a pretty good deal.
Prices are pretty reasonable in the more touristic areas like Kotor, Tivat, and Budva, but they are even better if you go off the beaten path a bit. A generously portioned meal and a local craft brew in the less busy corners of Kotor might set you back around 6 to 9 Euros, while you can easily grab a hearty lunch in further afield Cetinje, the old royal capital, for about 3 to 5 Euros. Accommodation can be quite reasonable too. There are lots of modern, immaculately clean studio apartments to be found up and down the coastline for around 15 to 25 Euros per night – and no, that’s not a typo! Expect to pay a bit more for any tours or excursions you take, but otherwise prices are delightfully low here.
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Today, we SUP'd along the Crnojević River from Rijeka Crnojevića in Lake Skadar NP surrounded by birdsong and hundreds, perhaps thousands of lily pads. On the drive back we stopped at a hut on the mountainside from which a overwhelmingly welcoming man sells his family's wine. After many samples and lots of laughter, we left with a large bottle, as well as a gift of freshly dried herbs with which to make many a cup of tea. Montenegro and it's people continue to fill my heart with joy. . . . #photography #nature #landscape #river #lilypads #sup #standuppaddle #travel #adventure #explore #wanderlust #travelgram #traveltheworld #lovetotravel #montenegro #lakeskadar
4 – It’s Got Plenty of Room for Activities…
Speaking of tours and excursions, Montenegro is a great place for a multi-activity break and there are lots of beautiful places to hike, bike, stand up paddleboard, and kayak if those are things that you’re into! I can personally vouch for adventure outfitter and guide service Montenegro+, with which we did all of our watersports outings while in the country.
A few suggestions? Definitely do some paddling along the waterlily-lined serpentine loops of the Rijeka Crnojevića, the river leading into massive Lake Skadar in the national park near the border with Albania. And take a kayak tour to the various sea caves along the Luštica Peninsula, including the Blue Cave. If you like caves, also check out the grand Lipa Cave, a beautiful show-cave near Cetinje.
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It was raining cats and dogs here in Montenegro this morning, so we went underground! Exploring incredible Lipa Cave, we encountered many natural wonders. Special guest appearance at the end… . . . #photography #nature #cave #stalactites #stalagmites #salamander #adventure #wanderlust #travel #travelgram #traveltheworld #lovetotravel #montenegro @lipa_cave
5 – Mountains, Forests, and Coastlines… Oh My!
You don’t need to hire a guide to have an adventure though! There are gorgeous landscapes left, right, and center to delve into and ogle. In spring, things are especially lush and positively blooming with marvelous things, like pomegranates, figs, and numerous varieties of wild orchid.
If you want to explore by foot, note that trails vary wildly across the region from ‘Wow, what a walk in the park this zig-zag up the mountain has been!’ to ‘Oh ye gods, I need a machete to hack through this jungle! Where is the next trail marker? And is that a spider on my face?’
Two fantastic trails with views for days and no spider-to-the-face escapades are the trail to Fort Vrmac from Muo (near Kotor), and the trail which goes up behind Kotor’s historic fortifications and carries on towards Lovćen NP.
If you’re going to do any hiking whilst in Montenegro, I highly recommend you get Maps.me, an app that proved invaluable during our stay in the country and which we plan to use on the rest of our travels as well. You download the region or country you want when you have internet access, but then you can use the detailed maps offline from anywhere. It can still pinpoint precisely where you are by GPS, super helpful for when you do happen to find yourself a bit more off the beaten path than intended.
6 – It’s Got a Fascinating History…
The Roman province of Dalmatia included the area that is now known as Montenegro (or Crna Gora, if you’re a local). In the 6th century, Byzantine Emperor Justinian took control of the region, bringing Christianity with him. Shortly thereafter, two Slavic groups – the Croats and the Serbs – swept into the area too, settling along the Adriatic coast. Later, in 1420, the Bay of Kotor area fell under Venetian rule which would carry on for 377 years. Elsewhere in the region, the Ottoman Empire posed a growing major threat. Many places fell to the Ottomans, and it wasn’t until the Congress of Berlin in 1878 that Montenegro became independent of them. The Austro-Hungarian Empire got a piece of the pie for a time as well. Following WWII, the Italians controlled Montenegro and some surrounding areas for a brief while. Then, in the late 1940s, the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was founded, and so things remained until relatively recent times.
Everywhere you go in Montenegro, that complex, intricate history feels…close. Seemingly every time we went for a walk, we stumbled upon an abandoned Austro-Hungarian fort being reclaimed by nature. There are loads of historic fortifications and buildings, ones both visible and hidden, dotted about the country, waiting to tell their story.
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Today's hike was a real treat, full of unexpected wonders. The Franz Joseph I trail and Fort Vrmac to which it leads are a hidden-in-plain-sight delight for lovers of nature and history. Many, many, many switchbacks take you high above the Bay of Kotor to the remains of the Austro-Hungarian fort, as well as a stand of likewise decaying buildings once used by the Royal Yugoslav Army. #photography #nature #hiking #trails #fort #ruins #abandoned #abandonedplaces #history #adventure #travel #explore #wanderlust #montenegro
7 – And Finally, It’s a Great Base in the Balkans.
There is so much to see and do in Montenegro, especially if you’re into adventurous outdoor activities, so you really can just spend all your time there. That’s what we ended up doing! But there is of course also the possibility of using it as a base for exploring other countries in the Balkans too. Croatia is an easy hop, skip, and a jump away by car or bus, as is Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). We met several folks who’d done this, usually by rental car but sometimes via public bus. The general consensus seemed to be that if you’re going to Croatia, spend more time in a place like Split than overcrowded, expensive Dubrovnik, and that Mostar and the museums of Sarajevo were must-sees in BiH.