When you think of Europe, you’ll probably mention every country but Montenegro. This small country in the Balkan region is still a bit hidden from the eyes of the tourist's crowds. It’s not part of the European Union, but it’s very easy to get there from every European country. Montenegro is the land of epic landscapes, undiscovered roads, medieval fortresses, unique national parks, lakes, rivers, and adventures. The locals are kind, pastry and the drinks are delicious, not to mention that backpacking or road tripping in the Balkans is also affordable for every traveler on a budget!
So let’s start the tour, we prepared a travel bucket list for you with all the things you have to do and see in Montenegro.
1. Hike to the top of the Kotor Fortress
The city of Kotor is actually the most popular destination in Montenegro, most of the people take here a day trip from Dubrovnik. But you can always spend more than 1 day exploring this pretty town, that has so much to offer! One of the most fun things to do here is exploring the medieval old town and hiking to the top of the fortress to admire the view of Kotor Bay.
It’s actually called the Castle of San Giovanni, and you have to climb 1400 stairs to get to the top. It took us approx. 1 hour to do this, with long breaks for breathing. It was one of the most exhausting hikes of our lives. Don’t forget to take enough water with you, as there aren’t any restaurants or cafeterias on the top. Just the pure, magnificent view. It’s absolutely worth it!
We also found the most delicious burek - Montenegrin pastry - in Kotor, so don’t forget to check out one of the bakeries.
2. Walk around the cute little seaside town, Perast
Perast is only a 15-minute car drive from Kotor, and you can’t miss it! This charming, sleepy and photogenic town is like the Venice of Kotor Bay. It has only approx. 200 inhabitants. You can stroll around the town and watch the sun going down behind the mountains.
3. Take a little boat trip to the floating church “Our Lady of the Rocks” in Perast
When you arrive in Perast, the locals will immediately offer you to take you to the artificial island of “Our Lady in the Rocks”. Why is this islet called like that? It’s an artificial island created by bulwark of rocks and by sinking old and seized ships loaded with rocks. It makes a unique photo spot with its church and with the beautiful view of the mountains in the background.
When the local tour guides take you back to Perast, don’t miss to sip a cup of coffee or try the local food in one of the restaurants.
4. Explore Budva, the Montenegrin Miami
The city of Budva is the nightlife capital and the Budva Riviera is also called the “Montenegrin Miami”. But Budva is not just a perfect destination for the ones who wish for an affordable vacation at the sea or want to party, but it’s also rich in cultural heritage. You can walk for hours in the charming old town of Budva, which is behind the walls of a Medieval fortification that originates from the 15th century.
The streets of the old town are also full of cats, so if you like them, don’t forget to pet them.
The Budva Rivera is also famous for its beautiful beaches - like the Mogren beach -, they are perfect for swimming in the peak season, and the beaches aren’t so crowded neither.
Near Mogren Beach, you will find the famous Dancing girl statue as well.
5. Watch the sun go down behind the castle of Sveti Stefani
Sveti Stefan is the most perfect place in Montenegro to watch the sunset at the end of a long day. It’s a very small islet with a luxury resort on it, which actually was a fortress before. It takes approx. 15 minutes by car from Budva, you just have to drive right next to the sea on the highway. The fortress was opened in 1960 as a hotel called Aman Sveti Stefan, and film stars and celebrities went to stay there, like Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Margaret.
6. Drive up to the Lovcen National Park and survive the 25 sharp curves
The highway that connects Kotor with Lovcen is one of the most challenging that we have faced! The first part of the road is pretty similar to all the highways in Montenegro, but at some point, you will face a section with 25 sharp curves and incredible views! Remember to take them slowly, like that you will be safe and you will also enjoy a nice view.
On the top, you will find the Mausoleum of Njegoš, the resting place of the Montenegrin hero and poet, Petar Petrovic Njegoš.
7. Visit the beaches and bars of the less-known Ulcinj
As Ulcinj is on the south-east coast of Montenegro, most visitors don’t go there. If you take a road trip through the Balkans and you visit Albania as well, you will probably drive through Ulcinj too. Don’t forget to visit it, as it’s a pretty Montenegrin town! The Castle of Ulcinj is one of the oldest castles on the Adriatic Sea, it’s 2500 years old. The Old Town is has a Medieval style because of the narrow and curved streets, and you can’t miss the castle because of its big Illyrian walls and the citadel.
Now the castle is full of restaurants and bars, and you can spend some time here walking around. Ulcinj is also famous for its beaches, especially for its nudist beach, which is very popular in Montenegro.
8. Explore the old town and watch the sunset at Bar
The town of Bar is right next to Ulcinj. The city has two parts, New Bar and Old Bar. The Old Bar is beautiful, with magical medieval buildings, walls, and beautiful views. The port of Bar is also very photogenic, at sunset the sky turn orange and pink, and the floating ships on the sea make the view look like a painting.
9. Get amazed by the stunning views at Lake Skadar National Park and take a boat tour
The national park is named after the Lake Skadar. It’s famous for its diverse flora and fauna. It’s home to almost 300 bird species, so it’s also perfect for bird watchers. The lake is the largest lake in the Balkan peninsula, and also one of the largest national parks in Montenegro. Two-thirds of the lake is in Montenegro, the rest is in Albania.
The national park is perfect for taking boat tours, cruising, taking a hiking excursion and of course for bird watching. If you just want to watch the lake from above, you definitely have to drive around it and visit viewpoints like the “Pavlova Strana”.
10. See the old stone bridge in Rijeka Crnojevića
Rijeka Crnojevića is a small town right next to the lake Skadar. The name of the town means the Crnojević river, and indeed, this river is crossing the town. Don’t miss to cross the old stone bridge! It was built by Prince Danilo at the end of the 19th century. The bridge connected Rijeka Crnojevića with the medieval town of Obod, located on a hilltop across the river, which was the location of a first Southern Slavic printing house. On the left bank of the river, adjacent to the bridge, Danilo also built a one-story house, popularly called Mostina.
11. Drive around the Piva Canyon and visit the hydroelectric power plant
The Piva Lake is an artificial lake, created of the Piva river to build the hydroelectric power plant. The Piva Canyon is going to show you epic landscapes, that you were not expecting to see in Montenegro! Your base should be Pluzine, from there you can drive on the road E762 that will take you to the Mratinje Dam, the water plant. You can visit the power plant and watch the construction of the dam and how the level of the water changes the landscape on both sides.
You can also go rafting, take a boat trip, swim in the Piva river. You can also just drive around as we did, and stop at every curve to take photos of the stunning views.
12. Drive on the road P14 from Pluzine to Zabljak and enjoy the view
Sadly, the north part of Montenegro is less discovered than the south coastline. It can be also because of the bad roads, but if you can deal with that, then you will be rewarded with the most epic views! The road P14 is for sure one of the most challenging roads, it’s narrow and it’s full of sharp curves. But the views of the Piva canyon, the mountains are stunning!
So when you go from Pluzine (the base of exploring the Piva river) to the Zabljak (the base for exploring the Tara canyon), drive through this road. But don’t forget to check out the weather first, because in the spring the roads can be still covered in snow.
13. Whitewater rafting on the Tara River
The best base to explore the Durmitor National Park and Tara river is Zabljak town. All the tours, rafting experiences start there. If you want to go rafting on the Tara river, maybe you can also plan to spend two or three days in this region.
If the roads are not covered in snow and you can reach the Tara river, don’t miss the opportunity to go whitewater rafting on the Tara River!
14. Hike in the Durmitor National Park
Dramatic experience for nature-lovers! Hiking in the Durmitor National Parks is for sure going to be one of your most beautiful experiences in Montenegro! The Durmitor is carved out by glaciers, full of glittering glacial lakes and it’s the biggest national park in Montenegro.
Here you can hike the Bobotov Kuk, the highest peak in the country, a majestic mountain 2,523m in the air.
15. Visit the magical Black Lake
The National Park is home to 18 glacial lakes. The most famous one is the Black Lake (Crno jezero) with its truly stunning reflection on the lake. The name comes from the shadow created by the huge Međed Peak. Don’t miss the opportunity to take stunning photos here and enjoy the magic of the place.
Source: Ilija Peric, riders.me
16. Try rakija
Rakija is an alcoholic drink made from the distillation of fermented fruit. They have the same drink in Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, but of course, they call it differently. It can be made of almost any fruit and it can be very strong as well, with the percentage of alcohol up to 65%.
We hope that we gave you an idea of how stunning this small country is! Hopefully, you will consider visiting Montenegro the next time you’re planning your vacation.
About the author:
Zsuzsi and Dante are a travel couple based in Vienna.
If you need more help for planning your Montenegrin adventures, don’t forget to check out our detailed travel guides on our blog deertraveler.com