“The most beautiful encounter of land and sea” Lord Byron
Lord Byron certainly knew what he was talking about all those years ago. This tiny sliver of Adriatic coastline is breathtaking. It is astonishing that the world has taken so long to catch on to one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. Well, we are beginning to find out what the superyacht set have known for a while. With its 200 miles of stunning beaches, secluded bays, mountains, lakes, quaint old towns and more to do than you could possibly fit into any normal holiday, this gem of a country is set to explode into the luxury holiday arena.
Hailed as the Monte Carlo of Eastern Europe, Montenegro has looked around at its Western European cousins and made a conscious decision to avoid high-rise overdevelopment and cheap, package holidays. They are positioning themselves firmly in the high end, luxury holiday market, and rightly so. From sandy beaches and rugged coastline to unspoilt villages and spanking new marinas, everything here is pristine – and they intend to keep it that way.
Places to Visit in Montenegro
The Bay of Kotor
Towering mountains sweep down to the sea, encircling pretty towns and traditional fishing villages to form the Bay of Kotor. This is not, strictly speaking, one place. It is made up of four separate bays; Kotor, Risan, Tivat and Herceg Novi, all protected by the striking limestone mountains, giving Kotor Bay its own, sub-tropical micro climate. It even boasts the world’s most southerly fjord. In fact, it is not a fjord but Europe’s deepest river canyon, set between magnificent mountains and lush pine forests on the Tara river.
Everything you could wish for on a holiday is here, with picturesque towns, watersports and activities galore, a fantastic choice of accommodation and plenty of high class eateries. You won’t find big shopping malls – the bay is not that sort of place – but you will find delightful, independent shops selling individual, high class items. Kotor Bay is the perfect base from which to explore everything that Montenegro has to offer, and it can be as relaxing or as action-packed as you want it to be.
If you own a yacht, this is the place to be – and to be seen. Even if you don’t, this has to be one of the world’s most exclusive, high end holiday destinations. Porto Montenegro Marina in Tivat has been transformed from a former Yugoslavian naval base into one of the world’s finest marinas. Awarded 5 gold anchors by the prestigious British Harbour Association, its raison d’être is to provide a slice of luxury lifestyle to yacht owners, crew and guests.
Sitting on the edge of one of the most beautiful aquatic playgrounds, this exclusive community offers spectacular hotels and accommodation, shops and entertainment, culture and history. Fashion shows, brand launches, exhibitions, musical events and regattas attract an international, cosmopolitan crowd. Meanwhile, tax- and duty-free fuel, no tax on charters, no maximum stay restrictions and a dedicated superyacht fuel dock make this a mecca for charters, cruising and superyacht owners.
Porto Montenegro Marina is luxury waterfront living at its best, with a buzzing village atmosphere. Sit on your yacht and watch the world go by. Or sit on the waterfront and watch the yachts go by.
Kotor Old Town
Quite possibly the most beautiful town in Montenegro (although it has quite a few rivals snapping at its heels). No trip to Montenegro would be complete without a visit to Kotor Old Town. Nestled at the southern end of the magnificent bay, it is a friendly, bustling place, its cobbled streets and coffee shops alive with tourists and locals alike. Although the town is becoming ever more popular, it is still a living, authentic, old Montenegrin town. Its charming alleyways show a lot of Venetian influences and it is so easy to get lost. Never mind, it’s so small that you really can’t stay lost for long – and you are guaranteed to find lots of quaint little corners, courtyards and photo opportunities.
There is a daily farmers’ market in front of the town, a church on almost every corner, little museums and the waterfront. To make the most of this ancient and rustic town, it’s best to take a guided walking tour. You can, of course, just grab a map and head off on your own but a guide will give a much greater insight and let you into all the secrets that the locals know. One word of warning, don’t wear your best Jimmy Choos. Just for once you need something sensible and, at the risk of sounding like our mothers, comfy!
A 30-minute drive from Kotor, the Budva Riviera, with its old town and surrounding villages, offers top notch beaches, glamour and nightlife. Budva itself is one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic. The pretty old town juts out into the sea, blending into the surrounding pebble beaches. These days, the town is full of excellent restaurants and boutiques. It is pretty with spectacular views. One one side of town is a lovely pebble beach, alive in the summer with sun worshippers and party music. On the other side, you’ll see little local fishing boats alongside some of the largest superyachts afloat.
If you are looking for nightlife, music, glamour and the place where Casino Royale was filmed (Hotel Splendid shown above – well worth popping along if you are a James Bond fan), Budva is the place for you. If you want a little more peace and quiet, you should look at some of the smaller villages along the coast.
Considered by many to be the most picturesque town in the whole of Europe. Because of its location, and its UNESCO Heritage protection, most of Perast has been carefully restored. No more buildings can be added and any renovations have to be in keeping with its old-world, stone charm. This does mean that accommodation is limited and you need to book early. However, it also means that it doesn’t get too overcrowded. The town is probably most famous for the island church of Our Lady of the Rocks. This is a very popular tourist destination, easy to get to by boat. Bear in mind that this is a Catholic church and you must dress appropriately, even to step onto the island.
Most of the Perast seafront is made up of small, public jetties where you can swim. Much of Kotor Bay is like this, with swimming from a jetty rather than a beach – perfect for those of us who don’t like sand in everything. If you still prefer a beach, you will find the family-friendly Pirate Beach at the end of the town. Perast is a car-free zone in the summer but there are golf carts to transport you and your luggage, or you can hire a Segway to zip around the town. With its waterside restaurants, it is perfect for leisurely, candlelit dinners and scenic strolls past Venetian palaces on the way back to your hotel. It may be busy during the day but at night, Perast becomes a place to kick back and relish a more relaxed way of life.
This is where you will find the real Montenegro. Ancient olive groves, traditional fishing villages, pristine beaches and crystal clear waters. The pace of life is slow and relaxing, the scenery magnificent. One side of the peninsula is within the Bay of Kotor, the other side is firmly in the Adriatic. Although it has not yet been developed, it is beginning to catch up with the rest of the region, with new villas, hotels and a shiny new marina under construction.
This means that the peninsula offers the best of both worlds; complete tranquillity or one big party. Lustica Bay, for instance, is the next ultra luxe destination. This purpose-built town will grow over the next few years to rival Porto Montenegro, including 2 marinas, 1500 properties, a golf course and 7 hotels. The glorious, 5 star Chedi Lustica Bay Hotel has just opened along with the first of the marinas. If you don’t like the idea of all that construction going on around you, don’t worry. The Lustica peninsula still has some fantastic places for exploring, adventure or just plain partying.
The most popular attraction here has to be the Blue Cave, so called because of its striking, iridescent blue waters that reflect up onto the walls of the cave, making the whole place look blue. It is open to the public and free to enter but you can only get there by boat. All boat tours will take you into the cave where you’ll have the chance to swim, snorkel and explore. Boat tours often combine the cave with other popular sights, or you can arrange your own trip by boat or even kayak.
What to do in Montenegro
The whole of Montenegro is one big adventure just waiting to happen. It would be quicker to say what you can’t do! Apart from the obvious holiday activities of sightseeing, sunbathing and swimming, Montenegro gives you access to the widest range of activities we have ever come across in one small space. There is history, architecture and culture at every turn. It doesn’t matter where you are staying, the choice is staggering. We can’t even begin to go into detail in this blog but here are just some of the things our team have on their wishlist:
- Waterskiing, paragliding, jetskiing and kitesurfing
- White water rafting on the Tara river
- Canoeing or kayaking on Lake Skadar or into the Blue Cave
- Island hopping on a skippered or charter yacht
- Scuba diving
- Dolphin watching
- Stand up paddleboarding
- Wine tasting
- Gastro tour of the Lustica Peninsula
- Food tasting at the farmers’ markets
- Krempita and Turkish coffee in Kotor Old Town
- Horse riding
- Boat tours
- ATV tours in the mountains
- Mountain biking
Obviously, there’s no way we can fit all this into one holiday. We’ll just have to return for another visit – but we think that Montenegro is one of those places that you just have to come back to again and again.
Juliette’s Pick of Hotels in Montenegro
Regent Porto Montenegro
The ultimate luxury retreat, the Regent is the only hotel within the Porto Montenegro Marina. A short, 10-minute drive from Tivat airport, it is surrounded by spectacular mountains and the stunning waters of Kotor Bay. The luxury accommodation includes 87 rooms and 62 suites, penthouses and residences, all finished to an exceptional standard. Every taste is catered for in the hotel’s restaurants and bars, including private dining in the Italian Garden. And if lounging by the pool is not relaxing enough, the Spa & Wellness centre offers a superb range of health and fitness facilities and luxury treatments.
Aman Sveti Stefan
A truly exclusive resort, Sveti Stefan is a private island on the Budva Riviera, attached to the mainland by a narrow causeway. This is not a new-build hotel but a former fishing village of ancient cobbled streets, cool courtyards and fantastic sea views. The island’s 50 rooms, cottages and suites have been carefully restored by the award-winning Aman hotel group, each one individually styled to show some of the beautiful, original detail. With a spa, three pools, Turkish baths and a yoga pavilion, relaxation is guaranteed. The open air piazza at the heart of the village is home to restaurants serving an array of international dishes and local specialities. The Aman Sveti Stefan is the perfect place for any type of event, from a small private gathering to a grand celebration. Nothing is too much trouble.
Part of the Aman Sveti Stefan development, Villa Milocer sits on the mainland at the other end of the causeway, surrounded on three sides by dense forest of pine, cedar and olive trees. Formerly a royal residence, then the summer hideaway of Yugoslavia’s President Tito, this elegant villa is home to just 8 indulgent suites as well as sumptuous and airy communal spaces. With 3 beaches to choose from and the spa only steps away, this is a sun worshipper’s dream. Groups of family or friends can hire the whole villa for a private and exclusive holiday.
In Dobrota, 5 minutes from Kotor town, the Allure Palazzi hotel is one of the newest luxury hotels in the Bay of Kotor. This beachfront hotel has 89 rooms, 10 villas, 2 pools, 7 bars and restaurants and a boat dock. It combines innovative technologies with sophisticated interiors and decadent accommodation. Everything about the hotel is guest oriented and designed to impress even the most jaded traveller.
Also in Dobrota in the Bay of Kotor, the Forza Terra is a delightful, family-owned boutique hotel and spa. Although this is a new building, the hotel blends seamlessly into its surroundings, looking like a beautiful Venetian palazzo. It 10 luxury rooms and 2 suites have been inspired by the world’s most exclusive fashion brands, with sumptuous furnishings and modern technologies to satisfy the most discerning of clients. The spa offers a range of treatments and facilities worthy of any of the big, well known luxury hotels. The restaurant specialises in Mediterranean cuisine with local flair. This is a real gem of a boutique hotel with everything you need for a relaxing getaway.
Colours of Montenegro
No post on our website would be complete without some mention of luxury furniture so here are our picks of designer furniture that we think embody the simple feel and glorious colours of Montenegro. If we were to take on the interior design of a luxury, Montenegrin hotel, this is the look we would go for. Enjoy. And if you don’t make it to Montenegro this year, maybe we’ll see you there next summer.