Montenegro has been deemed the next hottest destination in Europe for quite a while, and many eyes, but not all, have turned to this tiny country that stretches a mere 300km from north to south. Wedged between the tourist hub of Croatia and the lesser-visited nation of Albania, Montenegro holds itself strong as a top destination to visit in the Balkans and Europe overall.
From mountainous regions that provide spectators with remarkable natural sights to coastal city’s that rival some of the best beaches in Europe to old towns that hold centuries worth of history, the must-visit places in Montenegro vary greatly, providing visitors with a number of splendid sights.
Adding even just a few of these best places to visit in Montenegro, no matter how long or short your time in this Balkan country is, will surely make your trip to Montenegro unforgettable.
Top Places to Visit in Montenegro
While Montenegro has a plethora and impressive places to visit, these are the must-see places in Montenegro.
An obvious first choice, but not without good reason, is the most popular place to visit in all of Montenegro. The Kotor Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is best explored in the early morning before visitors for day trips from Dubrovnik and cruise ship tourists make their way to this picturesque town. Nestled on the edge of the Bay of Kotor and between towering, snow-capped mountains, Kotor is a dreamy old town that is like something from a fairytale. The medieval cobblestone streets are tiny and wind between Venetian and Byzantine churches, towers and other notable landmarks. The history in this small town is rich as different empires fought to take control of the walled city.
For the best views of Kotor it’s essential that you climb some 1300 stairs to St. John’s Fort (don’t worry there’s a not so secret way with fewer stairs!) that overlooks the Bay of Kotor for some of the most breathtaking views in all of Montenegro.
Popular as one of the top Montenegro holiday destinations, the Budva Riviera is a glamourous hot spot for locals and tourists alike. The Budva Old Town is smaller but no less charming than Kotor’s. The Venetian walls add to the town’s worldly character that dates back over 2500 years and stretches right to the edge of the Adriatic Sea. Budva is known for having some of the best beaches in Montenegro and has become the place to go when visiting Montenegro for nightlife. The rich and famous gather here to spend their days relaxing by the stunningly blue waters, the evenings dining at the local restaurants and nights hitting the town until the early morning. Budva is a popular spot for cruise ships to dock in the summer months, bringing the city alive, but partying isn’t all that this UNESCO Heritage Site has to offer as it’s packed with history too, making it all the more worthy of a stop during your Montenegro trip.
A touch further down the Adriatic Coast from Budva is the very tiny Sveti Stefan, an isolated inlet surrounded by the blue waters of the Adriatic Sea that is among the most famous places in Montenegro. Without a doubt, if you’ve looked up Montenegro in any search results, you’ve seen a picture of Sveti Stefan. As one of the top sights in Montenegro, it’s come to be the poster child for Montenegro tourism. And though it’s lovely to view from afar, especially from Church St. Sava, that’s about all you’ll see! While Sveti Stefan was originally a fishing village in the 15th century it’s now an exclusive resort that only allows guests of the Aman Hotel into the town itself.
Easily one of the most beautiful places in Montenegro is the lovely town of Perast. Located northwest of Kotor, still along the edge of the Bay of Kotor waters, this town is most known for the tiny island, Our Lady of the Rocks. It’s the only artificial island in all of the Adriatic Sea and on it sits a picturesque chapel. The island was built because it was here that two fishermen had a vision of the Virgin Mary appear. Today, visitors to this quiet town are shuffled back and forth on small boats from the mainland to the island for a closer look.
Unlike Kotor, Perast doesn’t have large cruise ships docking which means its a quiet oasis with just as much beauty. Here you can take your time strolling the old town cobblestone streets visiting palaces and churches that date back to the Renaissance and Baroque eras and enjoy the peaceful nature of Perast sitting at the seaside cafes with fewer tourists and more locals.
One of the best places in Montenegro when it comes to natural attractions is Skadar Lake, which just so happens to be one of the largest lakes in the Balkans that stretches across the Albanian and Montenegrin border. The most picturesque part of the lake is in Montenegro though, where visitors pull over to the side of the road to snap a few shots of the horseshoe curve of the lake from above. Some say it rivals Horseshoe Bend in Utah, and while Skadar Lake is one of the prettiest places in Montenegro, it’s not quite as majestic, in my opinion! That being said it’s still worthy of a visit. One of the most popular things to do here is to grab lunch overlooking the water (fresh fish is typically a top choice) and taking a boat ride that offers a differing perspective from above.
Durmitor National Park
Montenegro has some beautiful coastal cities but too often overlooked are the seriously breathtaking natural attractions in Montenegro. Durmitor National Park is one such place. Located in the north, this national park can be visited on a day trip from Kotor or should be added to your Montenegro road trip itinerary. The park is home to 18 glacial lakes, along with numerous mountains and deep canyons that make for the perfect playground for outdoor lovers for kayaking, hiking, and more. Whether you’re active outdoors or not, as one of the top places in Montenegro for natural beauty, the views here are worth coming alone.
If you wish to spend more than a few hours or a day in this national park the best place to stay is in Žabljak, an alpine town that is the highest town in all of the Balkans.
Tara River Canyon
Tara Canyon is apart of Durmitor National Park that delivers exceptional natural views and landscapes as the river flows down from Bosnia and Herzegovina. While the river itself stretches some 150km, the best views are right by Đurđevića Bridge. The bridge was originally built in 1940, when Montenegro was apart of Yugoslavia, only to be mostly destroyed just years later to stop the advance of the Italians during WWII. Curiously enough, the man who designed the bridge was one of the people who helped plan to take it down. Today the bridge is reconstructed and you can walk across it or opt to take the zipline that runs parallel to it across Tara River Canyon. For those who are more adventurous, be sure to make your way to this area in the spring for some white water rafting when the rapids are at their peak.
Whether you’re religious or not, this site is one that is too impressive to miss. Ostrog Monastery is an important pilgrimage site for those of the Orthodox Christian faith from around the world that sits on high on a mountain cliff, 900 metres above Zeta valley. The monastery was built during the 17th century as a refuge when the Ottoman Empire was invading the country, carved from a cave that is apart of a cliff that is nearly vertical. While it’s quite extraordinary to view from below, a visit will show you the remarkable mosaics and frescos that are painted directly on the rock walls of the two caves that make up the monastery. There’s no need to hike up the steep cliff to marvel at this incredible monastery though, many tours include a stop here and there is a road, though not for the faint of heart, that leads you to the top.
Stari Bar, which translates to Old Bar is one of the most unique places to visit in Montenegro. It sits above the town of Bar that is along Montenegro’s southern coast, close to Albania, completely frozen in time. Stari Bar was once a thriving town that passed through rulers such as Byzantine, Serbian and Ottoman, each adding its own flair to the town. In 1877 it was destroyed during the Montenegrin-Ottoman war but was rebuilt, only to have it fall to pieces again, though this time due to an earthquake in 1979 that forced residents to abandon their homes for lack of running water.
Today you can make your way to Stari Bar from Bar on foot to explore the ruins of this once prominent town. There are crumbling ruins of churches and mosques, some of them which were remarkable for the time they were built. There’s even a tree, ‘Stara maslina’, one amongst many olive groves, that is said to be over 2000 years old, making it one of the oldest trees in the world.
Ulcinj is the most southern city in Montenegro, right by the border to Albania, which would explain why most of the people who inhabit this city are Albanians. It’s a very laid-back city with fewer tourists than Kotor and not quite as glitzy as Budva, making it one of the best cities to visit in Montenegro for a truly relaxed holiday. While Ulcinj has quite a long history, dating back to the 5th century BC, the old town itself is impressive but the 12km long beach, the longest in Montenegro is a big draw to this coastal city as well.
Lovcen National Park
This park is smaller than Durmitor National Park, but it packs a whole lot of sights into its small area. The Lovcen mountains are dramatic and create scenic sights as you drive the 16 hairpin turns from Kotor to the most important part of the park – the Mausoleum of Petar II Petrovic-Njegos, a prince, poet, and philosopher, loved by Montenegrins. The mausoleum sits on one of the highest peaks in the park, Jezerski vrh, the exact place that Petar II Petrovic-Njegos himself chose to be the place of his burial. Though he died in 1851, the mausoleum wasn’t built until 1971. Nevertheless, it’s still a spot you’re going to want to check out, as the structure is quite grand with over 200,000 gold tiles used in the chapel. Wear comfortable shoes though, it’s 461 covered steps to the top where you’ll be rewarded with one of the most breathtaking views in all of the Balkans from the viewing platform behind the mausoleum. For scenic views, it’s easily one of the best places to go in Montenegro.
Up north, close to the Croatian border, sits Herceg Novi, a town at the entrance of the Bay of Kotor that has a history much like the other towns and cities in Montenegro. Herceg Novi translates to ‘New Castle’ and was founded in the 15th century. It began as a tourist hot spot during the Yugoslav times but today the town is much quieter. It’s a fun stop during the summer when it’s the festival season as you make your way to or from Dubrovnik in Croatia or Trebijne in Bosnia & Hercegovina. The town is most notable for Kula Fortress, built when the Ottoman Empire was ruling, the Sea Fortress which was built by the Bosnians and the Spanish Fortress. On top of these impressive buildings, there are also beaches and harbours.
While not quite as alluring as Kotor and Budva, Tivat is still one of the best cities in Montenegro to visit, mainly because it’s here that you’ll be able to bask in the sun, right beside the rich and famous. This coastal city is where luxury yachts dock in the marina, giving it similar vibes to Monaco. Tivat is also a cruise ship port and is a bustling area for visitors, especially during the summer when the city reaches its peak with a number of fairs and carnivals that take place.
Cetinje currently holds the honorary title of the capital of Montenegro as this city is a significant place in Montenegro for culture, religion and national identity. It was once the actual capital of Montenegro (now it’s Podgorica) when it was still an independent country before WWI, and where many diplomatic relations were conducted. Today many of the embassies have been turned into museums and is where the prime minister currently resides. As for the best destinations in Montenegro for history lovers, Cetinje is a must-visit.
Enjoy your time in Montenegro, I hope this article helped you discover a few of the top destinations in Montenegro for your upcoming trip!
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