Welcome to the Montenegro coast, the last stop on our 14-day Balkan road trip itinerary. Montenegro is an incredibly beautiful country in Southeastern Europe that was pretty much unknown to the mainstream traveler until recent years. A remnant of the former Yugoslavia, Montenegro emerged as a leisure destination only after gaining its independence, in 2006. As the tourist industry started to recover, more and more tourists started visiting the beautiful Montenegro coast. Today, the 300 km long coastline packed with dramatic landscapes, medieval cities and rugged mountains, is no longer a secret. Montenegro coast is now the place to go on the Adriatic. And it is also on the route of most European cruise ships. So if Montenegro is on your itinerary, here are some of most beautiful coastal towns to visit on the Montenegro coast:
Kotor is undoubtedly the most famous of Montenegro coastal towns. Although not as polished as its neighboring towns in Croatia, Kotor is really pretty, with lots of twists and turns down cobbled streets. The town’s ideal location in the Bay of Kotor, make it a good base for visiting the Montenegro coast.
Kotor is a small place that you can easily explore in a couple of days. There are several attractions in this area that you should miss when visiting Kotor:
• The Old Town Kotor is more interesting for its nostalgic atmosphere than it is for its landmarks. It has a couple of clock towers, a few churches, nice souvenir shops and plenty of delicious places to eat and drink for a good price.
Be advised however that old Kotor is a very tiny place and not really prepared for mass tourism. If you want to experience its charming atmosphere you should avoid the times when cruise ships arrive in town.
• The Fortress of St. John
Kotor’s city walls –built by the Venetians to protect it from invaders– stretch for about 4.5 kilometers, right up into the steep hillside above the town. The walls continue into a system of fortifications that culminate with the fortress of St.John (also known as the Castle of San Giovanni), which sits roughly 250 meters above the sea level. Climbing the 1355 steps is strenuous, but I would certainly recommend it to all tourists (and of course photographers) who are physically fit and have good walking shoes. The Castle itself isn’t really much to see. However, climbing to it will reward you with the most spectacular views in Montenegro.
This is the only place from where you can admire the bay of Kotor in all its splendor. Looking down upon the terra-cotta rooftops and the entire bay is worth every drop of sweat (and knee pain) this hike may cost you.
• The Bay of Kotor
If there is one place in Montenegro that will stick in your memory forever, it would be the Bay of Kotor. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Montenegro! As cliché as it may sound, it is simply gorgeous, breathtaking and majestic! The fjord-like bay is surrounded by towering peaks, green canyons and beautiful medieval towns.
Many small historic towns dot the Montenegro coast, but the one most likely to steal your heart is Perast. The small fishing town along the Bay of Kotor is simply lovely! Its main road, winding along the coastline, is lined with waterfront cafés, white stone buildings, church bell towers and small art galleries. The town lies beneath the hill of St. Ilija, on a promontory that overlooks the Verige strait, the narrowest part of the Bay of Kotor. Perast is full of gorgeous Baroque architecture. The town boasts 16 churches and 17 formerly grand palazzos that date back to the time when the Republic of Venice owned the city (1420 and 1797). One of the former palazzos is the sumptuous Bujovic, built in the 17th century, that has now been converted into a museum (Museum of Perast.)
One interesting thing about Perast is that it has no defensive walls. Instead it has a chain of watchtowers that were used as checkpoints to protect against attacks.
• The Islets of St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks
Right across from Perast there are two little islands that look pretty much alike, but couldn’t be more different. The smaller one – the Island of St. George – is actually a natural island. The island is home to a 12-century Benedictine Monastery, as well as an old graveyard where the nobility of Perast was buried. The Island of St.George is not open to the public, so you can only admire it from the boat while traveling to the other island.
The bigger island – Our Lady of the Rocks – is an artificial island created by sinking old ships loaded with rocks. The main attraction on the island is the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks, built in 1632.
There are several legends surrounding the history of this island. One story says that a fisherman found a painting of the Madonna on a rock while he was fishing. He took the painting to his home and got healed overnight after being ill for a long time. He believed the healing was a divine intervention and promised to build a church on the spot where he found the painting.
Another legend says that the sailors of Perast made an oath to the Madonna to throw a rock in the water every time they returned home safely from a voyage. Eventually the islet emerged. The custom of throwing rocks in the sea is still a practice in Perat to this day. On the 22nd of July, all the locals gather on their boats and throw rocks into the sea around the islet.
The two islets are just a short boat ride away from Perast. The transfer to the island is serviced by local small boats that can be hired in the marina.
Budva can’t beat Kotor’s attractiveness, but Kotor can’t beat Budva’s location – right on the water. Surrounded by the city walls, Budva’s old town treasures 2500 years of history. Walking through the Citadel and admiring the sweeping views from its walls is perhaps the best thing you can do in Budva. There is also a small library within the walls of the Citadel that can be visited.
Just down the coast from Budva, Sveti Stefan has a reputation for being stunningly beautiful. Unfortunately, for most people the fortified island-village will only remain a distant image. The island is owned by the luxurious Aman Resort and is actually closed to the public. So unless you are ready to pay €800 per night to rent a room at the resort, you’ll just have to settle for a quick snapshot from the beach.
It was with a heavy heart that we said good-bye to Montenegro. Two days are barely enough to touch the tip of the iceberg in this country. There are so many other beautiful coastal towns on the coast of Montenegro that we would have liked to explore. We hope to return there someday.