This tiny country just south of Croatia is, quite frankly, gorgeous. Mountains always make for an impressive landscape, but rarely do you see them covered head to toe in leafy treetops. The shades of green, pointed tips of Cyprus trees and rugged shrubs make the mountains look like they’ve been blanketed in a shaggy green rug. Combine this with great big pools of emerald-coloured water and the views at every turn are nothing short of breathtaking.
Clawing its way back up the tourism ladder after the Yugoslav Wars kicked it to the bottom, travellers are slowly but surely hearing once more about the beauty of this stretch along the Adriatic coast. The most booming area is Budva, although the busy nightlife and buzzing atmosphere is counterbalanced by tacky souvenir shops and hiked-up prices. A quieter but prettier and more authentic area is Kotor, which has a walled-off Old Town and fort, or you could head inland for adventure at one of its national parks, with white water rafting, canyoning and paragliding on offer.
To get the most of a stay here, it’s worth hiring a car and exploring the whole country. It doesn’t take more than three hours to drive between the main must-sees and the drives are super-scenic thanks to the windy mountain roads (well maintained and wide, so no scary moments), which offer bird’s-eye views of the undulating landscape and crashing canyons. Visit economy arrentals.com for great-value rentals.
Things to do
White-water rafting, canyoning and paragliding are the best ways to see the impressive Tara River and canyon, not to mention a great way to get your adrenaline fix. Dermitor National Park is the best base for all these activities, ask at your hostel for recommended companies.
Lake Skadar offers a calmer body of water, which stretches so far a third of it is in Albania. Pretty villages are dotted along the edges of the water, such as Vipazar and Godinje, offering photo opportunities galore. One warning: ignore the boat trip touts who will overcharge you; head to a tourist information office for a recommendation instead.
Old Town Kotor
This walled-in town is a maze of cobbled streets opening up onto pretty squares lined with cute cafes. For €3 you can climb the steps of the fort. The views are astounding all the way up, so it’s well worth the work out.
This small village is set along a gorgeous waterfront and offers boat trips to Our Lady of the Rocks, a tiny man-made island which holds a church. It was built after fisherman found a rock which was painted with a picture of the Virgin Mary. You can view the original painting at the altar of the church.
This monastery has a somewhat unusual location: it’s embedded in the rock halfway up a mountain. It’s a unique sight as you drive up towards the structure, and once you reach it there is an overriding feeling of peace. The spirituality of the place combined with being so far up and away makes a visit a moving experience.
Where to stay
Budvar is more expensive than the rest of Montenegro as it’s the main tourist hub, but a very pleasant exception is this cosy hostel, 10 minutes’ walk from the beach. With a sociable lounge, and friendly owners, it’s a home from home. There are only two six-bed dorms so book early. From €10pp/pn (£8.50). hostelworld.com
Old Town Kotor Hostel
This place is perfect for the solo traveller as its super social, with the party-animal owner holding food and drink nights in the cottage-like lounge before dragging everyone to the local club to party the night away. The place is gorgeous too, with authentic stone walls, medieval knick knacks and solid wood furniture. From £10pp/pn. hostel-kotor.me/hostelworld.com
Art Apartments Minic
You get to sleep in a toadstool. Need we say more? With two three-bed bungalows carved into the shape of toadstools, you and your buddies can cosy up for the night in this childhood fantasy before setting off for the nearby Biogradska National Park. From £10pp/pn. booking.com
Food and drink
This local restaurant is yet to take advantage of the tourist spot it calls home – the village of Vipazar sat on the edge of the stunning Lake Skadar. Tuck into the speciality fish soup, served with hot, fluffy bread and wash it down with a glass of silky soft local red for just €4 (£3.30). 069 598 019
The Aman Sveti Stefan is a resort that occupies its own personal islet, just off the coast. It’s gorgeous to look at and even more gorgeous to stay at, if you can afford it. Failing that, treat yourself to a night at one of its restaurants, such as the Queen’s Chair, which has views over the waters and mainland. amanresorts.com/amansvetistefan
Stop off at the small shop next door to sample three local wines for €3 and then order a bottle of your favourite next door in the Old Winery. Its stone-clad walls and timber beams are sympathetic to the Old Town, while the live music and racks of wine make for a fun night. facebook.com/oldwinerywineloungebar
Club MaximusThe only club in Kotor, this place goes all out to get the party started. DJ’s, live music, light shows and crazy dancing until 5am, the podium dancers are a particular, er, highlight, complete with stockings, thigh-high boots and nipple tassles. Oh, and there’s karaoke on Tuesdays. facebook.com/maximuskotor