Many people, like me, visit Montenegro thinking it will be a lot like Croatia. They’re right next to each other and share the same coastline, so makes sense right? Well, just like me, you would be in for a very pleasant surprise! There is so much on offer in Montenegro, yacht-lined ports, national parks, old towns, and historical sites. The best part is, it hasn’t yet had the tourist boom of Croatia, so it is a quieter holiday option.
We would recommend a slightly longer stay in a few destinations so you can get a good taste of what Montenegro has to offer. We stayed in the Bay of Kotor, close to Tivat and found they were a great base from which to explore all the little towns. That way you can make sure you don’t miss a single thing!
Tivat (Porto Montenegro)
Tivat has spent a lot of money upgrading its ports to welcome tourists. Porto Montenegro is packed with fancy yachts, and the streets are lined with boutiques and lounges. It’s hard not to feel fancy while you stay here! I think the best way to describe the feel of Porto Montenegro is to compare it to Monaco. But, with much prettier scenery surrounding this town. Tivat is also a good base for boat trips and to visit some surrounding towns.
Lovcen National Park and Njegos Mausoleum
This was our first day trip in Montenegro, and we absolutely loved it! Lovcen National Park is about an hour away from where we were staying in Tivat. We drove there, but there are also plenty of tours if you are not hiring a car. The National Park itself is full of hiking trails, beautiful lakes, and rugged mountains. It is really beautiful in a stark, foreboding way. The highlight though is the Njegos Mausoleum. It was built by the Bishop of Montenegro Petar II Petrovic Njegos as his burial site. There are 461 steps leading up to the chapel, but it is well worth the climb. It’s not just the chapel that awaits you, but also a viewing platform with breath-taking views!
Kotor Old Town
Next, we went to Kotor Old Town, which is only 15 minutes from Tivat. It’s often compared to Dubrovnik with its red-tiled roofs, narrow stone streets, and because it is surrounded by a fort. It is also known for its medieval architecture, and the churches are such a treat to explore! The old town has been mostly commercialised, similar to Dubrovnik, and there are plenty of restaurants and shops to attract tourists. We would recommend going up to the Castle of San Giovanni, it sits on a hill overlooking Kotor and offers amazing views of the old town and the bay. We loved Kotor Old Town so much we came back for our last evening to wander the medieval streets, eat at the restaurants, and marvel at its beauty once more.
Staying in Kotor is also a great base to explore all the little towns along the Bay of Kotor. There are many quiet little beaches and sleepy seaside towns all along this bay area so be sure to rent a car! Morinj is a particularly nice beach surrounded by mountains and greenery. The old mills in the area have been converted into restaurants, giving it a charming country town feel. Most of the beaches in the Kotor Riviera are pebbly, but you can find some sandy beaches down near Budva if you fancy a day trip.
Perast is a 10-minute drive away from Kotor Old Town. It is such a charming little town with some really nice cafes and bars that overlook the water. The restaurants here will serve either seafood or traditional food. There are two little islands just offshore, both with tiny little chapels which you can explore. The first one is St George Chapel which is on Barrier Island and the second is Our Lady of The Rocks Chapel which is on a small artificial island. Both islands are so small there is barely room for the chapels on them, so it is easy to see both in a day by taking the taxi boats from Perast. You will still have plenty of time to explore all the little churches and bougainvillea filled palazzi before you head back to Kotor.
Ostrog Monastir is an Orthodox church built in the mountains 2 hours inland from Kotor. It’s built completely into a cliff face and is filled with some beautiful 17th Century frescos. Every year there is a pilgrimage to this church where the pilgrims walk all the way up the cliff to the tiny church. Because it is so popular and so small, it can get really crowded inside, and you will have to wait to get into each room. To get into the monastery was a 30-minute wait and then 2 minutes to get into each room. It was a beautiful little church, but not impressive enough for the long wait! According to some people we spoke to while waiting it has become really commercialised in the last four years. Now, it is a popular tourist attraction, especially for religious tourists.
Why We Loved Montenegro
Montenegro was such a pleasant surprise for us! We went in with high expectations, and though it was completely different than what we expected, it was so much better! Having a car was such a good thing as we were able to drive to more remote places and not have to rely on tours. The roads were really easy to drive on, and they are constructing more roads as tourism is increasing. We stayed in the Bay of Kotor near Tivat, which weren’t too far apart but were amazing bases for exploring the surrounding areas.