Montenegro. This Balkan country known for narrow strip beaches along the Adriatic coastline; mountains and medieval villages is a must visit. Before my trip to Montenegro, the only thing I knew about the Country was that it was part of the former Yugoslavia. I had also seen pictures in my Instagram feed of Montenegro and thought it was a beautiful country to add to the list of “maybe someday”.
Never in a million year did I think I will get a chance to visit until my friend “B” and I started planning a trip to Dubrovnik last summer. Given our travel arrangments, I was going to arrive in Croatia a day before she did and had a full day to myself. Since we had planned to explore Dubrovnik together, I did not want to start sightseeing until she arrived. I started researching options for a day trips. Montenegro came up as an option and it was a no-brainer. I booked the tour with Super Tours and counted down the days.
You can either visit as a day trip from Croatia or plan a Montenegro (long) weekend getaway. There are weekly direct flights from London that will get you to Budva in about four and a half hours. Rent a car to get around the rest of the Country or explore other Balkan countries.
I was picked up at the agreed stop and joined the tour bus of about forty other tourists. Getting out of Dubrovnik was a bit of a hassle because of the immigration checkpoints. It took about an hour to complete the process of leaving Croatia and entering Montenegro. Once that was done and behind us; it was time to get this day trip underway. We made three stops in Perast; Kotor and Budva. While Kotor was the destination I really wanted to explore, Budva is the city that captured my heart and I will gladly go back to Budva (and Montenegro) any day.
Perast is a town in the bay of Kotor known as home to two artificial islands. According to legend, the Islet was the result of an oath local seamen made after finding an icon of Madonna and child on the rock. After every successful trip, they will lay a rock in the bay until the Islet gradually emerged from the sea. Today, it is home to the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks which is both a house of worship and museum housing over fifty paintings by the famous baroque painter - Tripo Kokolja. The cost of the boat ride to the Islet was not included in the tour price. It cost five euros (cash only) for a roundtrip journey. Our tour guide informed us the tradition of throwing rocks into the sea still happens once a year at an event call Fasinada. We were on the Islet for about forty-five minute before heading out to Kotor.
Kotor. The pictures I had seen of Montenegro were of the bay of Kotor so I could not wait to get there. The city is often described as southern most Fjord because of its shape but I doubt it is actually of Fjord (just looks like one). Most importantly the medieval old town is one of the best preserved old towns in the region and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The city has an incredible love affair with cats (I will not ruin it for you), but know cats are (very) cherished here. We happened to visit on a day when the cruise ships were docked and the old town and the area around it was swarming with tourist. The downside of visiting with a tour group is the limitation on time; we had about an hour and a half in Kotor and it was not nearly enough. The tour came with a guide who walked us into old town - I use the term “guide” loosely here because he handed us a maps; walked us into old town; pointed out a few things and left us on our own to wander around the city. I had the option of hiking up St. John’s hill or exploring the rest of old town. Unfortunately, a hiking injury sustained in Edinburgh ruined my record of hiking to the highest point in any city I visit. If you want to do the hike, it is 1,350 steps to get to the top with entries at north gate and behind Trg od Salate. I hear the views from the top are spectacular. I stayed on the low ground instead exploring old town via narrow alleyways; peeking into the courtyard and in the process, I stumbled on some points of interest along the way. If you want to plan out your trip, here are some other points I recommend - St. Trephine cathedral; Gurdich Gate (Southern entrance); St Luke’s church; St. Nichola church; Sea Gate; River gate and the cat museum. I found a fantastic coffee shop in my wanderings - O Clock coffee - they make amazing homemade scones and make a killer iced latte.
Budva. What a city! Budva is located on the Montenegrin coast overlooking the Adriatic sea (literally). The city is known for its beaches (I think there are 20 in total); water sports and nightlife. Apparently, Budva is one of Europe’s top party destinations. Budva was also host to the famous Yacht week this year (I found out about this from friends we met while exploring Lokrum). I visited a few days before Yacht week kicked off and the Yachts were already trickling in - a black one that looked like something Bruce Wayne (Batman) would own caught my attention. I got seating at a restaurant with a direct view of the Yacht just to admire its beauty. Other things I did while in Budva - explore the promenade (there are several stands selling roasted corn on the cobb with a sprinkle of sea salt - it was divine ! I also explored old town (Stari grad) ; visited the town walls and lay on one of the twenty-something (reported) beaches in Budva. Morgen beach; “Hawaii” aka Sveti Nicola and Sveti Stefan came highly recommended but our time in Budva was too short. The citadel was also highly recommended but I did not get to it. After my very quick exploration of Stari grad, I wrapped up my day with lunch at La Villa which had a perfect view of the Yacht I fell in love with earlier.
We wrapped up our time in Budva early evening and made our made back to Dubrovnik. Instead of driving all the way, we took the car ferry which cut about 30 Km (45 minutes) off our drive time from Budva to Dubrovnik. if you do the drive on your own, I recommend driving the long way one-way and taking the ferry the other way.
Have you visited Montenegro ? Any cities or things you recommend because I am certain there is a return trip to Montenegro in my future.