Note: This is a guest post by Millie of Millie Goes.
Montenegro – I’d forgive you if you haven’t heard of it. It’s a small, coastal and mountainous country in Europe, specifically in the Balkans region, which has been fairly off the tourist trail until recently thanks to the messy breakup of Yugoslavia and the subsequent Yugoslav wars. While Montenegro wasn’t affected as badly as other countries in the Balkans, the regional strife didn’t do much to encourage tourism.
After Yugoslavia broke up, Montenegro and Serbia were the only remaining member states, transitioning into the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. Montenegro only became independent on June 3rd, 2006, after an independence referendum. It’s slowly begun increasing in popularity ever since. Now, it welcomes thousands of tourists each year, and hopefully, this will include you soon!
To help you fall in love with this country as much as I have, I’ve outlined the perfect one week in Montenegro itinerary for you to follow, along with some quick facts about the destination.
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Montenegro Itinerary, Days 1 – 3: Kotor
Only half an hour from the international airport of Tivat, Kotor is sure to be a town to take your breath away. This historical, European town is filled with the kind of charm that money just can’t buy.
As with many successful medieval towns, you’ll find Kotor is fortified with a city wall and has many vantage points. Traditionally, these were used for watching out for the enemy; in more peaceful times, now they make superb viewpoints and provide cracking Instagram shots for all those followers!
As Kotor is a small walled town, there are limited hotels within the city walls. Given its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, new ones cannot be built within a certain area. Book your hotel early or look into Airbnb for more options.
What To Do in Kotor
One of the top activities here is to walk up the Kotor Fortress. I won’t lie to you, it’s a hard walk and due to the gorgeous traditional cobblestone pathway, you’re likely to fall over without proper shoes. My Birkenstock sandals certainly weren’t my best decision that day, but I made it despite the two bruises on my knee (keeping it classy and all).
If you head up early enough, you can skip the 8 euro entrance charge, which is a bonus. It’s also much less crowded at this time so you can shoot on up faster, along with
I’d strongly recommend joining a walking tour of Kotor if you have the chance too, or if you’re a headstrong independent traveler, just allowing yourself to get lost down the tiny streets.
You can hop in and out of the small cafes (or bars, depending on your beverage of preference on a sunny afternoon!), buy some souvenirs or check out the quaint churches you’ll find all over. If you’re lucky, you’ll even stumble upon the unusual Cat Museum… what a highlight!
On your final day in Kotor, you’d be silly not to go to visit Our Lady of the Rocks island or one of the other little artificial islands found in the bay. With easy ferry access, you can spend an hour or two walking around the museum and Roman Catholic church. I’d also suggest you take a drive all around the bay for the stunning scenery and viewpoints. You can drive the entirety of the bay, then use the car ferry to come back to save some money on fuel.
Montenegro Itinerary, Day 3 – 5: Kolašin
Away from the coast and your view of superyachts, it’s time to drive towards the mountains. Kolašin is a ski resort in the winter, but in summer it’s a gorgeous hiking location. As usual, the European mountain ranges are always so underrated when it comes to the warmer months – they are spectacular!
The drive between Kotor and Kolašin is around 4.5 hours, and the roads here are windy — so please make sure you pack your travel sickness tablets if you’re likely to feel a little queasy!
Despite the slightly interesting journey, you’ll find that the scenery is beautiful. Please do allow extra time for viewpoints… along with dealing with the locals’ crazy driving style, #NoFear. (Editor’s note: I have been to every Balkan country and can confirm that Montenegrin drivers are the craziest)
If you need a little rest stop, aim to pause in Nikšić for lunch which is around halfway to Kolašin. However, if you want to get to Kolašin quicker there is a more direct route, which doesn’t involve the initial drive along the shoreline (beautiful, but longer).
What to Do in Kolašin
Since it’s a long drive, you won’t have too much to do on your first day – just check into your accommodation and rest up and enjoy the mountain scenery.
For your only full day here, you should head over to Biogradska Gora. This is a national park with a stunning lake, cute lodges, a small cafe, and boats for hire if you prefer being on water than land.
Make sure you stick to the guided trails, or do your research and ask at the visitor center before going off the trail, as it’s easy to get lost in the forest. Remember, you’re in Eastern Europe which means the wildlife is bigger. We’re talking wolves, bears, wildcats, wild boar, etc. – which is why it’s a popular hunting destination as well.
Being so sparsely populated has meant Montenegro can remain wild, which is one of my favorite parts about it. The drive here from Kolašin will take around 30-40 minutes each way,
Montenegro Itinerary, Days 5 – 8: Budva
Missing the sea? I know the feeling.
It’s time to head back to the Adriatic Sea for a few chill days to end your trip. As usual, you’ll want to break up the 2.5-hour journey and what better place to stop than Lake Skadar?
This is the largest lake in Southern Europe, half in Montenegro and half in Albania. It’s a great little lunch stop, with some gorgeous viewpoints. One of the best would be Fort Lesendro, with multiple cafes overlooking it. You can also hop on a boat trip if you’d like to see the landscape from the water, but we skipped this, as I was desperate for some coastline.
Along the way, you’ll notice the new (hard to miss) highway being built. This highway will connect two towns across the Morača River Canyon. Currently, it’s a hefty drive between the two; however, once completed, this impressive structure will make transport links easier.
Worth it? I’m not too sure from an outsider’s perspective, as it does slice across the beautiful countryside. However, the snaps you’ll get from the top are likely to be unreal.
What To Do in Budva
Budva is one of those lazy, European seaside towns. If
To be honest, after a half-day wander around the walled old town, it’s just time to soak in the sunshine and relax for a day or two before heading home! You’ll find incredible seafood to munch on, and if you want to have a taste of luxury, I would recommend booking a sunbed at Torch Beach Club to top up the tan in style. Be sure to stop for some gelato: when gelato is 1 euro per scoop, you can’t go wrong!
Alternatively, if you’re not one who can sit still, put on your walking shoes and follow the coastline to some of the abandoned beaches and coves along the way. If you’re a little lazy when at the seaside but love to explore, I’m pretty sure you can hire a small boat as well to get here. The best beaches we found were Mogren Beach and Jaz Beach. Jaz is slightly better known, perfect for nightlife or even for a spot of camping if you want to sleep somewhere on a budget.
Extending Your Trip: What Next on Your Balkans Itinerary?
If you want to extend your trip from Budva, you can easily drive to Croatia or Bosnia & Herzegovina.
If you want to head on the road more traveled, it’s about a 2.5-hour drive to Dubrovnik to continue the beach life or do some fangirling around “King’s Landing” if you are a Game of Thrones fanatic.
However, if you want to stumble onto some hidden gems head over the mountains to Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovina. A great way to break up the 5-hour journey is a stop in Mostar, which is home to UNESCO-listed Stari Most, where the cliff diving championship by Red Bull is held each September!
Remember, both of these trips will require border crossings. Neither country is in the EU, so this can make
Costs of a One Week Montenegro Itinerary
Montenegro is fairly cheap, compared to most European countries I’ve visited. Having said that, in my experience, money doesn’t have to limit your ability to explore once you’ve purchased the return flight ticket. In terms of spending, below are approximates based on what we did.
Car Hire: $130 USD for 8 days, picking up and returning to the same airport.
Fuel: Approximately $130 USD (gas is not cheap in Montenegro!)
Food: Approximately $40 USD / day, eating out all meals
Accommodation: Approximately $50 USD per night staying in 3* hotels and Airbnb. You could reduce this with hostels if you are on a budget.
Activities: As most activities are free, this is where you can really save in Montenegro. Small things like ferry rides, beach club chairs, and entrance fees probably total up to $100 per person over the course of one week.
Quick Facts about Montenegro
Location: On the
Capital City: Podgorica. The largest city in Montenegro and can be found in the Central East part of the country, closer to Albania than Croatia.
Best Airport: Tivat. There are 3 airports in the country, but this seems to be the most popular and best value for money, plus it’s closest to the seaside hot spots.
Currency: Euro. Montenegro technically has no currency of its own and isn’t in the European Union. However, the country adopted the Euro without any objections from the European Central Bank.
National Animal: Montenegro doesn’t seem to have a national animal. However, the words of one Reddit user from the country is fairly amusing. “Considering our coat of arms is two-headed eagle one would say that’s it. However, Montenegro isn’t Chernobyl so things such as two-headed eagle don’t exist. What I realized last year, that there’s a good number of flamingos in Ulcinj Solana area, so personally, I would love it to be a flamingo.”
Based on the above, I wish I’d gone to see those flamingos while I’d been there so make sure you chuck that on the list!
Author Bio: Millie Aldrich is the
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.