One of the perks of visiting Montenegro, and its coastal towns like Ulcinj in particular, is the proximity of its attractions and their accessibility as well.
The fact that you can embark on discovering thousand-year-old settlements, history, and tradition with such a short travel time makes this area of Mediterranean even more attractive to time-strapped visitors from all around the world.
On the far east of Montenegrin coast, surrounded by the never-ending sand beach on one side and the untamed, unspoiled wilderness on the other one, stands the town of Ulcinj.
The ancient town of Ulcinj had often been a place where the east and west collided through the course of its long, turbulent history. Due to its geopolitical position, mild Mediterranean climate, as well as the astounding nature, Ulcinj was a target of numerous conquerors who wanted to settle in this resplendent part of Europe.
All that turmoil left Ulcinj unique, with immense cultural, historical, and architectural heritage.
The Best Things to Do in Ulcinj + Surrounding Area
Relax on one of Europe’s longest beaches
Velika Plaza (which means Long Beach in Montenegrin) spans from the area of Port Milena in Ulcinj all the way to the Bojana River, which separates the beach from the island of Ada Bojana, described below. This makes it one of the longest beaches in Europe, extending over the 12 kilometers long, and is located within the Ulcinj municipality.
Frequently recognized as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, it is no surprise that a great deal of Balkan musicians and cinematographers choose Velika Plaza for creating some memorable footage for movies, TV series, and most commonly music videos.
With the abundance of the beach bars, water sports and leisure facilities available, choosing a perfect spot under the Adriatic sun won’t be an easy task – but we’re pretty sure you’ll enjoy it pretty much wherever you go!
Velika Plaza is nowadays, among all the other things, an aspiring destination for yoga lovers and spirituality seekers as well.
On the other hand, party animals have nothing to worry about — there’s plenty for them here, as well. With 12 kilometers of beach, there’s room for everyone!
New music festivals are being constantly established within the territory of Velika Plaza, with some of the greatest DJs and music stars from the region in charge of the nightlife entertainment.
Step foot into a natural paradise (and bare it all if you’re brave!)
This peaceful triangle-shaped island, on the mouth of the river Bojana in the Adriatic sea, is well-known to be a Montenegrin island paradise.
Ada Bojana, the uninhabited pearl of the Montenegrin shore, consists of charming, rustic wooden fishermen booths available for renting and authentic and quirky restaurants and bars. It also has a large nudist beach resort with a campsite and beach as well.
The largest nudist beach in Montenegro, its area stretches over 3 kilometers, all the way to the border with Albania. It offers more than enough space for free-spirited visitors looking to strip down their clothes and enjoy the sun-kissed shores.
Dipping your toes into the finest sand of the Mediterranean, with or without a swimsuit on, the choice is yours! Without any doubt, visiting Ada Bojana allow you to properly recharge your batteries and enjoy your vacation to the fullest.
Relax and enjoy the hippie vibes
The eccentric pub called Dom Kulture on Ada Bojana proudly presents alternative culture with its positive vibes and pure, bohemian energy.
This is a not-to-miss spot when visiting Ulcinj, and it will leave you with plenty of memories and at least a couple of new friends.
Live music, a friendly atmosphere, a great choice of high quality craft beers and Montenegrin traditional rakijas, as well as campfire nights: these are only a couple of reasons to visit Dom Kulture!
Surf the winds of the Mediterranean
In recent years, Velika Plaza has become a leading kite surfing location of the Adriatic coastline, and it was even listed as one of the top kite surfing destinations by world-renowned New York Times magazine.
Seeing the surfers sliding across the water can be quite an inspiration for those hungry for adventure. If you decide to give it try, there are a dozen kitesurfing clubs along the beach offering the training and all the necessary means for you to embark on this exciting adventure.
The most prominent clubs include Dolcinium Kite Surf Club, Sandbox Kitesurf Club, and Kiteloop to name just a few.
Witness the place where the civilizations collided
The Ulcinj Old Town with its diverse architecture most accurately reflects this town’s rich history and twenty centuries of tradition.
The complexity of historical turmoil and cultural interaction is easily noticeable within the old town settlements.
The former Turkish Bey’s house is located near the Venetian palace, right next to the former Renaissance church turned mosque turned museum, nearby an Orthodox church: these different historical buildings clearly depicts Ulcinj’s multiethnic and multireligious heritage.
Learn the sad history of the Ulcinj Slave Market
The infamous “Square of Slaves” is situated in the upper part of the Old Town ramparts.
At first, slaves were mostly rich people captured by pirates from the wealthy area around the Mediterranean, mostly from what is now Italy and Croatia. They were mainly used to be held captive for the sole purpose of ransom and were released as soon as their friends and families would pay the price for their lives.
After a while, wealthy people started buying slaves as servants and so the pirates started capturing slaves from North Africa as well. A tiny community of their descendant still live in Ulcinj nowadays.
Pay a visit to St. Nicholas’ Church
St Nicholas’ church, built in 1890, is an Orthodox church nestled in an olive grove, right in front of the Old Town settlement.
While heading to the beach, you may choose the path that goes right through the church property with picturesque ancient olive trees and the cemetery overlooking the open sea.
There’s also a cute little gift shop within the churchyard, selling handmade souvenirs, scented sachets, candles, and locally produced fruit brandy (rakija) as well.
If you decide to step inside the church, you’ll surely be mesmerized by vivid icons, depicted in a traditional Orthodox Christian style, as well as the calming smell of the incense wafting throughout the building.
Hearing the church bells at the same time with muezzin call for prayers coming from the mosque nearby accurately portrays the multireligious and multicultural ambiance of this little town; it is truly a one of a kind experience.
Visit the authentic Pasha’s Mosque
Pasha’s mosque is one of the six mosques within the Ulcinj municipality. It was built in 1719 in the honor of the Ottoman admiral, the conquerer of Ulcinj – Ali-Pasha Kilich.
Positioned in the center of the town it has great importance for the Muslim population of Ulcinj and the overall cultural heritage of the city.
Being the only mosque in the entirety of Montenegro with a hammam (traditional Turkish bath) and one of only two mosques with the original minaret still existent today, it is a place well worth a visit when visiting Ulcinj’s coastline.
Size up a thousand-year-old olive tree
Olive oil production is a family tradition integral to Montenegrin culture and cuisine. Cultivating olive trees started around 2,000 years ago, when Romans first arrived in this area.
The Buzuku family from Ulcinj has over 600 years of tradition in olive oil production, and their oldest olive tree is an astonishing 1,314 years old!
You can go on a free tour to learn the ropes of the olive oil production and to admire these thousand-year-old olive trees. It would be one of the greatest ways to spend the afternoon in Ulcinj!
Other than the extra virgin olive oil that this family takes great pride in, here you can also buy homemade olive oil soap and cosmetics, as well as olives themselves!
You may also get a taste of the traditional cuisine prepared with the locally produced olive oil — which locals give credit to for their vitality and longevity!
Learn about Don Quixote’s inspiration
Stumbling upon a statue of the author of Don Quixote, one of Spain’s greatest novelists, will probably seem a bit odd in Montenegro. The statue of Miguel de Cervantes certainly attracts the attention of anyone stepping their foot in the Ulcinj Old Town!
According to locals, Miguel de Cervantes was taken into slavery after the pirates attacked a Spanish boat in the Mediterranean. Due to its geographical position, Ulcinj was inhabited by pirates from Algeria, Tunisia, and Malta, and they used Ulcinj to keep their slaves and captives.
Cervantes was held in Ulcinj for 5 years and his famous novel Don Quixote was written shortly afterward. It is believed that Cervantes’ story about Dulcinea was actually inspired by a beautiful girl from Ulcinj.
With its interesting history, this memorial statue is surely not to be missed when you find yourself around these ancient ramparts.
Get a sense of the past through Ulcinj’s museums
The intriguing Museum of Archaeology, Ethnology, and Local History is located within the Old Town ramparts, overlooking the small beach and the bay of Ulcinj.
Originally a Renaissance church and then converted into a mosque, the building now serves as an archeological museum. The museum offers a virtual tour of the rich and complicated history of Ulcinj where the east and west have interacted and clashed over the last 2,000 years.
Taking a glance at traditional costumes, tools, and weapons, with photographs capturing the old times, will allow you to better understand Ulcinj and its staggering, diverse cultural treasury.
Entrance to the museum costs 2.50 euros, and it occasionally hosts virtual exhibitions as well.
Enjoy a meal at Konoba Kod Ranka
Among the plethora of the authentic and intriguing restaurants scattered around Ada Bojana, you’ll encounter a boathouse construction called Konoba Kod Ranka.
The owner Ranko, who the restaurant was named after, attempts to greet each and every guest at the entrance, going the extra mile to ensure everyone’s needs and special wishes are being met.
Whether you’d like to sit inside in a cozy ambient and comfortable chairs made of the wooden barrels surrounded by a rustic detail-oriented interior, or you’d rather choose the veranda to gaze into the emerald-green Bojana River and take in all the surrounding beauty, you’ll find this experience enjoyable either way.
The restaurant chefs use fresh, locally-produced ingredients to assemble finger-licking-good meals, fusing Mediterranean and Montenegrin culinary influences. This restaurant also boasts a great selection of local and international wines. While on the subject, make sure to leave some space for their extraordinary dessert: tres leches cake.
Nibble on the culinary specialties with a scenic sight of the Bojana River flowing into the sea as the sun goes down, and you’ll find out why Ada Bojana is known to be one of the most romantic places on the Adriatic coast.
Admire nature at its most pristine
The natural park, Ulcinj Salina, was established in the far south of Montenegro with a size of 14.5 square kilometers.
What used to be swamp back in the day, prior to becoming a salt pond in the Yugoslavian era, today serves as a man-controlled ecosystem with biodiversity of immense importance for the entirety of Europe.
In the birdwatching circles, Ulcinj Salina is considered somewhat of a “bird airport.” This nature park is a crucially important stop for about 20,000 birds on their way to Africa during the seasonal migration. Ulcinj Salina has particularly become widely recognized and famous for two bird species seen around the salt ponds: flamingos and pelicans.
In addition to being an important ecosystem for migrating birds, this area that has recently become an official nature park is also home to 25 fish, 13 amphibian, and 23 reptilian species as well.
Exploring the Salina and its biodiversity, with all the magnificent animals in their natural habitat will unquestionably make long-lasting memories.
The entrance to the reservation will cost you 3 euros and you can also book a guide in advance, through the website.
Still not convinced whether to visit Ulcinj? Take a virtual tour of Ulcinj via the Ulcinj 360 website!
Where to Stay in Ulcinj
Budget Comfort: Less than a kilometer from the Old Town of Ulcinj with a giant pool, sun loungers, and gorgeously decorated rooms, you’d think that Belvedere Apartments would come with a hefty price tag – but you’d be wrong. This budget-friendly aparthotel is a fantastic choice for those who want a comfortable and private place to stay without breaking the budget, with studio apartments under $50 USD per night even in peak season.
Affordable Luxury: In the heart of Ulcinj’s center, 500 meters from Ulcinj’s main beach and 5 kilometers away from Velika Plaza, Hotel Senator is a fantastic place to stay on a mid-range budget. All rooms have A/C, seating areas, TVs, kitchenettes, and en-suite bathrooms. There’s also a summer terrace to relax on plus indoor and outdoor pools to relax in.
Beachside Bliss: If you want to stay right on Velika Plaza Beach and near the Ulcinj Salina in the middle of nature, look to the rustic but comfortable Saranda Beach Bungalow. These cute cabin-inspired cottages are right by the beach and have A/C, en-suite bathrooms, and all that you’d need for a comfortable stay on Montenegro’s largest beach.
What to Bring with You to Montenegro
If you’re planning a trip to Montenegro, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more, check out our complete Montenegro packing list.
– A physical guidebook, in paper or on Kindle. We recommend the Lonely Planet Western Balkans which includes Montenegro but also Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Serbia. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.
– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in cities and towns in Montenegro is drinkable, especially in touristic towns such as in Kotor, Budva, and Zabljak, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter regardless.
It’ll help to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.
– Motion sickness pills. Montenegrin bus and car rides can be winding and cause motion sickness! If you have a weak stomach as we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.
– Water shoes: While Velika Plaza is sandy, many beaches in Montenegro are pebbly. Pebble beaches are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the pebble seafloor is what creates that gorgeous deep turquoise-colored water that is hard to beat, as the lack of sand means you have incredibly clear water. However, on the other hand, pebble beaches and rocky shores can be downright painful!
Our friend recently cut his foot on a rocky beach in Croatia; had he been wearing water shoes, he’d have avoided such unpleasantness! We suggest these unisex water shoes. They’re not sexy, but they will make your trips to the beach far more pleasant!
– Travel safety items. We think Montenegro is very safe to travel, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Stephanie or I use these.
Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack. It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.
More Montenegro Travel Resources
We are in the process of writing our Montenegro city guides, but for now, you can check out our 1-week Montenegro itinerary and our Kotor Instagram and photography guide. We also have a guide on things to do in Budva.
Also visiting Kotor? Check out where to stay in Kotor.
If this will be one of your first trips in the Balkans, check out our massive list of things to know before traveling the Balkans as well as our Balkan bus, road trip, and itinerary guides.
Finally, if you’ll be headed to Montenegro as part of a larger trip around the Balkans, check out our Balkan currency guide which explains how money and tipping work in the different countries here.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Finally, make sure you always travel to Montenegro with a valid travel insurance policy. Montenegro is a very safe place to travel, but accidents or theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have the travel insurance coverage to recover the losses!
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
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Nikola M. is a native Montenegrin, English teacher, and political scientist writing about a variety of social topics. He particularly takes pleasure in traveling, discovering new places, and exploring cultural differences in the process. He is passionate about animal rights and environmental protection. He also enjoys cinematography, discovering new music, and cooking.