I didn’t know much about Montenegro before I went. It was only after I was invited to spend a week there that I really started researching the country and even then nothing would prepare me for how beautiful Montenegro is and how much I would fall in love with it.
We were lucky to spend a week there at the beginning of September with the Montenegro Tourism Board. Our adventure started off in the capital city, Podgorica, where we spent a night before jumping in a car at 6am and heading off to the mountains to go rafting.
2 hours later we arrived at Camp Grab, our home in the mountains for the next day. A beautiful campsite with cozy cabins and a great location with it’s own little stretch of the Tara River. Tara Canyon is the Worlds second deepest Canyon and the river is often called the ‘Tear of Europe’ because the water so clear and drinkable (It’s true, I tried it!)
At 10am we joined up with a German couple who would be our rafting buddies as well as the 2 skippers. They provide you with a wet suit, shoes, life jacket and a helmet and once we had changed into them we set off on our adventure in the mountains of Montenegro.
It was my first time rafting and I loved every single minute of it. Due to it being September and Montenegro having had a hot Summer with no rain, the river was very low so it was a leisurely 2 and a half hour raft down the 18 KM river route (which i’m told can usually only take a mere 45 minutes in May time once the snow has melted and the river is at it’s wildest) We visited waterfalls, jumped off rocks and just generally enjoyed the beautiful nature around us.
After rafting we spent the rest of the day chilling in the most peaceful place i’d been in a long while. WiFi was only available at the bottom of the camp near the river and even that was temperamental so it forced me to switch off and relax without having my phone glued to my hand. If you have energy left over after the rafting there was a range of other activities available such as kayaking, hydro-speed, mountaineering and biking.
The next morning after a delicious breakfast by the river it was time to set off for the coastal town of Herceg Novi. It took around 4 hours to get there from Tara canyon and once we arrived we checked into the Palmon Bay Hotel and Spa. We met up with 2 lovely girls, Ana and Bojana, from Herceg Novi Travel who joined us for a day of exploring. Herceg Novi was built as a fortress town on the site of a small village (existing since Roman Times) around 600 years ago, in the fourteenth century.
According to Wikipedia, it was founded by a Bosnian King in 1382 and then conquered by the Turks. Later on it was owned by the Spaniards, Italians, Austrians, Russians, French, Austro-Hungarian and Montenegrin. During the second world war it was annexed by Italy again, and after the war it became a part of Yugoslavia.
The Stari Grad (Old town) was by far my favourite area of this cute seaside town. We wandered round the adorable streets, admired the church and clock tower, took photos (like the above one from Kanli Kula Fortress) and generally just soaked up atmosphere of the old streets with the beautiful sounds of opera singing and the piano coming from the music school.
As always when you’re having fun time flies and before we knew it, it was supper time. The girls took us to Konoba Feral, a seafood restaurant down on the seafront. We had the fish platter which was so fresh and delicious.
Herceg Novi had a really nice vibe to it and everyone was just out having a good time and soaking up the last weeks of Summer. We walked back to our hotel along the pedestrian-only promenade which runs parallel to the sea, stopping off to watch a game of water polo and eat ice-cream along the way.
The next stop on our itnerary was Kotor. Now that I have been to a couple of places in Montenegro I can say without a doubt – Kotor is my favourite place.
I didn’t know anything about Kotor when we pulled up outside the old town walls but as soon as I walked through the gate into the main square…it was love at first sight.
I felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast where she’s skipping and singing around the town (well, minus the singing as I wouldn’t inflict that on anyone…) The cobblestone streets, the clock tower, adorable buildings with their rustic facades, restaurants with their tables spilling onto the squares, the churches, mountains looming over us from either side of the bay and cats that were sleeping lazily everywhere…it was just all so charming, like we had stepped into a fairytale.
We stayed at the Palazzo Drusko hotel right in the heart of the UNESCO-protected old town of Kotor. Palazzo Drusko is a 600 year old stone house which used to be owned by Montenegrin nobility.
Each room is decorated in traditional style with antique furniture and ornaments. There are even paintings of the old family members on the hallway walls. We stayed in Duke’s Room which was amazing with a huge double bed and big shuttered windows where I used to sit on the sill and people watch at night. The hotel has been lovingly restored in keeping with its history and there were lots of nice touches such as an old radio in the room playing traditional Montenegrin music. It really felt like a stepping back in time but had a good balance of traditional and modern conveniences.
In Kotor we met up with a guide from 360 Monte who arranged a boat trip for us to Our Lady of the Rocks. This was definitely a highlight for me…
The scenery on the way to the church was breathtaking. Boka Bay is sometimes called the most southern fjord in Europe because it really looks like one but in actual fact it is what you call a ‘ria’ which is formed by the partial submergence of a river valley.
After about half an hour we finally reached the two small islands in the middle of the bay. One is a man-made island and is home to Our Lady of the Rocks (separate post about that HERE) inside the church there is also a museum full of artefacts and gifts given from the people to Our Lady of Rocks for keeping them safe on their journeys.
One of the most popular things to do in Kotor is to hike up the old fortress walls. There are so many great vantage points up there which makes it one of the best places to take photos of the bay. It costs €3 per person and the best times to go are early morning and late afternoon. During our 2 days in Kotor we hiked up there twice.
The ancient city walls, which are 4.5km long, were built in the 9th century to protect Kotor from invaders. There are 1350 steps to the top so it was no easy feat (especially in a dress and sandals!) but the view over the bay below makes it all worthwhile.
We were the only ones at the top shooting night photos, well us and a little cat that kept us company. It was amazing to stand there, under the stars, and imagine the history of the walls we were standing on.
On our final day in Kotor we took a tour with 360 Monte to the famous horseshoe shaped river bend near Rijeka Crnojevica at Skadar Lake National Park. It takes about 1.5 hours to drive there from Kotor and is a must-see if you’re in Montenegro.
After we had walked around, enjoyed the peace in the heart of Montenegrin countryside (and of course taken millions of photos from every position) it was time for lunch! We ate at Poslednja Luka which is a lovely, authentic restaurant overlooking a river. We had delicious smoked carp, fish soup and trout before making the journey back to Kotor.
The next morning it was time to leave Kotor and drive 40 minutes to the resort of Budva. This was our last stop and we weren’t so lucky with the weather which was a shame as we didn’t get to explore much. A massive storm started the morning we arrived so we spent most of the day hiding under an umbrella, in a restaurant and at the hotel spa. Just as we were going to the view point to see the famous 5-star hotel resort on the island of Sveti Stefan in the rain, the sky miraculously opened and we were able to enjoy the view with a bit of sun!
Whilst in Budva we stayed at the Maestral Resort & Casino. The hotel has it’s own private beach and a wonderful spa where I had a hot stone massage which I would really recommend. We had a very chilled evening here as our pick up to the airport was coming at 6.30am. It rained heavily all night long and then at 5am it suddenly stopped. As the hotel was so close to the island of Sveti Stefan we went and took a few photos just before the sun came up and our taxi arrived. Walking back to our hotel along the coastal road, under the pine trees with the waves bashing the rocks below was a nice final moment in Montenegro, a country I fell in love with over the past week.