About a week before taking off for our big trip, a colleague of mine stopped to chit chat, he had heard from Ava that the first stop on our itinerary was Montenegro. I confirmed that it was, the rest of our conversation went something like this.
Casey: “Ugh, my family and I visited there a few years ago, we were in “Buuudfa” said a bit pettishly in his Canadian Dainty accent.
Me: “Nice, we are going there as well”
Casey: “We stayed in an apartment that was 100m from the beach, which happened to be down a steep hill and it was filled with a lot of loud Russian tourists. Have fun.”
Needless to say that short conversation left me wondering how our visit would unfold. Fast forward a week and any apprehension I had about our first destination melted away before we even touched down in the small town of Tivat, as we flew over the small balkan country I could see why Montenegro is on all of the current travel “it” lists.
Brimming with majestic mountains that jut sharply up from crystal clear opalescent waters, minuscule Montenegro is not even 300km from tip to toe, proving that good things come in tiny packages. The small towns, with their quaint plazas and steepled churches are postcard perfect, are strung along the coast like an exquisite pearl necklace. Even our courtyard outside our apartment below was picturesque:
Historically, Kotor has been at the crossroads of commercial trade and the influence of Venice is visible in the narrow cobbled streets and the medieval maze of museums, churches, palaces and cafe strewn squares. The town is surrounded by mountains and an ancient city walls that snakes impossibly up the surrounding slopes. We were lucky to stay in a little AirBnB apartment that sat in the shadows of St. John’s Fortress which has served as the city’s sentry since the Byzantine Empire. Out or window, lines of laundry fluttered from wrought-iron balconies and we were kept company by the resident Kotor cats, no doubt the descendants of seafaring felines, that were expert in lounging in the shadowy, flower filled lanes. Here are some ways to enjoy Kotor:
- 1.) St. Johns Fortress – Gary climbed the “Ladder of Kotor” and made his way up the 1200m ascent via 1350 steps to visit the fortification. At 260m above sea level, the views from St John’s Fortress are glorious.
- 2.) Kotor Bay Tour – Kotor lies in the bend of one of Southern Europe’s deepest fjords and beyond the walled city lies a magnificent bay, sprinkled with small islands and quaint villages. We took a boat trip across the vibrant blue-green waters of the Adriatic. The highlights were a swim in the famous Blue Grotto, a visit to the island home of Our Lady of the Rocks and stopping for gelato in the picturesque village of Perast, known for its unique architecture and beautiful stone palaces and cruising by other walled towns that cling to the rocks and dip their toes into the sea.
- 3.) Explore the Old Town – Take time to explore the narrow alleys and cobbled streets that sit inside the protective walls. There are plenty of shops, galleries and museums to explore. There are a variety of quaint bars and restaurants that serve up delicious meals and on hot days, ice cream can be found around every corner.
- 4.) Shopping – Nestled in the shade of the city walls you will find vendors selling local handicrafts, with a small farmers market set up just outside the main gate. The vendors are happy to give free tastes of the local cheeses, meats, fruits and veggies from the region. Don’t miss out on the locally made olive oil and fresh breads for a real treat.
Budva’s Old Town, the Stari Grad, lies on a small peninsula and looks like a mini Dubrovnik with criss crossed marble streets and Venetian style walls that rise out from the clear waters that surround it. There are several ‘local’ beaches that can be reached through low arched exits that spill right onto the pebbly shores. The modern town of Budva sits along a crescent shaped string of beaches that are connected by a long promenade. The Budva coast is 21 km long and has 17 beaches that are breathtakingly beautiful. Here our our tips for visiting Budva:
- 5.) Eat Dessert at ‘Hotel Astoria’ – When you are looking for something sweet, head to the restaurant sunk right into the sands of Richard’s Head (nyuk nyuk) beach near the entrance of the old city walls. Find a comfy sofa overlooking the azure waters of the Adriatic and dip your spoon into the rich, fluffy chocolate Soufflé for a decadent experience.
- 6.) Spend Days Exploring Beaches – The entire west coast of Montenegro is peppered with sublime beaches, each with its own unique character. My advice to visit them all to find the one that fits your vibe for the day. You will be spoilt for choices and wish you could extend your time to experience them all. As our host in Budva said “abundance is all around us, everywhere and it is absolutely free.”
- 7.) Party at Ploče Beach – Budva is known as the place where the young, rich and beautiful people go to party. If you are looking for a ‘wet disco,’ hop on a water taxi and find your way to the sparkling waters around Ploče Beach. With two swimming pools, a swim up bar serving killer cocktails, a live DJ playing an endless flow of dance music and a frolicking foam party, you are in for a truly exalted experience.
- 8.) Eat Seafood at ‘Porto’ – Along the promenade you will find a variety of restaurants to suit every taste and budget. The Restaurant Porto was our favorite dining experience during our Montenegro stay. With its prime location near the marina, jovial waiters, linen set tables along the promenade and seafood to die for, you may find yourself making reservations for every night you are in town.
- 9.) Enjoy Water-sports – If you are feeling like adding a little adventure, there are a variety of water-sports on offer in Budva. For those that are looking for a more peaceful activity you can rent a SUP or kayak and head out to explore the surrounding cliffs and caves on your own. If you are looking for more of an adrenaline rush, you can strap on a parachute and jump off the cliffs and paraglide your way back into town. Finally, there are boats to rent for picnics, fishing, sunset cruises and tours of the bay.
- 10.) Talk to the Locals – To fully get to know a country and culture you need to take time to talk to the locals. From the cheery waiters, to the knowledgeable guides to our local hosts, everyone we met in Montenegro went out of their way to ensure we had an amazing experience.
As a final thought I will leave you with parting works from Ivanka, our beautiful host in Budva, “Find new paths that will enrich your life, and do it at your own pace, it is up to you to decide where your next adventure takes you.”