Three driving routes through three eras in Montenegro: baroque, minarets, mountains and a cup of “Polaco”
The Adriatic Sea with its clear turquoise waters, small Venetian towns surrounded by mountains, stone houses with orange roofs drowning in fragrant gardens. Montenegro is an ambassador country of visual delight, leisurely lifestyle and hedonism.
The author of this guide is freelance journalist Ekaterina Lipatova. She considers Montenegro her second home, spends 2 to 6 months a year in the Balkans, waits out the Russian winter there, has found work and learned Serbian.
Why you should choose Montenegro for your trip
- Montenegro uses euro (€) as its’ currency.
- Locals speak a Montenegrin dialect of Serbian. Most of the locals speak English.
- In Montenegro every guest is welcomed with southern hospitality.
- Compared to Italy, Greece and Croatia, car rentals in Montenegro is cheaper.
- There is a wide range of vacation options for everyone: more than 100 beaches, hiking on mountains, museums and historical monuments, fishing, sailing, diving, kite surfing, architectural sights, monasteries and extreme vacations.
- During a vacation in Montenegro by car you can also visit neighboring countries, such as Albania, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- The season lasts from mid-May to the end of September. Beach season can sometimes start in April and end in October, but it all depends on the weather. From about mid-November to April, the high mountain roads are covered with snow and summer tires can be used only on the coast.
Skadar lake National park. Photo: Ekaterina Lipatova @lipa_t/instagram
Why travel by car in Montenegro
Montenegro is a small country, and all its beauties, beaches and attractions can be explored in two weeks if you want. However, it is more convenient to travel around the country by car. Public transportation (buses) does run along the coast from Ulcinj to Herceg Novi, but the Montenegrin way of life does not mean moving according to the timetable. Therefore, the bus can wait up to 1.5 hours at the bus stop: if the driver is not in the right mood, he may not get to work at all. And the ride in a Montenegrin bus awakens wistful nostalgia: the tobacco smoke seeping into the worn upholstery, the dirty windows, the pungent smell of diesel and the hum of the weak and tired engine that can barely pull the big bus full of sweaty people.
There are no buses going inland, for example to the canyons or to the ski resorts. Cabs between cities are much more expensive than a rental car. For example, a ride from Tivat or Podgorica airport to Bara costs between 35 and 55 euros, depending on the season. Rental cars are available from 15 euros (16.33$) per day, depending on the brand, season and number of rental days. The smaller the car and the longer the vacation, the cheaper.
How to rent a car
A foreign passport and driver’s license are required to rent a car. It is not necessary to obtain an international driver’s license before your vacation. International car rental companies may require a credit card – check this information before booking.There are three ways to rent a car in Montenegro.
- International rental networks (Europcar, Avis, Sixt). The major networks have large fleets, a well-organized system for monitoring the condition of vehicles, and work with customers. They are available from service providers such as Rentalcars.
- Local car rental companies with 15 to 200 vehicles: Sitngo, Budva Rent a Car. Most of the local companies are aggregated in Localrent – they have over 1200 cars and scooters. These local companies usually do not require a deposit and offer airport or car pickup, provide a second driver, offer child seats, and issue a green card for foreign travel.
- Private individuals who rent out several of their own vehicles. They do not have websites and social networks; their contacts are forwarded through Telegram chats and Montenegrin Facebook groups. If you ask an apartment owner or a market trader, they will definitely recommend someone. They don’t have fixed prices, and the cost is usually lower than the two options described. But they also have less control over the condition of the cars. I’ve seen cars without working headlights, with the check engine light on, with the air conditioning broken, and even with trash bags in the trunk.
- The good thing about Localrent is that you pay in advance by card, but the car itself and the deposit in cash.
A map with the sights of Montenegro, where you can draw your own route.
Venetian Heritage: Along the Bay of Kotor
Duration: 8+ hours
Route: Tivat – Kotor – Dobrota – Perast – Risan – Herceg Novi
The Bay of Kotor is a picturesque fjord surrounded by mountains, at the foot of which old Venetian towns with medieval stone houses, churches and palaces stretch along the coast. Between the towns, local fishermen raise mussels and oysters in special farms. The route follows a winding road lined with cliffs on one side and the sea on the other.
Tivat has one of the two airports in the country.
Large concerts, celebrations and festivals are often held on the pine tree shore. For example, the theater season begins in August, an outdoor ice skating rink is set up at Christmas and New Year’s Eve, a fair with traditional drinks and treats opens, carnival events are held in February for the Sea Festival, and concerts are held in May for the Day of Youth. Large sailboats and ships are often moored on the same quay and form the backdrop for Insta-photos by the sea.
The main attraction is the Porto Montenegro project. For Montenegro, the marina has become a symbol of economic development, transforming the small provincial town of Tivat into a European center of expensive leisure, providing several thousand jobs for locals and a revamped waterfront, boutiques, hotels and restaurants for tourists. Porto Montenegro has been compared to Monaco and Sardinia – not to the latter’s advantage. The marina is popular for its clear sea (it has even been awarded the Blue Flag for cleanliness), picturesque views of the Kotor fjord, the cost of mooring and maintaining yachts, proximity to an international airport and a repair yard. The local Regent Porto Montenegro Hotel & Residences hosts private parties for Forbes celebrities. The complex is open to the public and “normal” tourists are allowed to enter.
Near the marina, in the center of town, there is a Museum of Marine Heritage, which exhibits objects raised from the bottom of the Adriatic Sea near Tivat: Submarines, diaries of the Montenegrin princess, military equipment, etc. In the Middle Ages it was the base of the Venetian merchant navy, later the Austro-Hungarian and then the Yugoslav navy. Next to the museum entrance is a large, 50-meter-long Yugoslavian submarine, which is available for excursions.
Locals line up on hot days in front of the ice cream machine of Moritz Eis, known for its natural and unusual flavors such as dark or white chocolate, latte, melon and ginger, as well as lemon and mint.
Kotor is a must-see for most tourists. It is several thousand years old and has been home to Illyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Serbs and Austro-Hungarians at different times. The interaction of different cultures and peoples has resulted in the Old Town being included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The city consists of massive stone palaces and churches, houses with tiled roofs and wooden shutters, laundry hung overhead, smooth cobblestones weathered by centuries, and a medieval maze of narrow streets.
Kotor old town
The narrowest road is designed so that two drivers cannot pass each other. It is only 80 cm wide, and the unofficial name Pušti me proć means something like “Let me through”. You’ll encounter the furry pack in almost every square – there are many cats in the city, and a museum has even been opened in their mustachioed honor.
On the cliffs of the mountain at the foot of which Kotor is located, the Byzantines built a fortress wall 280 meters high. The view from St. John’s fortress is considered the best in the city. You can see the Bay of Kotor, where huge cruise ships bustle, and the tiled roofs of the houses, which lie close together like cookies in a triangular plate. It is from the fortress that most photos are taken for promotional brochures for Montenegro.
To admire this splendor, you have to climb the 1,400 steps and spend several hours going up and down. From May to October, access to the fortress costs 8 euros, in the low season it is free.
View from the fortress of St.John, Kotor
If you don’t feel like climbing up, you can stop at Horizont Bar, which is located on the serpentine road between Kotor and the village of Neguši at an altitude of almost 1000 meters. The view from there is even more spectacular than from St. John’s Fortress – not only of Kotor, but of the entire bay.
Another viewing platform is located on the other side of the bay, on the ridge Vrmac, next to the Austrian fortress of the same name. You can reach the fortress by car and then take a walk in the surrounding area.
You can also reach the Goražda fortress by car. There is no separate viewing platform, but the fortress itself offers a view of the bay of Tivat.
Next to the road leading to the fortress, in an 800-year-old stone house, is the Trpeza restaurant, which serves local Montenegrin dishes. Be prepared for the waiters to add serving and tipping to the bill. Prices at this restaurant, like all others in the old town, are high, but the atmosphere and taste of the food are worth it. To save money, dine outside the walls of the Old Town. For example, at LAV Gastropub behind the panoramic windows or in the cozy courtyard. It is located on the other side of the river, on the way to Kamelija Shopping Centre.
This charming fishing village is so small that many guidebooks do not refer to it as a town in its own right, but as one of the districts of Kotor.
The greatest treasure of Dobrota are its medieval churches. The Church of the Holy Prophet Elijah was built in the 11th century and is considered the oldest preserved church in Montenegro. It is located on a hill, so from the entrance of the church you have a panoramic view of the bay, the town and the surrounding villages. The church of St. Eustathios was built with the money of wealthy captain families: Inside are seven marble altars, sculptures and frescoes, a collection of paintings depicting local sailors, a large library and the most important relic – a collection of lace that sailors’ wives worked on while at sea.
In 2021, the first oceanarium in Montenegro will open at the Institute of Marine Biology on Plagenti Promenade, housing a collection of fish and animals from the bottom of the Adriatic Sea, from fascinating seahorses and crabs to fearsome moray eels. The museum space is designed to give visitors the feeling of diving to the bottom of the sea – the aquariums with animals swimming near the shore are located closer to the entrance of the museum. The closer visitors get to the exit, the more deep-sea creatures they encounter.
Oceanarium in Dobrota
The view from almost all restaurants on the bay is about the same: green mountains rising from the water and the sea lapping at your feet. In Dobrota you should dine at the konoba (as the local restaurants are called) “Portun” – before the main course there is a delicious olive pie and squid ink bread, and the seafood pasta contains more shrimp, mussels, squid and calamari than pasta.
On the way from Dobrota to Perast, stop in the village of Dražin Vrt at the oyster farm “U Miloša”. The landmark is a bright pink Audi parked by the roadside. The mussels and oysters you taste here are literally fished before your eyes. Not even the local restaurants offer such fresh seafood.
Perast was a border town between the territories of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice for a long time before it became the maritime center of the Adriatic. At the end of the 18th century, there was a maritime school in Perast where future captains of the Venetian Navy studied. The sailors built magnificent baroque palaces and churches here, some of which have been preserved to this day. For example, Captain Bujović’s palace today houses the town museum with portraits of sailors and their sailing ships, nautical school diplomas, ship models, navigation charts, preserved decorations and costumes of locals from different eras.
Two islands in the bay are also included in the territory of Perast. The locals take tourists to them for 5 €.On the artificial island of Gospa od Skrpjela, the snow-white church of Our Lady stands on the reef. Legend has it that in the 15th century an icon of the Virgin Mary was found on a small reef. The locals decided to build a church on this place, but first they had to create an island. Old and captured pirate sailing ships and boats were sunk here. The municipality obliged every ship that called at Perast to throw stones at the place of the future island. In honor of this tradition, even today, every year in July, locals take boats to the island and throw stones and building materials into the water next to the island. It took 200 years to build the artificial island!
On a second island, St. George’s, there is a men’s monastery. It is not possible to land on the island, it is closed to tourists, but boats go around it to investigate. The monastery is so picturesquely buried in evergreen cypresses that perhaps this island became the prototype of the famous painting “The Island of the Dead” by Arnold Becklin.
This is the oldest town in Montenegro. The first mentions date back to the time before Christ. Several Roman mosaics from the 1st to the 3rd century have been preserved in the town. To see them, you have to pay 5 euros.Compared to the bustling cities of Kotor and Perast, Risan is a paradise for introverts. In the 17th and 18th centuries Risan was an important trading town in the Bay of Kotor, and the name Gabella Street, which means “salt delivery”, has survived to this day. This road leads from the city center up into the mountains. The medieval cobblestones, dating back to the 12th century, are a local landmark with a triangular pattern of river gravel, unusual for this area. Along the road are the villas of local merchants and sailors, but most are in poor condition.
The Ivelić house, for example, is a half-ruined Venetian Baroque palace overgrown with ivy. Members of this family even served in the Russian Empire, the most famous of whom was Count Mark Ivelić, who rose to the rank of senator.
For a snack and a sweet treat, you should visit the Hipnos bakery. Fresh baked goods are offered throughout the day, and the aroma spreads throughout almost the entire city. The terrace of the café offers a view of the bay and the mountains.
Since the city is located on the cliffs, most of the streets are not sidewalks, but stairs. Wherever you want to go, you have to climb dozens or hundreds of stairs. The old town consists of a few squares and a few streets – it is quite small. Herceg Novi was part of the Ottoman Empire longer than other towns in the Bay of Kotor, so the mix of Bosnian, Turkish, Venetian and Austro-Hungarian culture is particularly striking. Think of the towns from Kusturica’s films – any of them could have been filmed in Herceg Novi.
The patchwork of colorful houses is scattered without an architectural plan: porches from the communist era are built on top of old palaces. Double-glazed windows with advertisements are set into the large stone window frames. Tiled roofs, green shutters, brown sidewalks – architectural decadence. This mixture of cultures, times, shapes and colors is also reflected in the city’s landmark, the Clock Tower. The Clock Tower was built in the mid-17th century by the Turks in the Eastern European style. In the 19th century, during the Austrian rule, the top of the tower was built in Romanesque style with stone “teeth”. In the 20th century, the Serbs replaced the historical mechanical clock with a new one with an electronic mechanism.
Inside the tower there is a bas-relief of the Black Madonna made of smoked wood. And next to the tower, Russian collectors recently opened the Mikhail Bulgakov Museum, dedicated to the writer’s work and the history of the White Army.
Have a coffee at Gradska Cafana, where locals like to gather in the morning to read the newspaper, discuss the latest news and enjoy the view of the sea. The café is located at the exit of the old town, and tourists like to do photo shoots on the large terrace behind the stone balustrades.
The invigorating air in the Bay of Kotor, and especially in Herceg Novi, combines pine forest aromas, floral notes and the iodine-rich smell of the sea – the atmosphere along the bay is considered especially healthy for allergy sufferers and people worried about their upper respiratory tract. There is even a spa in Igalo, a suburb of Herceg Novi connected to the city by a “health path”.
On the way back to Tivat, you can take the ferry between the villages of Kamenari and Lepetane: You will save 40 km and one hour. The ferry runs every 15 minutes and the fare with car is 4 euros.
Turkish Heritage: Eastern Montenegro
Duration: from 6 hours
Route: Ulcinj – Stary Bar – Lake Skadar – Podgorica
Ottoman Empire ruled the local lands for 300 years. Under the influence of the Turks were almost all the towns of modern Montenegro, with the exception of some towns in the Bay of Kotor. In the eastern part of Montenegro most of the Turkish color has been preserved: dense, low buildings, mosques, water pipes and restaurants with Turkish coffee.
Ulcinj is located close to the border with Albania and therefore cannot be compared with the Venetian towns along the Boko Kotor Bay. There are no large Orthodox churches with marble altars, and instead of Orthodox domes, the minarets of old mosques tower over the houses. The sidewalks are paved with small, crooked paving stones rather than smooth, flat stone slabs. Albanian language and the calls of the muezzins can be heard everywhere.
The fortress of the old town stands on a rock surrounded by the sea on three sides. From the fortress there is a panoramic view of the endless turquoise expanse, which is not blocked by mountains as in many towns in Montenegro. At the foot of the cliff, the waves break in hundreds of salty splashes. In the Middle Ages, the fortress was dominated by pirates who made Ulcinj one of the largest slave-trading centers on the Adriatic. Guidebooks tell that the Spanish writer Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, was imprisoned in Ulcinj But this is only a fiction – the writer described in his diaries the imprisonment in the prison of Algeria.
Stari Bar (Old Bar)
Stari Bar is a dead and abandoned city, with no one living within its walls. Endless earthquakes and wars between Romans, Byzantines, Turks, Serbs and Montenegrins forced the inhabitants to leave the city. A few buildings and the foundations of old houses have been preserved. The pavement from the 10th century, built in the Byzantine period, is still relatively well preserved. Another relic is the active church of St. John, built by the Serbs in the 12th century. During the 300 years of Ottoman rule, an aqueduct, a clock tower and a gunpowder store were built in Staryj Bar, which have been preserved to this day. With a lot of imagination you can imagine how people lived in previous centuries.
At the fortress wall of the ruined old town, at Konoba Bedem, you can taste baklava with real Turkish coffee served in a jazz bowl, or meat dishes from Montenegrin cuisine, accompanied by pomegranate beer.
The “gate” to Skadar Lake is opened by the small fishing village of Virpazar. This is the official “entrance” to the Skadar Lake National Park. Tourists come here to go boating and to taste local fish in the restaurants. The entrance to the park costs 4 euros – without a ticket it is not possible to rent a boat. A trip to the lake costs from 20 €, but the total cost depends on the length of the trip.
The huge freshwater lake is located in two countries – Montenegro and Albania. The lake is home to almost 300 species of birds, including the rare Dalmatian pelican. It’s hard to believe that the water lilies that grow on all the shores of the lake are in the Red Book and are considered an endangered species – a boat ride takes you right through the water lily and reed bushes. The boat ride takes you to ancient temples and fortresses that rise in the hills around the lake.
You can try the national Montenegrin thick fish soup “ribla čorba”, prepared from different kinds of fish and served in all restaurants on Skadar Lake.
The capital of Montenegro is not located on the coast, but in the center of the country, surrounded by mountains. Due to its location, it is much hotter in summer than on the coast. In June 2021, for example, the air was as warm as +49 in the sun during the day.
The ruins of the Ottoman fortress of Depedogen in Podgorica are a reminder of the Ottoman heritage. The fortress is located in the historical district of Stara Varos, where Turkish merchants and soldiers lived during the Ottoman Empire. Today it looks like a typical Istanbul suburb with its narrow, winding streets lined with houses with small windows. Two mosques, a clock tower and an old stone bridge over the Rybnitsa River have been preserved since Turkish times. The Ribnita Museum at 4 Marka Miyanov Street displays everyday objects from the old Turkish settlement.
The Millennium Bridge, which connects the old and new parts of the city, is considered a symbol of the city – it is depicted on most postcards sold in souvenir stores.At the exit of the capital there is a restaurant with Montenegrin cuisine called “Pecenjara Gurman”. Locals unanimously call it the best meat restaurant in the country. The main dish is the veal or lamb from the sack – the meat and vegetables are pressure braised for 6 to 12 hours and the ingredients are so soft and tender that they literally fall apart into fibers. Another traditional dish, the Karadjordjeva cutlet, is a breaded chicken fillet stuffed with kaimac (local fresh cheese) and butter, the portion in “Gurman” weighs 600-g.
Montenegrin heritage: a trip to the first capital city
Duration: 5+ hours
Route: Cetinje – Lovcen – Negusa – Kotor Serpentine
Most of the country is located in the mountains, so the third route will take you under the clouds over a kilometer above sea level. The life of Montenegrins, without the hustle and bustle of the coast and Islamic prayer, seems sluggish and leisurely. They are busy with agriculture and communication, are in no hurry anywhere and start their morning with a cup of Montenegrin “polako”. This word stands for everything: the way of thinking, the mentality, the slowness of movement, the ease of perception and the philosophy of life.
The city of Cetinje was the first capital of Montenegro and has now acquired the status of a cultural city. It houses ministries, embassies, theaters, museums and the president’s residence. Music and folklore festivals are held in the summer.
Cetinje looks different from the Venetian towns on the shores of the Bay of Kotor and the Turkish settlements in the eastern part of the country. The town is built up with two or three-story colorful houses with attics. One and the same house can belong to different owners, so it can be painted in different colors. The preserved residential houses were mostly built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. On the first floors of the pedestrian zone on Negosheva Street there are cafes and restaurants where men discuss the news in the morning over a cup of espresso.
The monastery of Cetinje is the main attraction of the city. Relics revered by Christians are kept here – a part of the Holy Cross, the right hand of John the Baptist and the shroud given to Montenegro by the Russian Tsarina Catherine II. Montenegro. From the walls of the monastery began a new period in the history of the country: When the Turks conquered the local land, the ruler Ivan Crnojevic took refuge high in the mountains on the territory of present-day Cetinje and created a spiritual center.
Next to the monastery is the Royal Palace “Billiards”, named after the favorite game of one of the rulers of Montenegro, Petar II Petrovic Njegos, and among the exhibits is the first billiards table in the country. In the glass pavilion of the palace there is a huge three-dimensional map of Montenegro, which is more than 100 years old. Admission costs €1.
In addition to paintings by local artists, the National Art Museum displays works by Dali, Picasso and Chagall.
Montenegro has five national parks, large natural areas and nature reserves with picturesque views: Durmitor, Skadar Lake, Prokletije, Biogradska Gora and the Lovcen Mountains. The peak of Jezerski Vrh (1657 m) offers a panoramic view of the Bay of Kotor, Skadar Lake and the mountain range of the country. On a clear, sunny day, you can even catch a glimpse of Croatia. To see one of the country’s most popular views, however, you’ll have to climb 461 steps and pay a 2-euro entrance fee.
At the very top of Lovcen Park there is a mausoleum where Petar II Petrovic Njegoš, ruler, poet and Metropolitan of Montenegro, is buried. He stood for the unity of the Montenegrin people, the absence of wars between races and friendship with the Russian Empire. He wanted to be buried in a chapel on the top of the mountain. On the centenary of the ruler’s death in the middle of the 20th century, a mausoleum was built on the site of the chapel. The massive building is made of huge marble and granite slabs, which were hoisted up the mountain by helicopters. The entrance to the mausoleum is guarded by huge statues of the mother and sister, and inside there is a monument to the ruler, made of a single piece of marble. The ceiling of the mausoleum is decorated with a gold mosaic.
The ethnographic village of Neguši is the origin of the Petrović royal dynasty, which ruled Montenegro from the 17th to the 20th century – a member of this family is buried in the Lovćen Mausoleum. In the village there is still the ancestral seat of the ruler – it is marked by a sign and is located right by the road, and today there is a small museum dedicated to Petar II. It was built in the 18th century and is in the classic Montenegrin style: flat masonry, no ornaments or decorations, small windows, the first floor is now used only for household purposes, only the first floor is suitable for living.
In Neguši, the real and true prsut, the Montenegrin analogue of ham, and pecenica, the dried beef, are produced. It is believed that the mountain winds blow here so that the meat is smoked better. The aroma of the local products is delicious. The smell of smoked meat emanates from the warehouses where the meat is “matured” for months. At the stalls and in the stores local delicacies are sold in vacuum packs for 15 € per 500 g or small pieces for 3-5 €.
From the mountain village of Negushi, a serpentine road with 26 curves leads down to the coast of Kotor. The road offers views of the coast of the Bay of Kotor, the Lustica peninsula, the mountains and the extremely short airport runway between the sea and the cliffs. All curves are numbered and the best view, not obstructed by trees, is on curves 14, 25 and 26.
One side of the road goes downhill for hundreds of meters, and on the other side a cliff rises up, with a narrow strip of asphalt about 6 meters wide in between. Be careful: this is a two-way traffic road, often used by tractors, coaches and other heavy vehicles. But overtaking a large oncoming vehicle is a different adventure!
What else to see in Montenegro
It’s hard to resist the charm of the medieval towns and fortresses on the Montenegrin coast. Byzantine, Turkish, Bosnian, Montenegrin and Austrian schools of architecture meet in the old towns. Budva, for example, was dominated by Illyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Serbs, Venetians and Austrians. In Budva, a small citadel and a few medieval alleys have been preserved, while around the old town everything is built up with high-rise buildings and hotels made of glass and concrete.
In Montenegro there are well-preserved old religious buildings – churches, temples and monasteries. For example, the Daibabe monastery in the caves near Podgorica. According to legend, the first Christians lived in the catacombs in the 3rd century AD, where the monastery was built 16 centuries later.
Here are some other interesting points on the map of Montenegro – churches, parks and cities.
Even if you are not a fan of religion, the colorful Ostrog Monastery is interesting in terms of architecture. It is carved into the rock at a height of almost 1 km. Montenegrins are very religious people, and they associate a lot of legends and miracles with this monastery. For example, over the tomb of the founder of the monastery Vasiliy Ostrozhskiy grows a vine, which usually does not take root in mountainous areas. And the monk’s relics are considered to be miraculous, and a queue of pilgrims lines up to them every day.
This is the most popular national park in Montenegro, located in the north. It is noticeably cooler here than on the coast. The park includes almost 50 mountain peaks, some of which are hidden under a blanket of snow all year round. In 2021, for example, snowdrifts 3 meters high were cleared here only in June to open the road over the mountain pass, while on the coast it was already +30 degrees.
Near Durmitor are the ski resorts of Zabljak and Kolasin, popular with tourists in winter.
Watch the 500 year old pine trees reflected in the water of the Black Lake.
You can reach it on foot from Zabljak via Negosheva street – about 3 km on foot or from Ivan Do campsite, which you can reach by car. From the campsite it is about 10 minutes to the lake. There is limited parking, so you should arrive early in the season.
The park includes the Tara River Canyon, the largest canyon in Europe and the second largest in the world after the Grand Canyon in the USA. The best place to admire the turquoise ribbon of water is the Djurdjević Bridge. Right next to it is the restaurant “Bridge” with a large parking lot, from which you can also take a zipline across the canyon.
The entrance fee to the park is 3 €.
Another national park is located on the border with Albania and Kosovo. Here is the highest mountain in Montenegro, Zla Kolata, with 2,534 meters. The same mountain range has another higher peak – Jezerza; it is 160 meters higher than Zla Kolata, but territorially it is already in Albania. The mountain is covered with ancient trees.
The main attractions of the park are the mountain lakes Plavsko and Hridsko. The first one is located 900 meters above sea level, the second one 1800 meters above sea level.The entrance fee to the park is 1 €.
Sveti Stefan Island
This small island, connected to the mainland by a road bridge, is another trademark of Montenegro: the tightly packed houses with their orange roofs are often seen on postcards. It was once a tiny fishing village, then the residence of the royal family, then a hotel for the heads of state of friendly countries, and today a luxury hotel where Hollywood stars come to relax. Over the years, Queen Elizabeth, Sophia Loren, Juri Gagarin, Johnny Depp, Sylvester Stallone and Claudia Schiffer have stayed at Sveti Stefan.
It is not possible to visit the island just for pleasure, but only as part of an organized tour, but even this year there is no such possibility. Aman Hotel was not opened in 2021, so access to the island is closed. The luxurious King and Queen beaches, considered the best in Montenegro, are free for all visitors this year. Previously, you had to pay between 80 and 120 euros for a set of two sunbeds and umbrellas, depending on the season.
An unusual viewpoint, which is not visited by guided tours or tourist buses, is located on the top of the mountain above the island, near the church of St. Sava. The view from there is so wide that you do not even have the width of your eyes to see the whole picture at once.
The platform above Sveti Stefan
Young Montenegrins propose to their brides there, and afterwards they come for a romantic photo shoot in their wedding dresses. It is accessible by car, the exit from the main road is in the village Blizikuce, the road is flat, only the last 10 meters consist of gravel and stones.
Near the island of Sveti Stefan there is the Royal Park Milocer. It is probably one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the country. It was created in the first half of the 20th century for the recreation of the monarchs and planted with rare and evergreen plants from different countries such as Lebanese cedars, magnolias, olive groves, cacti, cypresses and others.
In the shade of the park you look at the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea, which break on the cliffs at the foot of the park.
Driving in Montenegro
Driving in Montenegro is a pleasure: beautiful views, winding switchbacks and good asphalt. Even in the remote mountain villages, which are rarely visited by tourists, the road surface is very good.
What you need to know about local regulations
Traffic regulations are not much different from those in Europe. The amount of the fine varies between a few values, and the final amount is left to the conscience of the police officer. So try to be polite and courteous to the representatives of the law. Tourists are not stopped for no reason to check their papers. So you don’t need to be afraid of the police, but you shouldn’t break the rules either.
Local regulations allow 0.3 ppm of alcohol in your body, which means you can have a few sips of beer. If you exceed the allowed amount, you can be fined from 70,000 to 2,000 euros, depending on the severity of the violation.
In Montenegro, all passengers must wear seat belts on all rows of seats, and it doesn’t matter if the car is inside or outside the city. The fine for a violation is up to 100 euros.
The speed limit is 50 km/h in cities and 80 km/h between towns. Exceeding it is punishable by a fine of €40 (for +10 km/h) to €2,000 (for +90 km/h). And for exceeding the speed limit of more than 70 km/h in the city and more than 90 km/h on the highway, you can even be imprisoned for 2 months!
The traffic police are very careful not to talk on the phone and impose fines of up to 150 euros. Throwing trash out the window is not allowed! A discarded pack of chips and a soda bottle will cost between 100 and 450 euros.
What to watch out for?
- There are no wide multi-lane highways; most roads are single lane in each direction. On the old highways and scenic switchbacks, the road is single lane and narrow in both directions.
- The narrow roads sometimes cause traffic jams – in high season, when many tourists come, and accidents. The main coastal road “Jadranski Put” runs along the entire coast from Tivat airport to Ulcinj. If you are leaving from Tivat, take this road to the airport. Allow enough time for the trip so that you don’t miss your flight – traffic accidents are frequent on the route, and you could be stuck in traffic jams for hours.
- The switchbacks wind along the mountains, and it’s not just the speed limit that needs to be observed. A landslide, rocks, traffic accidents, wild animals, etc. can lurk around every corner. Therefore, no matter how fast you want to go through the curves, brake.
- The local drivers drive very badly, there is no driving culture here. Montenegrins do not keep distance between cars – and нyu wrong, because the asphalt in the country is slippery not only during rains. The locals like to overtake on curves, drive into oncoming traffic and violate speed limits and parking regulations. You should not make an example of them, but you should be prepared for possible surprises on the road.
- Don’t be alarmed by the constant honking – local drivers honk to greet each other, show respect, yield the right of way, etc. A “beep” is not a warning signal, but a friendly sound.
- Radar devices and even video recorders are prohibited in Montenegro. There is a privacy law so strict that it does not even allow turning on the speed cameras that hang at many intersections.
- The police issue a fine, which must be paid at the bank. But today’s police patrols have cash registers, so you can pay the fine on the spot with a card – it’s perfectly legal and you even get a receipt. If you don’t pay the fine on the spot, the police officer can take away your driver’s license. You must pay the fine and bring the receipt to the police station to get your license back. If it is a serious offense, you will also have to go to court and pay the court fees.
- Traffic police often drive civilian cars without flashing lights and special police paint, so the life hack “I will break it as long as there are no police” does not work in Montenegro.
What else to consider
- Everyone arriving must register and pay the tourist tax within 24 hours. If you are staying in a hotel, the receptionist will take care of it. If you have rented an apartment from a private person, you must contact the tourist office in each city. The cost of the tax is about 1 euro per day, depending on the season. The penalty for non-payment of the tax is 200 euros, and border officials selectively check registration when leaving the country.
- Tourists should always carry their passport or a copy of it. Police rarely check documents on the street without reason, but if they do and the passport is missing, a fine of up to €1200 is imposed.
- Local SIM cards are sold at the airport, cell phone stores and kiosks. During the season, all local operators – Telenor, T-Mobile and M: Tel – offer special rates for tourists. All three companies operate in the same way, and the tariffs are also almost identical. In the summer of 2021, they sell SIM cards with 500 GB of Internet traffic for 10 euros for 2 weeks or 15 euros for a month. Text messages and minutes are not included in the price. “Tourist” mobile Internet is often faster than Wi-Fi in hotels.