2021 is set to be a big year for Montenegro. The emerging tourist destination was recently named in National Geographic‘s ‘Best of the World: seven unforgettable family journeys for 2021’ round-up.
Montenegro was tipped as a dream destination for adventurous families, with biking, rafting, canyoneering, and trail walking on offer in five stunning national parks across the country. However, the appeal of this southeastern European nation extends far beyond adrenaline fulfilment. Here’s why.
Everything you need to know about travelling to Montenegro
Where is Montenegro?
At 13,812 km², Montenegro is a wee bit smaller than Northern Ireland. A little over 622,000 people call the country home.
Montenegro is tucked between five Balkan nations and the crystal-clear Adriatic. There’s Bosnia and Herzegovina to the north, Albania to the south, Serbia and Kosovo to the east, and Croatia to the west.
Montenegro at a glance
Due to its proximity to the 7th-century city of Dubrovnik and Croatia’s glittering Dalmatian Coast, Montenegro is extremely popular with day-trippers. However, as you’ll come to notice, the tiny nation certainly deserves more than a single day’s attention.
What Montenegro lacks in landmass, it makes up for in coastline. Montenegro is famous for the striking and diverse 117 beaches that span the 294km long coastline. The beaches are noted for the clarity of the water. The coastal towns are highlights, with Tivat and Kotor drawing parallels with Monaco and Dubrovnik.
Beaches aside, the Balkan country offers UNESCO-protected national parks, rugged mountains, sapphire-coloured lakes, charming medieval towns, and cuisine untouched by the rest of the world.
The country has a mild Mediterranean climate, clocking an average of 240 sunny days each year. The best time of year to visit Montenegro is between the months of May to October. The summer is simply gorgeous, however, July and August can be extremely hot (particularly if you’re coming straight from winter, or you’re not used to it) and the beaches do tend to get quite packed.
If you’re interested in catching a bit of snow, head to Montenegro’s mountains between January and March. The icy peaks are magnificent.
How to travel to Montenegro
We’ve established that Montenegro is fairly small, right? Fortunately, it’s easy to travel to Montenegro due to its international airports. There are two, one in Podgorica, the capital, and the other in the coastal town of Tivat.
If you’re looking to cut costs, there is a wider range of budget flight options if you fly into the airport of Dubrovnik, Croatia. This airport is only 20 minutes from the Montenegrin border. From here, you can simply take a short coastal bus ride to Montenegro.
- Ferry crossings
If you’re not a fan of taking to the skies, or perhaps you’re keen to see a bit more of the Adriatic, you can arrive by ferry. Between April to September, Montenegro Lines operates crossings from Bari, Italy. Be sure to book in advance to score the best ticket prices.
- Vehicle hire
Once you’ve arrived in the country, hire a car. One of the highlights of Montenegro is exploring its stunning scenery, from secluded coves to jagged peaks. It pays to have the freedom to explore the more remote areas. Some of the best locations can only be reached by car or private vehicle. If this isn’t for you, joining a tour might be a more relaxed option.
- Buses and trains
Another way to see Montenegro is by using the various bus and train networks operating throughout the country. The local train system is cheap however it is not extensive and leaves off a lot of destinations – particularly the coastal spots – which you might be looking to cover. The buses are more expensive but operate more frequently.
What language is spoken in Montenegro?
A variety of languages are spoken in Montenegro. While the official language is Montenegrin, many people speak Serbian. Other recognised languages are Croatian, Albanian, and Bosnian. English is also widely spoken throughout the country, particularly along the coast and in the major tourist locations.
Reasons to travel to Montenegro
- To try something different
Surrounded by popular travel destinations like Croatia, it’s understandable that Montenegro might have been left off the bucket list. This is why the country is suited to travellers who like to do things differently. If you’re not fussed with visiting the same locations your friends visit year after year, Montenegro might just be for you.
- To save money
Is Montenegro expensive? Fortunately, it happens to be one of the most affordable travel destinations in Southern Europe. So if you’re itching to travel but you’re on a fairly tight budget, Montenegro is an affordable option.
One of the main reasons tourists head to the country is because it’s much cheaper (and quieter) than the neighbouring country of Croatia. Local food is delicious and cheap, and the accommodation caters to all budgets.
- To immerse yourself in a birdwatchers paradise
Montenegro is truly a birdwatcher’s paradise. Lake Skadar is among Europe’s largest bird reserves. In 1983, the area became a protected National Park and now has two reserves recognised as an International Birding Area.
The area is packed with rocky shorelines, marshes, fast-moving rivers and forests. It’s also home to more than 280 different bird species, including flamingos, Squacco Herons, and Dalmatian Pelicans. The extensive natural area is best explored by boat or kayak, meaning you get to seek out the most fascinating birds and scenery.
Popular sights in Montenegro
- Tara River Gorge
One of Montenegro’s most-visited destinations is the Tara River Gorge. Known as the ‘Tear of Europe’, this turquoise ravine waters zips right through the northern edge of Durmitor National park. Tara River Gorge is 1,300-metres deep and is the longest canyon in Europe. It’s second in the world only after the Grand Canyon.
Tara River is 158 km long and features 69 rapids, making it popular with rafters. In fact, this is one of Montenegro’s most in-demand tourist activities. Be sure to arrive with a sense of adventure, and dry clothes.
If you’re looking to take it easy on your holiday to Montenegro, Budva is your best bet. The picturesque 2,500-year-old town was founded by the Ancient Greeks and is one of the most charming coastal towns in the entire country.
The ancient structures of the old town are fantastic to explore on their own, but it also happens to be fringed by gorgeous beaches. The town offers ample opportunities to relax and also live it up in some of the town’s lively nightlife venues. So pack those dancing shoes.
Things to do in Montenegro
- Watch the sunset at Sveti Stefan
There are plenty of things to do in Montenegro. Marvelling at the setting sun is a great, laidback activity to begin with. One of the most beautiful spots to watch the sunset is Sveti Stefan.
Located approximately 6 kilometres southeast of Budva, Sveti Stefan is a tiny picturesque isle and 5-star resort. Attached to the mainland by a narrow strip, this private island is Montenegro’s most-photographed location.
- Become a beach bum
What else is there to do in Montenegro? That’s an easy one. Get yourself to the beach! When it comes to beaches, Montenegro is paradise. For a unique spot, Kraljičina Plaža offers a stretch of golden sand (sometimes referred to as ‘pink’, but you can be the judge of that).
Head to Drobni Pijesak to swim in a secluded, rocky bay that boasts tranquil, clear waters. If you’re hoping to do more than swim and sunbathe, Jaz is a good option for bar-hopping, music festivals, and swimming spots.
- Indulge in local cuisine
When you’re not soaking up some rays, you might like to fill up on the local cuisine. Unlike the surrounding Balkan nations, Montenegro has not undergone much globalisation in the realm of food. The local cuisine dominates. So if you’re looking for a unique, authentic dining experience, you will find it in Montenegro.
Even though Montenegro is small, the cuisine varies according to the landscape. By the Adriatic, the cuisine makes use of the abundance of fresh seafood. In the mountains, meats such as pork, beef, and lamb dominate the plate.
If you’re an avid carnivore, you might like to try lamb under sač. This is a dish originating in the north, where sheep rearing is an ancient, generational tradition. Succulent, high-quality meat from free-grazing sheep is cooked slowly in a clay pot covered with a domed lid – sač – and then buried beneath hot coals. It’s cooked for several hours and the result is food that melts in your mouth.
For a snack, opt for priganice, a savoury or sweet snack. The popular local treat is made with sugar, flour, water, oil, salt, and yeast. Comparable to doughnuts, it is served warm, either and paired with fresh local cheese, honey, jam, or simply dusted with sugar.
Solo travel in Montenegro
If you’re solo in Montenegro and looking to make new friends, fellow travellers and locals alike, be sure to check out the sandy beaches, lively bars and beachside clubs in the sun-drenched Adriatic town of Budva. But you might have one big question looming over you: ‘Is it safe to travel to Montenegro?’ On the whole, Montenegro is safe for solo female travellers, you will just need to follow the basic safety precautions you would take in any other country.
However, if you would like to find out more, you can check out the following Facebook groups for travel tips, safety advice, and buddy-ups in Montenegro.
While Montenegro is safe to travel alone if you plan to travel solo your experience will be noticeably better if you hire a car or join a tour. Independent travellers might find it difficult to rely on public transport in Montenegro.
Newmarket Holidays offer a tour of Montenegro, Dubrovnik, and the Dalmatian Coast which is exclusively for solo travellers. On this trip, you can spend eight memorable days seeing the very best of Montenegro, with the bonus of experiencing the island-city of Trogir, Croatia’s beautiful Krka National Park, and Mostar’s iconic bridge. To explore more solo tours, visit the Newmarket Holidays website.
If you’re interested in travelling solo, Newmarket Holidays has got you covered. In another blog post, product manager Joanna Roberts weighs in on some frequently asked questions about solo travel.
Over 50s travel in Montenegro
Looking to celebrate a major milestone soon? Whether it’s a wedding anniversary or a dear one’s 60th birthday, Montenegro might be ideal as a celebration-filled escape.
The country is home to a variety of high-quality accommodation options, from mountain cottages to waterfront villas.
In Montenegro, you’ll be able to take it as easy as you like, kicking back at sandy beaches or local wineries, or you can even indulge your hidden adventurous side with mountainous hikes and kayaking in birdwatching territory. Book your Montenegro escape with Newmarket Holidays today.