I came to Montenegro for the first time as part of a larger Balkan trip. I took the train ride from Belgrade to Montenegro which was one of the most amazing train rides I’ve taken to date. However, I only spent two nights in Kotor as part of my Montenegro part and called it a day before going to Dubrovnik, Croatia.
I came back a few years later after spending a few weeks traveling through Albania, North Macedonia, and Kosovo. Last minute, I decided to pop over into Montenegro for a few days to see it again. This time I was armed with a car and was ready to explore. Safe to say, Montenegro was way more beautiful and interesting than I had remembered. If you’re planning or thinking of planning a trip to Montenegro, think no more. This post will highlight my favorite parts of the country and should change anyone’s mind who’s on the fence!
Stari Bar (Old Town of Bar)
The “old bar” is located in Montenegro a few kilometers from the coastal town of Bar at the foot of the Rumija coastal mountain range. The ancient city was founded more than 2,000 years ago, had 4,000 inhabitants at peak times and magnificent buildings of various rulers. Today Stari Bar is abandoned and only ruins remain of the buildings, but some of them have been restored and can be visited.
Due to its strategically excellent location, the “old bar” has been settled for well over 2,000 years, some finds go back to the 8th century BC. It was first mentioned in a document in the 9th century under the name “Antibarium”, which should mean something like “across from Bari” (in Italy).
After the Romans came the Byzantines, the fortifications that are still visible today date from the Venetian period from 1443 to 1571, then Bar came under Turkish rule and was destroyed in the course of the War of Independence in 1878. When exactly 101 years later a severe earthquake shook the city, Bar was finally abandoned and Novi Bar was built. Unfortunately, only ruins remained of the 30 Renaissance palaces and 16 churches and monasteries.
Kotor and its Viewpoints
Kotor is probably the most well known town in Montenegro. It has a big cruise ship dock so in normal times, this place sees hundreds of tourists a day flood into the old town. Nevertheless, it is absolutely worth the visit for the old town and the hike to the San Giovanni fortress.
The hike is my favorite thing to do in Kotor and affords you stunning views of the bay and town. I came here twice and on my second visit during the times of COVID, there were hardly any people around. There was still a street vendor selling beers at the top of the fortress so I had a nice Nikšićko beer with a beautiful sunset.
Budva Old Town
Budva is one of the most important tourist cities in Montenegro , not least because of its beautiful beaches . Due to the predominantly Serbian guests, Budva is also jokingly referred to as the “home beach of Belgrade”, meanwhile Russian holidaymakers also find their way to the dreamlike Budva. The tourist offer is correspondingly large.
Budva is ancient. According to mythology, Budva was founded over 2,500 years ago by Kadmos, son of the Phoenician king Agenor, after he was exiled from Thebes. An old cemetery was uncovered between the city walls and the mountains, the graves of which were dug from the 4th to the 6th centuries.
The current city walls date from the Middle Ages, the oldest and now lowest parts were built by the Phoenicians, the rest by the Venetians and Austrians. The most important part of the city fortifications is the citadel on the hill. Its appearance today also comes from the Austrians, who even built their own small bakery for self-sufficiency. In addition, the small church of Sveti Marija had to give way, the frescoes of which can now be found on the west and north walls of the citadel. In addition to the wonderful view, a café and a restaurant are part of today’s offerings at the Citadel. Outdoor events are often held here in summer.
Located near the Southern border with Albania, Ulcinj is beautiful town built along the hills with a beautiful bay. Given its proximity to Albania, I was told that this is the Albanian Mallorca as people from Tirana pile into the place for the summer months.
I stayed here since it was so close to Albania and used it as a base to explore other parts of Montenegro. However, if you are visiting, then you only really need to visit the old town which is perched up on a cliff overlooking the ocean.
The old town is not as lavish as Budva but it has its own charms with beautiful stone stairs and a big fortress. The real winner here are the views. As it’s located right on the water and facing west, you get some of the best sunsets in Montenegro here.
Panoramic Route 3
Montenegro’s panoramic roads will take you on a journey through the varied landscape, culture and nature of this small, lovable country. On the four different routes between the beautiful Adriatic coast and the wild and romantic mountains of the north there is a lot to discover. Connecting routes also make it possible to take shortcuts or connect several panoramic roads. No matter if you are travelling by car, motorbike or camper: Discover Montenegro on your own on an ultimate road trip.
If you have a car, make sure to road trip around the Panoramic Route 3. This is a well marked road that goes throughout Montenegro that highlights its beautiful natural sights.
I didn’t do the entire road as it literally goes for a thousand kilometers. However, I did go from Lake Shkoder to Kotor passing through big mountain valleys with absolutely beautiful views of the water. The lake itself is a bit of an archipelago that makes you feel like you’re in the ocean as opposed to the lake.
Make sure to stop along the way to get some cafe to soak in all the beautiful views.
Horizontal Cafe – Bay of Kotor
Along the Panoramic Road 3, you will pass through the windy roads that lead down towards the Bay of Kotor. This is one of the most picturesque parts of MOntenegro in my opinion as you can see the ocean on one side and its beautiful rocky peaks on the other.
There’s no where better to take in this view than from the Horizontal Cafe at the top of the mountain that overlooks the entire valley. You can see Kotor and the neighboring villages from high up. The restaurant has outdoor seating along a sloped decline where they’ve set up little tables along each step.
Grab a wine here, take some photos, and enjoy just how beautiful Montenegro is!
The Serbian Orthodox rock monastery Ostrog is with Piva and Morača near Kolašin the most important pilgrimage site in Montenegro and one of the most visited in the entire Balkan region, because it is considered a truly miraculous site .
To make the monastery impregnable, the Bishop of Herzegovina decided to build it in the middle of the mountain. 7 years after his death he asked the new bishop in a dream for his exhumation, which was granted to him. Miraculously, his body showed no signs of decay – a miracle that was known far beyond the borders of Europe and from then on lured Orthodox, Catholics and Muslims to the magical place in the middle of Montenegro.
The mortal remains of the bishop rest in St. Mary’s Church to this day. Miracles can also be marveled at in the other two churches of the monastery: a grenade that for some inexplicable reason did not explode and a grapevine that, despite all botanical laws, grows out of the middle of the stone.
Built between 1937 and 1940, Djurdjevica Tara Bridge (or simple: Tara Bridge), represent one of the most visited attraction in Montenegro. Hundreds of buses with thousands of tourists every year come to visit this marvellous combination of nature and construction.
Near the bridge, there are restaurants where you can relax and enjoy the unique view. Also, do not forget that in addition to photos, take some of the many souvenirs (from magnets, cups, decorative plates, to hand-made carpets, t-shirts, etc).
172 meters above the Tara River, this bridge at the time he finished, was the biggest vehicular concrete arch bridge in Europe. The bridge on Tara has always been a great inspiration to many artists, and its magnificent beauty are admired even renowned architects and engineers.
Near the bridge, there are many places to visit, but certainly for those who prefer a real adventure, we recommend rafting on Tara.
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