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Montenegro. Think Less. Travel More. Tells You Why You Should Be Here Now.


MONTENEGRO. 

The Travel More. Guide

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Montenegro. Think Less. Travel More. Tells You Why You Should Be Here Now.


MONTENEGRO. 

The Travel More. Guide

THE FAIRYTALE COUNTRY YOU DIDN'T KNOW EXISTED.

Think Europe is better left to the study abroad crowd and the retirees? Think again, my friend.  Eastern Europe is reestablishing it's identity in the vacuum left by the Soviet's retreat and countries like Croatia have blown up with travelers over the last decade. 

A touch to the south and most likely even more off your radar? Montenegro.

The natural beauty jam-packed into this Connecticut-sized nation makes it a destination in its own right, but that's before we even get started on the rich cultural history and fresh take on traditional European staples-- fine dining and stunning architecture.

Trust us, you won't find overly dramatized military monuments or hunks of utilitarian concrete here-- this former-Socialist state is all sweeping mountain views and stunning beaches.

Interested in exploring the new Eastern Europe? Our in-depth guide will have you hopping the Atlantic faster than you can say, "Think Less. Travel More."

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Travel More. Guide To Montenegro


FIRST, A BRIEF (BUT NOT SO ANCIENT) HISTORY LESSON.

Travel More. Guide To Montenegro


FIRST, A BRIEF (BUT NOT SO ANCIENT) HISTORY LESSON.

the newest country in Europe

MONTENEGRO'S SOVEREIGNTY WAS ESTABLISHED IN THE AFTERMATH OF YUGOSLAVIA' DISSOLUTION. 

It's location on the Adriatic Sea has made it hotly contested by world powers throughout history despite its constant struggle to maintain its independence, although we're happy to say that the modern day result is a nation with a healthy, hopeful sense of self colored with a rich and diverse history.

The name Montenegro means 'Black Mountain', which we figured was most likely because of the ever-present peaks, but is actually the name of a resistance stronghold during the Turkish occupation. Whatever the backstory, the country boasts 5 exquisite and unique national parks within a landmass roughly the size of the US state of Connecticut, making it an outdoorsman's paradise just begging to be explored.

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Travel More. Guide To Montenegro


WHERE THE F*CK IS MONTENEGRO?

 

Travel More. Guide To Montenegro


WHERE THE F*CK IS MONTENEGRO?

 

the country's compact size makes travel easy, especially if you're pressed for time. 

That said, access into Montenegro is somewhat limited despite the two international airports within it's borders (Podgorica and Tivat). Lucky for you, Dubrovnik airport in southern Croatia is much more heavily trafficked and offers regular bus service that will get you to Montenegro in about 3-4 hours.

If you're working with a more flexible budget, you best bet is to fly into Podgorica for a fairly central starting point, or if you belong to the Kardashian clan, there's a superyacht marina being build in Tivat as we speak.

Travel to Montenegro can be accomplished in one of two ways, properly or on a cruise ship. If you’re interested in cruises then you should probably look elsewhere as we won’t be covering that here
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Explore Montenegro. Costs And Budgeting.


 

COST & BUDGETING.

What to expect.

Explore Montenegro. Costs And Budgeting.


 

COST & BUDGETING.

What to expect.

FOOD. $10/Day

Nowhere in Montenegro (with the exception of Sveti Stefan) is expensive, but the Eastern reaches are particularly pleasant on your pocket -- 2 people can eat a 3-course meal with several beers for under 20 Euros.

 

ACCOMMODATION. $10/Night

Kotor has a bunch of new hostels that offer comfortable accommodation at very reasonable prices. Our editor report that throughout the country (including Kotor) there were tons of affordable AirBnB solutions for the hostel-averse. 

 

TRANSPORTATION.

Public transport is not the country's strength, although there are buses and ferries to ease your journey if you can't rent a car.

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What to Expect In Montenegro: Vibe & Crowd Factor.


 

VIBE & CROWD FACTOR.

What to Expect In Montenegro: Vibe & Crowd Factor.


 

VIBE & CROWD FACTOR.

People Vibe.

LOCALS.

English is very prevalent in all the tourist areas, and anyone else you encounter will be able to handle at least a cursory amount.

This is a good thing because it means you'll get to communicate with the locals -- the location and lack of tourism in Montenegro engenders genuine hospitality like few other places on the European continent.

OTHER TOURISTS.

The only place where you're likely to notice other tourists at the moment is in the Bay of Kotor or Kotor town where the cruise ship crew shuffles around during the day (though you'll have it to yourself after dark). That said, new hostels are springing up -- meaning the backpackers and other budget travelers are most likely on their way.

Even though Montenegro is new as a nation and largely under-the-radar for Westerners, it has long been a common coastal vacation area for Russia and Eastern Europe.  Some coastal towns, most notably Petrovac, are going to have Russian as the most prevalent alternative to the local language. 

 

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Explore Montenegro. Food & Drink.


Food & Drink, Montenegro Style.

Explore Montenegro. Food & Drink.


Food & Drink, Montenegro Style.

FOOD.

You'll find Konobas, or authentic local restaurants, in almost all of the cities that dot the beautiful coastline. The low volume of tourism means it's strictly a local affair -- it's not uncommon to see the owner hauling in the evening's catch while his wife tends bar.

And it's a deal. A three course meal for two (plus several beers) will set you back nothing more than 20 Euros at all but the finest establishments.

 

DRINK.

Head to Budva, the requisite coastal party town, if you're looking to get down.

Elsewhere it's not uncommon to find homemade Montenegrin hawked out of plastic soda bottles. Not your speed? The beer is cheap. 'Nuff said.

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Montenegro. The Rad & The Bad.


Because Montenegro is a special kind of place, we're giving it a special kind of guide.

Montenegro. The Rad & The Bad.


Because Montenegro is a special kind of place, we're giving it a special kind of guide.

Given Montenegro's teeny tiny size, we've decided to mix things up a bit and forgo the format used by our other Travel More. Country Guides

Instead of highlights and lowlights, our Montenegro editor has outlined a more specific itinerary so you can plot your big adventure, after which we share detailed descriptions and recommendations for each of the cities and points of interest mentioned.

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Explore Montenegro. Think Less. Travel More's Recommended Itineraries.


 

 

THE GRAND TOUR.

 

Explore Montenegro. Think Less. Travel More's Recommended Itineraries.


 

 

THE GRAND TOUR.

 

(BEST IF YOU CAN GET YOUR OWN WHEELS)

 

1. FIRST STOP: BAY OF KOTOR.

Known as "The Fjord of the Mediterranean", this is the single most striking of Montenegro's many impressive natural landmarks.

2. KOTOR.

Home to an amazingly well-preserved castle wall, Kotor is best during an evening walk on the pedestrian-only streets.

3. VISIT THE ISLANDS OFF OF PERAST.

Hope on a ferry or rent a stand up paddle board and navigate the bay.

4. CETINJE.

Play king and queen in Montenegro's old royal capital.

5. THE DRIVE TO PADGORICA, VIA LAKE SKADAR.

Phew, this one is jam-packed with adventure of all shapes and sizes. You'll pass yacht-haven Tivat, modern-meets-ancient Herceg Novi, the requisite coastal party town of Budva, picturesque Sveti Stefan, Russian beach destination Petrovac, the ruins of Stari Bar AND Ulcinj, the only majority-Albanian city in the country and the host to the best beaches in the country. 

6. LAKE SKADAR.

If you're a bird fan, a stop here will put you in contact with more migratory species than practically anywhere else. If not, no judgement. There are a ton of old villages and fortresses to keep you occupied.

7. BIOGRADSKA GORA NATIONAL PARK.

Stop at the quiet town of Kolasin and pop into this park, which houses one of the last virgin forests in Europe. 

8. THE ROADTRIP TO ZABLIAK.

Get your adreneline fix rafting or ziplining the deepest canyon in Europe and then head north to Zabliak, a ski town that's worth visiting no matter the season. 

9. DURMITOR NATIONAL PARK & BLACK LAKE.

Just outside Zabliak you'll find crystal clear glacial pools and the stunning Black Lake on your way to Durmitor.

10. THE MONASTERY ON THE WAY BACK TO KOTOR.

Even the drive back to Kotor holds something new -- make sure to check this monastary out if an Orthodox pilgrimage site with cave churches sounds like more fun than Biogradska Gora en route from Durmitor to Kotor.

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Explore Montenegro. What To Do And Where To Go, Straight From The Experts.


 

A closer look at the highlights of Montenegro, straight from our expert.

 

Explore Montenegro. What To Do And Where To Go, Straight From The Experts.


 

A closer look at the highlights of Montenegro, straight from our expert.

 

HOT TIPS FROM EURO-CONTRIBUTOR ANDY ELLIS AFTER HIS RECENT MONTENEGRIAN ADVENTURE.

The Bay of Kotor.

The singular most striking of Montenegro’s many impressive outdoor fixtures, unfortunately it also has the heaviest tourism influence (it still isn’t that bad). 

 A panoramic view of the bay.

A panoramic view of the bay.

Montenegro’s coast is situated along the Adriatic Sea which is itself nestled within the Mediterranean East of Italy. 

The Bay of Kotor is often referred to as “the fjord of the Mediterranean,” and though it is geologically inaccurate, appearance-wise, the name fits.The sea snakes it’s way inland with large mountains looming from either side creating a distinctly upper Scandinavian appearance with a Mediterranean climate; pretty tough to beat. 

There are a number of towns dotted along the contours of the Bay including the castle town of the Bay’s namesake, Kotor.

KOTOR.

The town of Kotor has a well preserved castle wall and the buildings within are populated with the expected hotels, restaurants, and the occasional souvenir shop; however, unlike similar walled towns of the West, there is also a local scene with more mundane shopping/ cafes. 

The city is at its best during the evening as you traverse the pedestrian only streets and the cruise ship crowds have shuffled back aboard their boat and the souvenir shops have closed their doors.
 A classic restaurant in the wonderfully untouristed part of the old walled city in Kotor.

A classic restaurant in the wonderfully untouristed part of the old walled city in Kotor.

 Boats in the bay of Kotor.

Boats in the bay of Kotor.

Due to its location midway between Italy and Greece, Kotor contains both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, far more than you would expect in a town of its size.  

Outside of the town of Kotor there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities in the mountains and the sea, however, due to smaller tourist crowds, the options for equipment are not plentiful. 

Sure, you can hop on a ferry for 5 Euros but getting there on your power makes the whole experience a lot cooler.
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There is one excellent purveyor of outdoor adventure on the Bay of Kotor located in the town of Tivat, Montenegro +. They offer guided tours of some pretty awesome spots as well as equipment rentals to include: mountain bikes, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards. Traversing the Bay by water can be a little dicey but is ultimately worth it.

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There are two islands in the Bay just off the coast of the town of Perast, one is natural and the other is man-made with the exception of an initial singular rocky prominence. The legend is that man-made island was put into place over many years after sailors found an icon of Madonna in 1452 on the existing rock.  Since that time, sailors have been placing rocks around the island upon returning from successful voyages and had accumulated enough land mass by the 17th Century to build a church.

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Though you may be tempted to grab food from the larger towns around the Bay, you can find one or two restaurants (or Konobas) in most of the villages that are dotted around the coastline.

The location and lack of volume engenders authenticity like few other places on the European continent. It is not far fetched to find the owners as the primary workers or, in the photo to the right, procuring the fresh catch while his brother tends the bar.

Part of the beauty of the area is that getting lost is half of the fun and finding your way back to a known point isn’t a tall order due to the unique geographic features.

CETINJE.

Leaving Kotor, there are few routes to choose but the most impressive is to follow the old road to the old royal capital Cetinje which has seemingly infinite switchbacks at a gnarly incline; not recommended for the faint of heart (for that matter, driving anywhere in Montenegro is not for the trepidatious). There are also buses back to the capital and back to Dubrovnik but a car, if you can swing it, opens up a lot of possibilities.

Public transit is not a strength of Montenegro, however figuring out a way into the heart of the country is rewarding.

Heading out of Kotor the windy road climbs a mountain overlooking the Bay that will take you through Locven National Park to Cetinje. Lovcen National Park has some nice mountainous views and historical significance to the Montenegrin national identity, but it is not as visually striking as the parks further West. 

It’s worthwhile to check out if you are aren’t going to stray further from the coast or if you have an abundance of time, though I wouldn’t recommend that you go out of your way to make it happen if you’re pressed for time or have other options.
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Perhaps the most impressive feature of Lovcen National Park is the mausoleum built for Petar Petrović Njegoš' on the top of Mount Lovcen. Petar is largely revered for helping to usher Montenegro into modernity during his time as the Prince-Bishop in the 1800s.

His remains had been moved several times by the various powers that held sway in Montenegro and now rest in the Communist built memorial on the mountain top. After passing Lovcen, you will head through Cetinje and on to Podgorica.

 

Road Trip To Lake Skadar.

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The other route that passes back through the capital skirts around the mountains (mostly) and takes you down the coast and then across Lake Skadar.  The rugged terrain and Mediterranean climate create a diverse and beautiful landscape that offers a range of visual experiences over its 183 miles of Adriatic coast.

There are worthwhile stops dotted along the entire length: Kotor (as mentioned previously), Tivat (the yacht haven), Herceg Novi (modern industrial city with partially preserved old town), Budva (requisite coastal party town), Sveti Stefan (picturesque islet town turned luxury resort), Petrovac (Russian beach vacation destination), Bar (home to extensive ruins of Stari Bar on the outskirts), and Ulcinj (possibly the best beaches in the country and the only majority-Albanian city in Montenegro).

You’ll encounter border patrol types that ensure the Albanian black-market appetite for human trafficking does not infringe upon Montenegrin soil; Taken was not produced totally out of thin air.

Once you have made your way back across the gigantic Lake Skadar, you'll be on your way back to Podgorica. If you happen to be into watching birds, stopping at Lake Skadar can put you in contact with more migratory species than practically anywhere else, additionally there are loads of old villages and fortresses.

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Podgorica has many of the features one expects in a capital city, but nothing spectacularly unique worth mentioning. Continue East in the direction of Kolasin, there you will be in close range to Biogradska Gora National park which is one of the last virgin forests in Europe and recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its unspoilt biodiversity. There are a number of hikes that afford views of beautiful lakes and pristine forests. 

KOLASIN.

Kolasin as a town is pretty quiet but it provides easy food and lodging near to Biogradska. If you head North (and you should), you’ll meet Zabljak. 

The Road To Zablijak.

On the route to Zabljak you will run parallel to the deepest Canyon in Europe as the Tara River courses below. Spanning the gorge is one of the longest concrete bridges in the world and it was an important strategic element in World War II.

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In fact, the original builder helped to sabotage it only two years after completion to thwart occupying Italian forces. Nowadays you can raft down the river or zipline across the canyon for thrills. There are several companies that can take you out, this is one of the easier activities to get organized while in country.

Zabljak.

Beyond the bridge, it’s only about a half hour extra to Zabljak.

Zabljak is a ski resort town in the winter time, however speaking from hearsay, rather than experience, Montenegro mountains are much more enjoyable in the summer than in the snow.

Durmitor National Park.

Just outside Zabljak is the Durmitor National Park which is full of crystal clear glacial lakes, rivers teeming with fish, and hiking for days. The ‘Black Lake’ is within walking distance of the town center and is the starting point for a whole host of hikes, but even strolling the circumference of shoreline is breathtaking. 

There is a small fee (less than 5 euros) to enter the park and you will see local peddling freshly picked mushrooms, berries, honey, and other local fare. It’s not uncommon to see homemade Montenegrin moonshine being hawked while being distributed in reused plastic soda bottles. There are tons of outdoor activities across the board in Durmitor, but it’s absolutely incredible to figuratively dip your toes into the water as well.

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I wasn’t able to puzzle out the origin of its name, but it isn’t too difficult to imagine what prompted the locals to refer to these lakes as the ‘eyes of the mountain.’
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Back To Kotor.

If you head back West through the heart of the country back toward Kotor, there is an impressive monastery carved out of cliff walls. I didn’t make it there during our trip, but it is another option if an Orthodox pilgrimage site  with cave churches sounds like more fun than Biogradska Gora en route from Kotor to Durmitor. 

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Explore Montenegro: What You Need To Know Before You Go.


KNOW BEFORE YOU GO.

Explore Montenegro: What You Need To Know Before You Go.


KNOW BEFORE YOU GO.

Language.

The main language spoken in Montenegro is Montenegrin, but the native tongue is only nominally different from Serbian, Croatian, and most other nation-centric languages of the now dissolved Yugoslavia. If you don’t happen to speak the aforementioned tongues or lack any Slavic linguistic awareness, you’ll still be in pretty good shape, though English things out as you get farther away from the coast.

 

CRIME.

Thankfully not much of a concern, though use common sense (duh). 

If you're passing Lake Skadar, you'll see the border patrol standing guard -- apparently they're there to ensure the Albanian-driven human trafficking market does not creep onto the country (Apparently Taken was not produced entirely out of thin air).

 

Dangers.

Montenegro is one of the last European countries to have wild wolves and bears roaming the mountains. We're mentioning that so we don't feel bad if you get eaten by a bear, though it seems unlikely.

 


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