Elsewhere: The Old Royal Capital Cetinje, Montenegro

Small Montenegrin town, steeped in history on the doorstop of a beautiful mountainous national park.

Nowadays Cetinje is just a small town on the edge of a large national park, but it once was a far more important part of Montenegro. Cetinje was actually a regional capital from 1482 and capital of Montenegro from 1878 until the forming of Yugoslavia. At certain stages of history, it was the only sliver of the country not regularly occupied by the neighbouring Venetians and Ottomans.

 

Cetinje

Cetinje today is designated the Old Royal Capital and is just a humble town on the road between Podgorica, the nation’s capital of government, and the popular coastal town of Budva. Since Montenegro is still an emerging tourist destination – and the tourists it does receive head to its gorgeous coastline – inland spots like Cetinje are still relatively untouched by tourism.

Cipur Church, Cetinje
Cipur Church

 

Chapels and Tombs

In the town itself there are a number of churches, museums and a monastery to visit. The Monastery of Saint Peter is highly regarded as one of the nicest in the country and the nearby Cipur Chapel is quite interesting, sitting among the ruins of another monastery. There is also the Tomb of Danilov, former king of Montenegro, resting on a small hill a short walk out of town. It’s quite a nice memorial and gives you a better view of neighbouring Lovcen National Park. Visiting Cetinje gives you a sense of the country’s history and what small Montenegrin town life is like.

 

Lovcen National Park

Its proximity to Lovcen National Park is another good reason to visit. While it’s popular to hike to Lovcen from the town of Kotor on the far side of the park, Cetinje makes for an easier base to visit. The National Park consists of wooded undulating hills, littered with karst rocks and hiking trails with several impressive mountains sprouting out. If you have a car, the drive to the park won’t take too long and you’ll enjoy the twisting roads that lead you all the way to Njegoš’s Mausoleum on Jezerski Peak. If you don’t have a car, your only real option is to hire a taxi to take you up and back, or as I did, drop you in the park and let you hike up and down.

Lovcen National Park, Cetinje
Craggy rocks and forest in Lovcen National Park

Regardless of how you get there, Njegoš’s Mausoleum is worth the trip up. This monument built in the 70s, is reached by a set of 461 steps, partly in a long winding tunnel that reaches near pitch black. The lavish mausoleum is dedicated to Petar II Petrovic-Njegos, the country’s prince for a stretch in the 19th century and a renowned poet. While the tombs tread the line between solemn and decadent, the real highlight of the mausoleum is the circular viewpoint behind, with views as far as Kotor on a clear day.

Njegos' Mausoleum
Njegos’ Mausoleum

 

Getting There and Staying There

Cetinje is just off the highway between Podgorica and Budva, which is serviced by regular buses making it easy to get to by public transport. On the bus, it’s an hour from Podgorica and 30 minutes from Budva. Despite this ease of public transport, I would still probably recommend renting a car because there really are some impressive stretches of road through this mountainous country and it would be a shame to miss out driving them like I did.

Regardless of how you get there, Cetinje makes an easy day trip from the capital or the coast but there is enough to see and do to warrant staying a night or two. When I visited, I stayed in a newly opened guesthouse on the edge of town. With just two rooms so far, I had a 3 room apartment complete with lounge room and kitchen for less than 25€ a night. Outside the guesthouse, a large fruit and vegetable garden was being grown providing things like fresh strawberries for breakfast. These small guesthouses are where you will find the overly generous hospitality of the Montenegrin people.

Guesthouse Gardens, Cetinje
Beautiful gardens leading to my guesthouse

While in Cetinje, I’d thoroughly recommend enjoying a Njeguski Stek, a chicken steak stuffed with cheese and a prosciutto from the nearby village of Njegusi, birthplace of the previously mentioned Petar II Petrovic-Njegos. While much of Montenegrin cuisine is similar to that of neighbouring Bosnia and Serbia, this is very much a local delicacy found throughout town.

Cetinje is a modest town with some interesting history, close to some of the highlights of Montenegro but still retaining a sense of quiet, small town life.

 


Have you been to Cetinje? Let me know how you liked it in the comments below.

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