Montenegro may be a pint-sized country, but it has a heck of a lot to offer. It’s starring feature is its glorious coastline, showcasing dramatic mountains a stone’s throw from the prisitine waters of the Bay of Kotor and the Adriatic Sea. Here are six spots that offer different types of holidays along Montenegro’s coast.
Budva – Beachside Feast
Budva is a vibrant city situated on the Adriatic Sea that is extremely popular with Russian tourists looking for a beach vacation without breaking the bank on airfares. Its popularity with Russian tourists means that Budva has an established tourism industry with a broad array of hotels, resorts and tour companies providing day trips as far afoot as Dubrovnik in Croatia. Particularly enticing is the range of restaurants that can be found along the city’s waterfront boulevard.
Visitors here have several beaches to choose from with all the utilities you would expect. By far the most popular is the beach found right in front of the city centre, but smaller beaches found in the coves to the west of the old town offer a beautiful backdrop. There are also beaches to be found on the island of Sveti Nikola just a short boat ride from town. Near most of the beaches you can find resorts, from ones that are really spread out to blocks of apartments.
Aside from the beach, there are tons of bars, cafes and restaurants to gorge yourself at. And yes, there’s also the old town. The walled old town sits by the port and its narrow alleys surround a small fort with views of Budva. But the old town really isn’t the main draw here; it’s beaches, restaurants, bars and clubs. So if you’re idea of a break on the Montenegrin coast is swimming, sunbathing, eating, drinking and partying, then Budva is what you’re looking for.
Perast – Peace in Private
A small town resting on the shores of Kotor Bay, Perast is not exactly a big name. It’s probably best known for the two islands that lie nearby and draw tour boats from Kotor throughout the day. Like many spots on Montenegro’s coast, it’s wedged between the water and huge, looming mountains, so it’s definitely an atmospheric spot. If you’re looking for a serene spot by the water, away from any hustle and bustle, Perast is perfect.
Being a small, old town there isn’t a whole lot in the way of activities. Sightseeing in Perast is really just the boat ride over to the two islands of St George and Our Lady of the Rocks. Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful but it won’t keep an active person occupied for long. Thankfully, Perast is a short drive/bus ride from the much larger city of Kotor, so you can always head there during the day when you feel the need. But at the end of the day, if you just want to swim and relax in a quiet bayside town then Perast is what you’re after.
Tivat and Porto Montenegro – Yacht Life
Tivat is a subdued spot, quite close to the larger and more popular Kotor, but it has a secret weapon – Porto Montenegro. While Tivat is modest and has a local feel, the marina at Porto Montenegro is essentially the equivalent of Italy’s Portofino. This harbour is full of yachts from all over and the luxurious marina is the definition of upscale, complete with glamorous hotels, restaurants and shopping boutiques. Thankfully Porto Montenegro is open to the public, so people like me can wander around too, people watch and fantasize about living the life of luxury.
For those that can’t afford to stay in Porto Montenegro, Tivat offers a much cheaper alternative. Tivat has all the non-upscale cafes and restaurants, not to mention a nice waterfront of its own. Plus there are beaches to the north of both Porto Montenegro and Tivat, so where you stay doesn’t impact your access to these. Speaking of access, Tivat is accessible by bus from Budva and Kotor and is actually the closest town to the area’s airport – Tivat Airport. This means that for those coming in by plane or yacht, Tivat and Porto Montenegro is the most convenient place to put your feet up.
Herceg Novi – Family Friendly
Herceg Novi is probably the least well known to tourists of the spots mentioned here. A city that lies just shy of the northern border with Croatia, Herceg Novi isn’t flashy but it is comfortable. The city seems to have everything you could need for a beach holiday but with a more mild, family friendly atmosphere. The steep old town has hotels, restaurants and cafes but also just locals living their everyday life. A great thing for families too is the large pool complex by the harbour for those not wanting to swim in the directly adjacent bay.
As Herceg Novi is near the border and on the far side of the Bay of Kotor, it’s the furthest from everywhere else here. But you can still get to places like Kotor in under an hour. The city’s location does however make visiting Dubrovnik for a day trip a really viable option. If you do choose to remain in town, climbing up the city’s fortifications is quite interesting and gives you some spectacular views of the bay and mountains. Because of it’s more modest appearance, you’re liking to get better value for money here than elsewhere along the coast. Cheap and cheerful, Herceg Novi provides a sedate, family friendly option on the Bay of Kotor.
Sveti Stefan – Total Luxury
If you can afford it then the Islet of Sveti Stefan beckons you. This private island off the shores of Montenegro hosts a resort inside a former fortified village. If you can’t afford it, there are much cheaper alternatives in the town opposite on the mainland. Either way, just getting a glimpse of this gorgeous spot is a good idea.
When it comes to things to do in the town of Sveti Stefan it comes down to appreciating the view and enjoying the beach because it’s a tiny place. Not having had the privilege of staying at the hotel Aman Sveti Stefan, I’m not sure what’s available to guests but I can imagine whatever it is is nice.
Just a heads up for beachgoers, there are two seemingly identical beaches either side of the bridge to the island. However, there is one distinguishing aspect, the price of entry. When facing the island, the left beach has free public access, while the right beach is the island hotel’s private beach with a hefty price tag of €75! This means that the beach on the right is generally empty but it does sell Aman Sveti Stefan’s key asset – exclusivity.
Kotor – Immersive Old Town
The true darling of Montenegro’s coast is the city of Kotor, so I have left the best for last. If you’re uncertain on where to go then Kotor is probably your best bet. Right at one of the ends of the Bay of Kotor lies this pristine old town home to beautiful Venetian architecture and a labyrinth of winding alleys only accessible to pedestrians. Walking through the town you feel immersed in it’s historical and cultural atmosphere more than most of places to which I’ve been – Kotor feels paused in time.
But old doesn’t mean uncomfortable or run down. There are a surprising range of hostels, hotels and restaurants to support the spectrum of tourist types. Particularly in the bigger squares, you’ve got heaps of options for outdoor cafes and dining, both Montenegrin and international cuisine. There are also plenty of tour companies and tourist agencies to support further exploration, not to mention the city being a significant cruise port. Outside the old town walls are all the comforts you’d expect from a city, including a mall just a few blocks from the old town.
For those that are more active or seeking some great views, the hillside immediately behind town has a lot to offer. Walking up the hillside to the churches and Castle of San Giovanni is tough but the views of Kotor and out over the bay are breathtaking and unforgettable. A tougher challenge is the hike up over the immediate mountains and into Lovcen National Park offered by hostels and tourist agencies. For more details on Lovcen see this article on Cetinje which is on the far side of the national park.
If you want to experience the history and culture of Montenegro in a remarkable setting that knows how to look after visitors then Kotor is the place to be.
Getting around Montenegro’s Coast
One of the great things about Montenegro’s diminutive size is that it makes getting places incredibly easy, whether by car or public transport. In fact, all of the destinations mentioned here can be easy day trips from each other.
When it comes to getting around, all of these towns are on the same bus route that runs from the nation’s capital of Podgorica to Herceg Novi on the northern end of the coast. However, I’d really recommend looking into hiring a car for Montenegro. Due to the country’s geography, Montenegro plays host to some amazing drives and the freedom to explore these is well worth the cost of a hire car. Also, the bus network is mostly limited to the bigger towns, which makes venturing into the nearby countryside a little tougher.
Have you explored Montenegro’s coast? Where did you stay? Where did you like? Please share in the comments.
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