Have you heard of Montenegro? Chances are you have because you’ve landed on my one week in Montenegro itinerary.
However, typically when I tell people I spent a week in this tiny Balkan country this summer they have no idea where I’m talking about. I get comments like “That’s a city in Croatia, right?” or a very confused “Oh, sounds cool!” with a tone that suggests that they have no idea where that is and are too embarrassed to ask. However, the confusion merited because this stunning coastal country has only actually been an established country since 2006. And it is far less visited then it’s big sister to the north – the very popular Croatia.
SO, SHOULD I VISIT MONTENEGRO OR CROATIA?
I must first disclose that have never been to Croatia (aside from the Dubrovnik airport), so I can only speak to the stories I have heard from others. When we began planning our summer holidays, we were pretty set on spending a week or two in Croatia. I’d heard all about the amazing coastline and beaches, and it had been at the top of my bucket list for years. However, after talking to friends, family, and other travellers who had been there over the last couple years, I kept hearing the same story. Croatia is, of course, beautiful – but it has become very busy, expensive, and very touristy.
Upon doing more research about the Balkans, I began to look at Montenegro and Albania. I learned that they were both cheap, offered similar picturesque coastline, and were significantly less busy than Croatia. It didn’t take much for more to be convinced – we decided that Montenegro was the Croatian alternative we were looking for (and we’re saving Albania for hopefully next summer!).
WHY DO YOU NEED TO VISIT MONTENEGRO?
Well, where do I start? First off, the coastline is straight out of a postcard. Couple that with scaling mountains, clear turquoise waters, the most friendly locals, amazing food, and affordable prices, and you have a recipe for the perfect week long vacation.
Are you planning a trip to Montenegro? Here is everything you need to plan your one week in Montenegro itinerary.
WHERE IS MONTENEGRO?
Are you still confused about this fairly new Balkan country? Are you wonder where in the world is Montenegro?
Montenegro is a tiny country that lies directly south of, along the same coastline as, Croatia. And when I say small, I mean SMALL. It’s roughly 13,000 km squared with only ~622,00 inhabitants. Despite it’s small size, it is home to nearly 300 kilometres of mountainous Adriatic coastline, of which 70 kilometres of filled with beaches. And the most southern fjord in Europe: the Bay of Kotor.
See Also: If you as amazed by fjords as I am, read about my time exploring the Norwegian fjords.
HOW TO GET TO MONTENEGRO?
Montenegro has two international airports that visitors commonly fly into: Podgorica and Tivat. These locations have direct flights to many places in Europe, and serve as the easiest way to enter Montenegro.
Alternatively, if you’re headed to the Bay of Kotor or nothern Montenegro, you can fly to Dubrovnik. We opted for this option because it offered us the opportunity to fly direct from Copenhagen, and the flights were much more affordable. However, although a popular option, flying into Dubrovnik comes with a unique set of challenges: crossing the Croatian-Montenegrin border.
Prior to making this journey, I heard about and read about how difficult this process can be, especially if you are arriving by bus. I read about stories of queuing for hours at the Croatian border, only to have the bus be pulled in for hours for passport control. I was determined to avoid this chaos. So, we opted to hire a private driver to get us to Montenegro. We scheduled a car through Airports Taxi Transfers for 80 euros each way. The driver took us from the airport directly to our Airbnb and the border crossing process was a breeze (mind you, there was very little traffic). The whole transfer took only two hours door to door, and based on the experiences that I’ve heard about from others, I’m still convinced it was the best 160 euros I’ve ever spent.
TRANSPORTATION IN MONTENEGRO
What’s the best way to travel around Montenegro? Is there a public transportation system in Montenegro? I had so many questions about transportation in Montenegro that I found very difficult to answer prior to going. So I’m here to spill all the tea on the ins and outs of Kotor Bay transportation.
Driving in Montenegro
Can you rent a car in Montenegro? Sure! However, full disclosure, I have never experienced anything quite like Balkan drivers. They drive in the middle of narrow, winding two-lane highways with little consideration for oncoming traffic, and quickly swerve around cars as they approach them. And speed limits – what are those? Needless to say, I would be personally a bit too scared to drive on these roads, but if you feel confident that you can navigate the craziness, renting a car is absolutely the easiest way to get around Montenegro.
Buses in Montenegro
To travel within the Bay of Kotor, we often used the bus system. Similar to the residential drivers, the bus drivers don’t seem to obey the traditional rules of the road (for example, we had a bus driver quite literally roll up to every stop, open the door, and keep slowly rolling while passengers hopped out). With that being said, I still felt way more secure in a bus than in a car. And the buses run regularly between towns, and are very affordable.
Taxis in Montenegro
Are you an rideshare lover like me? Well, sorry to break it to you but there is no Uber in Montenegro (or Lyft).
However, we had our Airbnb host order us a cab a couple times, and there are always plenty of drivers available for hire. For pricing reference it cost us roughly 15-20 euros to get from Perast to Kotor (which was approximately a 20 minute car ride).
Water Taxis in the Bay of Kotor
If your budget has a bit more wiggle room in it, there are water taxis all over the Bay of Kotor that are happy to drop you off where ever you need to go. We entertained this as an option to get from Perast to Kotor, but at 40 euros a ride the price point was outside of our budget.
WHERE TO STAY IN MONTENEGRO?
When we booked our stay in Montenegro, we wanted to spend our time somewhere quiet. Additionally, we only wanted to stay in one place the entire week (which is very unusual for us) in an effort to have some time to relax.
Based on this, we decided to stay in Montenegro’s most beautiful town – Perast. Perast is popular with tourists; however, is not a popular location to rest your head because it lacks nightlife and is generally very quiet (yes, even in July). Many people opt to stay in Budva or Kotor because there is “more to do,” however we loved the quietness of Perast, and could easily travel to Kotor in 20 minutes. Plus, there were plenty of fantastic restaurants and so much to do in the Bay of Kotor that we were never bored.
With that being said, if you are looking for the best beaches in Montenegro, Budva is your spot. It is home to a beautiful coastline filled with beaches and resorts. Also, if you’re looking for the best nightlife in Montenegro, you should stay in Kotor or Budva. Keep in mind, Kotor hosts cruise ships nearly every day in the summer, and therefore it gets very busy inside the Old Town walls during the day. However, it quiets down at night, and there is a lot to do. So ultimately, you can’t go wrong – it all depends on what you’re looking for!
If you have decided to focus your itinerary on the Bay of Kotor like I did, read on for my one week in Montenegro itinerary.
THE BEST APARTMENT IN PERAST
We opted for the cutest Airbnb with the most spectacular views. Seriously – Look. At. These. Views.
Not only were the views of Perast perfect from our apartment, but it had everything we needed: a small kitchen, spacious living space, central location, and air conditioning (which is SO necessary during July in Montenegro). All at a very affordable price of about 60 euros per night.
THINGS TO DO IN THE BAY OF KOTOR
Bay of Kotor Boat Cruise
One of my absolute favourite days in Montenegro was spent at sea with 360monte. We spent the entire day sailing around Montenegro, swimming in caves and submarine tunnels, and taking in the most perfect views. This experience is a must if you’re spending time in the Bay of Kotor.
Swim – Lots!
There is no shortage of places to take a dip in the Bay of Kotor. In fact, one of my favourite things about Perast is that you can swim just about anywhere. The waterfront is lined with docks and stairs that lead into the sea, which provide the perfect setting to jump in any time you please.
Pirate’s Bay Beach Bar
An absolute highlight of our time in Perast was Pirate’s Bay Beach Bar – in fact, we loved it so much we went twice. This spot provides the perfect spot to lounge, swim and indulge in drinks by the sea.
TIP: Stop by and reserve a lounger the day before for only 15 euros (they go fast the morning of). I’d suggest grabbing a front row seat along the dock portion, it was much quieter than the beach, and doesn’t have enough room for people to put down their towels in front of your lounger from unimpeded views 🙂
Walk Up the Walls of Kotor Old Town
For the best views of the Bay of Kotor, you must walk the walls of Kotor Old Town. The walk can be a bit strenuous in the summer heat, but the views at the top are so worth it. Just don’t make the mistake we did, and leave in the morning before the afternoon heat picks up. And bring lots of water.
Explore Kotor Old Town
Kotor’s Old Town is super charming and offers photo opportunities everywhere you turn. For the experience, explore in the evening after the cruise ships leave to avoid the crowds.
Visit of the Cat Museum in Kotor
I know what you’re thinking, a museum about cats – have you lost your mind? Maybe I have. But regardless, this museum is cool. It shows photos of cats that date back centuries, highlighting how they have not only been the best friends of many notable people, but have also been used in advertisements and propaganda since the beginning of time.
It only costs one euro, and supports a good cause.
FUN FACT: Kotor is filled with cats everywhere and it is a known fact that Montenegin’s have a fascination with these little furry friends. In fact, many locals believe that cats saved the town of Kotor and have remained a symbol of good luck ever since. Anddddd, with that said, I present to you my Montenegro cat montage (sorry not sorry, I couldn’t not post these photos).
Visit Our Lady of the Rocks
Located a short boat ride away, and visible from the town of Perast, Our Lady of the Rocks is a man made island that a blue-domed church that rivals the famed Santorini domes.
To get there, you can hire a boat in Perast. There are a ton of boats for hire alongside the water – all you have to do is walk along and hire a driver to take you over. If you’re visiting, I would highly recommend taking a guided tour of the interior of the church, if possible. It was a really cool experience and we learned a lot.
TIP: If you happen to be in Montenegro on July 22nd, you’ll be able to witness an annual ceremony called Fašinada at sunset from Perast. During this ceremony, locals tie a string of boats together and head over to Our Lady of the Rocks. The boats were decorated with flowers while music played. Once at the island, the locals threw rocks into the water surrounding the mad-made island with a goal of preserving the island. It was such a special ceremony to witness. If you’re eager to learn more about the Fašinada tradition, click here.
Kayak in the Bay of Kotor
There are a couple spots along the Perast waterfront to rent kayaks, which we took advantage of. It was a great afternoon water activity!
See Ancient Roman Mosaics
In the town of Risan, the oldest in Montenegro, ancient Roman mosaics were discovered. The mosaics have been preserved to replicated what is believed to be an ancient Roman villa, and can be visited for a small fee. I had no idea that the Bay of Kotor was filled with so much history, and this was really cool to see.
BEST RESTAURANTS IN PERAST
Best Grill: Konoba Školji
We tried several restaurants in Perast, and this one was, quite simply, THE BEST. Affordable. High quality. And most incredibly kind staff. We loved it so much, I felt inclined to write a (lengthy) TripAdvisor review. In case you need convincing, here’s an except from what I wrote:
“Where do I begin with this spot? We stumbled upon it when we were walking down the street in Perast one night, and went it when we noticed the outdoor grill.
We were greeted by the friendliest staff who was eager to provide us with a top notch experience. The atmosphere was perfect, felt very authentic and traditional.
And then, there was the food. All I can say is WOW. We were looking for a local grill meal the first night we went and had the cevapi. The portion was huge and delicious. Our server told us to come back a second night to try the slow cooked lamb, which cooks for several hours throughout the day in a bell hanging over the grill. And it was so good we came back a third night to have the lamb again!
We also tried the salads, with the freshest produce. And the desserts (homemade tiramisu!!). All very highly recommended.
A special shout out goes to our server Momir. He went above and beyond to give us the best service, and offered amazing recommendations. I can’t say enough about all the servers here, and the entire experience. If you’re in Perast, you need to stop here!”
Best Seafood: Hotel Conte & Restaurant
The seafood here is top notch. It has a reputation as the most popular restaurant in Perast – and for good reason. We dined here twice and loved it. It’s a bit on the more expensive side, but still a bargain compared to a similar quality meal in other countries. And the views along the water are perfection, especially at sunset.
TIP: if you want to dine along the water at sunset, make a reservation. It’ll be so worth it.
Best Pizza: Bocalibre
I know what you’re thinking – pizza in Montenegro? Well, if you’re looking for something different from the usual seafood and meat dishes, this spot offers great pizza.
BEST RESTAURANTS IN KOTOR
Best Barbeque: BBQ Tanjga
I truly can’t say enough about this spot for outstanding barbeque. When you walk into the tiny restaurant you’ll be greeted by the staff and asked to pick a platter of meat, as well as sides. You then go around back and they bring you your freshly cooked platter. And whoa, it was SO MUCH food, so arrive hungry and be prepared to eat… and eat and eat.
Best Restaurant in Old Town: Konoba Scala Santa
Full disclosure: We didn’t eat here.
However, I was told by a couple people that according to both tourists and locals, this is the best restaurant in the Old Town.
BONUS: Amazing Cevapi in the Bay of Kotor
Looking for cevapi? Of course you are!
We ate a lot of cevapi in the Bay of Kotor, and the best version we had was at Кафе Grill MM in Risan. This lovely little patio is in a park, down the street from the Roman mosaics, and was the best cevapi we had in Montenegro. And as an added bonus, it was served with the most incredible hand cut, homemade fries.
ARE YOU SOLD ON THIS HIDDEN PARADISE YET?
My biggest Montenegro tip. GO. And go now. Before it gets more popular. Before it becomes unbearably busy like Croatia. Because reality is, there is no way this perfect summer spot will stay quiet forever.
Also, as you probably noticed, this one week in Montenegro itinerary focuses on the Bay of Kotor area. However, there is SO much to see and do in Montenegro, and we truly only scratched the surface. I already can’t wait to go back and explore other parts of this hidden paradise (and spend some time in the mountains!).
And in case I haven’t convinced you yet, here’s a few more of my favourite memories:
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And if you’re looking for information on another one of my favourite hidden paradises, check out my itinerary for Milos, Greece.