When you’re this little it’s easy to be overlooked. To compensate, Montenegro crams in more than its fair share of extraordinary sights and attractions. For many people a new discovery, Montenegro is in fact an historic destination. Thousands of years of habitation have left a legacy of art, architecture, music, food and tradition. Old towns perch on a stretch of attractive coast or hide in a rugged, mountainous interior that demands you explore it, whilst the people, full of Balkan bravado, live their lives loudly on the streets.
What to see
Capital city whose turbulent history is reflected in the mishmash of ornate Turkish and staid Eastern bloc architecture found here. Visit Duklja on the outskirts of the modern centre to see the Roman ruins of the city that preceded it.
Picturesque Medieval town dramatically located at the foot of the mountains and adjacent to the sea that has World Heritage status. The narrow streets have strong Venetian influences and conceal treasures including the seventeenth century Prince’s Palace, the nineteenth century Napoleon Theatre and countless attractive churches and squares. Climb the 1500 steps to the old fortification overlooking the town and fjord for the best views.
Romantic seaside town with access to both beautiful beaches and stark coastal mountains. The atmospheric Old Town is particularly pleasant and a good place to while away an afternoon over a coffee.
Coastal town set back from some inviting beaches and clear, clean water with iconic views of the island and labyrinthine town just offshore.
Elegant town with a busy beach, known for its minarets, which has a strong Albanian influence.
Top experiences / sites of particular interest
Impressive seventeenth century Orthodox monastery seemingly sprouting from a sheer cliff and frequently hidden in swirling cloud, which houses the relics of Saint Vasilije Ostroski.
Serene thirteenth century monastery full of impressive religious art and icons.
The ruins here are the remains of a lonely citadel stood as a sentinel high above the coast.
Durmitor National Park
Spectacular wilderness area that includes the Tara River Canyon, boasting the deepest gorges in Europe, some impressive cave systems and sinkholes in the karst limestone as well as glacial lakes and craggy peaks. Head here for excellent rafting, skiing, mountaineering and trekking.
Biogradska Gora National Park
The tranquil alpine lake here mirrors the thick, primeval forest that surrounds it. Walk the trails or row on the lake to enjoy the solitude and scenery.
The third largest lake in the Balkan Peninsula, situated on the border with Albania, forms one of the largest bird reserves in Europe. Popular with twitchers because of the almost 300 species found here, including the rare Dalmatian Pelican, and artists who come for the landscape and light.
When to go
Weather & Seasons: The Mediterranean coast is blessed with long, warm and dry summers with wetter, mild winters. Inland temperatures are both higher in summer and lower in winter. The mountainous regions can be very cold, with snow present in quantity for some months. The ski season taking advantage of this runs from December to March. For the best combination of temperature and fewer crowds, visit during May, June or September, October – try to avoid July and August as prices rocket during ‘the season’.
Important Dates and Festivals: There are plenty of festivals and events to get caught up in; watch out for the Mimosa Festival in February marked by balls, exhibitions and plays in honour of the flower of the same name. The Montenegro Film Festival and International Book Festival are also major events.
Getting there / around
Flights: There is an international airport in Podgorica (TGD) and another in Tivat (TIV).
Road: Your best bet for getting around is the extensive bus network. Several coach companies and mini bus operators also ply the major routes. Roads are reasonable in built up areas but poor elsewhere.Car hire is also possible in major cities. The back road from Kotor to Cetinje, which loops up and over a mountain range is considered one of the world’s great drives because of its jaw-dropping views of the Bay of Kotor and the Adriatic beyond.
Rail: The rail network is limited, with the only line running through the country to Serbia. It misses some of the major sites but does offer a reasonable cross-section of what’s on offer.
Short Trips: Due to the country’s compact nature, you can do a lot in a little time. Just a week will allow you to focus mainly on the Bay of Kotor and the Adriatic Coast, taking in Podgorica, Lake Skadar, Sveti Stefan, Budva and Kotor itself before taking a day trip across the country via Ostrog Monastery to the mountains for a change of scenery.
Longer Trips: In two to three weeks you can visit all of Montenegro’s major sites. Begin with the Bay of Kotor then start a circuit through the country that takes in the national parks, forests and mountains before finishing on the Adriatic coast again.
Overall Country Guides: There are just a few guidebooks to Montenegro. ;Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are both comprehensive in their coverage. Naklada produces a more heavily illustrated look at Montenegro.
Walking Guides: Cicerone caters for walkers and scramblers with the comprehensive Mountains of Montenegro.
Country Maps: There are whole country maps of Montenegro available from Freytag & Berndt and GiziMap. Reise Know-How publishes a combined map of Serbia-Montenegro at a slightly less detailed scale. Montenegro’s coast is covered in Kompass’Dalmatian Coast South: Dubrovnik - Kotor - Ulcinj map.
Walking Maps: There are walking scale maps from Kartographia for Skadar Lake National Park and Prokletije, whilst cyclists should pick up a copy of them Montenegro Wilderness Biking Atlas from Map Solutions.
Freytag-Berndt und Artaria KG
For a good overview try Montenegro A Modern History by Kenneth Morrison or the detailed but rather heavy Realm of the Black Mountain: A History of Montenegro by Elizabeth Roberts.
For an historic look at a pre World War II Yugoslavia and the fledgling country that would become Montenegro, read Rebecca West’s classic Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.
Typical dishes include lamb cooked in milk, and cheese in oil that’s similar to a firmer feta. Kajmak is a slightly sour, creamy cottage cheese that’s traditionally set in animal skins.
Try rakija, a white grape brandy, or one of the good quality local wines.
Sight & Sound
Film: The film industry in Montenegro hasn’t really got off the ground yet. Seek out Marija Perovic’s Packing the Monkeys, Again for a flavour. Most people though think of the country in connection with the James Bond film Casino Royale, although all the Montenegrin scenes were actually shot in the Czech Republic.
The official language is Montenegrin although Serbian, Bosnian, Albanian and Croatian are all spoken.
Euro (€) made up of 100 cents.
UK and US citizens do not require a visa in order to enter the country.
There are no vaccinations currently recommended before travelling to Montenegro.
Safety, FO travel advice
The country is generally safe.
Useful Telephone Numbers
Montenegrin country representatives can be found
in the UK at28 Belgrave Square, Belgravia London. SW1X 8QB. Tel:- 0207 235 9049.
and in the US at 1610 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DC, 20009. Tel:- 202 234 6108.
There are no tourist boards in either country.
For more information visit: www.destination-montenegro.com, www.visit-montenegro.com, www.montenegro.travel or www.montenegrosmiles.com.
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