A lot of people asked us how we chose Montenegro as a vacation destination. Here is how it happened: I spent some time in Croatia 14 years ago and wanted to return to this beautiful region and show Niles. I had seen some of my friends travel there recently and it looked amazing. It is also still relatively undiscovered by hoards of tourists, and therefore, surprisingly affordable. Here is what we did:
We flew into the Podgorica airport (using our United points, of course). We rented a car, which is really the only way to easily travel around the country, as public transit is limited and not reliable. Renting a car was definitely more expensive than we had planned, especially with the mandatory insurance that is required for driving in the country (with a $2000 deposit!). Once we started driving around the narrow, curvy roads of Montenegro, we quickly realized the insurance was a good idea! We also purchased a “green card” at the rental car place that allowed us to travel out of Montenegro to nearby countries - you will definitely need this if you drive to more than one country in the area.
Our first and longest stop was in Kotor, a gorgeous walled town at the end of a spectacular bay. We thought it would be good to have a home base to stay at for a few days and take day trips around the area, since we didn’t know what it would be like traveling with a baby. We stayed at an Airbnb just outside of town, in Dobrota, right on the water and in easy walking distance to the old town, and lots of restaurants and shops. I’m glad we didn't stay in the old town, as we found it to be really hot (it doesn’t get much of a breeze) and overrun with tourists during the day. We also heard it can get really loud at night. The apartment we stayed at was in an old building that could use a few updates, but the location was great and we loved having a popular swimming spot just across the street from us. There was also a nice stone terrace where we could drink cheap montenegrin rosé at night and watch the lights come on around the water.
We loved exploring the Kotor area. We took long walks along the water, and spent afternoons in cafés people watching. We took a boat ride one afternoon with Captian Ivan, who took us around the bay, telling us the history of the little villages as we rode by and stopping at a manmade island with a little church on it. He also took us to a lovely swimming spot where the water was much cleaner than near Kotor. (His contact info: +38269494373 (super responsive by text) or email@example.com).
You can also hike up along the ancient walls of Kotor for a gorgeous view of the bay and town. Again, the summers are pretty warm, so we would recommend doing this early in the day. I opted to sleep in with the baby and enjoyed the photos Niles took from his solo exploration.
The best meal(s) we had in Kotor were at Konoba Portun. It was a 25-30 minute walk from where we were staying, but taxis are also easily available to get there. We also saw some people arrive by motorboat… how great would that be?! We found they would seat us if we arrived early (6/6:30) or make a reservation. The seafood and service was excellent. We went twice and the first time had the seafood platter for 2 (the black risotto is amazing!) and the second time had fish grilled to order... which was much more expensive and not any better than the first meal we had. So get the platter. We loved going just before sunset so you don't get blasted by the sun for too long but still get a good view. I think we spent 55 euro or so for the two of us to have the seafood platter, a bottle of wine and a salad. +382 68 086 101 firstname.lastname@example.org
Wine is super cheap in Montenegro. And there is mostly only one brand on the menu - Plantaže. We tried most of the varietals and loved them! Especially the rose. A small bottle (about a glass) is usually 3.5 euros and a bottle is 14-16 euros. I liked that there was really only one brand of wine at the restaurants throughout Montenegro - it made ordering easy and we knew what we were getting.
We found breakfast in Montenegro kind of hard to come by, and not great. We would end up picking up some pastries and having a coffee in a cafe most mornings (we never found a place where you could get both a coffee AND a pastry). I wish we had planned ahead a bit better with groceries and just made something each morning in the kitchen of our small apartment.
One night we drove along the bay to the quiet, charming town of Perast for dinner. It is a quiet, charming town and we loved listening to the massive church bells as we ate our dinner. You have to park outside of town and walk in, which is nice as it keeps the one small street quiet and pedestrian friendly.
Since we had a car, we used Kotor as our base, and did a few day trips in the area. One day we drove around the Lustica Penninsula, winding our way through olive groves and spectacular lookouts. We had lunch in Rose (pronounced the same as the pink wine) at Fort Rose Hotel at the end of the peninsula. I wish we could have stayed there longer! We also stopped by the Klinci Village Resort, which was super cute, up on a hill, and would have been a romantic getaway for a few nights if we’d had more time (and no baby!) Later in the afternoon we stopped at a Plavi Horizont beach in Pržno on the Adriatic sea and took Nigel swimming in the warm, clear water. Side note: the water is much cleaner in the Adriatic Sea than the Bay of Kotor, so if you want to swim a lot, focus your trip there. The water in Rose looked beautiful too!
Another day, we went down the coast to the popular tourist spots of Sveti Stefan and Budva. We ate lunch at Pastrovica Dvori, a local restaurant up on a hill, with gorgeous views of the sea. The trip up the hill was difficult as we were still not super used to the manual transmission of our rental car. Luckily when the restaurant staff heard us screech up the drive (and maybe smelled the smoking clutch…) they were really helpful in parking our car and getting us to a breezy table quickly. This was one of my favorite dining experiences in Montenegro and I let the staff choose most of our food for us, including their house made salad, olives, cheeses, and smoked ham. Sitting under a canopy of grape vines with cool sea breezes, we were not in a rush to leave and loved our leisurely lunch. From there we drove down the hill to the small town of Sveti Stefan, which is really an island off the coast that is now a luxury hotel you can only visit if you have the $1000+ per night for a room there. We did not, and opted for a pretty hike along the coast to enjoy the views instead. We also visited a friend who worked at the resort's spa and got to see how the other half lives! By late afternoon we were in Budva, another charming walled city with massive yachts in the harbor. We explored the town, ate some pizza at one of the local restaurants and headed back to Kotor. We enjoyed Budva, but were glad we weren’t staying there as it is more crowded and turns into more of a club scene at night.
We loved our time exploring the Bay of Kotor and the surrounding areas! To do it over again, we might have stayed one less night so we could spend another night in Croatia or Bosnia. Those travel blogs coming up next!