Montenegro? Is that somewhere in Southern Europe, you might ask? You are probably thinking of Monaco. And if you are like me, you had probably no idea where or what Montenegro was about. This is when my friend from New Zealand suggested to catch up in Tivat, Montenegro. It should become one of the most unexpected but seriously amazing countries I visited. Today I want to share with you why you should add Montenegro to your travel list
Why you should add Montenegro to your travel list?
Montenegro is a really small country tucked in between Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and Albania. Only 600.000 people live in Montenegro and it shares beautiful coastline of Adriatic sea with Croatia. I can certainly say that I have a fairly good knowledge about most European countries but Montenegro is one of the few that has never popped up on my vacation radar.
So, five days ago I flew into Tivat airport with Montenegro Airlines. It was an easy 1.30 hour flight from Germany. Not bad for a country that is located on the same height as Naples, Italy. This also meant it would still be very warm even in September when leaves are starting to fall and temperatures plummet in Germany.
Kotor Bay Area
For most of the time we stayed in Kotor Bay. Why did we stay here for most of the time and didn’t travel much further you ask? The answer is simple and the photos might give it away already. Kotor Bay is mediterranean paradise. Picture a stunning bay with fjord- like mountains offering breathtaking views from the hills on to the calm blue ocean. Kotor Bay is lined with small medieval looking towns like you have seen in the last episode of Game of Thrones. These medieval towns are lined with cobble stoned alleyways and white washed churches that secretly reminded me of Venice and Split in Croatia.
Sandy beaches in Montenegro and also in Kotor Bay are rare in general but this shouldn’t be a setback for you because we found one that we basically lived at which I will tell you about later.
How do you imagine Montenegro to look like?
On the taxi I realized I knew nothing about this place. I had no idea what the landscape would look like and and what people would be like. I had a picture of an East European country in my head which I remember from family holidays back when I was a kid. Oh boy, was I wrong.
I was stunned and I felt like I must have landed somewhere in Italy. And of course, I was at the Mediterranean sea after all. What I saw is Mediterranean archtitecture, narrow roads, Aloe Vera plants and cacti along the roadside. Pomegranate trees were bursting with fruits and fig season had just started. The ocean is as turquoise as it gets. I couldn’t believe my eyes how beautiful Kotor Bay was.
The perfect fall getaway
From Tivat Airport it took me an easy 20 minute taxi ride costing me 12€ to our AirBnB apartment. I was lucky, I caught a direct flight from Leipzig which took 1.30 hrs. Since there was no traffic (and I don’t think there ever is), it literally took me quick 3-4 hours from Leipzig airport to Kotor Bay beach. Although Kotor Bay is close to the airport, the mountain range shells away all flight noise. While swimming in the ocean, you wouldn’t believe that the airport is just around the corner.
Another big plus for Montenegro is that there is no need to exchange money since Montenegro’s currency is the Euro.
It is easy to find an affordable and beautiful place to stay. For the first part of our stay, we chose an apartment up on the hills of Dobrota. It was a large apartment and a terrace with swindling views of the bay which costed us 80€/night. Mind you that September is not peak season so prices might be different in high season.
For the second part of our stay we moved to Huma Kotor Bay (5 star) located right at the water line costing us 140€/night. I usually wouldn’t book such an expensive place but we picked Huma because of the stunning private hotel beach. We fell in love it the moment we set foot on it.
As I mentioned before, beaches are rare. and locals are usually just happy to lie down on the concrete bits that are also used to park boats along the water. The white pebble beach at Huma is an exeption here stunning at Kotor Bay offering amazing views of the entire bay. You can rent a sun bed for 30€ a day for 2 people and even I find this quite steep but it was so worth it. It is not intended here to run an advertising campaign for this particular hotel but we actually enjoyed staying here so much that it is wort mentioning.
Places in and around Kotor Bay
Swim, eat and relax is what you do at Kotor Bay. We went to Perast for a day which is a picturesque sea town village for a half day trip. You could even consider heading towards Dubrovnik for a day because Croatia is literally a 2 hour drive from Kotor Bay. You can rent cars but driving skills of locals are rather on the crazy side. Taxis are very inexpensive and so are public busses. Our AirBnB host provided us with a number that we could whatsapp at anytime to order Taxi which was very handy. We were never quite sure how they worked this out but it was insanely convenient for us.
You can also the hike the mountains around the Bay. One of the most famous hikes is the one to the fortress above Kotor Old Town offering great views of the bay. Entry for the hike and to the fortress is 8€.
Locals and Montenegrin Mentality
I cannot stretch enough how friendly the locals are. After day 3 we greeted almost anyone from restaurants and the hotel staff. They love to chat motorists and tell proud stories of their countries history and love to share tipps son what to do.
Not in a single occasion, someone has tried to cheat us, take more more from us or even expected a tip. Even though not everyone speaks good English, everyone is trying to be helpful. We had some crazy laughs wit taxi drivers who tried to give us honest and generous tipps on what to to and how to get around despite the little English they spoke.
The only real setback here is the food. And I will say that from a vegan food perspective, not from a general perspective. Montenegrins love their meat, fish and seafood. Vegetarian equals vegetables and is not really considered a full meal. If you find a vegetarian meal on the menu, it is usually a plate of grilled or cooked vegetables.
Vegan meal options are almost impossible to find. Grilled vegetables, bread with avajar (a delicious paprika spread), and pasta with olive oil are still on almost every menu. But it is still worth asking staff if they can fix you a salad, Montenegrins are very hospitable and happy to help.
You always have the option to stock up on local vegetable and fruit at the supermarket. Also look out for local markets around Kotor Old town they sell everything that’s in season and trust me you don’t want to miss out on the local figs and pomegranates.
In fancier hotel there might be vegan food options, at Huma Kotor Bay, they even had almond milk which is quite a novelty here still.
5 tipps that made our stay a bit more sustainable here:
- Always ask for no-straw, otherwise you will always get a plastic straw. Same goes for plastic bags, locals are super fast with packing just about anything into a bag.
- Take your water bottle. It was not recommended to drink water from the tab but we always had a water boilers. I boiled the water and filled it in my bottle once cooled to not buy plastic bottles.
- If in need of healthy food, always ask don’t be shy locals are so so happy to help.
- Dried or fresh figs are a must try. They usually super ripe so have them the same day.
- Real beaches are rare but try one that is part of the hotel which can usually used for small fee.
If you know by now why you should add Montenegro to your travel list and want more travel inspiration, make sure to check out my Travel and Food Guide to Patagonia and my Vegan Food guide to Auckland New Zealand!