How to Enjoy a Perfect Day in Montenegro
Many of my clients visit Montenegro as an add-on to a trip to Croatia, so if you only have limited time, here are some suggestions for things to see and do for a perfect day in Montenegro.
Wake up at the Regent Porto Montenegro and enjoy the views over the marina, the bay, and the mountain from your room’s balcony.
The name of this small country (with a population of just over 600,000 and an area similar to Connecticut) literally translates as ‘Black Mountain’ and probably refers to the dark shapes of its thickly forested mountains which the medieval Venetian seafarers saw when sailing along these shores. Formerly part of Yugoslavia, this Adriatic country located between Croatia and Albania was recently invited to join NATO (even though the alliance bombed it in 1999) and aspires to join the EU as well.
Meet your local guide and driver and start your perfect day in Montenegro with a transfer to Perast and a short boat ride to the Our Lady of the Rocks islet. According to legend, medieval sailors found an icon of the Madonna and Child (another version is that they saw a vision of the Virgin herself) on a rock in the bay and to venerate her, they started throwing rocks on this spot after each successful voyage, gradually creating an artificial island.
The custom is still alive today and each year at sunset on July 22nd, the locals sail to the island and toss rocks into the sea thus slowly enlarging its surface. A church was built on the island in the 17th century which now houses a fine collection of art and votive plaques donated by sailors and fishermen in gratitude for the Virgin’s protection. The place is extremely popular and gets really crowded with tourists, so be prepared to wait in line to enter the church and maybe consider visiting first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon.
Just across the Bay of Kotor, you can also see the Verige Strait which is its narrowest part and, similar to the Golden Horn in Istanbul, was once protected from pirates and other invaders by a heavy chain stretched across it, hence its name (verige = chain).
Next, transfer to the interior of the Lustica Peninsula known for its olive groves and olive oil farms, cheese, and some (still) relatively secluded beaches. Here, we visited a farm where a local family has been growing olives and producing high-quality organic olive oil for generations. The owner met us and took us around the estate, explained in detail both the old-fashioned (they have one of the few remaining traditional presses in the region) and the new modern ways of extracting the oil, and then we got a chance to sample their product firsthand together with homemade cheese and prosciutto and a glass (or two) of wine.
A cultural experience like this can really offer a precious first-hand insight and understanding of the local way of life. Despite his young age, our host was clearly passionate about his family’s business and took great pride in the fact that they are preserving the local traditions and helping the regional economy.
Later, transfer east and to the historic port of Kotor. Similar to other coastal towns along the Adriatic, it was protected by walls built by the Venetians which still remain and are one of its main attractions. It is located on the Bay of Kotor which some call a fjord, while others claim it is a submerged river canyon.
Kotor’s charming small Old Town with its UNESCO-protected Venetian architecture gets quite busy with tourist groups and cruise passengers in the summer and this is why I would suggest visiting in the late afternoon when hopefully most of the crowds will be back aboard.
One can easily spend a few hours walking around Kotor’s Square of Arms (so called because the Venetian arsenal was once located here) with its clock tower, exploring the maze of cobblestone streets, visiting the 12th-century Cathedral of St. Tryphon – the city’s patron saint, and climbing the 3-mile-long city walls extending uphill behind the Old Town. Outside the walls to the right of the main entrance, there is a market where fresh produce, local handicrafts, and souvenirs are sold.
Lastly today, stop at the unique Aman Sveti Stefan Resort for a dinner of fresh seafood and excellent Montenegrin wines at its Villa Milocer restaurant.
The resort consists of two parts – the two villas on the mainland which were once summer residences of the Serbian royal family, and the island of Sveti Stefan (now connected to the mainland) which in the 16th – 18th century was a fortified fishing village and in the 1970s (as part of Tito’s Yugoslavia) became a trendy resort which welcomed celebrities like Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, and Kirk Douglas.
Looking to plan your own perfect day in Montenegro? Let’s chat and I will help you choose the best hotels, tours, and experiences for your stay!