Our clients the Kafourys traveled to Montenegro earlier this year! Here are their impressions of a month in lovely Montenegro.
Wanting a location where we could be reasonably warm in March and look out on water, we chose Kotor Bay in Montenegro because of a distant memory. More than 40 years ago when it was Yugoslavia, we drove the entire Dalmation Coast, ending at the city of Kotor which had been heavily damaged by an earthquake just a year before. We really knew little about modern Kotor or the rest of Montenegro for that matter.
Spending a month in this small but fascinating country was a gamble that paid off.
Kotor Bay is often compared to the Norwegian fjords and Italian lakes, with steep mountains dropping directly down to the water. Small medieval villages line the bay.
The country, and especially Kotor Bay, is becoming the next Adriatic Coast destination now that Croatia is overwhelmed by tourists. Cruise ships now enter the bay at the city of Herzig Novi and dock at Kotor for day visitors beginning April 1.
First Impressions of Montenegro
We flew to the Dubrovnik airport [in Croatia], rented a car, and drove to a small village called Orahovac which is on the bay. Fortuitously, both the house we rented and its location proved to be perfect.
As we were in low season, the 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house was a bargain. Both the upstairs bedrooms and lower floor living room/kitchen had large windows looking directly to the bay, and both levels had terraces accommodating chairs and tables.
Because of its southern exposure, we had sun from early morning till evening. In front of the house was a quiet, narrow street that was used more for strolling than driving.
On the other side of the street, a single line of a few small houses, low enough that they did not obstruct our view, faced directly on the bay. Public access to the beach was just steps away.
A 15-minute drive to the end of the bay from Orahovac found us in the town of Kotor. Backed up against the steep hills, and surrounded by Venetian walls, the old city is pedestrian-only.
Visitors walk through narrow cobblestone streets, into lovely squares, between ancient stone mansions, and into medieval churches.
About 10 minutes the other direction is Perast. This town became one of our favorite villages in the world due to Its spectacular location on the bay and the beauty of its buildings. Golden limestone shines brightly against the cobalt water and the green hills on both sides of the bay.
During its height in the 15th and 16th Centuries, Perast was major seafaring center. Now it has lost most of its populations and is left as a collection of ancient mansions (rapidly being restored and turned into hotels and tourist apartments) and centuries-old churches.
Seafood restaurants built onto the water line esplanade. These provide surprisingly sophisticated meals, with seafood their specialties. A half-mile or so offshore are two very small islands.
One is a monastery off-limits to tourists. The other holds a church with an amazing history. Both the island and church were built by local sailors in gratitude for being saved from battles or storms at sea.
Behind the mountains that create the bay are more and more mountains and the sturdy folk who have eked out their existence here. High-quality roads are being built into the hinterlands, and those visitors who want an escape from the beaches of Montenegro’s coastline can find adventures here. However, many roads remain driveway-wide.
Podgorica, the Capital
Montenegro’s capital city, Podgorica (formerly Titograd) was virtually destroyed in WWII and rebuilt, but has nothing to offer. Better is the former capital from 1878 until WWII, Cetinje.
We became quite fond of this small town surrounded by mountains. It has a lovely, human-scale feeling with a pedestrian Main Street, many parks, and modest former embassies that have been turned into well-done museums. Everywhere there are explanatory signs in English for those of us who don’t speak Serbo-Croatian.
Further south, we visited Skadar Lake which has small villages and eager boatmen to show passengers the abundant waterfowl. This lake is divided between Montenegro and Albania.
Since we had not been able to enter that former tightly restricted country when we were here in the 1970s, we decided to see what it was like. A short drive around the southside of the Albanian Skadar Lake revealed an impoverished country that was in the process of development.
Driving the coastline was a spectacular treat, as sheer cliffs meet the ocean. Further down Montenegro’s Adriatic coast from the bay, tourism (largely beach-oriented) becomes more intense around Budva and Sveti Stefan.
Continuing along the coast to the border with Albania, tourism thins despite interesting towns such as Bar, and Ulcinj with its significant Muslim population.
So, Was it Worth it?
One month in Montenegro exceeded our expectations. Our weather was sunny and pleasant. We encountered exactly one American, dined well, met kind and friendly neighbors, and felt completely safe. We do strongly advise going in low or shoulder seasons to avoid heavy traffic and crowded sites, not to mention inflated prices.
The Kafourys booked their trip with Willamette Intl Travel. Our travel advisors can craft together the perfect getaway for you and yours.