Montenegro makes for a fantastic side trip if you are heading to Croatia. In 24-hours you can see the beautiful coastline of Montenegro and visit the adorable walled towns of Kotor and Budva. The best part is, if you stay overnight, you can avoid the crowds from cruise ships and daytrippers. I visited by renting a car and driving from the Dubrovnik Airport before heading back the next evening to start my trip in Croatia. Depending on how you spend your time, there are many small towns with historic centres you can stop at if you have the freedom of your own car. Hiking the walls above Kotor was easily one of the highlights of my time in the Balkans. If you have more days to spare, Dumitor National Park is a good candidate as a destination in Montenegro.
1. The Coastline
The scenic drive from Dubrovnik to Kotor and Budva takes you along the Dalmatian coastline with mountains everywhere.
2. Bay of Kotor
The Bay of Kotor is fjord-like and is surrounded by scenic old towns nestled between mountains that practically plunge into the sea.
3. The Driving
The twisty roads take you high above the towns and give you a great vantage point. Even though some areas there are lots of switchbacks, the main roads are all well maintained and easy to navigate. On roads that are scenic, there are areas to pull the car over to take photos.
4. The Mountains
The mountains here have a lot of character and dominate the scenery. It’s what gives Montenegro its name. Montenegro means “black mountain.”
5. Kotor’s Old Town
Kotor is a World Heritage Site and has a beautifully preserved centre with marble streets. With all the marble and tiny alleyways, it really feels like stepping back in time.
6. The Red Tile
Red-tiled roofs aren’t just found in Dubrovnik. While Dubrovnik is well known for this, and rightfully so, if you get even a little above the town of Kotor you can see that it’s filled with red-tiled roofs.
7. The Walls Above Kotor
The ancient walls above Kotor are fun to hike and give you a glimpse into the past, when a wall on such a large mountain would be needed. At 1350 steps each way, you get your workout in and get to see the church that is built halfway up the mountain as well as some of the other remaining structures.
8. The Cats
There’s always a friendly cat to keep you company. Kotor was filled with cats that were well-fed by the people that live there. You will find lots of cat-themed postcards in Kotor as well as a museum dedicated to cats.
9. The Walled Town of Budva
Budva is one of the oldest Adriatic settlements, at 2,500 years old, and has the walled old town to prove it. The old town is full of medieval buildings and is right on the coast.
10. It’s Fun to Explore
I took a lot of photos here. It felt like every few steps there was something else to take photos of. Montenegro is one of those places that feels full of history and is a lot of fun to explore.
11. It’s Off the Beaten Track
Hear me out. I don’t really think anywhere in Europe is all that off the beaten track. It’s well-trod. But most tourists are only doing Montenegro as a day trip. If you stay overnight, you will end up getting the place practically to yourself. Montenegro does get plenty of cruise ships, but before and after cruise-ship hours it’s very relaxed and less touristy than nearby Croatia.
Getting there: Montenegro neighbours Croatia and it takes about 3 hours from Dubrovnik to Kotor. If you don’t have a car rental or don’t want the hassle, there are quite a few companies that offer day trips to Montenegro. Keep in mind that you do have to cross a border so during the summer or at peak times (heading into Montenegro at the beginning of the day or back towards Dubrovnik at the end of the day) there may be long waits. The main roads are well maintained and there is a good amount of signage to help you navigate to Kotor. Budva was a bit more difficult to navigate within the city as it is larger and I recommend saving a map to your phone or using your cars GPS.
Sleeping: If you have a car, it is easier to stay just outside of the old town of Kotor and walk to the historic area. The old historic part of Kotor is pedestrian only so if you do end up sleeping within the city walls, you will have to cart your luggage and find parking elsewhere. The place I rented was up several flights of stairs and I suspect this is common so try to pack light.
Money: Montenegro uses the Euro as currency. You are going to want to have some cash available and maybe some small change. For example, the walls of Kotor cost 3 euros and it’s cash only. Luckily because it’s Euros, you should be able to use these elsewhere in Europe.
Croatia had long been on my radar as a travel destination. Slovenia had also managed to sneak its way on there in the past couple years. After doing some research, I also came up with a ton of reasons to make side trips to Bosnia and Montenegro. Fitting everything I wanted to do into two-weeks was impossible, but I gave it my best shot. In … Continue reading A Two Week Croatia and Slovenia Itinerary