How to enjoy a marvellous Montenegro holiday
Montenegro (Crna Gora or black mountain) is a south-eastern European country, bordered by Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Montenegro’s history and topography is interesting and varied as are all the neighbouring Balkan countries.
Inland, Montenegro is rugged and mountainous - hence its name. Along the coast, the Adriatic Sea winds itself into the placid bay of Boka Kotor (translated roughly as mouth, maw or flank of Kotor).
The Boka is 28 kilometres long with a shoreline of more than 100 kilometres. Overlooked by massive mountains, the bay is essentially an ancient river valley filled over time with deep water, but still open to the sea.
In previous times, the Boka saw sea fights and conquests. These days, the Boka is a peaceful, beautiful bay, composed of several smaller broad bays. There is plenty of opportunity for sailing, swimming, sunbathing, motor boating, eating and exploring its well-preserved medieval towns, including the World Heritage Site of Kotor.
Kotor is a city of cats, and also the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, cafes, shops, Venetian fortifications, and an impossibly beautiful old city - these days visited by tourists rather than marauding Ottomans. Four centuries of Venetian domination are evident in the typical Venetian architecture that contributes to making Kotor a UNESCO world heritage site.
As well as visiting the old town, a trek up the steep steps of the hill fortifications provides visitors with an outstanding view of the Boka and Kotor harbour below.
Just a few kilometres away from Kotor is Perast, perched beneath the Hill of St Illija and in sight of the islets of St George and Our Lady of the Rocks (Gospa od Skrpjela). Legend has it that for two centuries, the people of Perast threw rocks and sank old ships to create a plateau in the water upon which they built a church. These days tourists visit the Gospa church by boat to admire the beaten silver votive tablets, and paintings by Italian artists.
Accessing Perast and Kotor by boat is a breathtaking journey. The Montenegrin mountains tower over the Bay, forming an awe-inspiring backdrop to the ancient stone buildings, eternally facing the waters.
Budva at about 2500 years old, is one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic coast. Situated to the south of the Boka on the Adriatic Sea, Budva’s old town is encircled with defensive stone walls. Tourists explore the narrow cobbled streets lined with restaurants, cafes and shops. The Budva Riviera has gorgeous beaches all the way to the town of Sveti Stefan.
Originally an island, Sveti Stefan is connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. The island itself is an exclusive resort, but visitors are provided access to the island on holy high days to attend church services. Tourists enjoy the pink sandy beach and warm Adriatic Sea alongside the island.
North of the Boka is Herceg-Novi, an ancient walled city overlooking the Adriatic.
Situated at the mouth of the Boka Kotor, Herceg-Novi experienced a turbulent past, but these days it’s a peaceful and charming hilly city, the starting point for boat trips exploring the surrounding waters. Visitors can enjoy healing sea mud and mineral springs, after a brisk water up to the Castle.
Tivat is the central town of the region and it’s airport is a significant arrival and departure point to the Boka Kotor. Tivat is the youngest town of the Boka region and is an excellent base camp for day trips to Kotor, Perast, Budva, Herceg-Novi and even Dubrovnik, which is about two hour’s drive away. Tivat’s older suburb of Seljanovo (ironically ‘new town’) offers accommodation in charming older houses, which are just a short walk along the beachfront to the modern Porto Montenegro.
Porto Montenegro is a new marina and yachting paradise, straddling the older precincts of Tivat. While the boats, accommodation and shops might cater for the Mediterranean’s wealthy yachtsmen, the relaxed atmosphere, easy walks and many cafes are enjoyed just as much by the local population and tourists. It’s a great place to enjoy a sundowner, an ice cream - or just to watch the strolling passers by.
How to get there
A range of airlines flies direct to Tivat: Aeroflot, Etihad Airways, Air Serbia and Montenegro Airlines. The author flew in via Belgrade with Air Serbia.
Where to stay
Tivat has plenty of accommodation, ranging in price to suit all budgets All the towns surrounding the Boka Kotor offer accommodation, it just depends on whether you prefer the tranquility of a smaller place like Perast, or whether you like strolling the evenings through Porto Montenegro and Tivat. The Boka Kotor is an excellent, relaxing and extremely picturesque place for your next holiday.