There are good holidays and then there are great holidays, and about a month ago I returned from one of my favorite holidays to date. 10 days discovering the beautiful Montenegro. I took so many pictures on this trip that it has taken me this long to decide what and how to share everything this tiny country has to offer. Even at the end of this task I still found myself with so many photos and experiences to share that I couldn’t fit it into one post. So for the next week or so This City Life is heading to the Adriatic coast! 🙂
Montenegro seems to be one of those countries that most people have heard of but know little about. This is possibly explained by the fact that it’s one of the newest countries in Europe, declared an independent country in 2006. It was previously considered part of Serbia and throughout its history has been governed by Italy, Turkey and the Venetian and Ottoman Empire. You’ll find it sandwiched between Croatia and Albania, it has a population of around 620,000 and it’s 13,812 km² in size (this clever map helps you understand just how small the country is in comparison to the UK). Its name means ‘Black Mountain’, referring to its mountainous landscape. The combination of all these factors means that it’s easy to see most of the country in one trip, at the moment it is relatively new to Western Europe tourism and fairly untraveled, and there’s so much to do and see from up in the mountains to down by the sea.
So, a few weeks ago we set off in style to Stansted Airport with Blacklane (the driver turned up in a suit 15 minutes early driving a very smart car = one relieved anxious airport traveler). We’d booked a flight to the capital Podgorica with Ryanair (beware the dreaded luggage price and allowance!). When we arrived at the other side a couple of hours later we picked up our hire car from Europcar and set off to Perast, a small town in the bay of Kotor where we were staying for five nights.
(Tip one – Make sure you’re a confident driver, Montenegrin drivers are somewhat risky on the roads!)
After a beautiful drive of about two hours we arrived at Perast and collapsed on the bed of our lovely apartment – Palace Jelena.
Of course I rushed to the window to check out the view and knew I wouldn’t get tired of waking up to this sight every morning.
We had a large room, it was clean, had good air conditioning, and all you need for a comfortable stay.
James and I wandered around the town, had an early dinner and we were both out like a light when our heads hit the pillow. It’s funny how travel can be so exhausting!
The next day we were keen to hit the road and start exploring. First stop Lovcen National Park.
It doesn’t take very long to get out of the busy town of Kotor before you find the need to pull over and take in these views.
As you continue to climb the mountain the views just get better and better. This was the view from the restaurant for lunch.
We originally thought we’d reach the top of the mountain within the hour but it’s worth knowing that the roads are tight, and if you’re driving something with a 1 litre engine you won’t be moving very fast.
It was all worth it when we made it to the top and made our way up to Mausoleum of King Petar Petrovic to take in the rumoured stunning views. The cool corridor upwards just added to the anticipation.
On the other side we were greeted with an incredible view across the country and beyond. On a completely clear day you can apparently see as far as Italy.
You have to pay a fee of 3 Euros to enter the Mausoleum, a bargain price to get that 360 view across Montenegro.
It was a short stay for the journey but if you’re not a nervous driver and you don’t mind heights it’s certainly worth it.
The journey back down seemed much more straight-forward so it felt like we reached Kotor Old Town in no time.
Kotor is one of the main towns along the Gulf of Kotor. Its focal point is the Old Town where you’ll discover some pretty examples of its Venetian past.
We wandered the tiny streets.
Peered into pretty courtyards.
Stepped into the shade.
And gazed up at all the beautiful balconies.
If you’ve got enough energy you can climb St John’s Hill and take in the view from the fortified walls above.
It’s a popular spot for cruise ships to rest in for the day, but at 5pm the town seemed quite calm.
We considered staying for dinner (my friend had recommended this place), but after a long hot day I was sticky with sun lotion and a cold shower was the only thing on my mind so we made our way back to Perast.
We watched the sun set behind the mountains at my favourite restaurant of the town, the Conte Hotel Restaurant. There are only about five restaurants in Perast and all are quite lovely, but the food in this restaurant was by far the best.
The views are good and the sunsets are some of the best I’ve ever seen.
Happily full and relaxed in the way only a holiday can achieve, we took a leisurely evening walk around the tiny town. Is there anything better than those balmy summer holiday evenings?
The next day I got up early to enjoy a photo walk around Perast before the other tourists arrived.
Perast is part of a UNESCO world heritage site and is about a 30 minute drive from Kotor. It’s one of the most peaceful, picturesque places I’ve ever seen.
I often like to get out on my own with my camera and spend as much time as I like snapping away. I knew as soon as we arrived here that I needed to make the most of the morning light and sights of this town during our stay.
There were vintage cars tucked away here and there.
Pops of colour against the chalky white walls.
Quaint houses that appeared to have been newly restored.
And derelict houses waiting for careful hands to bring it back to life.
The shores are full of schools of fish.
(Take a second look and I can guarantee you’ll see even more fish than on a first glance.)
Most of the activity in town is focused on its boats.
Fishing boats gently rattle along the town wall, with fishermen painting a new coat on their boat or getting ready to sail out for the day. The tour boats lineup all day long, waiting to be taken out into the bay and beyond.
I could have easily spent hours and hours snapping scenes of life here.
But there was a whole day ahead and it was time to check out another part of the bay, Morinj.
A tiny beach just a short drive from Perast. There are two parts, a public beach and a private beach. We opted for the private beach because I much prefer lying down on loungers. We ate lunch there and the loungers were free.
After a busy first day, lying down in the sun with these views out front was exactly what we needed.
But there was one more spot to squeeze in before sunset, The Lady of the Rocks. When you visit Perast you cannot avoid it and you will be constantly asked whether you want to get a boat out to see it. We chose one of the larger boats and it cost 5 euros for a return trip.
It passed the Monastery first.
And then landed on the Lady of the Rocks.
Legend has it that the islet was made over centuries by local seamen who kept an ancient oath after two seamen found the icon of Madonna and Child on a rock in the sea on July 22, 1452. In the years that followed rocks and ships were laid to rest on the very same spot by local seamen and due to its religious significance a church was eventually built upon it.
It’s a beautiful place to explore and it can be done within an hour.
For a few Euros you can head inside the church. We were given a tour by one of the guides who even got married there.
It was really interesting to find out more about the Lady of the Rocks, local tradition and Montenegrin culture and history.
And that was just the first two days in Montenegro! Oh how much I want to go back there right now.
In the next post we head into the mountains and if you can believe it, there’s even more beauty to behold.