Montenegro is such a diverse country in terms of what you can see and do that I’m sure anyone would find a way to love it. After our first two days exploring the Bay of Kotor, we were keen to head up into the mountains. Our main goal was to experience the rush of white water rafting down the Tara River, but from what we’d seen so far we knew that the drive would be an experience in itself.
From Perast to Sćepan Polje, on the border of Bosnia Herzegovina and where most tours start, the drive is around three hours. Most of the roads are well tarmaced but you’ll find the odd stretch where there are rocks scattered across it and the surface isn’t so good. As long as you don’t get lost in a town centre (we did this once), there are so few road options to take that it’s all relatively easy to navigate. We took this road map with us and generally survived without Google Maps or Sat Nav (although I’ll admit it would have made some journeys a lot easier).
Practicalities aside, your aim is to try to get there without pulling over every 15 minutes. We gave in after about 45 minutes when we came across Slansko Lake.
It’s so big and so stunning, my mouth dropped a little as we were driving down and we swiftly pulled over. It was a great spot to enjoy breakfast pastries and absorb the views before getting on our way.
The next scenic stop was at the petrol station at Pluzine, where I got quite excited about my first sight of the Tara River. (My iPhone snap doesn’t show very well just how turquoise this scene is.)
The Tara River Canyon at its peak is 1300m deep, making it the deepest canyon in Europe and only 200m behind the Grand Canyon! It’s part of Durmitor National Park and it’s another UNESCO World Heritage site.
We failed to book a rafting trip before we left the UK but the tourist information desk in Kotor assured us that if we went to Sćepan Polje we’d easily be able to get on a trip. After skeptically approaching an area of rafting equipment when we arrived there, we asked if they could squeeze us in and within half an hour we were making our way down to the river. The only unfortunate thing about this approach was that the guide couldn’t speak much English and was a bit abrupt providing instructions throughout the trip. He also decided to quietly serenade the group (cue restrained giggles from me). It’s the one activity I would definitely book in advance next time.
That said once you’re out on the water, little matters other than the views. James brought his waterproof camera so I managed a couple of snaps along the way.
So peaceful and so beautiful.
Rafting selfie of course.
The course takes 2-3 hours and goes through about 18 rapids (I think there are around 50 in total). Most trips stop off at this waterfall for lunch but due to our late booking and a cheap fee (we paid €30pp) we didn’t have this option. But we had a lot of fun exploring the land whilst other groups stopped for refreshment.
A Go-Pro would have been perfect for this part of our holiday as it would have been great relive all of the rapid action!
I really wanted to spend more time exploring the Tara River and enjoy the views from up above but due to the time and long drive we made our way back.
We had planned to visit the Ostrog Monastery on the return drive but this was as far as we got before deciding that we’d struggle to get there and back before sunset.
You can see why it was on our visit list here!
After a long day of driving and SO MUCH scenery, the next day we were content with staying in Perast, soaking up the sun and swimming in the sea.
I was sad to see the end of our stay in Perast but it was quickly overcome by the excitement of exploring the coast, Budva Riviera.
We chose to stay in Budva itself as we wanted to save a bit of money and we knew that we’d be able to get out and about in our car. As most of the reviews suggest it is the most commercial part of Montenegro and a bit of a shock to the system after Perast. But if you can see past all the bright lights and tacky tourism, it does have one gem – Budva Old Town.
We made our way down to the coast, tucked into the small Old Town entrance and ambled onwards towards the wall that borders the sea to enter the Citadela.
And exchanged €5 for some great views.
It was from here that we spotted an intriguing route out of the busy town.
And the rest of the day was lost to the sun, sand and sea.
With the salty taste of a day by the coast, we craved more and knew there must be other beaches out there. So the next day was set in sand and we made our way to the infamous Sveti Stefan, an old-time playground for the rich.
Park a little out of town and you’ll stumble across the luxurious grounds of Milocer.
I instantly pictured a day on loungers with a waiter that supplied me with food and bottomless cocktails but I sensed that it may be a bit out of our usual price range.
I wasn’t too far wrong and for a day sharing these two loungers it will set you back €75.
We were sorely tempted, being on holiday and all, but we hadn’t got to our main destination and went onwards.
Sveti Stefan is a little island that you may recognise from recent Insure & Go ads (which seem to spark wanderlust intrigue whenever I see them!).
The fortified village was originally built during the 15th century as defence against the Turks. In the 1960s it was acquired by the Yugoslavian Government and converted into an upmarket hotel, which was refurbished in 2009 into the 5 star hotel you’ll find today.
It’ll will set you back at least €800 per night to stay there. Sadly you’re not even allowed to enter the area unless you’re a guest or you book a table in their restaurant. Not in our summer holiday finery we decided against a 5 star meal and simply enjoyed finding iconic views.
Then spent the rest of the day on the more affordable side of the beach where loungers are a reasonable €15, (there’s also a public section of the beach which is free).
A post with plenty of proof that Montenegro is such a versatile country to spend your summer holiday. Have I tempted you to put it on your list yet?
In the next and final post on Montenegro, we head back into the mountains to discover the country’s regal side, sample some of its finest red wine and take a dip in one of its largest fresh water lakes. I’ll also talk a bit more about food and round up my top tips!