It doesn’t take a professor of linguistics to work out that Montenegro means ‘black mountains’; and took us even less time to work out why.
On our first night (and every night from then on) in Tivat, a small harbour town that is seeing a boom in tourism, we sat on Gradska’s concrete piers and watched the grassy mountains that hug the bay turn into jet black silhouettes in front of a tie-dye amalgamation of blues, pinks, purples and deep reds. On one particularly dramatic night, we rented out a SUP-board from La Roche Hotel’s Beach Club (€10) and paddled, our way to the middle of the bay to quietly experience, honestly, the most spectacular sunset I’ve ever seen.
The Bay of Kotor is one of the main attractions for tourists to come to Montenegro, whether they be on a multi-million pound superyacht or just in a rented Skoda Fabia. We stayed in an Air BNB in Tivat, which was perfectly situated as a base for the whole country – although we spent most of our week in the bay. We swam, kayaked, drove and hiked around the perimeter, searching for the best beaches, private piers and snorkelling spots. An all-day boat trip (also €10) also did a lap of the bay, as well as a quick detour to the blue caves to snorkel in the pristine, sapphire waters with the fish.
I was very excited for a week of seafood, and it didn’t disappoint. The prices were so cheap (rarely more than €25 for two mains and two beers) that we only ate in a few times, compared to our meticulously thought-out meal plan from Iceland! Right next to our apartment was Mala Barka, where we were recommended the seafood risotto and red snapper. Overlooking the bay of Kotor, somewhere along the Jadranska Magistrala road was a little U-shaped restaurant in the middle of two piers that served the freshest calamari I’ve ever had, and the view was amazing. And hidden in the quieter sidestreets of Kotor’s Old Town were even more little eateries.
I was recommended a visit to the mausoleum near Cetinje, which sits high up on a mountain and overlooks Lovcen National Park with a 360° viewing platform. The drive up there, up and along the winding, twisting, switchback-ridden road was terrifying at the time, but having survived the close encounters with the dozens of other cars at every turn, actually made for enjoyable driving.
We flew in and out of Croatia, and then drove across the border, which gave us a half day to explore Dubrovnik’s Old Town, used as one of the Game of Thrones sets. The daily amount of visiting tourists compared to residents is tenfold -I overheard someone talk about the cities impending burnout, like an imploding star – and I hope Montenegro is able to manage its newfound tourist industry in a sustainable manner. There are already developments in Herceg Novi copying Porto Montenegro’s gargantuan harbour for billionaires yachts, and we saw plenty of controlled wildfires in the forests which I hope wasn’t to clear land for more hotels.
Regardless, I’m pleased we visited this country before it becomes any more popular, the level of busyness was just right.
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