Nestled in between Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Albania, Montenegro is a small Balkan gem with plenty to explore. With medieval towns, lakes, mountains and canyons, you’ll want to check it out on foot so don’t forget to pack your walking shoes.
Now thanks to budget flights from London to Tivat, the Bay of Kotor in the southwest of Montenegro is waiting to be explored. Here is our guide to the top things to do when you get there.
Kotor Old Town
Just half an hour from Tivat airport is the UNESCO Heritage town of Kotor a labyrinth of winding streets and old stone stairways leading to churches, prisons and palaces. You can spend hours here just sauntering, drinking in the atmosphere and absorbing sights such as the cathedral of St Tryphon with its silver altar and mysterious frescoes.
One of the alleys radiating off the main piazza takes you to the start of the ascent to the 9th century St John’s Fort. Climb 1,350 steps to the fortress which looks out over Kotor and the Bay of Kotor, dominated by cliffs.
Afterwards grab a local Niksicko beer at one of the many that are dotted around the old town. Don’t be surprised if you are joined by a cat or two – Kotor is home to thousands of the creatures.
Perast and Mamula
Take a boat ride around the bay stopping at islands en route and some of the pretty towns that dot the Adriatic coast. You can pick up the boat trips from Kotor city park, a short walk from the old town. Also known as Boka Bay, it looks like a fjord and is full of surprises.
Perast, although small, has 16 churches and a distinct Mediterranean atmosphere. The medieval town also has nine towers built by the Venetians in the 15h and 16th centuries and and 17 formerly grand palazzi.
A few minutes away is the man-made island of Our Lady of The Rocks. Fishermen created the island from rocks to house an icon of The Madonna and Child which was washed up here and which they believed was a good luck charm There is a little blue domed chapel on the island decorated inside with icons and tapestries.
Next door is the island of Saint George. You may also stop at Mamula Island, a former Austro Hungarian prison island, Montenegro’s answer to Alcatraz.
The Blue Grotto is one of many attractive caves in the Bay and most boat tours make a stop here so that travellers can take a dip in the azure waters. There are also a number of submarine pens to be seen here – caves used to hide submarines from the enemy. The entrances to them are camouflaged with foliage and boats glide through beneath dripping stalagmites. It is a huge relief to see the sunshine at the end of the tunnel.
By contrast to the simple dwellings and small buildings that dot the coast Porto Montenegro is a leading superyacht marina and comes with all the associated glitz and glamour.
It is worth a visit just to gawp at the mega yachts here owned by the likes of the late Austrian Formula One driver Niki Lauda and several Russian oligarchs.