Montenegro is truly a hidden gem of Eastern Europe. With sparkling waters of the Adriatic, fresh seafood at every restaurant but fewer crowds than Croatia, it makes for a remarkable find.
Montenegro is much easier to get around with a car, as some of the main, natural attractions are a bit tougher to get to via public transportation. We missed a few of these places, but we will happily return one day to complete the full tour.
Our time was divided by three days in Kotor, a short 35-minute bus ride from Dubrovnik, and Budva, a short 35-minute bus ride from Kotor.
Kotor is set nestled into the coastline, surrounded by protective mountains which rise straight out of the water. Kotor Bay is so well protected that the waters are calm, even in windy conditions.
Kotor has a quaint little Old Town with so many shops and restaurant cafes. The Fortress overlooks the Old Town and is worth the strenuous, nearly 1,400 stairs to the top. Don't worry if you can't make it the entire way, the lookout at the midway point has a worthy view. The Fortress itself is a forgotten relic, falling into sad disrepair. It is a mixture of 18th century stone walls and 20th century concrete bunkers, which were used in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Unfortunately, trash and graffiti populate the upper portion of the fort. Take plenty of water with you.
Our highlight of Kotor was an evening sailing trip from Kotor to Tivat, a bigger town just outside the safe harbor. We enjoyed our four hours swimming, watching the sunset and admiring the beautiful scenery with our hosts, Katie and Tim, and our ship mates, two other couples, all from England.
We also took a day trip to Perast, an historical and preserved town just 20 minutes north of Kotor. It is a short, easy stroll and cafes line the waterfront beckoning you to sit in perfect views of the mountains and the two islands in the middle of the bay.
Budva is similar to the Daytona Beach of Montenegro, packed with touristy shops and restaurants.
We spent our full-day there on the beach, lounging with an incredible view of the Old Town Citadel. The small rocky beach on the south side of the Old Town offers a few cafes, which provide free lounge chairs and umbrellas, provided that you order a few drinks throughout the day. It's a very relaxing way to pass the day. The Citadel is a great place to experience the sunset, with views over each side of the peninsula.
The Old Town, or Stari Grad, of Budva resembles that of Kotor. It is small but packed with cafes and shops. Stone walls and buildings are fairly well-preserved. It's easy to get lost in the winding alleys, but luckily you can walk across this minuscule old town in five minutes. Just outside the old town, the waterfront promenade extends at least a mile along the bay. Its pebbly beaches are packed with restaurants, night clubs, video game arcades, and playgrounds. Budva is clearly the spot for family vacations or beach clubbing for Montenegrans, Serbians, and Croatians, since we hardly encountered any English speakers in the town.
Montenegro felt like a vacation. It is very relaxed where you can easily do nothing, or you can fill your time hiking and seeing the many natural wonders it offers. We will look forward to returning to experience several of the national parks, which were just too inconvenient to reach via public transportation.