9 of the best things to do in Montenegro

Here’s how to explore one of Europe’s rising travel stars before the crowds arrive…

Jessica Reid
11 June 2024
Perast, Montenegro (Shutterstock)

Montenegro’s popularity is rapidly on the incline. This Balkan nation is now seeing its historic towns, national parks and pebbled shoreline fill with travellers searching for a lesser-known European break. Although sharing similar architecture, history and traditions with its Adriatic neighbours, such as Croatia, Montenegro has plenty of its own star qualities that make it entirely unique.

From exploring cat-loving Kotor to riding across one of Europe’s highest rail bridges, here’s some of the best things to do in Montenegro…

1. Go cat crazy in Kotor

A cat sits outside the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon in Kotor (Alamy)

Easily one of the most beautiful towns in Montenegro, Kotor, squeezed in the corner of a bay of the same name, attracts a large proportion of visitors to the country. The scenic, UNESCO-listed Old Town with its historic stone buildings and Medieval walls is a delight to explore at your own leisure. It’s also home to a great number of cats who freely wander around the streets and squares, and real fanatics can tour the town’s dedicated Cat Museum. Active travellers can take a hike up the Ladder of Kotor, a zig-zag trail with over 70 switchbacks. For those not so good on their feet, the Kotor Cable Car provides possibly the best panoramic views across the entire bay.

Unfortunately, Kotor is also a popular stop for cruise ships, bringing enormous crowds during peak season. Travel off season to miss the hoards – we suggest February, as you’ll get to enjoy the festivities of Kotor’s Winter Carnival.

2. Take a hike in Lovćen National Park

Mausoleum at Lovćen National Park (Shutterstock)

Lovćen National Park is well-placed to nearby popular tourist towns of Kotor and Budva, making it accessible for a day trip. This mountainous and relatively small (60 sq km) protected area is responsible for the country’s name (Montenegro translates to ‘Black Mountain’ in the local language). Mount Lovćen is the tallest mountain in the area at 1,749 metres, but its second tallest peak is Jezerski Vrh (1,660 metres) is frequently visited for its mausoleum resting at the summit. Belonging to Montenegro poet and ruler Petar II Petrovic Njegoš (known mostly as Njegoš), you’ll need to climb more than 400 steps to reach the tomb, which not only brings you close to one of the country’s most significant historical figures, but also to a prime vista across the bay of Kotor. Although the national park has scenic winding roads, for keen hikers, it’s worth getting out and walking its marked trails on foot, such as the 10 km Wolf Trail.

3. Admire the beauty of historic Perast

The beautiful waterfront of Perast (Shutterstock)

A 20-minute drive away from Kotor is the equally scenic but less frantic Perast. This small town is home to a surprisingly large number of churches and baroque palaces with Venetian influence.  Discover many of these as you walk its scenic waterfront from end-to-end, stopping off to refuel at many of its outdoor restaurants and bars. Perast’s most prominent church is Sveti Nikola: built in 1691 and located within the Old Town Square, it’s identifiable due to its soaring 55 metre-high bell tower. If driving here, be cautious: the singular road through Perast is extremely narrow and hazardous – many cars have been lost to the bay along this road, so only drive if extremely necessary.

4. Boat around the Bay of Kotor

Blue Cave, Montenegro (Shutterstock)

It may appear lake-like, but the Bay of Kotor (also known as the Boka) is actually Europe’s southernmost fjord. Beyond the town of Kotor, plenty of gems can be found nestled around the bay, from little-known historic towns to plush harbours. Choose from a variety of boat tours available – that leave from places including Kotor and Herceg Novi – to explore some of its unreachable sights from land. During the warmer months, many guided boat trips will take you to the Blue Cave along Luštica Peninsula for a swim in sparkling azure waters. Others trips might also take you inside the now-abandoned naval tunnels that used to hide away submarines during the Cold War. A final must-visit boat stop is Our Lady of the Rocks – an artificial islet steeped in legend and history just off the shore of Perast. On the island is a Roman Catholic Church home to a collection of paintings by Tripo Kokolja, a 17th-centruy baroque artist.

5. Hit the beaches of Budva

Jaz Beach near Budva (Alamy)

This lively town perched on the Adriatic coastline is the posterchild for Montenegro. Yes, it might be best known for its bustling nightlife, but that’s not all. Its citadel is often described as a ‘miniature Dubrovnik’ with walkable Old Town walls that look over the town’s rust-coloured rooftops. Budva has also lucked out with a variety of beaches dotted around the town. You won’t find white sands, but you will get to enjoy bath-like clear water. The closest to the Old Town is Mongren Beach, but other pebble stretches along the Budvanian Riviera include (but are not limited to) Slovenska Plaža, Jaz Beach and Becici Beach. A 20-minute drive east of Budva will take you to Sveti Stefan, a coastal town best known for the 15th-century fortified island that lies in front of it. The picturesque island is now home to the five-star Aman hotel, and can only be visited if you have booked a stay. Although, visitors can admire its beauty from the beach, it can get a little crowded, and has resulted in the landscape being listed as endangered by Europa Nostra.

6. Soak up Podgorica’s history and culture

Ribnica Bridge, leading to Stara Varoš in Podgorica (Alamy)

The country’s capital is often left feeling a little like a ghost town as visitors flock straight to the scenic coastline, but Podgorica has elements that shouldn’t be overlooked, with its most atmospheric quarter being the oldest part of the city. Stara Varoš (meaning Old Town) is where you’ll be transported back to a time when Ottoman’s once ruled for more than 400 years. To get there, we recommend going via the charming old stone bridge that crosses over Ribnica River. Over the other side, the 15th-cenutry Ribnica Fortress is another fascinating ancient highlight.

If you’re wanting to feel more of a buzz in the capital, visit during the summer months when Podgorica Cultural Summer transforms the city into a theatrical stage. Many events take place, from movie nights and live shows to concerts and ballet performances.

7. Raft the Tara River Canyon

Tara River Canyon in Northern Montenegro (Alamy)

Tara River Canyon is another one of Montenegro’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, found within Durmitor National Park in the far north. As well as its natural beauty, Tara River Canyon also offers some of Montenegro’s best action-packed adventures. Adrenaline-seekers can explore one of the longest (78 km), deepest (up to 1,300 m) gorge in Europe a variety of ways. A firm favourite, though, is by rafting the waters. Rapids run through the gorge year-round, but rafting season usually begins in April and ends in October. For those after even more thrills, you can view the canyon from up high by riding Tara’s Extreme Zipline, or head to the nearby Nevidio and Hrčavka gorges to jump of canyon walls and slide down rocks on an epic canyoning adventure.

8. Ride over Europe’s highest viaduct

Mala Rijeka is one of Europe’s highest rail bridges (Alamy)

Montenegro may be one of Europe’s smaller nations, but what it lacks in size it makes up in dramatic scenery – which is possibly best enjoyed from a train window. The country has an estimated 250 km of rail track running through it, traversing mountains, valleys, rivers and forests. One of the more popular routes operates from the coastal town of Bar to the northern town of Bijelo Polje, passing through both Durmitor and Bjelasica mountain ranges and crossing over a 200-metre-high rail bridge. Construction of the Mala Rijeka bridge was completed in 1973, and it remains one of Europe’s highest viaducts.

9. Explore the virgin forest of Biogradska Gora National Park

Walkway through Biogradska Gora National Park (Alamy)

Biogradska Gora National Park might be the smallest of four national parks in Montenegro (at 56 sq km) but it is one of the most untouched in Europe – with claims not a single tree has been felled in its forest. As a result, it was named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve back in 1977. The park is 90 km north of Podgorica and frequently visited by hikers wanting to explore its mountain trails, which range in length and difficulty. One of the park’s must-visit sights is Lake Biograd. Sitting in the heart of the park, you can wander around the 3.5 km trail that borders the glacial lake, or even hire a boat and get afloat on the glassy waters.



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