Spectacular views, beautiful resorts, endless beaches, flavorful tomatoes, and very affordable shopping. Oh, and there is also a casino. Montenegro may be small, but packs a lot of punch. Sapir Peretz-Zilberman fell under the spell of this beautiful Balkan country. Let her show you why.
Bay views over Kotor
The Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska) is the icing on the cake of Montenegro. Nicknamed the “southernmost fjord in Europe”, and it’s easy to see why, the whole area is jaw-droppingly gorgeous: black-green mountains rise above a beautiful cobalt bay, dotted with small coves and ancient towns. A serpentine road (25 twists and turns) will bring you up to Mount Lovćen (national park), for a spectacular view of the whole bay, arguably one of the most beautiful in Europe. If you’re adventurous, you can zipline through the area, while close by there is also a tamer rope park for the whole family.
Prosciutto and seafood
Prosciutto (the local carpaccio) is served everywhere, but the best place to eat it is in the village of Njeguši, named after Petar Petrović-Njegoš, one of Montenegro’s last rulers. In the tiny village, there is a family that has been smoking prosciutto since 1881, in a 7-month smoking process. If you’re a fan, you simply must stop at the house and order an assortment of prosciutto platter for about €7.
The family also specializes in excellent cheeses. Another Montenegro specialty is freshly served fish and seafood, but for me, the most memorable experience was the flavorful tomatoes of yesteryear. Desserts, on the other hand, were not as memorable, but enough said.
History, boutiques & cafes in Kotor
The city of Kotor boasts a 2,000-year history, and the centuries-old wall that stretches for 3 miles (5 km) around it is evidence of that rich past. The fortifications wind their way on the slopes of Mount San Giovanni, ending at the summit with a 16th-century fortress that protected the city for ages. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient city of Kotor is fun to wander, with its cobblestone alleys, the narrowest street in the country (30 inches or 80 cm wide), small boutiques, and excellent cafes for people watching. Before corona, the city was jam-packed with tourists, and it is easy to see why.
Beaches and nightlife in Budva
The city of Budva can be divided in two: the modern resort town offers a myriad of hotels, casinos, clubs, and 17 manicured beaches stretching for miles on the shores of the Adriatic Sea; and the old walled city with its cobblestone alleys, tiny shops, cafes, restaurants, and excellent clubs and pubs serving cheap alcohol. And if you are an archeology buff like me, take some day trips from Budva and visit Bar, another beautiful and ancient town, with archaeological findings from the Neolithic era and an impressive Ottoman aqueduct that overlooks an equally impressive landscape.
Sveti Stefan Island
On a tiny island called Sveti Stefan lies a sumptuous and very (very) expensive hotel by that name, part of the Aman hotel chain. Yet Sveti Stefan was not always a synonym for luxury. In the 15th century, the island was first inhabited by fishermen, who also dabbled in attacking Ottoman merchant ships, cause hey, you gotta make ends meet and build yourself a handsome stone house. In the 1960s, the islanders were evacuated and their stone houses converted into a fabulous resort that regularly caters to the rich and famous. And if you consider just sitting on one of the beaches overlooking the island, you will have to part with €150 for a sunbed. So for us, common people, all that’s left is to take a walk in the beautiful and verdant Park Milocer, overlooking the island.
The postcard-perfect Perast
Perast is one of those beautiful towns perched above the Bay of Couture. This Baroque gem is worth a few hours or more, exploring the streets with its ancient houses and waterfront restaurants. From its tiny port, it is well worth taking a cruise to some of the even smaller islands dotting the bay. One of them is an artificial island, dominated by a small church, Our Lady of the Rocks. Legend has it that the island was built on the remains of sunken Turkish vessels, and the island monastery pays respects to the courage of ancient seafarers. Another legend tells the story of two fishermen who found an icon of the Madonna and the Child on a rock in the sea and swore an oath to throw a rock to the bottom of the sea, in the very same place, every time they returned from a successful fishing expedition, thus creating a small islet.
Sailing on the lake
The sprawling Lake Skadar is a national park. Surrounded by a mountain range and dense vegetation, it is home to 260 species of birds, turtles, frogs, and water snakes. In the center of the lake lies a small island with an Ottoman fortress built in 1843 as a prison, both for criminals and for political opponents, though today you will find here mainly nesting birds. If you have the time, you can go boating on a lake from the town of Virpazar.
The marina in Porto Montenegro
Established in 2009, the Porto Montenegro Marina has been crowned the most beautiful in Europe, and that’s not an exaggeration. This is the place to come so you can check out mega-yachts, do some (window) shopping for haute couture and all other luxury brands, stay at expensive hotels and dine at gourmet restaurants, and most of all hobnob with beautiful women (and men) sitting at posh cafes.
The writer was invited by the Ministry of Tourism in Montenegro; Mr. Nimrod Rinot, Honorary Consul of Montenegro in Israel; and Israir Airlines.