Montenegro Hidden Gems

imageI’m mad about Montenegro. Seriously- the cousin to Croatia could not be cooler. Landscape, activities, food, wine, beaches- you name it it has it- and for a hell of a lot cheaper than Croatia too! Montenegro is an up and coming tourist destination that I predict will be just as popular as Croatia- and with good reason…

My travelling buddy Amy and I decided to head to Montenegro in the midst of planning our Croatia trip- we figured we had enough time in the 2.5 weeks of our holiday to hit up both countries and I’m so glad we made that very wise decision- of the whole trip one of the towns we visited in Montenegro ( Kotor- see below ) was my favourite place of them all. Here is a list of the three places we visited in this beautiful country and some tips for your trip:

1.) Herceg Novi

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Herceg Novi is a quaint little town right near the border of Croatia and Montenegro. We took a bus from Dubrovnik and the journey time was only one hour, including passing through customs, and was a pleasant scenic drive along the coast. By the way- if coming from Croatia to Montenegro make sure you have euros! Montenegro uses the Euro currency while Croatia uses the Kuna.

Where to stay: Jadran Apartments

Our Host Dragan very kindly picked us up from the train station and drove us to our apartment where we were staying for the two nights. Wow. The apartment was lovely, with two beds, a tv, nice bathroom and cooking facilities- a welcome change from our tiny place in Dubrovnik- and about a third of the price; your money goes much farther in Montenegro. Over the course of the two nights Dragan and her adorable children provided us with homemade apple pie and nutella crepes. She also drove us back to the bus station for our departure. She was a wonderful host and I highly recommend this apartment (and the town) for your stay. To see Jadran Apartments click on the link below:

http://www.agoda.com/en-ie/apartments-jadran/hotel/herceg-novi-me.html

Where to go: Herceg Novi Theatre/ Kanli Kula Fortress

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Whichever name you want to call it you must go there. And yes I would pick an ancient theatre as my number one recommendation! But trust me- this place is not just for the thespians. Situated in the centre of the old town, it is a stunningly well preserved ruin which offers unparalled views of the city and the beach. Emerge into a plethora of romantic winding streets as you exit and stroll through the beautiful architecture of the old town. Don’t forget your camera!

Where to eat: The Admiral

The Admiral is a lovely bar/restaurant situated in the centre of town on a tiny stretch of land in the ocean amidst the small marina. Enjoy a lovely meal or some drinks while you gaze out at the ocean with a lovely breeze tickling your face and the sun (hopefully) shining overhead.

2.) Kotor

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As mentioned above- this was far and away my favourite place in the entire 2.5 week holiday. Kotor is, simply, stunning. I can’t possibly recommend this place enough- just go. Trust me.

Where to stay: Old Town Hostel.

This was also my favourite hostel of the whole trip. Located in the centre of the beautiful Old Town, you will get a friendly welcome by the staff and the resident cat. The hostel itself is designed in the old town architecture, which makes for a picturesque stay but which also offers modern amenities such as cooking facilities. The hostel organizes pub crawls nightly, as well as affordable home made meals (just €4!) and is a friendly, sociable, and lively atmosphere for international backpackers.

Where to go: Ancient City Walls & Our Lady of the Rocks

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A) Ancient City Walls: A trip  to Kotor would absolutely not be complete without a walk of the city’s Ancient Walls. This stunning ( and slightly steep) climb is rewarded with breathtaking views of the entire Kotor Bay, the Old Town, Surrounding villages, and Mountains, plus is a great way to get a bit of exercise in between all that wine and cheese you are undoubtedly consuming! This is one activity/photoshoot that you do not want to miss.

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B) Our Lady of the Rocks: is located in the town of Perast,  only a short bus ride away from Kotor. A bus can be taken from the main bus station in Kotor, and takes about 30 minutes to reach Perast. Aside from strolling through the lovely town and finding a nice lunch spot amidst the many restaurants, Perast is famous for the ‘Lady of the Rocks’ island. Finding a boat to take you to the island is no problem- by simply taking a stroll through the town you will be offered the chance multiple times by a variety of sailors. A return trip costs just $5 and approximately 1.5 hours is needed for the experience.

The boat ride is lovely but short, lasting approximately 5 minutes, before you unboard at the island. You will make your way into the ‘Lady of the Rocks’ church, a tiny but beautiful chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The ladies inside will offer you a tour of the museum for €2- take it. They are both extremely knowledgeable and charismatic and the museum, with it’s contents and history, is absolutely fascinating.

Here is a brief history: The Lady of the Rocks was formed when a group of sailors discovered a portrait painting of The Virgin Mother on a rock in the middle of the sea. They took this as a heavenly sign that a shrine should be constructed and over the course of several decades, did just that, by not only building a man made island, but the church and museum on it as well. To this day the Lady of the Rocks acts as a beacon of hope, faith, and prayer for sailors and sea men- the museum is comprised of artefacts sent from around the world of captains and crew members who survived boat disasters and airplane crashes, their lives supposedly saved through prayers to the Virgin Mary.

Where to eat: Anywhere

Any number of restaurants in the Old Town of Kotor make for a lovely meal. I don’t mean to be vague here but they nearly all seemed the same to me! Any number of places will be serving pizza, pasta and seafood, many located in picturesque courtyards and laneways- all were equally delicious in my opinion!

 3.) Budva

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Where to stay: Old Town Hostel

I know right- nearly every hostel is called Old Town Hostel! There seems to be one per town and I would pretty much recommend every single one! Staying in a hostel in any old town in Montenegro or Croatia guarantees a great atmosphere and lots of food and drink options nearby. The best part of the Old Town hostel in Budva is that it is only a five minute walk from the beach…

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Where to go: The Beach!

Budva was our first beach location in a number of days (Herceg Novi and Kotor don’t really offer that much in terms of nice beaches) and is geared specifically around this. Complete with sunbeds, water trampolines, beach bars and a boardwalk, Budva is your beach destination in Montenegro- just beware of tourists. Rent a sunbed for the day (€7), get out your book, and order a beer to your bed- that’s the life.

Where to eat: The Boardwalk

Any of the many foodstands and sit down restaurants that dot the boardwalk are your best bet in Budva. The boardwalk is teeming with restaurant options, many overlooking the water, so you will most certainly not be stuck for choices. Whether you want a sit down meal, a take out kebab, or even some cotton candy you will have more options than you possibly could want!

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I could not recommend Montenegro more- it has many of the desirable qualities that Croatia does- beauty and beaches, but offers these at a cheaper price and with less tourists ( plus, we found, slightly friendlier locals!) If planning a trip to the Balkans, I recommend you add this country to your itinerary. As always if you have further questions don’t hesitate to get in contact.

Hvala!

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