Montenegro Travel Guide
Being one of a handful of nations that descended into chaos after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s, Montenegro has recovered remarkably since that terrible time, boasting a wide array of cultural and natural attractions that hold appeal for a wide variety of travelers.
Due to its archaic name and a lack of effective promotion though, you could be forgiven if you have never heard of this nation before. If you count yourself as a part of that camp, then you would be doing yourself a big favour by discovering this place, as its UNESCO protected heritage and its rugged geography combine with a low cost of living and thinner crowds to create an experience that will make this portion of your trip quite memorable.
From medieval villages that will charm you, to bays, lakes and canyons that will lull you into a peak state of relaxation, Montenegro is a destination that should figure prominently in your explorations in the Balkans!
What To Do
Built into the side of a sheer cliff, the Monastery of Ostrog will produce gasps at first sight, even from the most jaded of cultural travelers. Serving as a monastery for the Serbian Orthodox Church since the 17th century, this place has been a popular place for pilgrims to visit over the generations, as praying by the enshrined body of the founder Vasilije, who was the bishop of Herzegovina at the time of the monasteries’ construction, has been said to heal physical, emotional and mental disturbances. Interestingly enough, not only Catholics and Orthodox Christians come here, but local Muslims also pray here, which outlines a form of connection and coexistence that often gets overlooked in today’s polarized world.
Montenegro is home to a number of quaint, beautiful, and richly cultural medieval villages. The first one of these that you should make time for in your travels is Kotor, which sits alongside one of the most picturesque bays in the world. Founded in Venetian times in the 2nd century BCE, Kotor has a wealth of architecture that it has collected over the eons, complementing its natural surroundings perfectly.
Make time to see St Tryphon’s Cathedral, which dates from the 11th century and holds the tomb of a saint, and then climb to the fortifications that date from the times of late Roman Empire. Afterwards, have a brew in the old town square, and drink in the environs that showcase some of the best examples of natural and human history in this country.
Another town that should not escape your attention on your explorations of Montenegro should be Budva, which appeals more to those looking for more of a social and party-friendly experience. This town does have its share of historical attractions, including churches and an old town that has fortifications, city walls, monuments and narrow streets and alleys that just ooze character.
However, this town’s largest draw are its stunning beaches, which contain just off-white sands that are backed by sheer cliffs, and are fronted by waters that glow with a thousand different shades of blue/green. Adventurous souls should check out a place called Shark’s Rock, located down the coast from the main beach, where cliff jumpers look to stoke their adrenaline addiction by leaping off this fear-inducing precipice.
If fresh water is more to your liking, then checking out Montenegro’s frontage on the voluminous Lake Skadar should be high on your list of travel priorities. Containing wetlands that play host to a large number of avian species, this place is a paradise for birders, and with lakeside monasteries, and natural karst landscapes, those into culture and natural assets will be suitably pleased as well.
Trekkers should endeavour to make an expedition up the Tara River Canyon during their time here, as it towers a dizzying 1,300 metres above the surface of the river that it hosts. Indeed, only the Grand Canyon in the United States is deeper than the Tara River Canyon in the world, and with the minerals in the water turning it into a brilliant hue of blue, trekking here contains ample rewards that make the efforts of getting here more than worth it!
What To Eat
Do you like cured pig products? Then sampling some Njeguska Prsuta should top your culinary list during your time in Montenegro. Bearing many similarities to prosciutto, this dried ham has a distinctive flavour owing to both the wood used to smoke the meat, and the mix of “sea and mountain air”, as claimed by their creators.
While this dish was formerly only consumed by the working classes, Kacamak has become a well-loved comfort food in Montenegro. Consisting of a cornmeal base, potatoes and cheese are often added, and it is often served with minced meat and/or bacon, making this dish just the antidote for the colder, wetter days that you may encounter on your travels here.
When the time for dessert rolls around, reach for a Krofne, which is a doughnut that is well-loved across the Balkans, but particularly in Montenegro. These delectable treats are prone to snacking abuse by unsuspecting travelers, as they are filled with a wide variety of jams, nutella, chocolate, marmalade and the like. Tasty, but totally fattening … proceed with caution!