Montenegro is the kind of place that just has it all. There’s the promise of the turquoise Adriatic that calls out to the beach bums and the cobbled lanes of historic towns for the more culturally inclined. With endless peaks and canyons, it’s a playground for adventurers while delicious wine and peaceful hideaways make it the perfect escape if you’re just looking to kick-back.
Yep, there are SO many reasons to visit this under-the-radar Balkan gem – just make sure you do it soon, before the rest of the world cottons on! To help you get the most out of this magnificent country, we’ve put together a selection of the best things to do in Montenegro.
1. Find Your Happy Place At Lake Skadar
Bendy beauty at Lake Skadar #nofilter 📷@thesandyfeet
Stunning views from the nearby ruins of Besac Fortress 📷@thesandyfeet
The sparkling expanse of Lake Skadar is the perfect place to catch a little R&R and let the hours slide blissfully by. Start your adventure at the picturesque Virpazar, the main lakeside village gazing out onto distant jagged snow-capped peaks. Pop in at Rijeka Crnojevića (yep, it’s a mouthful) for lunch next to the enchanting double-arched Danilov Most Bridge, before continuing your adventure round the lake along the cliff-hugging track lake toward Podgorica.
There are so many pretty little spots to stop at on your way, but one place you absolutely mustn’t miss is Montenegro’s very own Horseshoe Bend – a rising star on Instagram, best viewed from the Pavlova Strana Viewpoint. The ruins of Besac Fortress, just a short stroll from Virpazar, make a fantastic perch for sunset, or you can even take an evening cruise on the water.
2. Climb The Fortress Walls Of Kotor
The terracotta rooftops of Kotor 📷@thesandyfeet
Leading up a crumbling staircase from the back of the old town, the fortress walls of Kotor funnel you up the mountainside, high above the belt of terracotta rooftops and the glistening Bay of Kotor. A hangover from the Venetian occupation and now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Area, the rubble-strewn site shows clear signs of decay, but the many dazzling views make this one of the best things to do in Kotor.
It’s a hot and rather sweaty walk up, but be assured your efforts won’t be for nothing. The Church of Our Lady of Remedy, about a third of the way up, is a good place for a breather before the long and final ascent. Make sure you bring plenty of water to combat the heat and wear sensible footwear for the trip up. Early mornings or just before sunset are the best times to visit when the temperatures are cooler and the crowds minimal.
3. Row Around Biogradska Gora
Biogradska Gora is one of the best places in Montenegro for nature lovers 📷@thesandyfeet
Rejuvenate your weary traveller soul and get back to nature with a trip to Biogradska Gora. At the heart of this national park, the smallest in Montenegro, you’ll find an emerald glacial lake encircled by leafy beech groves and lush mountain pastures. An easy 3km trail takes you through the virgin forest around the lake’s perimeter, or you can rent a wooden rowboat and spend an afternoon on the water. This is one of Montenegro’s more remote regions, but the nearest large town of Zablyak, a popular spot for nature-loving backpackers, is about an hour and a half’s drive away.
4. Get Off The Beaten Track In Mrtvica Canyon
It IS possible to hike Mrtvica Canyon without a guide 📷@thesandyfeet
Mrtvica Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in Montenegro 📷@thesandyfeet
Hugging the bends of the Mrtvica River, this stunning trail flies surprisingly under the radar, and many visitors are told it’s not possible to visit without an official tour guide… don’t listen! This is one of the best things to do in Montenegro, and there’s no reason to fork out for a guide unless you really want to.
Amble over bridges that crisscross the valley, goggle at the iridescent turquoise water and take a well-deserved rest beneath a shaded canopy in the belly of the canyon. The highlights of this 12km hike are the Gate of Wishes, a natural archway leading to an enticing blue, and foot-numbingly cold, pool; Danilov Most, a beautiful arched stone bridge; and an old Yugoslav army trail blown into the side of the mountain. Take the bus between Kolašin and Podgorica and hop off at Medurijecje to start the hike.
5. Raft Through Tara Canyon
Canyoning down the Tara River is not for the faint-hearted 📷@thesandyfeet
If you’re a hardcore adrenaline junkie, rafting down the Tara River is the bone-chilling river adventure you never knew you needed. This raging thread of blue runs through the second deepest canyon in Europe, and is a beautiful place to visit even if you don’t fancy getting in yourself.
From May to June when the river is at its most ferocious, the rapids will ensure you have a hard time staying in the boat. The rest of the year the river is a little more mellow but that doesn’t mean you won’t get a little (or a lot) wet. Water temperatures hover around 10 degrees, even in summer, so there’s plenty of incentive to try to stay onboard.
6. Hike To The Best Views In Montenegro At Lovćen
The views from Lovćen are like nothing you’ve ever experienced 📷@thesandyfeet
Montenegro is filled with Instagram-worthy spots, but the view from atop Lovćen definitely takes the cake. The zigzaging road up the mountainside is the most scenic route up. From there it’s 461 calf-burning steps to the mausoleum on top where poet Petar Petrović Njegoš is laid to rest. Once at the top, your legs may be burning but the epic panoramas and fresh mountain air will make it all worthwhile. Views this good are enjoyable at anytime of day, but come just before sunset for an added touch of magic.
If you have time, make a detour to the tiny village of Njeguši on the edge of the national park. Here you can try Njeguški pršut and Njeguški sir (more fun Montenegrin tongue twisters), a delicious variety of smoked ham and cheese for which the village is famous.
7. Enjoy Seafood and Wine in the Sun
Montenegrin garlic sauce will ruin garlic sauce for you 📷@thesandyfeet
Few things pair better with summer days by the sea than fresh seafood and a crisp glass of Montenegrin white. Best of all, Montenegro is so budget friendly you can try it all without worrying about your bank balance. Though the diet in Montenegro is generally very meat-heavy, the restaurants along the Montenegro coast serve the most divine seafood for just a few euros. Giant prawns dipped in garlic sauce are sure to be a crowd-pleaser, but you might want to work your way down the menu, just to be safe.
If seafood isn’t you’re thing, you can still enjoy the winning combo of wine, sea and sun. Head to the supermarket for truly backpacker-friendly prices – a decent bottle will set you back just €3 – and enjoy your own picnic by the water.
8. Hike The Mountain Trails Of Durmitor National Park
Durmitor National Park is a hiker’s paradise 📷@thesandyfeet
Though most visitors head to Montenegro for its beaches, the country’s north is slowly becoming known as a dream for outdoor enthusiasts. Durmitor National Park is the star attraction. With its dramatic backdrop of craggy peaks surrounded by lush alpine forests., there’s no doubt this is one of best things to do in Montenegro. The park is dotted with pristine mountain lakes linked by hiking trails, and is a truly magical place to disconnect from the outside world. If you’re after a real challenge, Bobotov Kuk, the highest peak in the park, is an arduous feat with spectacular rewards. Weather here is temperamental so come prepared for all eventualities.
9. Discover The Charm Of Montenegro Beaches
Montenegro has some of the best beaches in Europe 📷@thesandyfeet
Ah, the beaches of Montenegro – so easy to love, and oh so hard to leave. After days of luscious dips in the Adriatic, lazy afternoons under the beach umbrella and far too many ice creams, it can be near impossible to tear yourself away.
Eternally chaotic and slightly tacky Budva is the most popular of the Montenegro beaches, catering to the all-night party crowd of both locals and foreigners. Sveti Stefan, just a short hop further south is mellower and less crowded, while Petrovac, another laid-back option, sports a walkway that hugs the cliff line. For something a little more offbeat, head to the Luštica Peninsula where you’ll find some of the best beaches in Montenegro hidden in beautiful and secluded coves.
10. Get wonderfully lost in Kotor’s Old Town
Wandering Kotor’s picture-perfect Old Town 📷@thesandyfeet
A labyrinth of rambling cobbled streets, hidden plazas and crumbling staircases that lead to nowhere, the old town of Kotor is the perfect place to spend an afternoon or three following your feet rather than a map and getting completely and delightfully lost. If you’re not a fan of hiking, then taking a leisurely stroll around town is probably one of the best things to do while you’re in Montenegro.
Though some streets can seems a little dressed-up for tourists, take a few wrong turns and you’ll quickly find rows of pastel shutters listing in their frames, little old ladies hanging their washing overhead and the cute mewing cats for which this medieval town is famed.
11. Eat Ice Cream In Perast
The gorgeous views from Perast’s bell tower 📷@thesandyfeet
With ice-cream stands marking every corner of every village in Montenegro, a daily cone of berry, vanilla or chocolate is almost obligatory. Not that we’re complaining. A Montenegrin ice cream is best enjoyed while strolling through the bougainvillea-draped lanes of Perast, with rowboats teetering two and fro on the water and artists sketching Venetian architecture under every archway.
Once that task for the day is done (life here is so hard!), you can climb the bell tower and gaze out over the sea of terracotta rooftops or hop on a boat and zip across to nearby Our Lady Of The Rocks island.
12. Take your pals on a roadtrip
Car hire in Montenegro is cheap and will help you really get off the beaten track 📷@thesandyfeet
Bus transport in Montenegro is pretty easy to navigate, but for a total sense of freedom and to get completely off the beaten path, hit the road in your own four wheels. Zoom around hairpin bends that wind through the mountains, amble through the countryside on forgotten single-lane roads and discover ramshackle villages that are not yet marked on your map. Car Rental in Montenegro is extremely affordable, especially if shared between a group, so you don’t need to see a roadtrip in Montenegro as an indulgence. You’ll find the best choice of agencies in Podgorica, Tivat and Budva.
13. Find The Perfect Spot For Sunset
Gorgeous sunsets Sveti Stefan sunset from 📷@thesandyfeet
After a perfect day on the Montenegro coast filled with seafood, wine and salty spray, there’s nothing better than watching an epic sunset over the Adriatic. The hillside behind Sveti Stefan is a particularly beautiful place to ogle the sun-drenched cliffsand rose-painted sky as the day fades away. Make it that extra bit special by bringing a bottle of local red wine to accompany the show.
Are You Ready To Fall In Love With Montenegro?
Heart-melting dorm views at Old Town Hostel West Wing
So we’ve established that Montenegro is pretty damn special. But did you know that it’s also home to some charming little hostels that won’t break the bank. With dorms costing from £6.50 a night, wonderfully friendly vibes and glorious views like the above, it’s basically irresponsible of you NOT book your trip to Montenegro immediately.
Author Bio: Freya and Chris are the writer and photographer duo behind the travel blog, The Sandy Feet. They’re always looking for the next adventure, whether it’s hiking the mountains of Central Asia, getting lost in a historic town in Eastern Europe or lounging on a secluded beach in Tahiti. By sharing their experiences in unconventional places, they hope to show that the less explored corners of the world can be just as beautiful as destinations we already know and love. You can follow their day-to-day adventures on Instagram.