If ever there was a land to go exploring it’s Montenegro.
Half the size of Wales and sharing borders with Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, this tiny country was at the heart of conflict for decades.
Calm prevails these days and, slowly but surely following in the footsteps of Croatia, Montenegro’s on the way to becoming another Adriatic must-do.
It’s far from a family holiday secret and resorts springing up along the coast suggest it could fall foul of growing popularity. But at the moment it’s still peaceful, unspoiled and well worth getting to know a little better.
A tiny country by any standards, Montenegro counts 72km of beaches along its Adriatic west coast.
Direct flights from the UK to Tivat take just over two hours and all coastal areas are within easy driving distance of the airport.
Dubrovnik also has frequent direct flights from the UK is less than an hour’s drive from medieval Herceg Novi’s lovely beaches in the north of Montenegro.
Lake Skadar National Park has the Balkan’s largest lake at its heart and is a protected wetland habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife and birds.
Lively seaside resorts built around beautifully preserved medieval old towns are a feature all along Montenegro’s coast.
Stretching for 12,0000m, Velika Plaža on the south east coast, is Europe’s longest beach.
Montenegro has three UNESCO World Heritage sites: the historic region of Kotor; Stećci Tombstones; and Durmitor National Park in the far north.
Where to go
As close to Dubrovnik Airport as Tivat, Herceg-Novi’s another pretty medieval village transformed into a seaside resort. The difference here is; the transformation took place in the 19th century and the legacy’s charming.
Mid-range three and four star hotels, apartments and guesthouses.
Set in sheltered bay with temperatures from 22 – 26˚ from May to September.
Highlight is the attractive medieval old town.
35 minutes from Dubrovnik and an hour’s drive from Perast.
If you’ve seen pictures of Montenegro, there’s a high chance you’ve seen Perast. The UNESCO World Heritage town on the Bay of Kotor has one of Europe’s loveliest waterfronts and looks more Venetian than overcrowded Venice does these days.
The 18th century nautical college in Perast was considered the finest in Europe, hence the seafaring monuments and museums and the elegant traditional architecture.
Have lunch at one of the restaurants with terraces overlooking the bay.
Take the short ferry crossing to our Lady of the Rocks Island, the church museum’s more than worth the few euros’ fare.
Montenegro’s coast is trimmed from end to end with breathtakingly pretty medieval towns (some walled, some not). Thanks to the abundant beaches, most are now seaside resorts and Budva’s one of the liveliest. Here the old town’s such a charmer it’s easy to accept the less attractive new build background for what it is: an excellent source of places to stay, shop, eat and play.
Good for three and four star holiday hotels, villa rentals and family-run guesthouses.
Budva attracts a young holiday crowd so there’s plenty of nightlife and party atmosphere in high summer. Fun to visit with teenagers.
Pebbly Slovenska Plaža is Budva’s large main beach and good for water sports but soft and sandy Morgen is much prettier and nearby Sveti Nikola Island has best beaches of all.
Budva’s also where you’ll find Sveti Stefan, the 15th century fishing island transformed into an Aman luxury resort. Non-guests can admire the pretty cluster of ancient buildings from a distance.
Montenegro’s most visited city strings round the head of the Bay of Kotor and has an old town to rival Dubrovnik or Split any day.
Start exploring the old town in the main square, Trg od Oružja, alleys and streets twist off in all directions and getting thoroughly lost is part of the adventure.
Challenge kids to climb the Old Fortress walls, it’s a bit of a hike but the views are well worth the effort.
Spend some time on the waterfront, the Bay of Kotor’s surrounded by impressive cliffs and it’s one of the most dramatic harbours in Europe.
Eat here, the city’s grand cafés are visitor attractions in their own right.
Laid back little Petrovac is a friendly, family resort just 20 minutes south west of Budva. Known for its mix of big, water sport packed beaches and small, sunny coves, it’s one of the best areas for all-inclusive hotels and self-catering apartments.
Characterful former fishing village with pretty waterfront, small shops and cafés and a dramatic Venetian fortress.
Petrovac town beach is good for snorkelling and water sports. Nearby Lucice is the one for beach bars and cute cafés.
With a three kilometre long beach, mountain views and a classically elegant prom, Becici couldn’t fail to be the perfect Balkan seaside resort. It’s less than 70 years old, but Budva’s a short walk away to fill the ancient history requirement, leaving Becici to get on with serving up fantastic seafood, organising water sports, mixing cocktails and generally looking after everyone beautifully.
Excellent range of places to stay from five-star luxury hotels to good value apartments and all-inclusive family resorts.
Traditional promenade lined with pretty cafés and craft shops.
20 minutes walk from Budva old town and closer still to Rafailovici; a old fishing village well known locally for good seafood restaurants.
What to do
Lake Skadar National Park Centred around the largest lake in the Balkans, this wetland natural park is a true, unspoiled wilderness adventure just an hour’s drive north east of Budva. The only buildings are ancient monasteries, churches and tiny hamlets. A haven for rare water birds and wildlife it’s wonderful for walking, hiking and sailing.
Our Lady of the Rocks The church of Our Lady of the Rocks is on the little island of Gospa od Skrpjela a short sail from Perast. The church museum’s a mine of strange tales and filled with eccentric artefacts.
Ulcinj Beaches An hour’s drive east of Budva, the Ulcinj Coast is on the Albanian border and has some of the country’s biggest, sandiest beaches. This is where to find 12km long Velika Plaža.
The Ladder of Kotor The Ladder of Kotor is really an ancient drovers route from the 940m high Krstac Pass down to Kotor Old Town. Can be done as a hike or on mountain bikes, either way the views of the bay are astonishing.
Bay of Kotor cycling tour An easy going, self-guided cycle tour round the beautiful Bay of Kotor, starting and finishing in the historic city.
Aquapark, Budva The biggest waterpark in the Balkans sits in the hills behind Budva. It opened in 2016 and, with 145m long slides, 26m high chutes and over 50 kid’s attractions, competes well with other Mediterranean giants.
Tara Canyon Rafting, Pluzine Tara Canyon in northern Montenegro is the largest in Europe and made for rafting. Stay overnight in the fun raft camp or just go for a wild day out.
Lipa Cave Adventure, Cetinje Just outside Cetinje, the Lipa Cave is the largest limestone cavern in Montenegro and descending down into the depths is thrilling.
Ulcinj Museum, Ulcinj One of Montenegro’s finest archaeological collections and an insight into the long and fascinating history of one of the Mediterranean’s most intriguing cities.
Wake Park, Tivat Wakeboarding, water-skiing, jet-skiing and dozens of other water sports, just outside Tivat, less than an hour from Budva.
Educational value for kids
Old town guided tours are entertaining and fascinating in Perast and Kotor.
Start exploring Lake Skadar National Park at the excellent visitor centre.
Spend a day in Montenegro’s old royal capital, Cetinje. It’s only 40 minutes from the coast and has several interesting museums and galleries.
Drive to Dubrovnik in Croatia for the day, it’s about 45 minutes from Herceg-Novi and one of the loveliest cities in Europe. It’s also home to several iconic Game of Thrones’ locations.
Shkodra, the cultural capital of Albania, is an easy and interesting day trip with older kids and teenagers.
Visit the Maritime Museum in Perast and discover the Venetian connection in this lovely World Heritage town.
Take a cruise along Montenegro’s entire Adriatic coastline, it’s a fun day out and lets kids see historic towns and cities from a different perspective.
Getting around with kids in Montenegro
Hire a car in Montenegro. It’s a tiny country and, driving, you could easily explore almost all of it in one holiday. Taxis and water taxis are the best way to get about in towns and cities along the coast. Most resorts are easily walkable and there are bus services from Budva, Kotor and Ulcinj to central and northern Montenegro.