Traveling through the Balkans more has been a dream come true for me. I’ve loved being able to explore these countries, getting to know the local cultures, people and traditions. If you read my Bosnia and Herzegovina blog, you know I had the best time exploring there and now it’s time to move onwards in our journey, to Montenegro.
I was in Montenegro 3 years ago and I fell in love with the beaches, the quiet and old cities, and the people. But I was eager to come back and explore more than just the coast. Exploring Montenegro can be hard at times (unless you want to simply spend your time on the coast) because they don’t have the best public transportation systems in place.
For getting around the Eastern parts of the country you’ve really got two options. You can try your luck at hitchhiking or you can rent a car. Obviously, that would depend more on the type of trip you want, if you can drive and your budget. But we’ll get into all of that a bit later on.
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The Ultimate Guide to Traveling in Montenegro!
Things to know before you go
Montenegro uses the Euro however, they are not part of the EU or the Schengen. Why is this relevant? Well if you have a phone provider that works in the EU, your phone won’t work in Montenegro.
The cost of travel in Montenegro varies widely based on where you visit. It’s must like Croatia in that aspect. If you are traveling along the coast, things are going to cost you more. (Still less than Western Europe but more than the eastern parts of the country.)
You can drink the tap water throughout the country!
How long should you stay?
I would spend between 10-14 days traveling through Montenegro to really be able to see everything and enjoy your time. It’s going to be important to have at least a week if you want to spend time on the coast and still be able to see a couple of the National Parks but if you want to do everything I list in this guide, 14 days is going to be the perfect amount of time.
When should I go?
Obviously, summer in Montenegro is going to be busy. With Cruise Ships coming in every day and people backpacking through the Balkans and taking their summer holidays, it’s really a popular destination. However, summer in Montenegro is so nice. The weather is perfect almost every day and you can’t go wrong with days spent at the beach, in the mountains and wandering cobblestone streets.
If you choose instead to come in the winter, you might fancy some winter sports. There are plenty of choices for skiing and snowboarding in Montenegro and while I’ve never been, I’ve really heard wonderful things about it. I know those mountains would be absolutely stunning covered in snow. That being said, you’re choosing another high season to come in. So if you’re looking to escape the crowds and still have pleasant weather for exploring, I would say to come to visit in the Spring.
Getting to Montenegro
You have plenty of options when it comes to getting to Montenegro. There are buses from Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, and Albania. You can also fly into the two airports in this tiny country (I was shocked about the fact that they have two airports because they’re such a small country!).
It’s pretty easy, the airports aren’t that far apart so you can fly into whichever has better prices for you. There’s Tivat Airport, perfect if you plan on visiting Kotor, Tivat, and Budva. Or there’s Podgorica Airport (in the ) which is perfect for renting a car and exploring more of the National Parks!
I traveled into Montenegro by bus from Sarajevo and it took A-L-L day. The bus ride was meant to be about 10 hours and it ended up being closer to 15. By the time we finally got to Kotor all I wanted to do was sleep for a week!
Getting around within Montenegro
Like I said before, getting around within the country can be challenging. There’s not a lot of public transportation options once you decide to head eastern and away from the coast. If your plan is to spend your entire time on the beaches between Kotor, Tivat, and Budva, then you’ll be just fine spending the whole time taking buses.
However, if you want to explore the National Parks and the more eastern parts of the country, then you are going to need a car. You can basically rent a car or you can hitchhike. Now, I’ve done both in Montenegro and I can easily tell you that hitchhiking is really safe and quite normal. When I was hitchhiking I met several other people and we all sort of stuck together for a while. People were always happy to pick me up and give me a ride onwards.
This trip, with there being three of us though, we decided that renting a car would be the better option. I have to be honest with you, renting the car was extremely easy. I’ll write more about renting a car in Montenegro in another post and share that with you here.
We chose to rent the car for 5 days so that we had a chance to see as much of the country as possible. I would recommend renting a car from a local company instead of a larger corporation. The locals are amazing and they will take really good care of you. We had a great experience renting from Montenegro Family Rentals (more on them in another post)
**Warning! The roads are very small in most parts of the country. While the Montenegrin people drive just fine (unlike drivers in Italy or parts of Asia for sure) it can still be dangerous to drive within the country. There were several times that we were driving down a narrow road, big enough for one car only, with lots of twists and turns when we had another driver come flying around the corner only to barely miss us. There was lots of backing up until one person could get to a pull-out and there was always somebody waiting for a chance to pass me.
My biggest tip if you are going to be driving in Montenegro is to always go the speed limit and drive responsibly. Even if people want to pass you, just let them. The Montenegrins are a bit impatient but overall they are wonderful and they don’t mind just speeding along around you while you drive safely along.
Where to visit in Montenegro
There’s a lot of choices when it comes to places to visit, even in this tiny country! Here’s a sample itinerary with the various cities and parks you should visit during your holiday.
Kotor is a must-visit when you are traveling in Montenegro. If you don’t know anything about the country, you’ve still probably heard of Kotor and if you’ve mentioned wanting to visit Montenegro, people have probably told you to go to Kotor.
But why is Kotor so popular? Well it has the famous old city still within the city walls. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and if you’re spending anytime in Montenegro, a stop in the old city of Kotor is really a must.
Keep in mind, Kotor is a popular stop for cruise ships so between the hours of 10am and 5pm it’s super busy. But if you’re willing to wake up a bit early, explore the city before the world wakes up and after the ships have left port, you’ll have the whole city to yourself.
Tivat is a lovely city. It’s really close to Kotor, in the Bay of Tivat and everywhere in the city is only about 10 minutes from the airport (it’s TINY) Things to know about Tivat is that it’s definitely a yacht port. There are a lot of fancy people with fancy boats in Tivat.
It’s still a wonderful place to spend a few nights, there’s beaches, pools and clubs and plenty of shopping and fine dining. My top recommendation for Tivat would be visiting the Wine Bar. You can sit outside, watch the sunset and try a variety of local Montenegrin Wines. And the staff at the wine bar will take really good care of you!
B-E-A-U-tiful! Honestly. Our place in Lovcen was my favorite place that we stayed throughout our entire trip. It’s also going to be your best bet if you are looking to base yourself somewhere in the east to explore all of the country. Why is it the best? Well if you do a quick search on Airbnb, you would find that beyond Lovcen, there is nothing outside of the capital that far inland.
It’s the perfect little city to have a base, be in nature, do lots of hiking and still not have to pay huge prices for cabins and fancy hotels in the National Parks. Plus you’re really close to the Lovcen National Park which you have to visit during your trip. It’s a beautiful drive on some of the nicest roads in the country. (Nicest roads meaning wide roads, plenty big enough for 2 cars that are always paved.)
While you’re in Lovcen National Park, make sure that you drive to Vidikovac. A beautiful viewpoint with a restaurant. You can see stunning views over Kotor which I absolutely loved. You have this awesome viewing platform that you can walk out too. Make sure that you go early as it gets really busy!
**Hot tip - if you go in the afternoon or the middle of the day, make sure that you pay attention to how many cars and people are around when you start to get close to the top. There’s only a tiny spot at the top where you can turn your car around, park and leave and it gets congested! I recommend that if it seems like a lot of people are there, park lower down and walk. It’s really not worth the headache of having people trying to reverse uphill, get out of people’s way and still find a parking spot.
Durmitor National Park
My favorite place in Durmitor is Crno Jereno, otherwise known as the Black Lake. The Black Lake is extremely beautiful. It’s about a 3-hour drive from Lovcen in Durmitor National Park. I would recommend if you stay near Lovcen as your base, leave for Durmitor early so that you can arrive before crowds of people. Bring a bagged lunch or small picnic to eat at the lake and then carry on with a hike in the afternoon.
If you’ve got even more time to spend in Montenegro, there are several overnight hikes, ski trips and climbing trips that can be done here. There’s a lodge right by the lake and tons of small villages all around where you can easily find a room to sleep in (but don’t count on there to be Airbnb)
While you are visiting Durmitor, make sure that you drive the additional hour to the Đurđevića Tara. A really beautiful bridge over a canyon where you can zip lining! They claim is the longest zip line in all of Europe. We didn’t zip line while we were there but we sure had a fun time watching everyone fly across the canyon next to the bridge.
Either on your way to Crno Jezero or on your way back to Lovcen you should try to stop at the Ostrog Monastery. It’s about an hour detour and then you can have a walk around and take some photos. It’s a really beautiful Monastery that’s been built right into the mountainside with a steep and winding road taking you directly to its front doors.
A forest and National Park located just a three-hour drive from Lovcen or a four-hour drive from Budva. It’s one of the last 3 remaining large virgin forests in all of Europe. It’s the perfect place to take your book, your picnic basket and a blanket to just lay around for the day.
Bar is a coastal town in Southern Montenegro with a nice city to wander through and some of the best beaches in the country. I would highly recommend choosing to visit Bar over a stay in Budva and one of those reasons is because there will be way, way, wayyyyy fewer people in Bar and in my opinion… the beaches are nicer.
Skadar Lake National Park
W-O-W. I struggle to find the words to explain to you how amazing Skadar Lake is. It was probably the part of Montenegro that I was most excited to see and it did not disappoint. It’s an easy drive from your base in Lovcen, only about an hour but the roads to get there are winding and small. You need to make sure that you drive slow and careful. There’s plenty of places that you might want to stop while visiting and your first stop should be Rijeka Crnojevića.
Rijeka Crnojevića is an adorable little old town right and the river that feeds into Skadar Lake. It’s really close to the beautiful viewpoint where the river curves through the mountains and is covered with lily pads. It’s really beautiful. Stop for dinner on your drive back to Lovcen!
The next stop on your day spent at Skadar Lake. Virpazar is the center for Skadar Lake National Park. It’s got loads of restaurants, tourist centers and information for your day. We went into the tourist information first thing and learned that the best thing to do is take a boat out onto the lake for a couple of hours.
At first, we just wanted to find a hike but soon we were convinced that going out on the boat was the best option so I’m here to tell you that. When you go to Skadar Lake, make sure that you go out on a boat ride. Believe me, there are going to be plenty of choices thrown at you from the moment you park the car. However, there’s one place that you should go to!
When you first arrive in Virpazar you’ll come to the main street where you’ll walk past the Pelican Hotel. Cross the bridge and on the left-hand side, there’s going to be a green building. Go inside the green building and talk to Alexandra about a boat trip. I promise you can’t go wrong with them. And no, this isn’t sponsored. They were just incredible and I want people to visit them! So remember, when you arrive in Virpazar, walk across the bridge and go straight for the little green building. I promise you’ll have the best day if you do.
Ada Bojana is an island created by a river delta of the Bojana River. It’s one of the top-rated beaches in Montenegro and for good reason. It’s beautiful! It’s a sandy beach, while most of the other beaches in Montenegro are rocky pebble beaches. Ada Bojana also features a few quaint places to stay and plenty of restaurants to choose from for a nice meal.
Plan ahead and do some nice hikes while you can! Mrtvica Canyon is a stunning part of the country and it has loads to offer by way of hiking. I wasn’t able to do any hiking when I visited because I didn’t plan enough ahead, but talk to some locals and find out what’s good. There will be some amazing options through the gorgeous mountains of Mrtvica Canyon.
Alright, so you’re probably thinking right now that I have given you more than enough options to plan an epic holiday in Montenegro and that was, after all, the goal of this post. There were, however, two cities that I didn’t mention as places you should stay and I think I should mention why now. It’s not that I overly have a problem with either of these places, personally, I just found the to be crowded and not my vibe.
Should you visit Budva?
My immediate response is no… Budva is B-U-S-Y and crowded. The beach was loaded with people and umbrellas and trash all the way down. And there are so many beaches in Montenegro that don’t look like that and that don’t have a million people at them. Do some research and find somewhere nice and off the beaten path to visit if you want nice beaches. I promise you’ll have a better time than you normally would in Budva.
Should you visit Podgorica?
Oh Podgorica… the capital of Montenegro. It’s busy, it’s bustling and it’s mainly just a big city. I’ve learned over the last couple of years of traveling that I’m not a fan of the big cities. I don’t care for wandering around among the throngs of people, cars, and buses. I’d much rather be in some small village or a remote town, having to make my way through dirt roads and mud. That being said, I only had to drive through Podgorica to realize it wasn’t for me which is why I haven’t really included it on the list of cities and places that you should visit.
That being said, you’ll do what you like and I’m sure your itinerary will look much different from mine! It all depends on what kind of adventure you are after.
When it comes to places to stay, you have plenty of options in you are visiting around the coasts. There are plenty of affordable guesthouses, hostels and nice hotels to choose from. We mainly stayed in Airbnb’s because that’s the best option when you are three people traveling together. I also loved staying in Airbnb because all of our hosts were so hospitable. Click here to get $40 off your stay and $!5 in credit for experiences!!
My favorite Airbnb was in Lovcen. We decided to stay there for a couple of nights to base ourselves while we drove to the various sites we wanted to see. Our Airbnb was perfect, right outside of town and easy to find. When we arrived, our host was waiting for us with a bottle of Montenegrin wine.
The next day, they brought us some homemade cake to eat. And every time we had a question or needed anything, they were happy to help. The apartment was perfect. And that hospitality is exactly what you can expect throughout the country.
If you are interested in staying in the National Parks during your trip, you’ll have to book those through an option like Booking.com. There are tons of stunning mountain lodges in the country which are perfect for those in need of a break from the city.
I would highly recommend finding somewhere to stay near Zabljak in the Northeastern part of the country because there are a lot of beautiful lakes and hikes around this area. It would be worth spending a few nights here to explore, especially if you have your own car.
Eating a Vegan Diet in Montenegro
Eating a plant-based diet in Montenegro was much like Bosnia. The grocery stores have lots of options when it comes to plant-based milk and hummus but it’s not amazing at the restaurants. That being said, they usually had an option like a salad or vegetable soup so when we all went out together, that’s what I chose to eat.
When you are staying in an apartment though, you have the opportunity to cook at home and eat a lot more things like pasta, stir-fries, and chilies. I’m telling you though… the supermarkets were all amazing. I loved walking through finding so many vegan options. They had loads of protein bars, milk alternatives, candies and crisps and more. It was easy to find things I would be able to eat there.
Eating out with a Vegan Diet in Montenegro was a little harder. Here’s what I ate whenever I went out:
- Salad (which is really just onion, tomatoes and cucumbers)
- Vegetable platter (without the cheese and egg)
- Vegetable Soup (often called Montenegrin Soup)
- Veggie Pizza (without cheese)
- Dark Chocolate Gelato and Fruity Sorbets
- French Fries
Cost of Travel in Montenegro
Like I said above, traveling costs change drastically depending on where you are staying in the country. Renting an Airbnb in Kotor is going to cost you more then Budva which is going to cost you more than Lovcen. Keep that in mind when you are preparing your budget.
🏨 Double Room: $20 a night
🛏️ Hostel Dorm: $8 a night
🥘 Lunch/Dinner: $6-8
🍌Fruit Snacks: A bunch of bananas is about $0.50
🚰 Drinking water - FREE! Tap water is clean and safe to drink
🚋 Public Buses: $2-3
🚗 Renting a Car: $10 a day
⛽ Gas/Petrol: $80 for 5 days
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