Best Montenegro Itinerary – Top Things to Do and See
- 1 Best Montenegro Itinerary – Top Things to Do and See
- 1.1 Kotor
- 1.2 Lovcen National Park
- 1.3 Cetinje and Lipa Cave
- 1.4 Budva and Sveti Stefan – 1 Day
- 1.5 Lake Skadar/Rijeka Crnojevića
- 1.6 Ostrog Monastery
- 1.7 Tara River Canyon
- 1.8 Zabljak & Black Lake at Durmitor National Park
- 1.9 Bobotov Kuk at Durmitor National Park
- 1.10 Lake Piva / P14
- 1.11 Perast / Our Lady of the Rocks
Are you planning your Montenegro itinerary and wondering about the most beautiful places and how to spend your time in Montenegro?
Then you might feel overwhelmed – at least, I did when I planned my trip. I hope, this post will help you plan your trip. Whether you stay 3 days, 5 days or 10 days in Montenegro – I am happy to share my experiences and recommendations with you.
Often referred to as one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, Montenegro is a must-see – especially if you are a nature lover who wants to experience outdoor activities, like hiking, biking, zip-lining, and more. And if you are looking for a more off-the-beaten-path type of place, then Montenegro is the country to visit.
Don’t get me wrong – Montenegro is surely no hidden gem. Within the last few years, it has become very popular. People from all over the world flock to Montenegro – but compared to other European destinations, it is still not that well known.
And not only is Montenegro stunning (as a regular Switzerland visitor, I have pretty high standards), it is also quite cheap (again, as a regular Switzerland visitor, I am used to high prices), which made a trip to Montenegro even more fun!
Find out about the best places to visit in Montenegro, what to do, how to get around, and more travel tips.
MONTENEGRO TRAVEL TIPS
Montenegro (Black Mountain) is a small country in the Balkans (Eastern Europe) that borders Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania.
It became an independent state only in 2006. Before that, it was part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. After the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1992, Montenegro remained part of a smaller Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, along with Serbia.
With a bit more than 620,000 inhabitants, Montenegro is a comparatively small country in Europe.
How to Get to Montenegro
Many people arrive via boat cruises to Kotor. It is a convenient way to arrive if you have only one day in Montenegro, but if you stay longer, then getting here by car, bus, or plane would be the best ways to get to Montenegro.
There are two international airports in Montenegro – Tivat (near the border to Dubrovnik/Croatia and the famous Kotor) and Podgorica, which is also the capital.
There are buses from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Kotor, but I suggest (though it is not very environmentally friendly) getting to Montenegro by car. You will need to have an insurance card – a green card/paper – if you get here in your own car or in a rental car, which you will most likely have to present when crossing borders.
How to Get Around
I drove. I am always in a quandary as I try to be environmentally friendly, but this is my pet peeve. And to be honest, driving in Montenegro is pretty amazing. Given its small size, it is very easy to get around – although driving in the mountains is time-consuming.
Given this, I suggest not staying in one place (unless you are in Montenegro for two or three days only), but to actually change hotels every night or second night, so you do not have to drive so much.
The streets in Montenegro are usually in very good condition – many new streets make driving fun. Some older streets tend to be very narrow though, and the drivers in Montenegro are more reckless than in Croatia.
My car also got hit by another car while I was there. Though no one was injured and it was only a fender bender (my car is still perfectly fine to drive), I am still waiting for the insurance of the person who caused the damage to pay the compensation. So, once I have more on that, I will update you here with tips on what to do if you have a car accident in Montenegro.
But despite the incident, I enjoyed the amazing scenery and would definitely road trip Montenegro again.
Apart from the drivers, I should mention that some mountain streets are a bit dangerous. Unlike in places like Italy, southern Germany, and Switzerland, not all mountains are protected by a net, so I saw smaller and bigger rocks lying on the streets – and swerving around them meant having to be 100% alert.
There are some streets that are closed due to weather conditions for most of the year – like the P14 from Pluzine to Zabljak (only partially open, more on that later).
Public transportation in Montenegro: I did not get to use any public transportation in this country, but it is supposed to be okay/good. You can use buses to get from one main place to another, and there are buses running within the cities.
Taxis are quite cheap in Montenegro, so they are a good option if there is no bus available.
Hitchhiking is very common in Montenegro – whether you’re young or old. I have never seen so many people hitchhiking (I am not a fan of this, to be honest, but especially not for solo female travelers).
Money / Currency / Costs
Even though Montenegro is not part of the European Union, the currency is the euro. Many places do not accept credit or debit cards (including apartments that are not very professional), so I highly suggest having enough cash on you.
Montenegro is quite affordable – not as cheap as Bosnia-Herzegovina, but cheaper than Croatia, and definitely cheaper than western European countries.
Kotor is probably the most expensive area to stay in and eat, but you can get a vegetarian dish, including a non-alcoholic drink, for around 10€ in a restaurant in the old town.
People / Language
My first impressions of the people in Montenegro were not great. I came from Bosnia, where I had only extremely positive experiences, and in Montenegro, people smiled less and were way more reserved (plus, I had a few people trying to rip me off, which did not really happen in Bosnia or Croatia).
Ironically, the day I had a little car accident, I met the friendliest people. After that, my perception of the people in Montenegro totally changed. Maybe it was also due to the fact that these were the more touristy areas and people actually spoke English and were more open.
When I left Montenegro, I headed to Dubrovnik via car. I met some very fun and nice border police on the Montenegrin side who were like (after looking at my ID), “See you again next year, Arzo.” After meeting such friendly border police, I was all good!
While I had read that many people speak (basic) English in Montenegro, I had a different experience. Even in many touristy areas, most people did not speak English and catered more to the Russian and Serbian tourists – since people in Montenegro basically speak Serbian, they probably learned Russian as a second language.
So, my tip: Download the Google translator app to be able to communicate with more people in Montenegro.
HOW TO SPEND 1-10 DAYS IN MONTENEGRO
Okay, here are some of the best things to do in Montenegro – so, of course, tweak the itinerary so it is the best for you but these activities give you enough ideas to spend up to two weeks in Montenegro.
If you have only one day in Montenegro, then I highly suggest visiting Kotor and the Kotor Bay area, which is located near the Croatian border and is also a popular day trip from Dubrovnik.
This area is absolutely stunning (though it is NOT my favorite place in Montenegro – you´ll find out about the most beautiful place in Montenegro later in this post), so it is no surprise that visitors from all over the world flock to pretty Kotor.
So, with one day in Montenegro, Kotor is the place to visit.
Kotor is situated in the southeastern part of the Bay of Kotor, beneath the limestone cliffs of Mt. Lovćen, and is a small town with only around 13,000 inhabitants. However, it might be small population-wise, but it impresses with its stunning scenery and general cuteness.
So, the best thing (THE absolute best thing) to do in Montenegro is to hike up St. John´s Fortress. It is a tedious 45-minute hike up (as it includes a lot of stairs), but the views are one of a kind.
Looking down at the town of Kotor and the Bay of Kotor will be one of your Montenegro highlights – and it is worth the entrance fee of 8€ that you have to pay if you start your hike between 8 am and 8 pm. (Want tips on how to avoid the fees and where to find a less tedious hike? Then head to my Kotor post.)
Hiking up should take about 2-4 hours (including breaks and some rest). Then, you have more time to explore the small town center with several Romanesque churches, walk the city walls, and stroll the port.
If you road trip Montenegro or if you have some more time on your hands, then drive to Lovcen National Park. The park is interesting, but the drive there is the actual spectacular thing to do.
Lovcen National Park
Montenegro has five national parks: one of them is Lovćen.
If you are in Kotor, you can get to Lovcen National Park via a scenic and stunning drive. The views are gorgeous and it is amazing to see how the scenery changes – it looks totally different from Kotor Bay!
The highlight of the Loven National Park is probably climbing up to the mausoleum of Petar Petrović Njegoš (1813 -1851), who is known as the greatest Montenegrin poet and ruler. You can drive close to the mausoleum and then climb some stairs (okay, it is a bit more than a few as there are 461 steps) to reach it.
I had my car crash that day, so I spent a lot of time with other things and was short on time. I paid the entrance fee for the National Park (3€) and parked my car at the parking area – ready to climb the stairs. But my time was limited and the mausoleum was about to close.
However, the chapel is supposed to be the most impressive part of Njegoš Mausoleum, which is nine meters high with an arch covered in a mosaic with 200,000 gold-plated tiles. Oh, yes, the views from there are supposed to be spectacular, too!
Cetinje and Lipa Cave
From the Lovcen National Park to Cetinje, the former royal capital, it is just a few minutes, so if you are ready to explore more towns, then this is the city to add to your Montenegro itinerary.
I did not get to see much of Cetinje. I was able to take a few pictures before I had to bring the car to the insurance company in Podgorica, but I had to stop my sightseeing after half an hour.
However, according to my fellow travel bloggers, Cetinje is more beautiful and nicer than the new capital of Podgorica.
It is home to churches, museums, and a monastery, so if you have more than one week in Montenegro, I would surely plan in half a day or a full day for this city.
So, due to the location, it is also a good idea to combine it with a visit to Lipa Cave.
The Lipa Cave is one of the country’s largest caves and more than a million years old. You can do a guided tour and walk the 3km of illuminated passages and halls filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and freaky natural pillars.
The guided tours take about 1 hour – and includes a short ride on the mini train (included in the price of about 11€).
Adventure seekers who are fit enough can also do an extreme tour that will lead you through the more hidden passages.
The cave is a bit remote and you have to drive down some narrow streets to get there, but if you did Ostrag Monastery (more on this later), this will be easy for you!
Tip: This is also the perfect activity for warmer days, as it is always chilly in the caves.
Budva and Sveti Stefan – 1 Day
I read mixed reviews on Budva – but I, personally, really liked it.
Budva is a coastal town on the “Budva Riviera,” on the Adriatic Coast. Budva’s Old Town lies on a small peninsula and houses many beautiful and historic buildings, and has some nice beaches and a fun promenade lined with restaurants and cafes!
But since it is also known as a party place for Serbs and Russians (who enjoy drinking a lot), I was very hesitant to go there. If you know my blog, drunk people are something I really cannot stand.
However, the coastal town center was really beautiful and I would recommend it to anyone who is into pretty towns with narrow, cobblestone streets, lovely buildings, and beautiful views.
And while I have not been there yet, it reminded me in some ways of Monaco.
So, this is a beautiful place to stay – and while I stayed there for two nights, I think that one night would be totally enough. I walked the city walls for a small entrance fee, strolled the old and narrow streets and sat at the open-air theater and just watched people.
However, if you want to have a beach vacation, then this is your place and you might want to add another day or two here (check out my quick Budva guide for more information).
The island of Sveti Stefan is one of the most famous places in Montenegro and now known as a fashionable summer resort.
Sveti Stefan is just a few minutes drive (or bus ride) from Budva – but to be 100% honest, I did not understand the hype. I did not book a night in one of the “most luxurious resorts in the world,” and I honestly wasn’t even tempted.
However, the resort is not open to the public and you either have to be an overnight guest or have booked a reservation for the restaurant to have access to the island. You can, if you really want to see it up close, walk down and go to the beach section in front of the island for a closer look.
But if you are in Montenegro for less than 10 days and have more places to visit, then I would not spend too much time here (unless, you stay overnight, of course) and just plan in a short break.
If you are not road tripping, then take the bus from Budva – there is a bus stop near the Hotel Adrovic for great view from the top. You can then walk down or take the next bus to get to Sveti Stefan.
Lake Skadar/Rijeka Crnojevića
If you have only a weekend in Montenegro, I would skip this, but if you have more time, then visit Lake Skadar. Getting there is an experience in itself – the definition of “narrow mountain streets.” However, it is not very busy, so it is a nice, smooth drive.
And let´s not forget the views! The scenery is epic.
Skadar Lake is the biggest lake in the Balkans – even spilling over into Albania. The most famous place to visit here is probably the horseshoe viewpoint – and though there is a hotel, it really was not busy at all.
To get here, do not take the E80. Instead, drive towards Rijeka Crnojevića and you’ll find the viewing area a few kilometers after/before the village.
Rijeka Crnojevića is a very small, but overly cute, and popular village that I also stopped at. Visit the old bridge and enjoy the tranquility before continuing your journey.
A must-see in Montenegro is surely the Ostrog Monastery. The Serbian Orthodox Church is one of those impressive buildings – situated against an almost vertical background, high up in the large rock of Ostroška Greda, which makes it one of the most famous landmarks in Montenegro.
It is dedicated to Saint Basil of Ostrog, who was buried here, and it is a very religious place for the Orthodox – many of the visitors I have come across (according to car plates) were actually Serbs who are also predominantly Orthodox.
There is the upper monastery (built in the 17th century) and the lower monastery (19th century), and you can visit both for free (dress appropriately though – the signs did not specifically say whether you have to wear long sleeves, but it did say that you should not wear tank tops).
According to tradition, pilgrims are supposed to walk the 3km from the lower monastery to the upper monastery, barefoot. I have not seen pilgrims doing this, but in busier times, you might experience this, so don’t be surprised.
From there, you also have fantastic views, and Montenegro´s scenery will – once again – amaze you.
From Rijeka Crnojevića to Ostrog Monastery, it takes about 90 minutes by car. Even though it is only about 60 km, the narrow streets make the drive quite time-consuming.
Actually, driving the last 8 km to the Ostrog Monastery is one of the craziest drives you have to do, and it shows exactly what mountain driving actually means. Warning: It is not for inexperienced drivers, and after that drive, I actually had a headache because I was concentrating so hard while taking the hairpin turns (I did not count them but there were quite a few).
Tara River Canyon
Whitewater rafting is big here and so is ziplining. While I personally did not do any of these activities, I saw prices as low as 10€ for ziplining – seems like a pretty good deal and you get a lot for your money in this part of the world.
The canyon stretch within Montenegro, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is protected as a part of Durmitor National Park and, after the Grand Canyon, it is actually the second longest canyon in the world – and the longest in Europe.
The Đurđevića Tara Bridge, with a length of 365 meters, is one of the most famous landmarks in the region – or probably even in the whole country – and is located at the crossroads between Mojkovac, Žabljak, and Pljevlja.
If you are an adventure seeker or hiker, then you could spend some of your days here. If you are not, then a few hours, or just driving through this part of the country, is surely enough!
Zabljak & Black Lake at Durmitor National Park
Another national park is the Durmitor Park – which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Durmitor is a massif and is part of the Dinaric Alps. Its highest peak, Bobotov Kuk, reaches a height of 2,523 meters. The massif is limited by the Tara River Canyon to the north, the Piva River Canyon to the west, and by the Komarnica River Canyon to the south.
If you are a hiker, you can plan in at least two days for the national park – half a day for hiking around Black Lake and a short time for the Zabljak.
You can visit many areas of the national park for free, but if you want to hike around Black Lake, you have to pay around 3€ for the entrance fee (plus a parking fee if you park your car near the lake).
Zabljak is the center of the park – a popular place to visit in the summer and winter months (winter sports are big here) – and is located at a height of about 1450 meters.
The town center is not that special, BUT what really stood out were the houses with the pointed roofs that came in various colors.
Black Lake is located at the foot of the Medjed mountain and consists of two smaller lakes: Big and Little Lake, which are connected by a little strait (in summer, it dries up and then it is actually two separate lakes).
The largest of 18 glacial lakes in Durmitor National Park, it offers more than 3 kilometers of long walking paths around the lake. But you can also rent bikes and do more sporty activities there.
It is impressive, but if I only had 4 or 5 days in Montenegro, I would skip the lake.
More things to do:
Bobotov Kuk at Durmitor National Park
If the weather had been better, I surely would have hiked the Bobotov Kuk – the highest mountain peak in Montenegro.
You can choose between the longer and shorter hikes, but I would probably plan in one day for either one.
The images looked amazing – so a day hiking Bobotov Kuk is probably a good idea for those who like to be a bit more active.
Lake Piva / P14
Okay, it is time to talk about the most beautiful place in Montenegro – actually, I would go so far as to say one of the most beautiful places in the world! I was blown away, I was speechless, I was unprepared – this real hidden gem made me believe that Montenegro MUST be one of the most beautiful countries in the world!
Let me introduce you to Lake Piva/P14.
Stunning. Gorgeous. Amazing! I still cannot get over the fact that this place was so unbelievably beautiful that I came here twice.
I arrived in Montenegro from Bosnia-Herzegovina, taking the M18 there and then taking the E762 so that I also passed the Mratinje Dam.
It was a bit gray and rained, but I knew that this was my kind of place! So, I came back a few days later when the weather was better – and was not disappointed. This is a must! And luckily, it is not a very famous place, so you don’t have to share it with too many.
BUT to get the best, the most stunning, the most impressive views, you need a car! Hiking here might be difficult as the streets are just wide enough for two cars and not an additional pedestrian.
So, to see the artificial lake from the most beautiful angle, drive all the way to the Bosnian border. If you cannot make it that far, take the P14 near Pluzine and head towards Zabljak. The street might be closed most of the time, BUT some parts are open – and the first few kilometers, in particular, offer spectacular views of the lake.
Be prepared to drive in the mountains with their narrow streets and to pass many tunnels – and make sure your lights work, as many tunnels do not have any lightning.
It was one of the best experiences I have had in Montenegro and it reminded me of driving Lake Thun in Switzerland.
I cannot wait for the day when boats will cruise the lake. I would be happy to be one of the first to take a cruise there.
If you have a car and want to see a different side of the country, I suggest driving the P14.
Driving in this part of the country was fun! Seriously, I really enjoyed the scenery, which was different from the rest of the country. The weather was not so good, so I did not manage to take good pictures, but this park/street is different from any other I have seen.
I actually was about to drive from Pluzine to Zabljak and could not find any information about whether the mountain pass was closed or not (May 2019), so I just drove – and I felt like I was in Iceland or somewhere completely out of this world.
Parts of the streets were closed due to snow (be prepared because they are closed most of the year and most likely open in June for only a few months). Luckily, I still drove the P14 and even though I had to turn around at some point, it was a unique and gorgeous drive.
Yes, the streets are very narrow in parts, but it was worth it for sure! Make sure you plan in enough time for this drive, but I think that one day for Lake Piva and driving (parts) of the P14 is fine.
Perast / Our Lady of the Rocks
If Kotor is your starting and end point (if you head to Dubrovnik afterwards, for example), this could be your last stop in Montenegro: Perast, which was probably my favorite village/town in Montenegro.
Perast is also located at the Bay of Kotor and is a few kilometers northwest of Kotor. You can easily drive there (beautiful views), get there by bus, or do a boat tour from Kotor.
It is so small and tiny that you will not even need an itinerary – but as a coastal town with cute buildings, lots of flowers, and restaurants that are lined up along the promenade, this was my kind of place!
Perast also has a little (pebble) beach, and so you can also have your beach vacation here.
However, Perast is probably most famous for the islets that lie in front of it: St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks.
Our Lady of the Rocks is an artificial island that was created by a bulwark of rocks and by sinking old and seized ships loaded with rocks. It houses the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rocks, which can be visited.
There is also the natural island of St. George, which houses the St. George Monastery and can also be visited. To get there, you can hop on a boat in Perast (a roundtrip ticket is about 5€).
Perast would be a wonderful last stop if you head to Croatia afterwards or fly out from Tivat airport (p.s. Tivat is also a cute town you could explore in a few hours), but I am well aware that there is, even more, to see in Montenegro. Places I have not been able to visit myself (especially in the south of Montenegro) and that I would like to visit one day.
However, I still believe, that this Montenegro itinerary – whether you visit for under a week or more than one week – will help you discover the most beautiful places in Montenegro.