When I sat my sights on Montenegro it was no different than how I usually end up settling on a new country. I knew virtually nothing about the country (I mean, what is research) and found out late in the game that it was right next to Croatia. You can find out exactly why I moved to what’s being called the “new Croatia” here, but for now, let’s talk about some things to do in Montenegro. This Eastern European gem is clearly on the come up and I think everyone should visit asap before the rest of the world discovers just how amazing it is.
Where to stay
If you’re like me and love the water, I highly recommend staying along the coast. I moved to Tivat, Montenegro specifically because the price for my airbnb was oh so right, plus I’d be right on the water and a stones throw away from Kotor. I highly recommend staying in Kotor although Tivat is a less touristy, quiet version sans an old town. Kotor is a great central location to catch a bus to almost any other city and there are more restaurants, activities, and accommodations.
Things to do
When it comes to Montenegro, I strongly believe that you can enjoy it in about four days before hitting your next country. In those days, there’s enough to do from day trips to paddleboarding without feeling like you’re rushing. You also don’t need much downtime, but if you need to limit yourself to an activity a day, that’s cool too. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Day Trips
I’ve been living in Tivat for a couple weeks now and I still think I made the right decision. I actually like living in the “slower” and less lively town so that I can have something to look forward to on my day trips. Anyone will tell you that a decade or so ago, Tivat was nothing to write home about. However, in recent years and with the help of Porto Montenegro, the worlds only platinum rated marina, it’s somewhere that you should at least visit.
Around the port is where you’ll find the “fancy” restaurants right on the water, luxury shopping (think MaxMara and Valentino) as well as be able to see the super yachts docked and sitting pretty. My jaw literally dropped when I spotted a Philip Plein store as I was under the impression I’d be living in some rugged little town, but this area is anything but rugged. Outside of the port I have to say there isn’t much to do or see in Tivat but the joy I get out of my daily walks to the water to tan, hop in the sea, or read is unmatched. There are also many many more restaurants but if you blink you could walk right by them.
Kotor may very well be my favorite place to go when I want to get away from Tivat. The bus ride is just about 15 minutes from Tivat and it contains a piece of every other city you visit. You can lay out along the Bay of Kotor, hop in the sea, and of course there’s an old town. There’s even a shopping mall that I personally think is perfect for grabbing an affordable bite to eat compared to the restaurants along the main road.
You can experience Kotor in a day but I hope that you can spend a minimum of two days here. I think checking out the open air market and lounging on the beach are worth a day on their own, and roaming the old town and trying out a restaurant or two within its walls is worth another day. You can also hike up the mountain and along the original wall. I haven’t even attempted it because I’m afraid I don’t have the stamina.
Although their are cruise ships (sometimes more than one) that dock in Kotor, I’d have to say that Budva is the more touristy of the two. It reminded me of a beach town where all you’ll find is a beach and hotels. My favorite part of Budva happened to be the old town, but not for the shops it contained. As I walked through the old town and stumbled upon small squares and gorgeous churches, I also found myself walking through archways and discovering little beach oasis’. I’d highly recommend finding and access a small beach through the old town versus the main beach. These are less populated and when it comes to pollution, they were visibly cleaner.
Budva seemed to be the furthest town from where I was staying and while the journey there and back is breathtaking (think a train ride along the French Riviera), it may have been my least favorite town to visit. You may not even need a whole day here but I still say go visit, if even for a few hours. If you’re time is very limited, then go ahead and skip it.
I was told Perast was a Fishermans village and while that may be true, I could only find it being referenced as an “old town,” aka The Old Town of Perast. I was able to catch a bus straight from Tivat (via Kotor) but getting back isn’t as much of a breeze. When it comes to sea access, there are places to lay out on the stone by the water, but there isn’t necessarily a beach.
Because of the amount of construction all around me I’d say that Perast is doing all it can to cater and appeal to tourists. This small village is walkable and well worth a day trip. You’ll find restaurants on the water, museums within churches, and stairways that just may lead to nowhere, but they’re worth a look see. One thing that I passed up on during this day trip was a boat ride through the bay. I wasn’t feeling well so I didn’t inquire too deeply, but from what I could gather, for €5 roundtrip, per person, you can ride over to the Church of Our Lady of the Rock which is situated just minutes from the shore of Perast..
A neighboring country…
Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and Albania are just a few of the countries that you can make a day trip out of.
2. Eat Your Way Through the Towns
Because I’m not simply on vacation, but rather living in Montenegro, I experience things a little differently than those just stopping by. One of the ways I save money at home and abroad is by cooking my meals, therefore eating out is more of a special treat than a common occurrence. However, I’ve looked at many a menu as I’ve walked through the towns and the food looks and smells delicious.
Montenegro is one of the few countries I’ve visited without global fast food chains such as KFC or Burger King. Hell, there isn’t even a McDonald’s! While I think that’s great, it’s still worth warning you. A lot of people travel and need to ease into the local cuisine. And me, well I actually enjoy McDonald’s. Judge your mother! I say all of this to say that I’ve yet to see the same restaurant in two towns, meaning that there is a variety out there and plenty to choose from. If you’re a foodie, this is a great destination to try and rate different spots and simply enjoy the local fare.
3. Fun on the Bay
If you’re like me, then you’re content just laying next to the water. You don’t have to be in it or on it, just near it. However, if you have a little more in your bank account than I, and I bet you do, you may want to splurge on actual fun activities. If I could choose one thing to do that I won’t have the chance, it’s rent a boat. Charter a boat, or yacht if you’re fancy, for day and spend it on the water. This is such a dream of mine and I’m just waiting to have the coins to fulfill it.
Another great water activity is stand up paddle boarding. I’ve seen this activity mainly offered in Kotor and Tivat. You get to spend several hours exploring the bay on a guide, self-guided tour, if that makes sense. It’s self guided, but you have a guide there, lol.
Snorkeling is another great activity that I don’t think you need to necessarily pay for. So far I’ve only seen locals with their gear, but I say you just purchase some goggles and a snorkel, and fins if needed, and hop in the water yourself. The bay is actually a UNESCO site (who knew) so it’s protected. Just looking in the water I see all types of wildlife, so imagine what you could see if you actually went under water and further out than us onlookers.
While every town has their shopping area or places to pick up things, I’d have to say I’d only shop in Kotor or Tivat. Kotor is where you’ll find an actual mall complete with makeup stores, jewelry stores, restaurants, and of course clothing stores. I think you can skip the mall, unless you want to just browse, and peruse the old town instead. This is also true for Budva, but Kotor’s old town contains many shops for you to spend your money and help sustain local merchants.
If you have money to blow, or invest in luxury items, then Tivat is the place to be. Porto Montenegro truly reminded me of the French Riviera with it’s high end stores although there was a small selection compared to Cannes or Monaco. If you can afford $2000 boots though, you’ll enjoy Tivats shopping.
5. Get Your Walk On
If you’re new here then hi, I’m Monique and I’m a walk-a-holic. Walking is my absolute favorite mode of transport and it’s how I end up stumbling upon the most amazing things. There are some places a car just won’t take you. I know because after passing a path several times that was closed off to cars, I decided to hop a ledge and see what was up. It led me to a secluded beach that clearly was a local hangout. I never would’ve known about it had I not religiously walked past it and became curious.
One of the reasons I love visiting Kotor is because it’s the most walkable of the towns. Yes, you can walk the length of Perast in minutes, but that’s a straight walk down one road. In Kotor I’m able to discover new areas and neighborhoods and other secluded spots on the water. Like Perast, Tivat isn’t that walkable. I would walk between Tivat and Kotor if it weren’t for sidewalks disappearing and me not wanting to look like a hitchhiker on the side of the road. However, I definitely recommend parking your car, if you have one, and exploring these towns on foot. You never know what you’ll discover.
If you’ve been to Montenegro tell me what was your favorite thing to do? Hiking? Kayaking? Let me know!