After a very enjoyable couple of days in Albania, we returned to Montenegro and found a great, very modern apartment to stay in in Budva. We were able to get a bus straight from Shkoder to Budva which was perfect. Through Old Town Travel it cost £21 for the trip which took 3½ hrs including the border stop. We weren’t held up long at the border, the difference was that on this occasion we had to show proof of our covid vaccine as well as our passport to re-enter. Our arrival into Budva was preceeded by some amazing mountain views along the coastline from the bus so we were excited about the time we had here to explore the area.
We booked our lovely apartment through Airbnb in the Bečići area of Budva at quite short notice. Our hosts Sanja and her husband Dragan were really kind and collected us from the bus station, and also when we did some shopping for the week and were available all the time through whatsapp with any queries we had or advice we needed. The apartment was lovely, really modern and comfortable and one of the best we had stayed in with a lovely sea and montain view.
We had decided to base ourself in Budva to explore not only there but the other areas around; it was in the middle of a lot of places we wanted to go to and everything was within a reasonable distance. What we didn’t plan that far ahead was how we would get to the other places, whether by public transport, taxi or car. After seeing the steepness of the hill up to our accommodation, we immediately decided a hire car. Even the fittest of people would struggle with that bad boy! We managed to get a car delivered the next morning which then gave us the freedom to explore. We visited a lot of places during our week here exploring the coast from Ulcinj to Tivat.
The most obvious place to start as this was where we stayed. Budva is mostly known as a beach resort, with its lovely sandy beaches and apparently quite lively nightlife. We did hear this some nights from our balcony but didn’t experience this first hand (we were keen to avoid crowds and crowded situations due to covid). As we have previously said we love snorkelling and the beach here, being sandy, was not so attractive to us. We did still have a look but didn’t swim; the parking and traffic in the town was pretty horrific and there were a lot of people.
The one place we really enjoyed in Budva was Stari Grad or Old Town. We visited late one afternoon and it was really quite lovely. Despite the moderness of Budva in general, Stari Grad gives more insight into the history of the town. Dating back to Roman times the Old Town is encompassed by a fortress wall, it is quite imposing and we certainly didn’t have any doubt we were in the right place.
This is the place to do your souvenir shopping; the prices were actually very reasonable because of the amount of shops and competition and it was also a place to try local produce including wine. There were several bars and restaurants and loads of little streets. We could have visited the citadel but decided against it as it had an entrance fee.
Just 9km from Budva is Sveti Stefan; mostly known for a luxury resort on an island just off shore. Our reason for a visit however was because we had read this was THE place to see an amazing sunset and we weren’t disappointed. We picked the best day to go as some days were a little cloudy so we headed there. The sat nav wasnt too helpful but we managed to find a nice spot just above a restaurant with parking and sat back and enjoyed the show.
Not the most spectacular of towns, but Ulcinj is renowned for its beaches. We made our way to Long Beach which, as the name suggests is long at 13km. We stopped at one of the numerous beach bars along the stretch to have a look. It was a lovely sandy beach but we decided to look for a rockier beach to snorkel at.
A quick google search pointed us in the direction of Rocky Beach, which is located between Ulcinj and Bar at Utjeha. We spent a lovely afternoon snorkelling, relaxing and having a meal at the waterfront. This was our favourite beach spot we found in Montenegro; not too busy and in an intimate little cove.
We like to try things such as a bakewell tart in Bakewell, Buxton spring water in Buxton etc and so of course we had to visit a bar in Bar! Tropski Bar to be precise, a place so famous in Montenegro it has had a song written about it. We listened to the song and it was pretty awful to be honest and the video even worse.. but we had a nice drink by the beach anyway!
Next we went to see a 2000 year old olive tree! Stara Maslina cost 1 euro to go in and admire it but it was worth it especially to support the upkeep of the area. Located just outside of town its a worthy stop on any trip to Bar.
Bar has a rather hilly but spectacular Old Town, Stari Bar and one which is popular with many tourists and coach tours. Parking was pretty tricky and the roads leading up a little narrow but we went up anyway, found a spot and set off on a bit of an explore.
Stari Bar is located inland on Londša hill, at the foot of Mount Rumija. The town itself is quite quaint with cobble stones and bars and restaurants as well as souvenir shops. Renovations and reconstruction of the Old Town started in 1985 in order to try and preserve some of the culture of this small town. I won’t lie it is pretty steep in places (ouch ouch) and the cobble stones are pretty slippy. At the top of the hill you can find Fortress Old Bar; enclosed by medieval city walls. Much of what remains is skeletal but the old town and the fortress have been under many different rules over the years including the Venetians, Serbians, Hungarians and the Ottoman empire. Today visitors can pay the small sum of €2 for adults or €1 for children to walk in and explore the remains of the fortress.
Altogether it was a fun place to explore; we only visited it to see what was it was about and we were treated to some amazing views. Our thoughts however were that a place like this would never be allowed in the UK due to safety; there would be no entry signs and safety barriers everywhere and there were significant trip hazards. I left Nigel to explore the more challenging bits on his own – definitely worth a visit especially for the very nominal entry free but just watch where you walk!
This was probably one of our favourite places along the coast as the views were spectacular! We had never heard of the place but it was a recommendation made by the guy who dropped off our hire car and we were so glad we made the effort. Perast is located a few kilometres north west of Kotor and overlooks the Bay of Kotor. It may be tiny and the parking a little problematic but it is worth an hour or two of anyones time.
We didn’t stop here; we were told we shouldn’t miss a visit and initially we had planned to spend a few days here but decided against it (more about that later). Our experiences of Kotor were just driving through it on a couple of occasions; both in the car and on the bus. From what we saw and the experiences with travel the traffic was bad; we queued through the tunnel towards the town on at least two occasions and it was extremely ‘peopley’, something we were keen to avoid in covid times. Was this a mistake? We aren’t sure but are happy if anyone would like to tell us what we missed.
Tivat is another town which is found in the Bay of Kotor and we did stop here for lunch. Historically we didn’t see a lot to explore and from reading guides up until quite recently there really wasn’t much to see here until the transformation of the marina. We had a stroll along the marina and stopped and had some lunch. It was ok but lacked the wow factor of places like Perast.
For the thrill seekers amongst you this should be one for your list! The road from Kotor to Centinje (or the other way if you’re going downhill!) is an umissable experience with 16 hairpin bends in the most challenging section and classed as one of the most dangerous hairpinned roads in the world. Unfortunately we didn’t have a drone so we couldn’t get a picture from above to show the roads but you can see what the serpentine looks like here.
The main 8.3km section starts at 423m above sea level and rises to 881m, giving stunning views across the Kotor Bay.
The drive itself wasn’t as challenging as I expected – I drove up and Nigel drove down (with me with my eyes shut!) the hairpins were indeed sharp and at times there was very little room to pass other vehicles but don’t let that put you off. The most challenging thing about this for us was our lack of petrol…. when we set off up the Serpentine the car was showing we had 60km left – plenty we thought, after all it was only 11km to reach the top of the hairpins! By the time we reached the top the car was saying it was empty! There is no petrol station anywhere at the top so we had little choice but to coast back down the hairpins in neutral just praying the engine didn’t cut out and we would lose power steering. By some miracle we managed to make the entire way down and roll into a petrol station in Kotor – we did a big high five whilst sighing with relief…. if you do this road don’t be like us and visit the petrol station beforehand!
Our thoughts on Montenegro
Montengero is a really beautiful country especially along the coastline and we had great time; our base in Budva was ideal to get to Bar and the Kotor bay region. We had also enjoyed our time in Podgorica previously with the amazing hospitality we received; however we decided to leave Montengro quicker than we planned for a couple of reasons. We were aware that Montenegro had become a covid ‘red list’ country which meant that unless we moved on with plenty of time to spare we would be subject to a very expensive hotel quarantine when we returned to the UK.
The main reason we decided to head out however was that we became aware of protests which were happening in Centije and Podgoricia. When we arrived back into Montengero on the bus from Albania we noticed Police all along the road from Podgorica to Budva which was a little concerning and things turned violent between Police and protestors in Centije after a Serbian Orthodox Cleric Joanikije II was enthroned as the nations religious leader. This angered opponents of the Serbian church in Montenegro, which declared independence from neighbouring Serbia in 2006, resulting in the violent clashes (read here for more information). From speaking to locals and even witnessing an argument with a waiter and some locals who wanted a drink in a pub, references were being made to this ‘war’. We therefore decided to leave and cross the border to green list Croatia.
Carol & Nigel xx