A guide to things to do in Montenegro
A little country with a big heart, holidays to Montenegro unveil the hidden gem of the Balkan region. From its Adriatic shoreline to its fairytale mountain ranges, immersive woodland and captivating architecture, the tiny country has spirit, sensation and an abundance of things to explore. Take a look at a few of our recommendations before heading out to make some memories of your own.
Explore beautiful Kotor by the sea
The city of Kotor is among the most famous in Montenegro and is well known for fjord-like scenery as it’s situated in a deep, winding and mountainous bay. Its buildings huddle together in the tradition of the Balkans with terracotta coloured rooftops and old fashioned brickwork. Once a fortress town under the rule of Venice, today you can stride through its mysterious streets with wide stoned plazas, ancient towers and ornate chapels.
Shops and cafes will keep you distracted for hours, but always keep you in sight of that magnificent stretch of water that’s cupped in the clutch of a grand mountain range, secluding you from the rest of the world. Sights like these inspired a thousand fantasy tales, including the poetry of Lord Byron, but rest assured your time here is going to feel very much real.
Hear the tales of the sea
The enticing blue of the Adriatic Sea has played a role in Montenegro’s history since ancient times, when the entire region was under the sway of the Roman Empire. Yugoslavia and the old Ottoman Empire have also put their stamp on this endearing little country, yet the sea has remained its constant companion.
A visit to towns like Ulcinj will let you peer into the huts, havens and spires of the daring pirates and smugglers of years gone by, while nowadays you’ll be pleased to hear those enjoying Montenegro holidays will just be observing when exploring the tales of the deep.
Boating and watersports are hugely popular activities for visitors to Montenegro, as well as diving and guided tours. Naturally, the flavours of the ocean are also readily available, so expect to find seafood in plentiful supply wherever you roam. In Budva and Kotor, the relationship with the sea is supremely strong, and that shows in the opportunities for parasailing, jet-ski trips and banana-boats for you to bundle the family onto. If you’re feeling a little more hi-tech, you can try your hand at soaring above the sea on the airstreaming and flyboarding gadgets available to try in Budva.
Take on adventure by land, water and air
Away from the beautiful coast, the hinterlands of Montenegro sweep up to meet the black mountains for which the nation is named. Tourists are only now starting to discover the rolling meadows and secretive woodland making up the trails weaving through these regions, which means you’ve got a secluded stretch of fantastic natural splendours awaiting your attention.
Lake Skadar, with its water flecked with lilypads and its central castle-like constructs, remains a popular place for visitors looking to see some stunning greenery and can easily be reached from Kotor or Becici.
For those of you looking to get lost among the forest, Biogradska Gora is a nature reserve that’s well worth your attention, linking the rivers of Tara and Lim among its leafy canopies and gnarled roots. Visiting that location also gives access to Lake Biograd, which is another body of water as rich in history as in serenity. While in this area you can visit Lipa Cave – an extensive cave network with two and a half kilometres of passages and halls to explore.
Whether you take to cycling through the back country, hiking to the rugged peaks or rafting down the river, Montenegro’s relationship with its unspoilt natural beauty makes it somewhere the adventurous can call a home from home. For the particularly daring, paragliding and parasailing are also magnificent means by which to take in the sights from a particularly lofty vantage point.
River rafting in the Tara Canyon
Get off the beaten path and delve into the beautifully rugged landscape of Montenegro as you white water raft through one of the world’s largest canyons.
The Tara River, known locally as the Tear of Europe, serves up rocky terraces, sandy bays, high cliffs and over 80 caves along its 144-kilometre run. Of which, the river is navigable by raft for almost 100 kilometres.
In between the rapids, enjoy the beauty of this protected UNESCO World Heritage Site as you float down stream surrounded by high mountain peaks covered in native vegetation. From rich forests of scots pine to beech, oak and maple trees, the canyon is also home to a wealth of wildlife including bears, wolves, wild boars and golden eagles.
Day trips depart from Budva between April and October, when rafting conditions are at their optimum. Trips at this time of year are also suitable for absolute beginners. If you forget your water bottle, don’t worry as the Tara River has the biggest supply of cool and fresh drinking water in Europe.
Get your adrenaline fix
Up until the last 10 years it was a privilege of the bravest mountaineers to explore the Nevidio Canyon, but experienced guides have now opened up the stunning area to us newbies. As you pass through the narrow riverbeds of the 2.7-kilometre long canyon, swimming, jumping, climbing and hiking through the phenomenal wild nature of Durmitor National Park, you’ll see for yourself why this pastime has gained such popularity.
Decked in a 5mm neoprene suit and all the necessary safety equipment, your canyoning experience will last up to three hours as you pass under huge boulders, take on foaming rapids and swim through metre-wide narrows surrounded by steep cliffs and icy cold water.
Head out on a lake safari
The scenery is breathtaking as you gently kayak around southern Europe’s largest lake, stopping off to swim in the refreshing water and observe the abundance of flora and fauna. Popular with bird watchers, Lake Skadar is also one of the largest bird reserves in Europe and seasonally fluctuates between 360 and 515 square kilometres.
As one of the most popular adventure activities in Montenegro, you’ll find guided tours stopping off at two of the lake’s magnificent 14th century island monasteries, with Albania’s spectacular Accursed Mountains towering in the distance. Driving through the newly built Sozina tunnel, the lake is only around a 20-minute drive away from the Adriatic coast.
Caving with kayaks
Avoid the crowded tour boats and explore the rocky Adriatic coastline with its hidden caves on a guided kayak adventure from Kotor. You’ll paddle your way across to The Blue Cave, one of Montenegro’s must-see coastal sights, and take a dip in the bright, transparent water. If you fancy it, you may even snorkel to the bottom of the deep grotto for some incredible underwater photo opportunities.
The caves’s famous colour is a product of the way the sunlight hits the ocean surface. Depending on what time you visit, you’ll find an array of different hues. If you want to avoid the crowds and see the water at its brightest, get there early and spend the rest of your day exploring the smaller network of caves and beaches that this stunning coastline has to offer.