Magical Montenegro: No one goes home from this tiny Balkan country and forgets about it. Breathtaking scenery, warm-hearted locals and waist-expanding cuisine are just some of the reasons Montenegro should be at the top of your travel list. And there are some things that can only be found within this country’s tiny borders. Here’s the ultimate bucket list of experiences you can only have in Montenegro.
Stay on a 15th-century island
Follow in the footsteps of Hollywood royalty Elizabeth Taylor, or real royalty Princess Margaret, and stay in an exclusive 15th-century island hotel. Sveti Stefan was originally a fort and trading port but was left semi-abandoned by the 20th century. It got a second chance as an exclusive hotel and attracted the world’s rich and famous. Now, as Aman Sveti Stefan, part of the Aman Resorts chain, it’s continuing its incarnation as an unforgettable hotel experience.
Aman Sveti Stefan, Sveti Stefan, Montenegro, +382 33 420 000
Stay in a beachfront, former royal residence
Also part of Aman Sveti Stefan, Villa Miločer was once the royal summer residence of Queen Marija Karađorđeva. Now you can experience the royal lifestyle in a luxurious room with its own fireplace, enjoy a private beach surrounded by a lush forest and spend relaxing evenings on the wisteria-covered terrace.
Aman Sveti Stefan, Sveti Stefan, Montenegro, +382 33 420 000
Have Njeguški prosciutto and wine for breakfast
Take the scenic serpentine road, with its 25 hairpin turns, from Kotor to Njeguši village, for a traditional Montenegrin breakfast. Stop by Montenegro’s oldest restaurant, Kod Pera na Bukovicu, in Njeguši for an authentic breakfast of a prosciutto and cheese sandwich and a glass of wine. You can also see the smokehouse where prosciutto is smoked for four months. While you’re there why not go the full Monte and down a shot of the Balkans’ beloved brandy, rakija?
Kod Pera na Bukovicu, Njegusi, Montenegro, +382 42 760 055
Drink rakija with a priest beside the biggest lake in the Balkans
Doing shots with a monk? Yes, that’s how they roll in Montenegro. Take a scenic boat trip on Skadar Lake to Kom Monastery, and you’ll see some beautiful sights between the reeds of the lake: The endangered Dalmatian Pelicans, cormorants drying their wings and brightly-coloured Kingfishers. At Kom Monastery, which sits on an island for much of the year, Father Filip is only too happy to open up his vat of monastery-made rakija and share the joy. But heed the sign on the wall which explains that both smoking and talking about politics are forbidden. Surrounded by stunning views, and with plenty of animals and the chapel’s 14th-century frescoes, Father Filip is the happiest priest on the lake.
Compete to be the Laziest Person in Montenegro
A long-running joke among the former states of Yugoslavia says that Montenegrins are very lazy. So why not hold a competition to find the official Laziest Person in Montenegro? Etno Selo Montenegro, in Brezna, holds an annual competition to find this person. The challenge? Do nothing for longer than anyone else. Competitors lay on a mattress, and the last one to get up wins. Aside from the title as Laziest Person in Montenegro, there are cash prizes and restaurant dinners up for grabs.
Etno Selo Montenegro, Donja Brezna, Montenegro, +382 67 209 049
Zip line across the deepest canyon in Europe
Not only is Montenegro home to the deepest canyon in Europe, the second deepest in the world after the Grand Canyon, but there’s a zip line for those who find driving across it too boring. Alongside the historic Ɖurđevića Tara Bridge, a zip line connects the two sides of the canyon. The riverbed lies a 172 metres below and the views are truly breathtaking.
White water raft down the deepest canyon in Europe
The other great way to see the Tara Canyon is by white water rafting down it. Montenegro is so compact, rafting tours go daily from the coast, even though the rafting takes place far in the north of the country. This exhilarating experience is interspersed with relaxing paddling through the crystal clear water. There are also chances to cliff dive and stand under a freezing waterfall.
Visit the oldest olive tree in the world
Stara Maslina (Old Olive Tree) really lives up to its name. It’s over 2,000 years old and purported to be the oldest olive tree in the world. The tree has even survived a fire which is said to have started during a poker game under the tree. In fact, in Bar, where Stara Maslina stands, there are over 100,000 beautiful olive trees over 1,000 years old.
Stara Maslina, Bar, Montenegro, +382 67 354 188
Drink wine at the largest unbroken vineyard in Europe
Plantaže’s Ćemovsko Polje vineyard is the largest unbroken vineyard in Europe. Its 2,300-hectare vineyard has 11.5 million vines which are used to make Montenegro’s best-selling tipples. Visitors can take a miniature train ride through the vineyard and then do a wine tasting in Šipčanik cellar. The cellar used to be an underground aircraft hangar, but we think it’s put to much better use housing thousands of litres of wine.
Šipčanik Wine Cellar, Tuzi, Montenegro, +382 67 099 099
Kiss camels, bottle-feed piglets and run with emus
Other countries have large zoos where you can see majestic animals from afar. Montenegro doesn’t have a zoo, but it has something even better – the Montenegro Animal Sanctuary. Injured, orphaned and abandoned animals are all welcome at the sanctuary. So are two-legged visitors. For a small donation of a few euros, visitors can bottle-feed piglets, lambs, goats and any other farmyard babies that happen to be around. Brave ones can pass a carrot to an orphaned bear cub and the two former circus camels, Milutin and Budimir, are always on the lookout for hugs and kisses. Every two hours, visitors have the chance to run with the emus – venture into their territory and then see if you can outrun them.
Prihvatilište I Oporovak Životinja Crna Gora, Blizna, Montenegro, +382 67 214 888
Eat fresh, home-made doughnuts on the beach
Montenegro’s beaches are adored for their beauty, but their real super power is the local doughnut sellers. These heroes brave mid-summer heat to bring famished bathers soft, fluffy and delicious home-made doughnuts right to their towels. The doughnuts come with either jam or chocolate sauce, and they’re the perfect post-swim snack.