As the world gets smaller, unique travel experiences are becoming more and more difficult to find. Montenegro is no ordinary country however, and this little Balkan marvel is full of unorthodox adventures and quirky encounters to add to your bucket list.
Looking for a truly unique adventure? Montenegro might just be the place you are looking for. From virgin greenery to adrenaline-spiking escapades via a museum dedicated entirely to cats, Montenegro is a country full of true once-in-a-lifetime capers.
Montenegrins have a bit of a reputation for being the lethargic types. Rather than being insulted by this they seem to have taken it in stride, and there is no better example than this unusual annual competition in Brezna. The rules are simple — whoever can lie down for the longest time is declared the laziest person in the country. It might sound easy enough, but the 2018 winner clocked up a quite frankly unbelievable 49 hours of doing absolutely nothing. You best start training already!
In the small village of Tomba, a short drive from Bar, we find one of the oldest living things in Montenegro. The Stara Maslina (old olive tree) is thought to be the oldest olive tree in the world, and has stood here for a whopping 2,000-plus years. This tree has seen everything in that time and has lived to tell the tale – although that will depend on your ability to understand the language of trees.
Not one for the faint of heart. The Tara River Canyon is the deepest of its kind on the continent and it is crossed by the magnificent Đurđevića bridge, but some intrepid visitors aren’t content with simply driving across it. Those looking to spike their heart rate can zip line from one side to the other, enjoying some unbeatable vistas of the canyon in the process.
Only three virgin forests remain in all of Europe, one of which is found in Montenegro’s magnificent Biogradska Gora National Park. The verdant splendour of the forest must be seen to be believed, and visitors can be forgiven for not trusting their eyes once they come across the sumptuous Biogradsko glacier lake that is found in its centre. Some things seem too beautiful to be true.
Brad Pitt is the archetypal Hollywood heartthrob, but it is a little known fact that his career was kicked into gear with a lead role in a movie filmed in Montenegro. The Dark Side of the Sun (1988) was directed by Montenegrin mogul Božidar Nikolić and largely filmed in Kotor. The film never made it to cinemas, but it represented Pitt’s first lead role and the start of a truly iconic career.
Sveti Stefan might be one of the most photographed images in Montenegro, but there is a good reason why the majority of those snaps are taken from afar. This 15th-century fort has seen plenty of tumultuous activities over the years but all of that is well and truly in the past. Now the exclusive property of Aman Resorts, a night here is an exercise in decadence and opulence. It isn’t cheap, but then neither should it be.
Covering some 2,500 hectares, Plantaže’s Ćemovsko Polje is thought to be the largest unbroken vineyard in the continent. There is plenty for oenophiles to dip their toes into here (not literally, please) but you don’t need to be a wine lover to get something out of a visit. To get an impression of how vast this is, the cellar once acted as an underground aircraft hanger. Now imagine an aircraft hanger, but instead of planes it is full of wine bottles. Where do we sign up?
While we do not mean that in the most literal of senses, Montenegro does have previous history when it comes to random people turning up and taking over. The story of Šćepan Mali (Steven the Little) is unlike any other. Steven was a total stranger who turned up in Montenegro claiming to be Russian Tsar Peter III, and he subsequently ran the mountain state until he was murdered by his barber in 1773. If you want to become the Tsar of Montenegro, you now know what to do.
Well, dine like a king provided that the king loves to eat the smoked prosciutto named after him. Petar II Petrović Njegoš (Njegoš, for short) stands tall over Montenegro’s history and culture, and the country’s greatest leader and poet is honoured in a variety of ways. Njeguški pršut (smoked prosciutto, as mentioned) is one of Montenegro’s great culinary offers, and where better to sample it than the village in which the great man was born? Get yourself to Njeguši and see what all the fuss is about.
If you are lucky enough to be strolling around the gorgeous old town of Kotor, don’t be surprised to see cats lounging at every turn. Montenegro’s most popular town has a long history of co-habitation with its felines, so it isn’t a great surprise to find the extremely well appreciated Cats Museum open for business. Nobody truly wants to become a ‘crazy cat lady’, but this is somewhere that you can embrace your inner tabby enthusiast in total confidence.
The monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church are often located in some stunning spots, but Montenegro’s Ostrog Monastery may well take home this most ecclesiastic of biscuits. This 17th century marvel was miraculously built into an almost vertical cliff face and is far and away the most popular pilgrimage site in the country. It isn’t hard to see why.
Not the actual moon that shines in our night sky, but a landscape that has often been compared to it. Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once famously asked if he was in paradise or on the moon when he visited Mount Lovćen, and the same question may well pop into your head when you make it to the birthplace of Montenegro. It is no wonder that Njegoš chose this as his final resting place.
Montenegro’s islands are growing in popularity all the time, mostly thanks to their natural beauty and impeccable tourist credentials. Mamula offers something slightly different, however. An uninhabited islet just off the coast near Herceg Novi, Mamula was used as a concentration camp by the occupying Italian forces during World War II, earning it the moniker of ‘Europe’s Alcatraz’. It is a far more agreeable place today, but that grim history remains somewhat tangible.