The serpentine road from Kotor to Lovćen National Park has 25 hairpin turns and views to die for. With each turn the view just gets better. Near the top, make a detour to Njeguši village to pick up some of their famed prosciutto and down a slug of the Balkans’ favourite breakfast beverage – rakija (brandy).
Just inside the park’s entrance there’s a rest stop with the best views of Kotor Bay. A humble wooden bench is positioned right before glorious views overlooking Kotor, Tivat, Mount Vrmac, and the Orjen mountain range in the hunter ground.
No trip to Lovćen National Park is complete without a stop at the mausoleum of Montenegro’s beloved leader, Petar Petrović-Njegoš II.
Njegoš, as he’s known locally, was a bishop, poet and leader of Montenegro from 1830 to 1851. He’s credited with bringing Montenegro’s feuding tribal leadership into some semblance of order, complete with taxes and girls’ schools.
A visit to Njegoš’ mausoleum comes with a little hike of 461 steps, but it’s worth it. The mausoleum is decorated with a gold ceiling and a huge statue of the hero carved from one piece of marble. Behind the mausoleum the guvno (meeting circle) and viewpoint has 360° views of Montenegro, Croatia and even Albania.
A scenic drive through the rest of the national park leads to Cetinje, the old royal capital of Montenegro. This pretty town is a miniature European capital, complete with beautiful former embassy buildings and King Nikola’s Palace. No longer the capital, the stately residences and buildings have been transformed into Montenegro’s national museum. Visit the old parliament for the historical and ethnographic art collections, King Nikola’s Court, the Bilijarda and Cetinje Monastery.
One of the most photographed spots in Montenegro, Pavlova Strana is a horseshoe bend in Crnojević River. Stunning all year round, this spot is picture-perfect. Continue through Rijeka Crnojevića, a pretty hamlet on the river and along the old, scenic road towards Skadar Lake.
Virpazar is the gateway to Skadar Lake National Park and there’s nothing like getting out in a traditional fishing boat called a čun on the lake. An hour’s trip takes you to Grmožur Island, a former prison island, and Raduš Spring, the deepest part of the lake. In three hours you’ll travel through verdant channels of the lake and reach the magnificent Kom Monastery.
Skadar Lake is Europe’s biggest bird reserve and the lake is full of ducks, cormorants, and even pelicans. Spring is a great time to catch mating dances and fledglings, while summer is perfect for swimming. Autumn, on the other hand, brings huge numbers of migratory species.
Boat Milica, Virpazar, Montenegro, +382 68 702 376
After a breathtaking trip on the lake, it’s time to try the local viticulture. The Crmnica region around Lake Skadar is known as Montenegro’s best wine-producing region. Just 1km from Virpazar, Eco Resort and Winery Cermeniza is a family-run winery and boutique resort that offers wine tastings of their limited edition wines. They also have homemade rakija and the tastings are accompanied by local produce from their estate.
Eco Resort and Winery Cermeniza, Virpazar, Montenegro, +382 67 373 059
No trip to Montenegro is complete without seeing Sveti Stefan. This jewel in the Budva Riviera’s crown is a stunning 15th century island, connected to the mainland by a land bridge. The island’s exclusive hotel has hosted names like Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Margaret, and Novak Djoković’s wedding. See the island from the main road or drive down to the shore to take a stroll along its pink pebble beach.
A busy day comes to an end in buzzing Budva. Watch the sun go down over the Adriatic Sea over freshly caught seafood dinner in one of the town’s best restaurants, before wandering through the old town’s charming alleyways. Finish the day with a few vinos, or rakijas, in the town’s lively bars.
San Giovanni Fortress in Kotor is a rite of passage for visitors to Montenegro. Climbing the 1355 ancient steps to the top is challenging but worthwhile. Scale the wall to the fortress at the top then take a walking tour through the old town to get to know this historic Venetian town.
Jump aboard a speedboat in Kotor Park, opposite the old town, for a scenic speedboat tour of the bay of Kotor. A three-hour tour lets you visit Our Lady of the Rocks, the caves that used to hide Yugoslav submarines, and the Blue Cave, which is a natural cave filled with iridescent blues.
Montenegro Submarine and Speed Boat Tours, Kotor, Montenegro, +382 69 576 355
Finish a scenic day with a scenic night. Head over to Ćatovića Mlini in Morinj for a local dinner in park-like surroundings. The converted water mill is truly idyllic with streams of fresh water, as well as ducks, geese, and peacocks wandering freely.
Ćatovića Mlini, Morinj, Montenegro, +382 32 373 030
Alternatively, head to Porto Montenegro in Tivat for a stylish dinner overlooking some of the most luxurious super yachts in the Mediterranean. Al Posto Giusto has casual pizza and pasta, Byblos serves Middle Eastern fare and The Regent’s Dining Room has a menu of elegant contemporary dishes.
Porto Montenegro, Obala bb, Tivat, Montenegro, +382 32 660 700
The Bay of Kotor has fabulous accommodation for everyone. Stay in The Regent Porto Montenegro for five-star luxury. Enjoy the atmosphere of Kotor’s old town in Hotel Astoria Kotor or wake up to the bay’s mesmerising views at Hotel Casa del Mare – Amfora.