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Make no mistake about it — Montenegro is a destination on the rise. It might be one of the smallest countries in Europe, but the Balkan beauty packs a mighty punch when it comes to marvellous summer getaways.
Despite the rising temperatures and decreasing beach space, there is still something enriching about a relaxing summer getaway. Montenegro ticks the cliched box of having a little something for everybody, and that is just the tip of this fantastic iceberg.
Where else to begin? Everything that is delightful about Montenegro can be found in this brooding town at the end of its eponymous bay. Kotor is as tense as it is tranquil, the jewel in Montenegro’s crown and one of the fastest rising destinations in all of Europe. The temperatures here tend to settle in the mid 30s during summer, but the narrow streets of the country’s most idyllic old town provide plenty of shade and no small amount of refreshment to counter it. You won’t be the only person visiting Kotor during the summer, but some places simply deserve every tourist they get.
Peacefully nestled between the chaotic insanity of Budva and the industrial functionality of Bar is Petrovac, one of the most alluring beaches in Montenegro. Tourist numbers spiked after its starring role in James Bond: Casino Royale, but you are unlikely to encounter any double agents here. In Bond’s stead is a serene pace of life and summer stillness.
If the scorching temperatures of the seaside don’t sound particularly appealing, Durmitor National Park is for you. Actually, Durmitor National Park is for everyone, being as it one of the greatest collections of nature in all of Europe. This is a land of lakes, canyons and peaks, dramatic mountains peeling back to reveal stunning valleys and abundance of nature that doesn’t seem entirely fair. How dare Durmitor be this stunning! Žabljak is the regional capital, a little resort town some 1450m in the sky and one that acts as a great launchpad for exploring the park.
An old favourite of The New York Times, Ada Bojana is one of the most popular destinations in the country and for good reason. A river island found just the throw of a stone from Albania, the cool summer breeze softens the intensity of the heat and the mass of outdoor activities mirrors those conditions. This was once one of the most popular nudist resorts in Europe, but you don’t have to be in your birthday suit to make the most of it.
Many of the little coastal villages in Montenegro are similar, but that adjective cannot be levied in the direction of Ulcinj. Albanian culture is king here, and with a population that is almost 65% Albanian, that isn’t a huge surprise. Elegant minarets dot the skyline, pointing gracefully to the cloudless sky and providing a unique aesthetic on the Montenegrin seaside. Ulcinj is also home to a flamboyance of flamingos, just another unusual aspect to this most unusual town.
Sticking with tranquil destinations in higher climes, Stari Bar is one of the most tangible examples of Montenegro’s stubbornness and warrior spirit. This is where the modern town of Bar began, but earthquakes and artillery combined to destroy it over a century ago. The town was evacuated, but its serene location and natural beauty meant that people couldn’t stay away for long, and its citizens soon came back. The aqueduct is one the most beautiful examples of civil engineering in the region, and the views from the settlement are simply magical.
There is no shortage of awe-inspiring lakes in the Balkans, but none cover more area than Montenegro’s Lake Skadar. This is a paradise for birdwatchers during the summer, and there is more than enough around the lake to keep even the most goldfish-minded of visitors interested. Authentic Montenegrin villages, spiritual monasteries and more await, although the lake itself is the only reason you need to visit.
A little bit of an unorthodox option here, but there is still value in this old fashioned resort just north of Kotor. Risan’s glory days are behind it, but it is precisely that outdatedness that might just be its strength moving forward. The oldest town on the Bay of Kotor, Risan has watched its neighbours get international attention but failed to move on itself, making for a strange trip back into Montenegro’s Yugoslav past.
Montenegro’s seaside gets most of the summer attention, but there is no better time to don those hiking boots and traipse up into the mountains of the centre and the north. Lovćen mountain is where Montenegro was born (or named, at least), and there are plenty of nods to the great Njegoš on the way up. The road from Kotor passes the village in which he was born (now called Njeguši), and the poet prince’s mausoleum is one of the most miraculous attractions in the region.
Those travelling to Montenegro from Croatia or Herzegovina will first encounter Herceg Novi, as good a summer introduction to the country as you could imagine. All life here revolves around the sea, so make a beeline for the shore and soak it all in. Some of the best swimming in the country is found here, along with a vibrant nightlife and an impressive collection of medieval and modern architecture.