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Don’t say it too loudly, but Montenegro might just be the most beautiful of all the Balkan countries. It is difficult to argue with that statement when faced with the irresistible nature and exquisite towns that often seem hidden within. This is a seriously ravishing piece of real estate.
Montenegro possesses some of the most incredible natural attributes of any state in Europe, verdant countryside that mixes with divine towns to create something truly breathtaking. Picking out the most beautiful destinations in a beautiful country isn’t easy, but someone has to do it.
It takes a little bit of drama to create something truly breathtaking, and Kotor has spectacle in spades. This fortified beauty is Montenegro’s centrepiece, a seaside spot full of narrow streets and hidden corners, an energetic town sitting in the shadow of the imposing Mount Lovćen. Now one of the most popular destinations along the entire Adriatic Coast, Kotor deserves every single tourist it gets. Those able to scale the 1,350 steps to the top of the fortifications are in for a particularly special treat.
Sticking with drama, does it get any more dramatic than a monastery built against an almost vertical backdrop? The Ostrog monastery is the most popular pilgrimage site in the country, and it isn’t difficult to understand why. A stunning combination of human ingenuity and natural magnificence, Ostrog is a sight that few will forget in a hurry. This is as miraculous as Montenegro gets.
Located on the Montenegrin border with Albania, Lake Skadar is another in the long line of arresting Balkan lakes. It also happens to be the largest in the region, a vast area of tranquil beauty and genuine peace. Two-thirds of the lake lies in Montenegro, and at times it feels a little like a world within itself. The story goes that the lake was created with the tears of the pixie, and we see no reason to doubt the validity of that claim.
The gigantic frame of Petar II Petrović-Njegoš stands tall over the history and culture of Montenegro, so it is only apt that his mausoleum is located on one of the highest peaks in the Lovćen range. You don’t need to be an avid traveller to understand the views from up here are definitely of the breathtaking variety. It was here that George Bernard Shaw famously asked whether or not he was on the moon, and you can certainly see his point.
A short 12km drive north of Kotor is an even smaller town that might rival its neighbour when it comes to beauty. Empires fought over Perast for centuries, and it is easy to believe that they did so in desire of its aesthetic qualities as opposed to geographical position. Its two nearby islets deserve mention in this list too, and there are few more idyllic spots than the exquisitely-named Our Lady of the Rocks. The less than 350 people who live here can consider themselves very lucky indeed.
The most popular part of the quite frankly unbelievable Durmitor National Park, the Black Lake (Crno Jezero) is one of 18 glacial bodies of water found within the park. It is easily accessible, although visitors can be forgiven for feeling like they should have conquered something to arrive there. The view of the mountains rising in the distance is particularly stunning.
No matter how many photographs of it you see, nothing quite prepares you for the incredible sight of Montenegro’s Sveti Stefan. A tiny island village connected to the mainland by an equally iconic causeway, this collection of villas is as exclusive as the Balkans gets, so don’t expect to explore it unless you are willing to pay for the privilege. Like most views however, the true value is in gawping it from afar, taking in what is arguably the most inspiring image in the entire country.
Much like Novi Pazar in neighbouring Serbia, Ulcinj is the place to go if you’re looking for a little bit of Ottoman culture in Montenegro. Minarets dot the landscape in a town where Islam is king, although the appearance of a flamboyance of flamingos gives the whole thing an extremely unorthodox look. The old town also offers something different to the rest of the state, showcasing the varied beauty of this remarkable country.
The Balkans is full of Europe’s most jaw-dropping borders, and the one between Montenegro and Bosnia does not disappoint. The Tara River Canyon provides the excitement, an astonishing piece of nature that nosedives 1,300 metres down to the river. The water itself is not unlike the excitable images drawn up by children, a bluer-than-blue river that sees its beauty amplified by the dense forests that hem it in. Truly phenomenal.
Modern day Bar might not match its seaside neighbours in the beauty stakes, but the old town is another sensational sight in Montenegro’s arsenal. Located at the foot of Moutn Rumija, Stari Bar was abandoned at the end of the 1970s after a massive earthquake, but people have returned in the years since. It is easy to see why they were so eager to get back here – an arresting collection of stone buildings and medieval architecture.