Where to go in Montenegro
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
In order to work out where to go in Montenegro, read the map from right to left. Not left to right, the ways our eyes naturally take us. Because to the right you have mountains, and more mountains. They create the climate, culture and core of Montenegro, in a way that the growing beach culture doesn’t. Which is why, thankfully, so many of them have been protected by national park status. In the north you have Durmitor NP, with the largest river canyon (Tara) in Europe. In the centre, you have the historic capital of Cetinje, stunning Skadar Lake and oh so lovely Lovcen. And of course, Montenegro is so petite, you never have to look too far to see the sea. It’s always just over that next peak.
See our map of highlights and top tips on where to go on Montenegro.
Biogradska Gora National Park
Saddle up and start climbing. Although trekking is always wonderful, taking on the peaks and valleys of this remote, northern landscape, on horseback is the way to go. The heart of this park, like a sapphire at the centre of a crown, is Biogradsko Lake, is like something out of a Narnia set. And even more so in winter, with this becoming a favourite snowshoeing location.
This is the historic capital, tucked into a small valley overlooked by the Lovcen mountain. It has a fascinating history, becoming an ambassadorial base for European powers during the rise of the Ottoman Empire, as Montenegro remained a small independent state. Which explains the European influences in its well protected ancient architecture, from monasteries to museums. Also the gateway to the Lovcen National Park.
Durmitor National Park
Located in the northern rocky massifs, its Mount Durmitor plateau and long list of luscious lakes have long attracted hikers in the know. The River Tara canyon cuts through it, now becoming popular for white water rafting. It is also famous for horse breeding, and thus a top spot for horseriding vacations too. The town of Zabljak is the heart of the park, also a snowshoeing favourite in winter.
As well as being a stop on the famous Belgrade to Bar railway line (the much revered Yugoslavan leader, Josip Broz Tito, loved this route so much he had his own train made for it), it is also the gateway town for the Biogradska Gora National Park. And just like something out of 19th century Switzerland, there is also a delicious cheese route to take here, with traditional farms producing some of Montenegro’s finest.
Exquisitely located at the top of the Bay of Kotor, a fjord-like, island-filled inlet that is enveloped by mountains. Unlike many of Montenegro’s bay areas, high rise developments have been prevented due the Bay’s and the gorgeous medieval, walled town of Stari Grad’s, UNESCO World Heritage status. When the cruiseshippers disembark, it’s easy to head to the hills, by bike or on foot, for views that stretch way beyond the liners.
Lake Skadar National Park
The border with Albania cuts through both Lake Skadar and Prokletije Mountains that surround it. These peaks are reflected perfectly in the lake's calm waters which, at 400 km², is enormous, making it perfect for kayaking. And unlike other great lakes such as Como or Constance, this one is untouched by tourism. Just a bevy of birds, lilies, fish and the odd nun from a medieval island nunnery in a rowing boat.
Lovcen National Park
One of our favourite mountain biking and hiking havens, a highlights of this park is trekking up to the top of Mount Lovcen, to visit the mausoleum of the much beloved ruler, philosopher and poet, Njegos who died in 1851. This trip is still felt to be like a bit of a pilgrimage for many Montenegrins, as he is thought to have been the pioneer of a peace loving and human rights driven Montenegro.
The Ostrog Monastery, near the city of Niksic (home to Montenegro’s only homegrown brewery) is a site to behold, with elevated chapels set in a sheer rock face, all linked by stunningly decorated caves, passages and stairways. Those monks really knew how to put on an architectural show. It is one of the most visited Christian pilgrimage sites in the world and a fine example of Montenegrin’s spiritual heritage.
Although there are many idyllic small towns dotted along the coast, once you get away from the concrete monstrosities of Budva and Petrovac, this is considered to be one of Montenegro’s prettiest. Located on Kotor Bay, it has a Venice feel to it, with its Italian-style waterfront churches and palaces that catered for rich shipbuilders in their day. It has a crumbling chic and waterfront wonder about it, and is not to be missed.
Savin Kuk Ski Centre
You don’t hear ‘we are skiing in Montenegro this year’ bandied around at the school gate much. But that’s because it is too cool for school. Heading here in winter is one of the best ways of embracing Montenegro’s predominantly mountain culture, with Savin Kuk the capital of ski-cool. Go snowshoeing in Durmitor National Park, or winter walking to the glacially gorgeous Black Lake. Which will, of course, be all white.
Travel times in Montenegro
The following times give you a rough idea of the travel times between the main attractions in Montenegro.
- Podgorica airport to Lake Skadar: 30 minutes by car
- Dubrovnik, Croatia to Kotor, Montenegro: 2-2.5 hours by car
- Kotor to Durmitor National Park: 2.5 hours by car
- Trekking the Tara River Canyon in Durmitor National Park: 5 hours on foot
- Podgorica to Bar: 1 hour by train
- Lepetane – Kamenari across Kotor Bay: 5 minutes by ferry