Gulet cruising in Montenegro

Montenegro is made for seafarers. The first modern tourists to the area were the elite on their luxury yachts, who enjoyed the natural beauty of the region well before regular international flights became more commonplace. They were clearly onto something. Now Montenegro is becoming a tourist hotbed, but the yachties haven’t upped and left. The water in front of its seaside cities is still speckled with luxury vessels; cruising is still one of the best ways to enjoy the country’s coast.
Cruise under the impressive peaks of mountainous Montenegro. With terracotta-topped cities and water so blue it will make your heart ache, this capsule country shows you can do a lot with a small space.
Your vessel and home for the week is a smartly-painted Turkish gulet (pronounced ‘goo-let’). These traditional wooden boats are most at home skimming around the Turkish coast but have become common sights across southern Europe – that being said, you may get a few admiring glances as you breeze past.

With their twin masts, shiny varnish and spacious interiors, gulets are very comfortable sailing boats. They’re small enough to run rings around big cruise ships and far more responsible, too. You can anchor close to the beaches and be delivered to shore by tender. Exploring the towns is easy, as most of them are right on the seafront. Trip off the quay and let your eyes adjust as you peek inside gloomy Italianate churches, get a little lost in the winding backstreets, and secure a table al fresco at your dinner spot of choice.

Gulet cruising in Montenegro takes you to some of the country’s most attractive seaside cities and towns, including popular Budva and Kotor. You’ll love the Bay of Kotor. This flooded estuary wanders ponderously inland to the towns of Kotor, Tivat and Perast. Get out the paddleboards to explore the lake-like stillness of its quieter bays. You might see fish flashing under the shark-like shadow of your board.

Montenegro has an under-celebrated interior. Just because you’re on a boat, there’s no excuse to miss a national park – the country has five. Your cruise organises an inland excursion to see the pine-clad slopes of Lovcen National Park.

What does gulet cruising in Montenegro entail?

You’ll cruise Montenegro on a 32m gulet. These spacious boats can carry a maximum of 16 guests – children are welcome, too – across six double cabins and two twin rooms. All cabins have an en suite bathroom, and there is air conditioning throughout. The boat is run by four local crew who can tell you choice titbits of sightseeing knowledge, as well as a few useful phrases of Montenegrin. Don’t forget to say hvala – thank you – in return.

This trip includes guided tours of the Maritime Heritage Museum in Tivat, Kotor’s Old Town, the ruins at Stari Bar in Bar, Mount Lovcen, and the town of Perast and its nearby islands. There’s plenty of time to sightsee as the boat only hops on relatively short navigations each day – especially whilst you’re in Kotor Bay. As you cruise along, look out for little island monasteries, sea birds and perhaps even the odd dolphin. On board you’ll find two canoes and two paddleboards, plus snorkelling gear so you can explore further. There are plenty of opportunities to swim – right off the boat if you want. The boat has a few board games below deck to stopgap any afternoon lulls, but you’ll spend most evenings on shore.
Breakfast and lunch are served on board, usually on the shady aft deck. Lunches are a generous three-course affair and both meals use local produce whenever possible. There’s fresh fruit, tea and coffee available throughout the day. Apart from a welcome dinner on the first night and a farewell dinner with the captain, you’ll eat dinner on shore. The crew can help point you towards good restaurants. You should try out local Dalmatian dishes like hearty sausage stews, local cheese, and the vranac red wine, though a local white might be better with the seafood dishes you’ll find along the coast. There are plenty of Italian restaurants around, too; the country’s near neighbour still tends to dominate cuisine. You’ll spend your nights either on the dock or at anchor, but the gulet’s tender can easily run you to shore in the latter case.
This small cruise tries to operate with the minimum impact on the natural environment. The crew will endeavour to sail at least 50 percent of the time. This will depend on the weather, especially the wind strength and direction, since it’s no fun crawling into the wind at a close haul for hours on end. The crew will sometimes opt for motor sailing, using the engine to give the boat a bit of a boost whilst keeping the sails up – a less peaceful, but efficient way to travel. The closest airport to the cruise’s starting point is Tivat, but Dubrovnik and Podgorica are also nearby. The gulet is moored in Tivat harbour.

Our top Gulet cruises Vacation

Kotor Bay and Montenegro gulet cruise

Kotor Bay and Montenegro gulet cruise

Cruise in spectacular Kotor Bay and the coast of Montenegro

From £1605 to £1785 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 12 Jun, 19 Jun, 24 Jul, 31 Jul, 7 Aug, 14 Aug, 21 Aug, 28 Aug, 4 Sep, 11 Sep, 18 Sep, 25 Sep, 2 Oct
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Gulet cruises or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Gulet cruising in Montenegro highlights


1. Bar

Type its name into Google and you might be recommended your local boozer, not this port city. Bar is a few miles south of Budva, and the main reason to visit is to see Stari Bar, the ruins of the old city (stari means old) that hide in the hills behind the newer settlement. You can see Turkish influence in the ruins – the once-reigning Ottomans have left their mark on the architecture.

2. Budva

Budva is Montenegro’s tourist hotspot – thanks to a beach right under the city wall, a Dubrovnik-esque old town, and a fleet of luxury yachts glamming up the marina. Gulets can anchor near the very pretty Sveti Stefan, a walled island that was a favourite hangout of Sophia Loren, Doris Day and Princess Margaret in the 1960s. You can also stop at Jaz beach, a popular sandy beach just outside town.
Herceg Novi

3. Herceg Novi

Known for its proliferation of flowering mimosa trees that, along with the reliable sunshine, cast the town in a golden glow, Herceg Novi is more modern than the historic sites deeper within Kotor Bay. Follow the steps (this town appears to have been built on staircases) down to the sea shore for nice beaches.

4. Kotor

This beautiful UNESCO-listed town was once ruled by the Venetians, so there’s a grand Venetian harbour, and a torturously twisted maze of medieval backstreets in the town. To make sense of it all, climb up to the city walls and walk above the old town – maybe from here you can pinpoint where you got lost.

5. Lovcen

In this national park, just inland from Kotor, dramatic Mount Lovćen rises above the tree line as bald as a kerbstone. This ‘black mountain’ is Montenegro’s namesake. The beloved 19th century Prince-Bishop Njegos, a poet, philosopher and all-round national icon is buried on its summit in one of the world’s highest-altitude mausoleums. You can go on a tour up to his tomb.

6. Perast

This small town gets fewer visitors than Kotor, but possesses equal beauty, with lovely, well preserved architecture. You can climb the tall, obelisk-like tower of St Nikola church to look out over the bay. A scattering of churches appear to float in front of the city – in fact, they sit on tiny islands, and you can drop in for a visit.

Best time to go gulet cruising in Montenegro

Gulet cruises run all summer, from May through to the end of September. This coincides with the busiest time of year in the country for visitors: in July and August the towns will be more crowded than usual and big cruise ships nudge into Kotor Bay. Expect hot, clear weather, with temperatures reaching the mid 30°Cs in high summer, but don’t let hoards and heat put you off. Remember, gulets can reach places large cruise ships cannot. You’ll find that the boat generates a cooling apparent breeze when you’re underway, and you can always swim to cool off –the water is clean and clear all along the coast.
Written by Eloise Barker
Photo credits: [Page banner: Steph Smith] [Top box: Andrew Buchanan] [What does it entail?: Trish Hartmann] [Bar: Diego Delso] [Budva: Andrew Buchanan] [Herceg Novi: BelaBela] [Kotor: Jorge Franganillo] [Lovcen: Michal Krumnikl] [Perast: Marcin Konsek]