Escape to Montenegro and explore the Bay of Kotor, Budva Riviera and the mountains.
Eastern Europe as a travel destination has been rising in popularity over the past decade, with countries such as Croatia and Poland attracting huge numbers from around the world. Of course, the downside of this is overcrowding, sometimes sparking a backlash from local residents. When planning a summer holiday, I was looking for somewhere in Europe a bit more off-the-beaten track with a lot less tourists and I thought about Montenegro. When I mentioned the country to a few friends, hardly anyone had been and many could not even point it out on the map.
Montenegro shares the same Adriatic coastline as Croatia, Albania… and if you go even further south, Greece. By European standards, it’s a relatively small country and takes a few hours to drive from the Albanian border to the Croatian. When it comes to flights from the UK, some of the budget airlines fly direct to Tivat (Bay of Kotor) and the capital Podgorica. However, these flights aren’t daily (at time of writing) and were quite expensive, so we opted to fly to Dubrovnik and rent a car from there, which is only 17km north of the border. As this piece is about Montenegro, I won’t linger too long on Dubrovnik. We decided to spend a total of two nights in the Croatian resort at the beginning and end of our holiday, staying at this cute little B&B Guesthouse Rustico in the Old Town. Daytime in the old town was pretty overwhelming thanks to the huge crowds of cruise ship travellers, but once they headed back to the boats in the evening, it’s was a lot more enjoyable and less frantic.
When it comes to renting a car for our trip to Montenegro, we looked at a variety of options, but decided renting a car from Dubrovnik would be easier. We had seen a few horror stories online regarding so-called ‘damage’ and high insurance excess from some local car companies so stuck to Hertz. Whatever car you rent, you must make sure you are insured to drive it in Montenegro (some companies may charge extra for leaving Croatia) and you must have the right car documentation to show at the border. When we drove into Montenegro, they didn’t ask for it, but on the way back to Croatia, they did request the vehicle paperwork. Overall, it was pretty straightforward process. The queue at the border was about 45 minutes, although it was a lot quicker returning to Croatia a week later.
After crossing the border, within 15 minutes we reached the stunning Bay of Kotor – one of Montenegro’s most popular tourist destinations. It is a stunning span of water surrounded by mountains with Venetian settlements dotted along the bay. If you want to cross to the southern part of the Bay, you have two options – drive all the way around or get the short car ferry connecting Kamenari and Lepetane. For our first trip around the Bay, we wanted to drive the whole way so took the scenic route past the various villages and towns, such as Herceg Novi, Lipci and Perast. Kotor town is one of the main hubs in the Bay and is often a stop-off for cruise ships during the day. As we were seeking a bit more tranquillity, we rented a self-catering apartment in Muo – a waterside fishing village 1.5 miles away from Kotor. We had a huge apartment with two double beds and a seaview balcony, with free parking and bike rental available. Within a couple of minutes walk, there were plenty of small, empty pebbly beaches or piers so you could easily go swimming in the clear blue waters.
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