Summer Holidays in Europe
While Greece, Italy and Spain have long been popular destinations for seaside holidays in Europe, Croatia is arguably southern Europe’s hottest summer destination at the moment. However the mass tourism in Croatia has been taking its toll; the queues for seeing popular sights are increasingly long, the historic old town areas of places like Dubrovnik and Split are packed and locals are getting fed up with the influx of tourists that pour in every summer (and particularly with those pesky drunk backpackers!) Now don’t get me wrong despite the crowds of tourists I really loved travelling along the Croatian coast last summer. But as lovely as Croatia was the southern European summer destination that I absolutely can’t wait to get back to is actually Montenegro.
This small country is Croatia’s lesser known Slavic speaking southern neighbour, a former principality and part of Yugoslavia up until 2006. Montenegro still boasts the beautiful Adriatic coastline not to mention some stunning mountainous areas (its name means Black Mountain after all) but it is not so overrun with people as to no longer be enjoyable. It also has a fascinating history with parts of it having been under Venetian control from 1420 through til 1797. While some places in Croatia are bustling and over commercialised Montenegro has a much more relaxed feel to it. The weather in summer is nice and hot and the Adriatic Sea is so very inviting! What’s more the prices in Montenegro are more reasonable than in Croatia – sitting somewhere between what you’d pay in cheaper places further East like Bulgaria and more expensive Western European destinations like Italy.
Best Montenegrin Seaside Destinations
My favourite part of the country would have to be the Bay of Kotor, a drowned river valley that cuts inland from the Adriatic coastline of Montenegro. It boasts beautiful seaside towns such as Perast, Herceg Novi, Tivat and Kotor. The water is warm, the beaches are numerous and the locals are friendly. If you’re looking to truly relax this is the place to do it! I’d particularly recommend visiting the town of Kotor which was a real highlight of my last trip across Europe.
Top Tips for visiting Kotor
Getting to and From Kotor and Montenegro
We used trains for most of our travels through Europe, as we bought a global Eurail pass valid for 15 days in 2 months If you’re moving around a lot these tend to be good value in most countries except France and Italy (because of the extra reservation fees that can apply.) However the train network in Eastern Europe is patchy at best and can be very sketch (we ended up stuck on one train from Romania to Bulgaria for 16+hrs!) Because of this buses are generally the best way to get around. We caught a night bus to Kotor from Skopje, Macedonia and then headed on from Kotor to Dubrovnik in Croatia by bus as well. The exception to this would be if you’re travelling from Belgrade, Serbia through to Montenegro’s capital Podgorica (that’s Pod-go-ritza) or to Bar. In this case there is a very scenic railway trip to do , and you could travel on to Kotor by bus from either Podgorica or Bar.
We again opted for a whole apartment on Airbnb seeing we were travelling as a group of 3. We only booked it a few weeks out but it still cost us just €19/£17/US$22/NZ$31 per night each. If you haven’t used Airbnb before you can sign up here to get free travel credit.
Spending your hard earned pennies
Unlike Croatia, Montenegro now uses the euro as their currency. They weren’t really meant to adopt it seeing they aren’t yet part of the EU, but they just went ahead and did it anyway. It’s useful for travellers though as it means one less currency to worry about when travelling around Europe!
Favourite place to eat
Tangja Restaurant, this casual grill place does some amazing big platters with lots of different types of chargrilled/barbecued meat, chips and salad with flavoursome sauces on the side. A perfect feed after that big hill walk or a day spent swimming! We got a platter to share amongst 3 of us for just €6.50/£5.80/US$7.60/NZ$10.70 each including drinks. Feel free to savour your food in the dining area in the garden around the back.
Things to do
- The obvious attraction of summertime in Kotor is swimming and sunbathing in the beautiful turquoise water.
- Kotor also has an interesting medieval old town area to explore (complete with cute stray cats that the locals look after.) There are a lot of restaurants and gift shops in the Old Town (but like in all blatantly touristy areas you do end up paying a premium.)
- There is also a stunning walk to do that takes you up the side of the valley to the old Venetian fortress of Saint John above the town. This walk is best done before the sun comes over the hill or after it has dipped behind the other side of the bay. There are a lot of steps to climb and in summer it gets really hot! It’s a great workout after lots of lazing around by the seaside and the view is simply spectacular.
- Finally if you have a bit of extra moolah for paid activities then you might like to consider a boat trip around the bay, you can easily book one down on the waterfront.
No surprises that I’m already planning my next summer Vacay to this achingly beautiful country, I’d love to see more of it!