Montenegro packs a lot of scenery into its tiny territory. Its Adriatic coast doesn’t yet get the same level of publicity as Croatia’s, but that is bound to change. It may not have islands but it does have sandy beaches and a spectacular fjord. Away from the sea the landscape is equally spectacular.
Where to go: some suggestions
The highlight of the Adriatic coast is the Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska). The bare mountains plunging into the dark water have caused it to be compared with a Norwegian fjord – but it’s a fjord with Mediterranean flowers growing in the villages along the shoreline. At the head of the bay is the walled town of Kotor. It’s not as big or as well-scrubbed as Dubrovnik just up the coast, but it’s still a wonderful place to wander around. Don’t miss the steep steps leading to the highest point of Saint Ivan’s fortress: you won’t regret your efforts when you see the town and bay spread out below you.
Elsewhere on the coast Budva and Herceg Novi are popular resorts. Budva in particular apparently gets crowded in summer, but at other times of year its a pleasant place to stay, even if its reconstructed walled town is a little artificial. The port of Bar is not very interesting in itself, but the nearby ruins of the Stari Bar citadel have an impressive location. Behind Stari Bar some intriguing trails lead into the Rumija Mountains. On the far side of the mountains is Lake Skadar, the largest lake in the Balkans. Further south again is Ulcinj, a pleasant resort that also serves as a useful stop on the way to Albania.
The scenic highlight of inland Montenegro is Durmitor National Park. The main mountain resort at Žabljak is a little bit out of the way but well worth the trouble of getting there. Despite an intimidatingly jagged appearance, the Durmitor massif is very accessible to hikers. Many of the summits can be reached in a few hours of straightforward hiking, and the views from the top are unforgettable. You don’t need to be a hiker to appreciate the deep peace that surrounds the park’s many small lakes. Also nearby is the equally awe-inspiring Tara Canyon, a popular destination for rafting excursions.
Much as I like Montenegro, I have to admit that it doesn’t have much in the way of urban highlights. You’re quite likely to pass through the capital Podgorica while travelling around the country, but it doesn’t have much to tempt visitors to stay. The former capital Cetinje is more interesting, although it’s probably too small and sleepy to be count as "urban". It’s a rather bizarre collection of former consulates and modest palaces set in a landscape of limestone crags.