Montenegro is positioning itself as a destination for digital nomads, and it was until recently offering citizenship through investment. It has since scrapped this program in order to prepare to apply for EU membership. It already uses the Euro, so it already feels like its on the way.
Most international interest in Montenegro is along the coast, so I hopped around the main sites to get a feel for what was happening. Montenegro has a small coastline, so it is easy to travel around here.
Here is a summary of the places I visited.
Bar is the main port city of Montenegro. I had read that there isn’t much to see here, which I sometimes interpret as a challenge. I was going here anyway because the Belgrade to Bar train passes through Podgorica (where I started my Montenegro trip).
Apart from the through service from Belgrade, there as also some local trains that ply the Podgorica-Bar route, so I took one of those. There weren’t many passengers on the day I visited, but the railway exists as a crucial port for Belgrade and beyond. The railway is thus kept in good condition to move freight inland to landlocked Serbia.
The train stopped at Sutomore, and we were told to get off and get a replacement bus. After waiting around we were then placed back on the train. Sutomore is the first contact with the sea from Podgorica.
Bar is only an hour from Podgorica, so this is like the beach of Podgorica. As I noted on my travels along the Croatian coast, I have not come to the Adriatic for the beaches. While I love to see the crystal clear blue water, the stony beaches leave me longing for soft sandy beaches.
There is an industrial port here, and it appeared that cruise ships dock here when not sailing around the Adriatic Sea.
This is also the main ferry port of Montenegro, with connections to Adriatic ports in Italy. Can we just take a moment to marvel that a Bar-Bari ferry service exists.
The highlight of Bar (at least according to my tastes) was the Izbor Department Store.
I was looking out for Yugoslavian modernist architecture in my travels around the Western Balkans, and this was a classic example of the style.
Budva is the main tourist city of the Budva Riviera, though at a population of 20,000 people don’t expect a “Montenegrin Miami” (as it is referred to on Wikitravel). My luck ran out with the weather after a glorious start in Bar, so I won’t be able to show you the eye-popping blues. I found this photo of what it looks like on a sunny day with calm water.
Some reviews I read said they were turned off by the party scene and preferred staying in Kotor. I’m not a party person, so I was wondering how I would like it. First of all, it appeared the cold and rainy days that arrived with me heralded the start of the low season. It was pretty quiet, and also there was the matter of being mid-pandemic, so the normal tourist crowds were not here.
I liked that Budva can be whatever you want it to be. There is an old town area, a beachfront area with modern apartment towers overlooking the sea, and behind all that is a normal town with regular cafes and restaurants.
The old town feels like it should be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s not even on the tentative list.
The old town is on a peninsula encircled with defensive stone walls. Here you can stay in boutique hotels and hostels deep in the cobbled alleyways, and far away from the party scene.
Also next to the old town are some Roman ruins,
This is next to the largest casino in Montenegro.
The old town is set on a defensive point overlooking a bay, and along the bay is the epicentre of Montenegrin coastal tourism.
There has been a building boom here, though it appeared that some buildings had ground to a halt in these pandemic times.
Budva is popular with Russian and Eastern European tourists, and much of the apartment boom here has come from foreigners.
At the other end of the bay is the a hotel and residence complex by Dukley.
I saw billboards for them along the coast advertising that they accept Bitcoin. They also made the news for selling apartments in Bitcoin.
Tivat is a port town in the Bay of Kotor. It was once a base for the Yugoslav navy, and there is a naval museum here in honour of that heritage.
The centrepiece of the museum is a Yugoslav submarine.
Tivat has now reinvented itself as a base for the super-wealthy who cruise around the Mediterranean on super-yachts.
Porto Montenegro is a new urban development at the old navy port, and the construction there was in part fuelled by the Montenegro Citizenship by Investment program.
The combination of being here at the onset of the low season and the fact that many of these apartments are just domiciles in order to get a passport made it feel dead here.
I personally don’t get why you would live in such a boring place. Even if I had millions of Euro, I would like to think that I would still want to be surrounded by lively shops and eateries instead of shops by Gucci et al.
This area is still a work in progress, with more apartments being built inland from the port. If you were going to build a new city, why not build something interesting that people would want to visit.
There is more to Tivat than the port at least. There is a normal town you can get a €3.50 hamburger and €0.90 espresso. It also turned out that my favourite cafe in all the places I visited in Montenegro was in Porto Montenegro.
[Kafeterija – Porto Montenegro.]
Tivat is home to the second international airport in Montenegro, which is actually busier than the capital airport in Podgorica. Tivat is the airport for the Bay of Kotor area and the Budva Riviera, so it is more convenient than Podgorica. Tivat has a more seasonal schedule though, so the impressive destination list drops considerably in the winter.
Kotor is the highlight of the Montenegran coast, indeed one of the highlights of the entire Adriatic Sea.
Kotor is a worthy UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the old town on the bay built hard against the mountains.
There is also a defensive wall that improbably goes up the mountain, just in case any marauders were inclined to haul siege equipment over the mountain.
It was still cool and cloudy at this point, but old towns like this are better suited for cool days than hot and sunny days.
Kotor has lots of cats roaming the alleyways as well.
There is a cruise ship port here, but I either timed my trip well or the cruise season was over because I didn’t see any ships. There is a passage built under the road from the port to the old town that indicates that there must be some serious passenger traffic in the high season.
Even though it’s in a bay, there is still a beach to be found here.
Kotor is only 15 minutes from Tivat by bus, and I ended up staying in Tivat and travelling here. In hindsight, I would have preferred to stay in Kotor out of all the places I visited. One place I didn’t visit was Herceg Novi. This is near the Croatian border and it also has an old town by the bay. I had old town fatigue at this point, so I didn’t go.
Kotor has the most international bus connections, so when I left I got the bus from Tivat to Kotor to get my bus to Shkodër in Albania.
Michael Jensen says
Have been to Kotor twice and absolutely loved it. If you’re ever back, do the hike up to the top of mountain behind the fortress wall you showed in your photo. The views from up there are absolutely stunning.
James Clark says
Thanks, yes a wonderful place to visit, I wouldn’t complain if I found myself back in Kotor again!