Less than three months ago, Europe's youngest nation came of age, separating itself from Serbia thereby becoming the last of the former Yugoslav republics to gain its independence. Often compared to Croatia, due to its Adriatic coastline, Montenegro is a fledgling country with much to be proud of -- old traditions, a royal dynasty and a long and colorful history. It is a multi-cultural mix of Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Muslim religions, of Serb, Croat and Montenegrin cultural heritage and locals are known for their welcoming nature and friendly hospitality. While beach resort towns like Budva, Kotor and Petrovac may not be household names yet, they are some of the best kept secrets in Europe, but perhaps not for long. In 2005, the World Travel and Tourism Council identified Montenegro as the "fastest growing travel and tourism economy in the world".
Beach resorts with historic towns line the 175 miles of stunning coastline from Uclinj in the south to Herceg Novi in the north -- with Bar being the main port city and the capital city Podgorica located inland. There are close to 120 individual beaches in Montenegro so there is plenty to choose from. The walled coastal city of Budva, Montenegro's main tourist resort is especially imposing. Its origin dates back to the 5th century BC with the Phoenicians and it was a Greek and Roman settlement. The imposing fortress and labyrinth of narrow streets in Kotor's old quarter are highlights of this UNESCO World Heritage site. Much of the architecture in Kotor (especially in its Old Town) is of Venetian origin with distinctive doors, hinges, windows and balconies whereas other small but noticeable features have an ancient Roman flavor. Petrovac lies halfway between Budva and Bar and is a picturesque fishing village with a wide, sandy crescent and the nearby islands of Katic and St Sunday have great dive sites. Uclinj is the southernmost city of Montenegro, originally settled by the Turks and a slave trading port. Being so close to the Albanian border, most of the people are ethnic Albanian and Muslims so mosques and minarets abound in the place of churches and cathedrals. Its beaches also attract fewer western tourists than Budva or resorts further north. In fact if you looking for a charming historic beach town that has yet to be spoiled by tourism Uclinj is it.
Accommodation prices in Montenegro, especially in the beach resort areas are lower than their Croatian counterparts and of course considerably cheaper than elsewhere in Europe like Italy or France. Several U.K. travel companies offer package deals to Montenegrin beach resorts that include one week's accommodation and round-trip airfare from London and often these are great deals.
For example, Holiday Options (+44/870-4208-372; www.holidayoptions.co.uk) offers one and two-week vacation packages including round-trip airfare from London to Dubrovnik, round-trip ground transportation to Budva, accommodations at the four-star Queen of Montenegro Hotel in Budva, situated on a hillside overlooking Becici beach, breakfast daily and four dinners. For departures from London in October, a one-week package is priced from $834 or $1,130 for two weeks. From September 10 to 30, 2006 prices are a bit higher starting from $1,043 or $1,321 for two weeks.
A similar package (i.e. with round-trip airfare from London, airport transfers, accommodations, daily breakfast and four dinners) but staying in the resort town of Petrovac at the four-star Hotel Rivijera is priced from $890 per week in late October or $1,149 from September 10 to 30, 2006. Two weeks is priced from $1,282 to $1,556. Staying at the three-star Hotel Danica in Petrovas, prices are lower started at $758 for a week or $1,111 for two weeks.
Adriatic-Tour (www.adriatic-tour.com/en) is a Montenegrin online booking website that offers hotel, villa and apartment accommodations. For example the three-star Mini Hotel Grbalj in central Budva, located a two minute walk from Slovenska beach is priced between $87 and $96 per double room per night (the higher end of the scale being for the months of July and August). This price includes breakfast and dinner daily.
Sveti Stefan (tel. +381/8646-8051; www.budvanska-rivijera.co.yu/engleski/sstefan.html) is Montenegro's signature hotel/village, appearing on countless postcards, brochures and websites. It is a unique destination and accommodation option. Located four miles from Budva, it is actually an isolated promontory connected to the mainland by a narrow bridge road. It was a medieval fishing village that was converted into a four-star hotel with 37 individual villas with 101 rooms, 16 suites and a private beach. Its old town, tower, narrow streets, shops and small churches remain relatively unchanged.
Prices range from $54 to $130 per person per night (plus a $13 per day air conditioning charge) depending on the room/villa type. These prices include half-board (breakfast and dinner, or breakfast and lunch). Even if you are on a strict budget, it is worth splurging for a few nights to stay at this spectacular location. Although the hotel is currently owned by the Budvanska Rivijera Tourist Company, a group that owns several restaurants and bars as well as eight hotel properties on the Adriatic coastline (including a few quality properties in Budva and Petrovac), this season may be your last to enjoy this hotel at these prices. The Aman Resort group has taken over management of the hotel and will be refurbishing it into 25 super luxurious suites with prices likely to quadruple with it re-opens in summer 2007.
Although there are two International airports in Montenegro (Podgorica and Tivat) most visitors to Montenegro fly into Dubrovnik (Croatia) airport which is about 10 miles from the Croatian/Montenegrin border, and then rent a car. There are also several charter flights in summer to Tivat from the U.K. or alternatively you can fly a discount carrier like Ryanair into Bari in Southern Italy and take an overnight ferry to Kotor. Although it is not in the European Union, Montenegro has adopted the euro as its currency. Strangely visitors arriving in by air, land or sea do not require a visa unless they are flying in from Serbia.
JAT Airways (tel. +44/20-7629-2007; www.jatlondon.com), the national carrier of Serbia, has a promotion on current fares from London to Podgorica or Tivat via Belgrade. The $220 round-trip airfare is available online until September 15, 2006 and is valid for travel until October 27, 2006. Its regular airfares on these routes with 14-day advance purchase are $258 or $129 one-way. Minimum stay is three-days and maximum is one year. Taxes of approximately $90 are additional.
Axioma Travel (tel. 800/929-4662; www.axiomatravel.com) has discounted airfares to Podgorica with the following sample fares for travel between September and November 2006 on U.S. carriers in combination with Montenegro Airlines:
- New York to Podgorica: $581
- Boston to Podgorica: $764
- Los Angeles to Podgorica: $760
Talk with fellow Frommer's travelers on our Montenegro Message Boards.