The name Montenegro – literally “black mountain” – becomes apparent as you descend the steep hills into the country’s Bay of Kotor region. In this stunningly beautiful inlet off the Adriatic Sea, the black mountains of Montenegro seem to rise directly from the water.
Located on the Adriatic coast of the Balkans, Montenegro is one of southern Europe’s absolute hidden gems. From its epic mountains to rugged coastline to medieval towns, the country is sure to provide travelers a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
And, from a personal perspective, I had the good fortune to propose to my wife, a bottle of champagne in hand, overlooking the Bay of Kotor – fortunately, she said “yes!” So, this wonderful country will always hold a place near and dear to our hearts, and here’s what we see as the best and most beautiful places to visit in Montenegro…
1. Herceg Novi – a medieval city in Kotor which is one of the most stunning places to visit in Montenegro
Herceg Novi, a beautiful medieval city, stands guard over the entrance from the Adriatic Sea into Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor. Visitors can wander through the winding, terraced streets of the city’s old town for stunning views, delicious food, and shaded cafes.
Grab a cup of coffee at one of these beautiful cafes on the slopes of the city for a great place to relax and watch the ships come in and out of the bay.
2. Perast – a gorgeous coastal town known for its delicious food and stone promenade
Further inland on the shores of the Bay of Kotor, Perast is a gorgeous village that could just as easily appear on the banks of Lake Geneva. Anchored by a beautiful stone church, visitors can grab a snack and stroll along its waterside promenade.
I recommend going with a big appetite, so you can post up at one of several restaurants located along the water for a glass of Montenegrin wine and some delicious local mussels.
3. Kotor Fortress – easily one of the best places to explore in Montenegro
Rising from old town Kotor, the remaining walls of the city’s medieval fortress ascend into the black mountains surrounding the bay.
If you’re looking for an outstanding way to tour some ruins, see a stunning panorama, and get some exercise, this is for you. But, bring some water, as it’s a steep climb up the wall’s steps!
4. Stari Grad Kotor – a winding old town full of beautiful markets and cafes
This recommendation actually ties in directly with the Kotor Fortress climb above.
The ancient wall continues down into the old city of Kotor – Stari Grad – itself. So, after you burn some calories climbing the wall, head back down into the maze-like streets of Stari Grad and grab a drink and bite to eat in one of the tree-lined courtyards of this historic town.
There are far worse ways to spend the day – good climb followed by some local seafood and a big, cold glass of Montenegrin white wine!
5. Our Lady of the Rocks – a manmade island which is a must-see in Montenegro
This beautiful, manmade island is located in the heart of the Bay of Kotor. In addition to touring a beautiful church – the eponymous Lady of the Rocks – this island gives you 360-degree views of the mountains towering above the bay.
To get there, you can pay for a boat taxi from Perast or Kotor. Or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, rent a kayak and get some exercise on the way out!
6. Mountains above Risan – stunning hikes with panoramic views of the Bay of Kotor
This one definitely won’t be in any tour books, but it’s a great little secret if you’re looking for a beautiful day hike. Risan is a small town wedged between the mountains and shore in the far north of the Bay of Kotor.
Directly behind the town, there’s a switch-back trail leading up into the mountains. It’s definitely a day hike, but if you’re up for packing a lunch and some water, the views from the top make it worth the effort!
7. Ostrog Monastery – a Serbian Orthodox monastery which is one of the best places to visit in Montenegro
Located roughly 40 kilometers northwest from the capital, this beautiful monastery seems to almost defy reality. Built into a nearly vertical cliff face, the stunning Serbian Orthodox monastery – named after Saint Basil of Ostrog – should definitely be on your list of “places to see” in Montenegro!
Whether you appreciate the religious, architectural, natural, or historical aspects of this site, there’s a reason for everyone to go there.
And, after winding up the switch-back roads to get to the monastery, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view back west over the Bjelopavli plain – even more reason to make a day trip here!
8. Lovcen National Park – towering mountains and the Mausoleum of Njegoš
If you like the outdoors, make sure you don’t skip this one! Mount Lovcen can actually claim to be the mountain that gave Montenegro its name, as its black walls absolutely justify the “black mountain” moniker.
In addition to offering outstanding hikes along steep mountain trails, true thrill-seekers can zipline through the mountains, as well!
And, from a historical perspective, Montenegro’s most famous ruler – Petar II Petrovi?-Njegoš – has his final resting place in the mountaintop Mausoleum of Njegoš within the park, making this a must-see for visitors to Montenegro.
9. Njegusi – a tiny pretty mountain town known for beautiful views and local wine
While rarely mentioned on lists of “touristy” things to do, if you’re going to Lovcen, stop off at the tiny mountain village of Njegusi on the park’s north side.
Njegoš was born here, and it’s a perfect midway stop on the steep, switch-back drive up from the Adriatic coast over the mountains and back down to the plains of inland Montenegro.
Pull your car over for stunning views, and stroll through the village to breathe in some fresh mountain air and meet some wonderfully hospitable locals. Be sure to try some homemade wine and some of the delicious local dried ham, njeguški pršut.
10. Sveti Nikola Island – one of the most stunning places to explore in Montenegro
While many people have heard of Budva – Montenegro’s playground city for the rich and famous – far fewer have heard of this beautiful island just one kilometer from the city. Sveti Nikola Island, which is only accessible by boat, is stunning in its contradictions.
While so geographically close to Budva, you feel like you’re completely isolated on one of the island’s three secluded beaches. If you want a beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of life in Budva, catch a boat out here for an afternoon.
11. Skadar Lake National Park – a nature lover’s playground straddling two countries
The largest lake in southern Europe, this gorgeous body of water straddles Montenegro and its neighbor to the south, Albania. And, designated a national park, this pristine lake is a perfect destination for nature lovers.
The best way to see it is a boat tour, which you can book at one of the coastal towns for anywhere from a couple hours to an entire day.
I highly recommend packing some snacks (and maybe a bottle of wine?) for a day on the water. These boat tours will stop off at hidden beaches and isolated islands throughout the day – a perfect way to take a dip, see some nature, and enjoy a picnic!
12. Masanovic Winery – taste delicious Montenegrin wines with a family touch
After covering some good nature activities, here’s one for the wine lovers out there! Located in Virpazar – just west of Skadar Lake – Masanovic Winery offers a phenomenal experience at a family-owned and operated winery.
If you’d like to reserve a tour, drop an e-mail to the proprietors a couple of days in advance.
Or, just show up for an afternoon of culinary treats, as all of the food and drinks served there are homemade. But, definitely figure out who’s driving, because the wines, brandy, and liquor can hit your pretty fast, especially if you spent your morning swimming in Skadar Lake!
13. Crno Jezero – a gorgeous, glacial lake which is a beauty spot to visit in northern Montenegro
My final recommendation is more isolated than the other ones on this list, but it’s absolutely worth the drive. Located in northern Montenegro, Crno Jezero – “black lake” in English – is a glacial lake and an extremely popular tourist attraction in that part of the country.
In the shadow of beautiful mountains, the streams and trails surrounding this gorgeous water make it a prime destination for a day of hiking.
And, from a practical standpoint, you can walk to the lake from the center of Zabljak, the closest town. So, after a day of hiking through stunning pine forests and along glacial streams, stroll back from the lake into town for some delicious Montenegrin food and drinks!
14. Gorica Park – an attractive hillside garden park of winding trails overlooking Podgorica
Some people say spending some time in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital, isn’t worth it – I disagree. And, Gorica Park is one reason why.
In this beautiful, hillside park, you can stroll through pleasant garden trails with a sweeping view out over the city and the outlying plains.
After a couple hours exploring, you’re located just a short walk from outstanding bars, cafes, and restaurants, so explore some beautiful nature while working up a big appetite!
15. Independence Square – a cultural hub in the capital and a great place for risotto
With that big appetite built up from strolling the trails of Gorica Park, head out for a night on the town in Podgorica’s social and cultural heart – Independence Square.
Filled with beautiful sculptures and lined with restaurants, the city library, and the art museum, this vibrant square is absolutely a place to spend a night.
Start with some drinks at one of the many open-air cafes then transition to a delicious seafood dinner. This is an outstanding place to try some of Montenegro’s famous cuttlefish black risotto.
Best Time To Visit Montenegro
There is never a bad time to visit Montenegro. The European destination boasts historical and natural attractions at every turn, and the weather will be comfortable for sightseeing year-round:
February and March: Winter can be cold and rainy in this small country, but it’s also one of the best times to score hotel deals. It’s also peak season for skiing.
April to June: Spring brings blooming flowers and mild temperatures.
July to September: Summer is the busiest time in Montenegro, with the longest days and warmest weather.
October to December: Fall is a great time to visit, with cooler temps and fewer crowds
Montenegro is an incredible country with a rich history and culture. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. Perhaps the most surprising thing about our time there was how affordable it is for tourists from North America or Western Europe to visit. Where have you visited that has surprised you in terms of cost? In what ways do you think having this destination on your bucket list will change your life?
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Emma-Clair Ni Clearaigh – writer and photographer
With itchy feet, an inquisitive nature and an ardent wanderlust, Emma Clair has always been a traveller at heart. Hailing from the Emerald Isle she calls a small coastal town near Dublin home, but has lived in a few countries including Saigon, Vietnam where she resided for over a year, now she balances travel and travel writing with teaching and a passion for vintage interior design. She counts supping on Bloody Marys on a rooftop in Manhattan, downing Singapore slings at the Raffles Hotel, daring a paraglide on the Grand Cayman, spending an exotic Christmas in Malaysia and exploring the Angkor Wat, Cambodia as her all time favourite travel moments. Although, she’ll always have a special place in her heart for the city where she makes her annual pilgrimages – Paris, her true city of lights. Find Emma-Clair on Instagram or Facebook.