Could you point out Montenegro on a map? I’m not sure I could have done at the start of 2015. All I really knew was that it’s a tiny country in Eastern Europe, that had supposedly been the location for the climax of Casino Royale.
Not being one to dip out on an adventure to somewhere new, a trip was organised and soon myself, Antonia and another couple, our friends Paul and Chloe, had booked flights, car hire and an AirBnB and were flying our way to Podgorica (pod-gorr-it-sa).
- Where: Kolasin and Kotor, Montenegro
- Month: April
- For: 4 days
- Suited to: Couples, Close Friends
- Expect: Snow, Lakes, a Monastery, pretty villages and a Fort
- Accommodations: 2
- Activities: 8
- Restaurant recommendations: 3
- Cost (accommodation): ~€300 pp + flights
- Spending: €60/day pp (meals, petrol)
We picked up our car from the airport (Europcar) and after negotiating our way out of Podgorica, we began the drive up to Kolasin, the mountain resort, popular with Russian skiers, we were to be staying in. Visiting Montenegro in April we had anticipated warm spring weather and sunshine. Finding ourselves driving into the mountains passing cars with a foot of snow on their roofs made us seriously question how we were going to spend the next few days and whether we were prepared.
A slightly quirky, very mountain cabin-esque place, located conveniently close to Kolasin.
What to do
Bianca Resort & Spa: Fortunately, upon arriving in snow-covered Kolasin, Antonia spotted this place, designed to cater to the Russian skiers, but at that point completely empty. The AirBnb is walking distance, so definitely worth a trip back into town to make use of the spa and facilities – we made good use of the large indoor pool and various saunas and steam rooms.
Black Lake: Sounding like something straight out of a Tintin story, sadly no submarines or quirky professors to be found, but plenty of beautiful scenery, winding roads and, much to Antonia’s delight, friendly dogs.
After a few hours driving up into thickly forested mountains, round roads that wound themselves into ever tighter corners and road surfaces that at times made for interesting driving, we found ourselves well above the snowline and we had arrived.
At this time of year though, it really ought to have been the White Lake as it was completely frozen over and covered in snow from the previous day. Nonetheless though, it’s a beautiful spot and well worth the drive.
Obligatory snowball fight!
Lake Biogradska: Next we headed back down through the mountains to stop off at Lake Biogradska, which we had been informed in the summer was a lovely swimming spot, but at this time of year seemed more like to be a lovely hypothermia spot. After an atmospheric stroll up to the lake through a skeletal forest, meeting various people along the way, we headed back to the car and wound our way back to Kolasin.
Ostrog Monastery: Perched in the most precarious of sites, high up in the mountains, the Ostrog Monastery gives a good insight into the history of Montenegro and its quite conservative Christian tradition. To make a pilgrimage up to the monastery, which a steady stream of people were doing, is no mean feat.
Although there are car parks pretty close and roads all the way up, the final walk is still pretty much straight up the side of a mountain!
The views, it has to be said though, are spectacular and it’s not difficult to see why the spot was chosen by the monks.
Perast: From the Monastery, the drive down to the coast wove through stunning countryside and tiny villages perched on the edges of cliffs, that seemed to have survived the Soviet era virtually untouched. The villages got prettier and prettier until we reached the almost impossibly beautiful Perast.
This place is so pretty apparently Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones bought a house there.
We went for a leisurely stroll along the waterfront before stopping at a café for a drink to admire the view and soak up some much needed sun.
Tip: You can visit the islands off the coast from any of these small villages but sadly we didn’t have time.
Konoba: For some serious Montenegrin mountain food we highly recommend the local restaurant, Konoba. We had a delicious meal of cheese, polenta, more cheese and some pork!
Vodenica: Great traditional food and located in an old watermill with the water still thundering under the restaurant.
For a complete change of scenery, weather and sites, we headed for the coastal town of Kotor, via the Ostrog Monastery.
We stayed in the beautiful Old Town Hostel, which is (unsurprisingly) right in the heart of Kotor’s Old Town and the rooms are off a spiral staircase worthy of any medieval castle.
It’s also got a nice little cave-like common room and is very social.
What to do
Budvar Old Town: Imagine Dubrovnik on a much smaller scale and you get some idea of what it’s like..
Terracotta roofs abound, winding alleys galore and plenty of great little sandwich and ice cream shops.
Sveti Stefan: A little further round the coast is the private island resort of Sveti Stefan, out at the end of a Chesil Beach-esque peninsula and home to an apparently exorbitantly priced hotel.
It’s a beautiful spot and I recommend visiting if only for the setting and taking great pleasure in driving through the private gardens and roads to get there.
Kotor Fort: The Fort looks out over Kotor and the harbour and it became immediately apparent why it had thrived and was such a beautiful town.
It had clearly been extremely wealthy by controlling one of the few safe ports on the Montenegrin coast.
Galion: Kotor’s most upscale restaurant, Galion is built just on the other side of the waterfront from the Old Town and sits in a suspiciously modern glass building, but has a fantastic view of the town and water, particularly at sunset. It also has a wonderful menu and the staff were superb. One of the big draws of Montenegro is also the fact that even at the smartest restaurant in town, you can guarantee not to break the bank.
Questions? Feel free to ask me anything in the comments below!