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Croatia or Montenegro?

Croatia and Montenegro are neighboring countries, both with plenty to offer. Both can easily be visited on one of our land-cruise tours. They share the Adriatic Coast which means you can expect to enjoy Mediterranean summers and cool winters, depending on your specific destinations. Both feature spectacular beaches, lakes, mountains, and rivers, along with historical landmarks. But if you can only choose one, should you visit Croatia or Montenegro? That can be a tough decision. To help make it easier, in this guide, we’ll compare various factors so that you can make the best choice based on your particular interests as well as when you plan to go, transportation options, and other aspects of a trip to the Balkan region.

Best Time to Visit

Dubrovnik aerial view
Perast

As both Montenegro and Croatia enjoy a Mediterranean climate, the best time to visit is similar and depends on your interests. Both enjoy warm, dry summers and cool winters, although it can snow in high-elevation mountain areas. If you plan on taking an island-hopping cruise, sailing, doing lots of swimming in the lakes and/or the sea, soaking up the sun on the beaches, or hiking high altitudes, you’ll want to come when temperatures are warm. That’s generally between June and early October when you can expect temperatures around the mid-70s to mid-80s Fahrenheit. To avoid big tourist crowds, come in the early or latter part of that period, in the first half of June or late September through early October.

Culture

Rovinj Streets
Ostrog Monastery

The culture is one of the reasons why you should visit Croatia. It’s jam-packed with intriguing sites and museums with everything from ancient Roman ruins to well-preserved Venetian architecture and archaeological museums displaying centuries-old objects once used in daily life. Some of the top spots include the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace in Split, a massive complex with buildings that date as far back as 295 AD. The capital of Zagreb boasts an excellent mix of historic and modern, including the unique Museum of Broken Relationships and numerous art galleries. 

With influences from the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans, and Slavs, Montenegro has plenty to discover, including UNESCO-listed Old Town Kotor, with its Venetian and Byzantine past revealed in the magnificent architecture.

Top Attractions

Zagreb Cathedral
Our Lady of the Rocks

Historic cities and unspoiled nature are some of Croatia’s top attractions. Zagreb offers some of the best museums and galleries in the country, but Dubrovnik is arguably the most popular. Walking atop the walls of its medieval Old Town is one of the top things to do as is riding the cable car to the top of Mount Srd for a view over it all. Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the most visited destinations with stunning lakes and waterfalls.

In Montenegro, Kotor’s Old Town on the Bay of Kotor is backed by dramatic mountains, while its maze of alleyways leads past old barracks, museums, and historic churches. Other highlights include San Giovanni Fortress, Ostrog Monastery, Skadar Lake, and multiple national parks.

Beaches

Zlatni Rat
Sveti Stefan

Croatia has some famously beautiful beaches like Zlatni Rat on the island of Brac surrounded by crystal-clear aquamarine water on three sides with little white pebbles that glisten in the sun. Hvar and Korcula islands, Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik are just some of its popular beach destinations but you’ll find many hidden coves with stretches of sand or pebbles edging crystalline waters. 

The stunning beaches are one of the reasons why you should visit Montenegro. It includes sandy stretches along the jaw-dropping Budva Riviera, and in and around Ulcinj. Long Beach is a favorite with seven miles of pristine sands enjoyed in a tranquil setting while Przno has a picturesque sandy beach with pine trees for shade, tucked into a serene bay.

Food

Oyster and Wine
Montenegro Ham

Bring your appetite whether you visit Croatia or Montenegro both offering delicious traditional recipes in generously-sized portions. Their location along the Adriatic influences the dishes as does their unique histories which means you’ll also find some significant differences. The Croatian coast is a seafood hotspot influenced by Central European and Mediterranean flavors. There’s a significant emphasis on seasonal, local ingredients such as fresh fish drizzled with local olive oil and sprinkled with herbs from a family garden. Try peka, soparnik, and brudet.

In Montenegro, expect Mediterranean classics along the coast and hearty Balkan dishes inland. There’s also a focus on local products here with dishes made using age-old methods of cooking, while grilled meats are staples. Try burek and njeguški steak.

Nightlife

Kotor nightlife
Dubrovnik at night

You’ll find plenty of nightlife options in both countries. Croatia’s club scene is particularly thriving, ideal for party-goers, while Montenegro provides more laid-back experiences after dark. Budva and Kotor have a good selection of clubs and bars for drinks enjoyed with live music. For luxury venues in Montenegro, head to the exclusive island of Sveti Stefan renowned for attracting VIPs, including celebrities. 

Croatia also has an island known for drawing the rich and famous with its world-class nightlife. Hvar offers some of the best clubs in the country. Pag Island is renowned for its wild parties that call many younger travelers with the most iconic spot Zrce beach. Split and Dubrovnik offer beachfront venues with live music and DJs as well.

Day Trips

Plitvice Lakes
Lake Skadar

If you want to use Split or Dubrovnik as a base for day trips on your Croatia vacation, either can be ideal. It depends on where you want to go, with Split conveniently located in the middle of the Dalmatian coast, making it easy to reach many islands like Solta, Brac, Hvar, Lastovo, and Vis. The Blue Lagoon and the Blue Cave are both easily reached and Plitvice Lakes National Park is closer to Split, roughly a 2.5 hour drive away.

From Dubrovnik, you’ll be within easy reach of Croatia’s spectacular neighbor, Montenegro, including Kotor and Perast. Mostar and its famous bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina is just over a two-hour drive away. There are many islands nearby, including the Elafitis.

Transport Links

Croatia road
Bay of Kotor

If you want the most convenient and greatest number of transport connections, a Croatia vacation is probably for you. Although Montenegro offers major international airports in Podgorica and Tivat, there is a great range of flights into Croatia which means they’re often less expensive too. Of course, if you book one of our Croatia and Montenegro cruise tours you can easily experience both. 

There is ferry service in Montenegro, including passenger ferries to and from Italy and Albania, but with the hundreds of islands in Croatia, the country’s ferries can take you to many different destinations. Buses in Montenegro are very reliable, punctual, and inexpensive. The bus service in Croatia is also outstanding and cheap with frequent express buses covering longer distances.

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