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Top Things to do in Montenegro

While Croatia seems to always get the spotlight, the country’s neighbor to the southeast, Montenegro, is well worth visiting after your Dalmatian Coast cruise. You’ll find plenty to do whether you simply want to embark on a day trip while on your Croatia vacation, are traveling there as part of a cruise-land tour, or it’s your primary destination. It boasts magnificent natural scenery, featuring everything from beautiful sandy beaches to dramatic mountains with soaring peaks, wild rivers, and sparkling lakes. Activity options are numerous, including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and kayaking. There’s lots of history to explore too, from centuries-old buildings to defensive walls. When planning your itinerary, be sure to consider some of these top things to do in Montenegro.

Visit Our Lady of the Rocks

Our Lady of the Rocks
Our Lady of the Rocks

Don’t miss the chance to visit Our Lady of the Rocks, a man-made islet accessed by boat from the little town of Perast. This legendary artificial island was built on a crag that bore the icon of the Holy Mother Mary. It houses a church that was constructed by seafarers and other local residents in the 17th century to honor Mother Mary. Framed by a cobalt blue sea and mountain peaks while seeming to float on the water, it’s become one of the most photographed landmarks in the entire country. In the museum, there are two floors that showcase interesting collections related to the area ranging from Neolithic items such as arrowheads to a weapon collection, paintings, and votives.

Explore the Old Town of Kotor

Kotor Town
Kotor church

Tucked into a secluded part of Kotor Bay, Kotor boasts a magnificent Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a dramatic backdrop of soaring mountains while encircled by medieval walls. The traditions, culture, and history of Kotor are well-preserved here and include many impressive medieval buildings with palaces, cathedrals, and churches, as well as museums. The narrow streets are enjoyable to wander and you’ll find enticing squares and lively markets too. Highlights include Buca and Pima palaces, and the Clock Tower on the main square, a symbol of the city built in 1602 with two clocks and a bell ringing on the half hour. St. Trypon Cathedral is considered a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture with its bells dating to 1166.

Wander the Waterfront of Perast

Perast
Perast Church

Perast is one of the prettiest towns along Kotor Bay, known for its 16 beautifully preserved palaces, including the Baroque-style Bujovic Palace which sits at the entrance. The exquisite building hosts the Perast Museum where you can learn about the palace and the town’s history. One of the best things to do is wander the waterfront. With the promenade facing directly out to Verige Strait, the narrowest part of the bay, spectacular views, and sublime sunsets are virtually guaranteed. The Venetian-era palaces, churches, and squares serve as reminders of the town’s golden age as a maritime training center and trading port. After exploring you’ll be in a perfect position to enjoy a bite to eat at one of the waterfront eateries.

Relax on the beach in the Budva Riviera

Sveti Stefan
Mogren Beach in Budva

The Budva Riviera is a must-visit while in Montenegro. An approximately 22-mile-long strip of Adriatic coast surrounded the town of Budva with its labyrinth of narrow streets that touch down to crystal-clear blue bays. At the south end, you’ll find the more remote beaches for escaping the crowds. Drobni Pijesak, just a 20-minute drive from the center of Budva, is rarely busy, even during the summer. It’s nestled in a cove and surrounded by olive trees with a rugged mountain beyond. Livelier beaches in the north, include Mogren and Jaz. Swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing are all popular throughout the region, especially during the warmer months between June and September. When it’s time to dine, many eateries serve fresh seafood.

Hike Around Lake Skadar

Lake Skadar
View of Lake Skadar scenery

Lake Skadar is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Europe, with two-thirds in Montenegro and the rest in Albania. It’s surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes, including towering mountains. Part of Skadar Lake National Park, the lake serves as an important reserve for wetland birds in Europe, including the rare Dalmatian pelican, one of the world’s largest colonies of pygmy cormorants, and the endangered Dalmatian penguin among 250 other bird species. Otters, foxes, wild boars, and even wolves also inhabit the region. One of the best ways to explore it is to hike. Both guided and self-guided hikes are available around the lake, all of which are well-marked with information available at the visitor centers in Vranjina and Virpazar.

Visit Ostrog Monastery

Ostrog Monastery
Ostrog Monastery

Ostrog Monastery is one of Montenegro’s most important religious sites for Orthodox Christians, built into a sheer cliff face in the 17th century overlooking Zeta valley. From a distance, it looks as if it somehow defies gravity. Don’t forget your camera; about 1.25 miles below the main shrine is the Lower Monastery with a church containing vibrant frescoes. There’s also a natural spring behind it where you can fill a bottle with blessed cold and sweet-tasting water. You might need it for the steep ascent to the top – the faithful often walk it barefoot. You don’t have to climb the entire way, however, you can drive and then walk the last tenth of a mile.

Go Rafting in the Tara River Canyon

Tara River Canyon
Tara River Canyon rafting

Durmitor National Park is home to the Durmitor Mountains with its steep and jagged peaks, nearly 50 of which soar over 6,500 feet. The Tara River flows through Tara River Canyon at its northern edge. Europe’s deepest canyon, you’ll find multiple viewpoints such as the UNESCO-listed Tara Bridge, crossing the river from 564 feet above. But you can also take in the views, including the cliffs that frame the river, from the perspective of the water itself while whitewater rafting. Excursions are available during the warmer months of the year and require no prior experience. The rafting trips can be smooth along a calmer stretch of turquoise river, or extreme and adrenaline-filled depending on the time of year and specific location.

Swim in the Blue Grotto

Montenegro Blue Grotto
A swimmer in the Blue Grotto

Croatia isn’t the only country with a blue cave, Montenegro is home to one too. The Blue Grotto is a vast sea cave, the most magnificent of the caves along the coast of the Bay of Kotor on the Lustica Peninsula. The best way to get there is to join a boat tour from the town of Kotor, with a variety of options that often include other attractions. The boat will squeeze through the narrow entrance so you can experience the natural phenomenon that occurs when a stunning blue light, the result of the sunlight reflecting off the white cave bottom, illuminates the interior. Not only is it a mesmerizing sight, but you’ll have time to swim in the crystal-clear cobalt water.

Hire a Boat on the Black Lake

View of Black Lake Montenegro
Blake Lake Montenegro

The Black Lake is located in Durmitor National Park, just a short drive from the center of Zabljak. Surrounded by thick forest with a backdrop of Meded Peak, it’s visually stunning and there are lots of ways to enjoy the scenery. You’ll find row boats available for rent at the small dock. Or, if you prefer to kayak, taking in the jaw-dropping views as you paddle is an option too. Many like to swim in the lake during the summer so you might want to leap in if you get tired of rowing or paddling, just keep in mind that the water is refreshingly cool at around 59 degrees. Air temperatures don’t usually get warmer than the upper 60s Fahrenheit. 

Admire the Architecture of Cetinje

Cetinje
Cetinje Monastery

Cetinje is the historical heart of Montenegro as its old royal capital. It’s not only an ideal place to escape the big tourist crowds and enjoy a more tranquil atmosphere, but to admire some majestic architecture, including historic embassy buildings and churches. You’ll see everything from Neo-Romanesque and Neo-Baroque to Art Nouveau and Cubist architectural treasures. One of the most noteworthy is the castle-like Billiard Palace, built in 1838. It’s best known for its billiard table that the building was named for, which was Montenegro’s first. Visitors will also see a variety of religious artifacts and costumes, and portraits of royals, although the exterior is the main reason to visit. Learn more about the town’s history by visiting the many museums.

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