I won’t lie; first impressions of Montenegro were not good. It was bucketing down when taxiing to the terminal of Podgorica Airport. I almost didn’t want to subject myself to it. It was early. It was glum. It was cold & I was tired, a consequence of having spent the previous night trying – and failing miserably – to sleep in London’s Stansted Airport, the only way I deduced that I’d guarantee making the 06:55 Ryanair departure to the Montenegrin capital, one of the few direct flights from my corner of Europe to this corner of Europe at this time of the year. I had limited time in Montenegro so I was hoping the conditions would improve, and fast; with the scenery on show in these parts you really need good weather to do the country justice. The weather did improve – on and off – and I found myself leaving Montenegro some days later for neighbouring Kosovo wondering why it had taken me so long to point my camera at this particular Balkan gem.
Region – Southeastern Europe/The Balkans (dMb tag: The Balkans). Capital – Podgorica. Population – 680,000. Official Language – Montenegrin. Currency – €uro. GDP (nominal) per capita – US$6,630 (80th). Political System – Parliamentary republic. EU Member? – No (as of April 2017). UN Member? – Yes (admitted June 2006). G20 Member? – No. Size – 14,000 km² (Europe’s 10th smallest country, slightly larger than the US state of Connecticut, or about two-thirds the size of Wales). Topography – Varied. Mostly mountainous interior with a narrow coastal plain. Formation/Independence – 2006 (following the peaceful dissolution of the former State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, itself formed in 1992 following the breakup of Yugoslavia). UNESCO World Heritage sites – 4. Tourism Catchphrase/Slogans – Breathtaking Beauty; Wild Beauty. Famous For – Being Europe’s baby, its newest country; historic walled old towns, scenery; the azure Adriatic; partying. Highlights – The Bay of Kotor; the Adriatic coast; Durmitor National Park. Montenegro Titbits – Officially Crna Gora, Montenegro is the country’s better-know Italian name (which translates into English as ‘Black Mountain’); the country’s 294-kilometer-long azure Adriatic coastline boasts 117 beaches. Montenegro Observations – The roads are tight; as in most of the Balkans, unfinished construction projects are everywhere & blight the otherwise stunning landscape; most essentials – coffee, beer, meals out, a hostel bed, parking – are very economical, petrol not so much; everyone seems to smoke everywhere including in cafes & restaurants; the locals are, for the most part, very welcoming & friendly; you’re never far from a church or monastery (or from anything in tiny Montenegro); coffee is served with a straw. You don’t have to use it of course but it’s a somewhat bizarre accompaniment to an espresso.
Visits – 1 (April 2017). Where I went/What I saw – The Bay of Kotor (Perast, Kotor & Porto Montenegro); Lovcen National Park & the Njegos Mausoleum; The Adriatic Coast (Budva & The Budva Riviera (Sveti Stefan)); Lake Skadar National Park & Podgorica.
Budva & The Budva Riviera
Assuming the medieval walled Old Town delights & scenery of the Bay of Kotor and the mountain highs of Lovcen National Park don’t get your Montenegrin pulse racing, there’s always Budva to fall back on. Coastal Montenegro’s bustling holiday hub, if Montenegro was to do tacky resort towns, this would be the tackiest of the lot. Of course Montenegro doesn’t do tacky resort towns. Budva, the Montenegrin Miami, may be the place to come for a thumping all-night Adriatic Coast party come the summer months, but even through a hangover I suspect one will still appreciate the town’s compact walled Stari Grad (Old Town, yes of course Budva has one of those), its beaches and its picturesque setting on Montenegro’s stunning 30-kilometre-long Riviera coast.
Budvanska Rivijera (The Budva Riviera) & Sveti Stefan
The region’s 30-kilometre-long Budvanska Rivijera (Budva Riviera) has been called, by whom I’m not too sure, “The Riviera of Sandy Beaches“, a valid call given the 35 mostly pristine beaches found along this stretch of azure Adriatic coastline south of Budva. While I’m not one for beaches, especially in chilly Adriatic April, I was interested in checking out in the what is billed as the Riviera’s most swish accommodation option, albeit from the side of the road, or about as close to the fortress resort island as mere mortals can realistically get.