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Suggestions for 6 Days in Montenegro

Hello fellow travelers,

My husband and I are considering adding Montenegro to our itinerary before heading to Croatia and Slovenia. I have read through the forum for suggestions on places and activities and have been able to identify some places that might be what we are looking for. I would appreciate any suggestions on which places to use as a base then take day trips. If you can suggest restaurants (sea food, Montenegrin, prosciutto, wine) and lodging (sobe, hotel, B&B).

We might fly into Dubrovnik and take a bus from there or fly into Podgorica. All our travel will use public transportation so that might be a limitation to the inner Montenegro destinations. If it is we could consider renting a car for that portion.

We will spend 6 days in Montenegro the last week of August. I don't know how crowded it will be, I am hoping it will not be too bad. I would like to stay in 2 locations and take day trips from there. We are active people and enjoy exploring old towns, hiking, nature, kayaking, eating, drinking coffee and wine, and eating great desserts. We dislike highly touristy places and crowds. We prefer a more local, peaceful experience yet with access to good restaurants/markets/food. We are budget travelers partly because we often find the experiences at lower cost lodging and restaurants to be more authentic and people more conversational.

Tentative itinerary:

  1. Stay near Kotor for 3 days. I see many people do not recommend Kotor. Should we stay in Perast, Dobrota, or other?
    • Would you recommend day trips to Rose, Savina, Tivat, Budva, Becici?
    • What are good seafood restaurants that are local cuisine, not touristy type. Mussles, oysters, soups, grilled fish?
    • Is there public transportation to Lovcen? Sounds like it has pretty views. Or is there a better view around the bay?
    • Are there places to rent kayaks and what is a good location in the bay to kayak that is more secluded, away from the town and cruise ships?
  2. Inner Montenegro for 3 days - We would like to do some hiking and enjoy the mountains.
    • Is Durmitor National Park reachable by bus? Would you recommend staying at Zabljak or another town?
    • Should I include Tara River Canyon? Is it reachable by bus? Would Zabljak be a good base to see it?
    • Or would you recommend another park for hiking, nature, scenery? Hopefully the weather will be cooler in the mountains than the coast.

Am I missing a must see place? I don't want to rush the trip because I do plan on coming back and exploring more of the Balkans.

Is bus transportation dependable? I guess, is there anything I need to know regarding bus travel especially beyond the big cities (i.e. frequency, dependability)?

I realize these are a lot of questions. I greatly appreciate any recommendations you can provide. Thank you!

Posted by
12868 posts

I can't help much with your specific questions.

I spent a week in Montenegro in 2015, traveling only by bus. I had no problem with the buses, but in the Balkans, especially, it's best to do what schedule-checking you can online ahead of time, but not count on anything until you go to the local bus station and ask about outbound buses. English may not be spoken, so have some paper and a pen with you, and block-print the name of your destination. Your hotel or the local tourist office may be willing to try to get information for you, but I really think it's important to verify the schedule at the bus station. Be careful about planning bus trips on Sundays and holidays.

I read good things about the national parks before my trip, but reaching them without a car (or perhaps a one-day bus tour) didn't seem practical. It's possible that I missed something.

This is how I spent my time:

Podgorica (3 nights, just 2 days): day-trip to Cetinje (old capital, inland, pretty in an understated way), day-trip to Lake Skadar and Ulcinj. Lake Skadar is a waterfowl area; nice but not very dramatic scenery. You'll need to hire someone to take you out in a little boat if you don't arrive on a tour. Ulcinj's historic area has a distinctly Turkish vibe; I thought it was a fun place to see, though it was extremely quiet during my visit. Perhaps I hit the siesta period, or perhaps it was the calendar (Thursday, October 1). The historic center is a fair walk from the bus station. Podgorica itself was visually the dullest town I visited in Montenegro, but it's a rather good base for day-trips by bus when you don't want to relocate constantly.

Kotor (4 nights): day-trip to Budva (lots of tourists about), day-trip to Perast, day-trip to Herceg-Novi (atmospheric, not many tourists). I liked Kotor, but I had two days there with no mega-ship in port. The next day a monster ship showed up and you had to go into the depths of the walled town to avoid the crowds, so check the port schedule; it makes a huge difference. I think a huge percentage of the visitors to Kotor are off of cruise ships. I felt like Kotor and Budva were fairly similar except that Budva lacks the walkable (seriously uphill!) wall. I don't think it's necessary to see both of them. As James E has pointed out in the past, Kotor is a good bit like Dubrovnik, but smaller. So if you're going to spend time in Dubrovnik, you may want to focus your Montenegro time elsewhere. I didn't see the two towns on the same trip.

The Bay of Kotor is drop-dead gorgeous. You can see it on the way to Croatia or on a trip from Kotor to Herceg-Novi. It is not to be missed, but it would be hard to miss it even if you wanted to.

I don't usually recommend hotels on the forum, because I'm a budget traveler who is easily satisfied, but here we go:

Podgorica: Hotel Evropa, quite close to the bus station; a long walk from what I would consider the town center. It has a small restaurant, which might be the only convenient place to eat if you were staying there. I have no memory of the food. I remember stairs; I don't think there's an elevator.

Kotor: Guest House Tianis, a more casual place. I had a ground-floor kitchen-equipped unit on the back of the building. The smoking patio was right outside my door. I didn't notice smoke, but there was some noise; I used earplugs. Tianis is in a modern house-like building not far from the left-side (facing away from the water) gate to the old town. I found it convenient enough, but the bus station is on the opposite side of the old town and a considerable walk away.

Both places were found on booking.com and were very inexpensive--under 35 euros for a single in October 2015. I would stay in both places again, but if you had a lot of smokers congregating on the patio, my particular room might be not so pleasant. Both were clean and had simple décor (I describe it as "college-dorm décor").

Posted by
8894 posts

The first trip we saw Dubrovnik which despite the tourist crunch was amazing. But 2 nights was enough. I loved the city especially at night. We then hired a guide to take us first to Perast http://www.hotelconte.me/, The towns and villages along the bay were amazing. Perast was a perfect two days of walking, fishing, eating and just spending time together. Then on to Kotor which was a disappointment after Dubrovnik then two nights later on to Kotor and on to Titograd by way of this amazing mountain road with a stop in a ham smoke house in Njeguši for prosciutto . Titograd was just a place to sleep (we got in late) before a flight to Belgrade and then a few days later Budapest. This was our first taste of Montenegro and it was small.

But we loved Montenegro so about a year later we returned. This time we landed in Titograd, spent a night and saw some things of interest before driving to Ulcinj for a night and then on to Novi Stari and Budva http://astoriamontenegro.com/the next day. Two nights in Budva were great. Loved the town and will be looking for an investment there later this year. Then to the Ostrog Monastery built into the side of a cliff before reaching the Tara Canyon. Stunning scenery. Did the zip line and spend the night at the Motel Tara MB http://www.mbturist.com/en . The next day was a little south east of Tara where we found this amazing resort of cabins in the mountains http://www.imanjerakocevic.me/ . Spent 3 days fishing and sight seeing. LOVED IT. Thats were we head back in September i think. Then back to Titograd for a flight on to Budapest.

I sent you by PM the hotels and a few pictures.

We got around with a private guide for about 100 euro a day, an Audi A6 with driver for about 60 euro each day that we used him, and really great hotels for 50 to 150 euro a night.

Posted by
18 posts

Thank you everyone for your suggestions. The comments here and the PMs are helpful. Sometimes it is a challenge to find information on less known destinations. I found that out while traveling in SA, especially Peru and Patagonia. Even though Montenegro seems to be the hot spot in summer there is not much information beyond Kotor and the popular coastal towns.

I think we will use bus around the coast and the Kotor area then consider renting a car for the interior. It looks pretty simple and generally good bus connections. I am very intrigued about Perast and may select that as the place to stay and take day trips from there. It sounds relaxing after a long flight.

I received a suggestion to break up my questions into separate posts which I will do. I wondered if it was too much but once I started thinking about questions I wrote them down. Thank you all for your suggestions and your patience to read through it!

Happy travels!
Terri

Posted by
8894 posts

Maybe it's just me. If I see a question that I can provide a quick answer to, I do it. If it a long multi part question I put it off till I can dissect it. A lot of simple questions in seperate posts don't tax my brain so much.

Posted by
8894 posts

If you leave Dubrovnik about 10 am and stop in Herceg Novi for lunch, then make Perast at by 2 or 3pm you will have time to visit the Islands and then relax. The second day we hired a fishing boat to ride us around the bay and walked the town. I rarely do one night stops. The following day we work early and went on to Kotor (about a 30 minute drive). Again, after Dubrovnik, Kotor didnt thrill us. After a short visit of Kotor we headed over the mountains and had lunch in Njeguši and made it to Titograd about 5 pm after a few stops along the way. That was trip one and not regrets. Trip two started in Titograd and did the coast before heading north to the mountains.... Trip three will probably be a couple of days in Budva, a few at the resort in the mountains and then on through Serbia (a lot there i want to see and fish), before going on to Budapest.

If you need the name of a guide, send me a PM. She was great. I think you have seen a photo of her holding a rather large fish. After catching those fish the boat captain gave us the name of a restaurant in Budva. We walked through town carrying the fish, took it to the restaurant and for 10 euro they cooked it for us. Excellent meal. The guide usually only does groups but made an exception for us. If she cant help you she might know someone who could.

Posted by
20 posts

terris4488,
We have traveled throughout Montenegro and made many friends there. While we liked Kotor (stayed with a family there) it was our least favorite part of Montegro. Admittedly we are not city people and avid hikers and backpackers, so our opinion is biased. The true beauty of Montegro is their national parks.
Couple of things:
The Kotor is not that good for kayaking IMO, the shape of bay really doesnt allow for the tides to clean that portion of bay out (its gotten worse with uptick in cruise ships). The adriatic side of the Lustica peninsula is ideal. You can rent kayaks in herceg novi and explore on your own.
Do not underestimate travel time on interior Montenegro roads. Its not unusual for the government to tear up a road and leave it that way for a year. The P1 between Kotor and Lovcen was strewn with rubble for quite some time the last time we were there. I would not rely on bus transportation.

If you are like me and you like nature and hiking. I would change it to 2 days in Kotor and 5 days in Durmitor. The hiking....oh my. Picture Yellow Stone and Grand Canyon combined. We are going back in May.

One suggestion:
Fly into Dubrovnik: Rent a car from Sixt ($10-15/day for a Fiat Punto). Take Hwy 8 but not to the border. The main Croat/mont border security can sometimes take 1hr+ to cross. Instead take 516 its a little bit longer along the coast but the border crossing is a joke. 2mins and they barely take the time to stamp your passport.

Rent an airbnb/wimdu/etc near Perast or Kotor for a couple of nights. Then head to Durmitor and stay in Zabljak.

Wine & food: The vineyards are somewhat difficult to get to without a tour group. They are usually located on 1 lane dirt/gravel roads. I will dig up the list that we went to. I also pinged my friends in Kotor for the places they had recommended and I thought were fantastic.

Keep in mind when you hit the interior alot of people do not speak english...its usually serbian or russian. So download MS translator and store serbian & russian offline. The people are wonderful particularly in the more rural areas. They are so happy to see visitors coming to their beautiful country.

Posted by
20 posts

One other thing I forgot: if you do rent a car, rent in Croatia instead of Montenegro. For whatever reason car rentals in Croatia are incredibly cheap. Our last car was a Renault Clio and we paid ~$10/day. Similar car in Montenegro is $30-40 day. Be sure to indicate you plan on visiting Montenegro/Bosnia so they can include the blue insurance card that is required at the border crossings.
Additionally if you decline all insurance some companies will place a $5k hold on your credit card. It has always been released <24hrs after we return the car.

Posted by
18 posts

Markymark,

Thank you for the information. The outdoors is where we would prefer to spend most of our time. I like the option of renting kayaks in Herceg Novi and exploring that area then may spend 1 night in the Kotor area.

I really do not want to rent a car but it does sound like the best way to get around Montenegro. My husband and I generally use public transportation when we travel just for the convenience and it also let's us look around and now pay attention to driving. I am still working on where we will arrive from. Originally it was Dubrovnik and hiring a car as you suggest would have been easy. Now we are considering including Albania then arriving in Montenegro.

Did you raft the canyon? If you did, would you recommend it? We will be there in August and I don't know if that time of year has low water making it a very slow trip. I am not into white water rapids and would primarily take the raft to see the canyon.

Thank you,
Terri

Posted by
20 posts

Hi terri,
No we did not raft. On that trip we only hiked. My wife had an accident prior to trip and was physically limited to non-impact activities, so we scratched the rafting and canyoneering. We typically use public transportation for most of our foreign travel. We made the exception for Montenegro due to the hiking we wanted to accomplish that couldnt be reached by public transportation. An example is you can take public transportation to Lovcen, but there are several gorgeous hikes to Lovcen and the range with the military station. but we did run into a couple of hiking groups that had booked private transportation, so there is that option.
Here is an excellent link to trails in Montegro: https://www.wikiloc.com/trails/hiking/montenegro?from=0&to=10

When we go back next May we are planning more hiking, rafting and cayoneering. The upper part of tara canyon is the calmest

Honestly, whatever you choose you wont be disappointed.

Posted by
18 posts

Markymark,

Thank you so much for the information. You have been very helpful.

I look forward to the hiking in Montenegro and exploring the interior. Hopefully the mountains will be a pleasant temperature. I will be there in August which, on the plus side, provides longer daylight and less chance of snow.

Enjoy your next trip there!

Kind regards,
Terri

Posted by
546 posts

I am in Montenegro now and have been to Dubrovnik and Bosnia (Visegrad). First of all I can say this. There are plenty of tourists here, but it is not crowded. Most come from Russia or neighboring countries.

First, I found car rentals in Montenegro to be cheaper by far than Croatia. But that may be changeable. Cars seem to be cheaper in Bar. I would DEFINITELY rent a car. We rented from Avis. If you do, say HI! To the adorable Anton that works there. He was great. Keep in mind that if you reserve your car thru the US Avis website. The rate will be very low. But they will put a VERY big hold on your card. Mine was 12,500 Euros. The Europeans pay a slightly higher daily rate but the hold is much smaller. This is a US AVIS problem NOT local. If you can use the British or French Avis site to reserve your car. And keep in mind that if you get a diesel car the GREEN handles on the gas pumps are for UNLEADED. The Black handles are diesel.

Driving here is easy. Other drivers are pretty polite and sedate in their driving habits compared to the Italians. The roads are good and well marked in English as well as Cyrillic. Speed limits are low and generally obeyed or close to it. Stop by a gas station and purchase a good Montenegrin road map it’s worth it. And contrary to some reports Google Maps DOES work in Montenegro. But download the map onto your phone when you have WiFi and it will work whether you have a phone signal or not. Our car had SatNav anyway.

Koror area is very touristy but still beautiful. But it is package holiday type area.

Without doubt do drive the road through the Piva River canyon. This is one of the most astoundingly beautiful drives anywhere. We did it two days ago coming from Visegrad/Foca in Bosnia.

There are many good wines to try here just read the labels and see if they are made in Montenegro. But do try those from Croatia and Bosnia (especially around Trebinja). The Vranac is wonderful and a grape we just don’t see in the US.

We actually like Bar as a base. It is a neat little city without all of the hubbub of the Beach Town vibe that goes with the towns to the north and south of it. It has great places to eat and everything you need.

We are staying in the Pharos Hotel which we find delightful. Brand new and spotlessly clean with great rooms and bathrooms it is a bargain at 46 Euros/night for two twin beds...less for one double.

And congratulations for picking Montenegro. I think you will love it. We have.

Posted by
18 posts

Hello Aarthurperry,

Sorry for the late response. I have been out of wifi range hiking in the Colorado Rockies, which are gorgeous! Now I am catching up on messages and working on my travel plans.

Thank you so much for all the information! I will look at car rentals as a better way to get around Montenegro. It sounds like a more enjoyable and easier way to see Montenegro, especially the interior of the country. We have now decided to include Albania in our trip which means we will pass by Bar. I will check that location for renting a car and also from Kotor in case I decide to use buses along the coast and sit back and enjoy the views.

Do you recommend making lodging reservations in advance? I prefer to have some places as reference before arriving in the towns/cities but not making a reservation in order to keep my travel dates open. At this point I am planning on staying in Bar, perhaps Dobrota instead of Kotor, then Zabljak. I will be there the last weeks of August.

Your trip sounds wonderful and is making me excited to visit Montenegro.

Thank you, Terri

Posted by
18 posts

I have not rented the car yet. That is part of my "to do list".