Why you should go to Montenegro

If you like pretty things and cool people, go to Montenegro

I hadn’t really expected to stay long in Montenegro. I booked two nights at the Old Town Hostel Kotor, but since there were no private rooms, I figured I’d move on to either Budva or straight to Croatia.

I was a little road weary when I showed up at reception, and I asked Nikolai at the front desk whether there were private rooms. “I have JUST the place!” he exclaimed. “Follow me!” He grabbed my bag and led me through the winding, confusing, scattered streets of the Old Town until we got to a little side-alley with a hotel and a simple sign: Palazzo Drusko. The same owner of the hostel had recently opened it, and so there was a special discount available per night: 20EUR per evening.

My room was…wow. A comfy bed, some antique dressings, a massive flat-screen TV, and a giant bathroom. Shutters you could throw open in the morning, mid-song, like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. My room was a single, and so dubbed the Monk’s Room. Because, well, I’m a lone wolf. A-woo.

Palazzo Drusko

I stayed a week.

I ended up spending most of my time in Kotor. I met a friendly German on my first night out at the Wine Bar and we explored the area together. The manager of my hotel, Milos, often hosted social events in the hotel’s shared kitchen. So I’d show up at 7 PM for some traditional finger foods and shots of rakija, and then we’d all head out together.

But there are a ton of reasons why I loved the country so much.

Montenegro is quirky

Montenegro is a relatively young country, having claimed its independence in 2006. Before then, it was a part of Yugoslavia. But most of the folks living there seem to identify themselves as Serbians (at least, the handful of locals I talked to).

Montenegro runs on the Euro, despite it not being a part of the European Union. I don’t really know why this is. Before that, Montenegro was using the German Deutsche Mark.

For a country that’s smaller than Connecticut, and with a population of less than a million, it crams a lot into such a tiny amount of space: epic coastline along the Adriatic, four national parks, and shared borders with four other countries.

I loved Old Town Kotor as a walled city way more than Croatia’s Dubrovnik

Call me a cynic, but I really didn’t enjoy Dubrovnik. Everything felt plastic and overdone to me. The cruise ships unloading hundreds of tourists were overwhelming. The food seemed to cater to travellers only. I wanted to punch a lot of people in their stupid faces.

Old Town Kotor

There were definitely a lot of cruise ships unloading people in Kotor Bay as well, but they didn’t occupy every nook and cranny. I found solitude and peace wherever I went. And, for whatever reason, the Old Town didn’t feel like a completely fabricated fantasyland. This doesn’t make it any less beautiful – maybe more beautiful. Real.

The people were swell, and attractive, and tall

I loved the people running the hostel and the hotel. They included me in every event, constantly checked to make sure I was comfortable, and became friends more than managers. Through them I met a handful of lovely travellers whom I still stay in touch with.

Palazzo Drusko friends



This was an enlightening experience. A table of Serbians, Germans, Chinese, Korean, and Turkish visitors. And me. The common language? English. I’m so spoiled.
The men are…well, they’re friendly. Which is great, because the Balkan men tend to be a handsome (and tall) lot. I had a stranger at a bar ask me out for coffee. One day I ordered a cappuccino at San Giovanni Caffe Bar, and it showed up with chocolate hearts drizzled into the frothy cream.






My German friend lost a bet at the Wine Bar and so the bartender had to concoct the most disgusting cocktail he could think of. It involved a sardine. It was awful.
Every time I got lost (which was frequent…walled cities, man…they’re like mazes), locals were all too eager to guide me to the right place. One waiter even left his workplace to show me where the hostel was.



The great outdoors is pretty great

I think my very favourite thing about Montenegro was its variety of landscapes. Everything about Montenegro was just so goddamned picturesque. One morning I left my hotel and hiked the fortress to the top of the mountain. It was brutal. I lost my water bottle halfway up the hike and had to suffer it out to the summit. But the view at the top? Worth the 1400 steps.

Kotor Bay from the fortress

You might also be familiar with those iconic photos of Our Lady of the Rocks, a church built on a manmade island in the middle of the bay. And this little archipelago of attractive red-roofed buildings.


Another day, I ended up at Budva, also a walled town but with an attractive beachfront area just outside the walls. Apparently Montenegro has 293 kilometres of coastline…the largest beach is Big Beach (catchy name, amiright?) at 13 kilometres long. I did not make it here, because I was in the midst of a burgeoning romance. We’ll talk more about that later.

And finally, MOUNTAINS! If you missed my post on Durmitor National Park, there’s some pretty photos over there. I did a tour out of the hostel and we drove through the mountains, visiting special places like Black Lake, Devil’s Lake, and the Tara River canyon, the deepest canyon on the European continent. All this was made better by our guide who played Serbian Celtic music all day.

Durmitor National Park

I didn’t get to see as much of the country as I would have liked, admittedly. I was enjoying slow, leisurely days and the company of good people. But hey, I’ll be back. The best places are worth revisiting.

  • July 11 2014

    Wow I was in Kotor back in 2008 and it hasn’t changed a bit. I was in Budva on Montenegro’s Independence Day (their 2nd birthday) and I thought it was crazy how little people seemed to care. I’m actually not even sure why they separated from Serbia at all!
    It was a beautiful country, I would love to go back.

    • July 11 2014

      Hahaha, me neither, actually. I was surprised nobody identified as “Montenegrins.” Perhaps that’s a namesake that’ll go to those born after 2006.

  • July 11 2014
    Dave Dean

    The more I read about Kotor, the more I wish I hadn’t spent my few days in Montenegro lying on stony beaches in Ulcinj. Poor choice, Dave. Poor choice. Still, it sounds like a damn fine reason to go back, to be honest.

    • July 22 2014

      I totally agree, haha. And really, laying on beaches can’t all be bad, right?

  • July 11 2014
    Naomi Todd

    Seeing so much about Eastern Europe and Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia in particular are on my to-go list. When will I fit in the time, I don’t know but I sure hope I do make it there!

    • July 22 2014

      I HAVE to go back to do Serbia, Macedonia, and Slovenia. SO GOOD.

  • July 11 2014

    “I wanted to punch a lot of people in their stupid faces.” LOL! I love how you tell it like it is. Also, “I was in the midst of a burgeoning romance” – can’t wait to hear all about it!

  • July 12 2014

    I did a day trip to Montenegro from Dubrovnik visiting Kotor and Budva. Despite the (very) short amount of time I had in Kotor, I loved it and I will definitely be back one day to explore more of this gorgeous and tiny country

  • July 12 2014

    Tall handsome dudes? Sign me up. Will pass on the sardine cocktail though, hope losing the bet was worth that!

    • July 22 2014

      Well neither one of us were feeling well after that whole ordeal, hahaha.

  • July 13 2014

    I would love to go back to Montenegro. I really only spent time in Budva, but Kotor looks amazing (as do the mountains!).

    • July 22 2014

      I wanna spend more time in Budva! Haha. Seemed like a hip town.

  • July 21 2014

    I do like pretty things and cool people…adding it to the list ;)

  • July 30 2014
    Kirk Apolo

    We had a great tour in beautiful Montenegro. Unfortunatly the weather
    was not so good, but the trip was well worth it anyway. Our quide
    (Baas?) was the best. We have travelled quite a lot and he was
    absolutely one of the best quides we have ever met. He spoke excellent
    english and it was easy to understand thus we are not from english-speaking country. I would highly recommend this trip. pc games

  • August 10 2014

    I didn’t realize you stayed in Kotor so long. Was awesome meeting you there and it was only fitting it all went down at Old Winery :)

    Glad you also had such a great time visiting the other parts, it’s such an amazing country. Hopefully when you finally make it back I will be there as well, living in Durmitor National Park with some adopted stray dogs and tall, handsome Balkan boy. FYI you’ll be more than welcome to crash…

    • August 10 2014

      Bahaha. Make sure this tall Balkan boy has a single brother, will ya? I’m coming on your next tour.

  • August 30 2014
    Jon Dunn

    I’m heading there for the first time next month. And have already pencilled in a visit (or two) to the Old Winery to try local wines and Pršut. I love UNESCO sites, and hence several days based in Kotor, but I plan on taking day trips to Perast, Herceg Novi and Budva from there. Then down to Bar to see the ruins of the old town, Stari Bar. Now following you on twitter – hoping for travel (and burgeoning romance ;)) updates soon!

    • September 02 2014

      Yay! I didn’t get to Perast, just kinda drove through it. But I’ve heard it’s lovely. I would LOVE to go back. You’re gonna love it!

  • April 11 2018

    When you go back visit Herceq Novi, it was my favorite city.

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