Possibly one of the most scenic countries in the Balkans, Montenegro is home to more than a fair share of stunning landscapes, including rugged mountains, glacial lakes, untouched forests and national parks, and a sprinkling of fascinating medieval towns and villages. History and architecture enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the fjord-like Bay of Kotor on the Adriatic Coast where a collection of historic churches and ancient fortified towns such as Kotor can be admired. One of the highlights of the country has to be the amazing Tara River Canyon, which beckons outdoor enthusiasts to come and admire nature in the raw and hike, camp, white-water raft, or even bungee jump.
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1.Ali Pasha Springs
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Located in the foothills of the rugged Prokletije Mountains near the town of Gusinje in north-eastern Montenegro, the Ali Pasha Springs are a series of around 25 natural springs that bubble up from the surrounding rocks to form an impressive river. Surrounding the springs is the Prokletije National Park, which is an extremely scenic area where you can go hiking to see lovely valleys, lakes, and waterfalls. At Lake Plav you can rent a kayak or paddleboat, and there are several campgrounds where you can pitch a tent or park your caravan to fully enjoy the superb scenery. The small town of Plav is worth a visit to see some ancient historic buildings, including the Redzepagic Tower, the Mosque, and the Holy Trinity Church.
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2.Biogradska Gora National Park
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The Biogradska Gora National Park covers 5,400 acres of ancient forest and high-altitude mountains in the central part of Montenegro. The park boasts no less than nine glacier lakes as well as one lowland lake, and it provides over twenty different habitats that are home to an excellent variety of birds, animals, and reptiles. The park provides a playground for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers who can spend their days hiking, trekking, and mountaineering or simply re-discovering nature on a 4X4 driving trail. You can try your hand at fly-fishing – there are three different species of trout in the lakes and rivers. Campsites and bungalows are available if you would like to stay overnight.
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3.Castle of San Giovanni (aka Fortress of St. John)
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Towering above the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town of Kotor, the Castle of San Giovanni was built on and off between the 9th and 19th centuries and is an absolute must-see attraction for visitors to Kotor. However, you will need to be in good shape if you wish to visit the hilltop fort – there are around 1,350 stairs to climb. The climb should take you around two to three hours, a timeframe that includes many stops at picturesque viewpoints for photos. Once you finally reach the main entrance you will get a brochure detailing the highlights of the castle, but you still need to climb a little higher to get the most impressive views of the fjord and Kotor Old Town from the very top. Remember to take water, a hat, and sunscreen.
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Surrounded by the Lovcen National Park and nestled at the foot of Lovcen Mountain, Cetinje has been the royal capital city of Montenegro since the end of the 15th century. The city has always been the historic and cultural center of the country and is where Montenegro’s very first printing house was established. The old town is a little like an open-air museum, where you will find new historic and cultural treasures around every corner, including several former consulate buildings. A few of the must-see attractions in the town include the stately King Nikola Museum (housed in the former royal winter palace) and the Centinje Monastery. When you need a break from history and culture you can pull on some hiking shoes and set off to explore the trails in the Lovcen National Park.
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5.Djurdjevica Tara Bridge
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The impressive Djurdjevica Tara Bridge (aka Tara Bridge) soars over 170 meters over the Tara River in northern Montenegro. This amazing feat of engineering was built between 1937 and 1940, and on completion it was the largest concrete arched bridge in all of Europe. The bridge sits amid superb natural scenery and is one of the most visited attractions in the country. Adrenalin junkies can look forward to a heart-stopping bungee jump from the bridge – considered to be one of the top 10 bungee sites in the world. Slightly less adventurous souls can take in the wonderful views from the zip line tour or get their feet wet on a rafting excursion on Tara River.
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6.Durmitor National Park
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If you are looking to get back to nature in Montenegro you need look no further than the Durmitor National Park in the North West of the country. The enormous park covers over 39,000 acres of mountain peaks, glacier lakes (17), un-touched forest, and the spectacular Canyon of Tara, which is the largest canyon in Europe. Nature lovers can get outdoors and active along miles and miles of hiking and trekking trails, go white-water rafting on Tara River, or go tracking, mountaineering, skiing, or fishing. In addition you can visit a few of the eight historic monuments in the park dedicated to World War II battles fought in the area.
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7.Fortifications of Kotor
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The ancient city of Kotor is the oldest city in Montenegro and possibly dates back to between 700 and 400 BC. To protect the city from a never-ending relay of marauding invaders, the medieval Fortifications of Kotor were built up the steep slopes above the city. The remarkable fortifications (which are Venetian in style) contain towers and ramparts, gates, forts, and bastions, and towards the top of the fortress there is a church and castle. As you make your way up the 1,350 stone steps that lead you to the top of the fortress it is worth reflecting on the immense difficulty faced by the builders of these sturdy fortifications.
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8.King Nikola's Palace
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Once the summer residence of generations of Montenegrin royalty, King Nikola’s palace faces the ocean and is surrounded by beautiful gardens in Bar Municipality. Although the palace is not overly large, it is worthwhile to pay it a visit and gain some insight into the life of King Nikola and his family. Today the palace operates as a museum – the first floor is dedicated to the king’s life and times while the ground floor is a more general museum showcasing Montenegrin national dress, furnishings, and other memorabilia. For a very nominal entrance fee you can walk around the rooms at your leisure and then spend some time enjoying the beautifully manicured winter garden.
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Lake Piva is a man-made lake and hydroelectric dam nestled in the heart of some of the best scenery Montenegro has to offer. The dam was built to harness the powerful waters of the Piva River in an area of dramatic scenery composed of mountains, fast-flowing rivers, many deep gorges and canyons, and large tracts of un-touched forest. For nature lovers the area surrounding Lake Piva presents untold opportunities to get back to nature in an exceptionally lightly inhabited area where hiking, biking, camping, and nature observation are the main activities. You can also experience white-water rafting and visit the lovely old Piva Monastery.
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Montenegro is justly world renowned for amazing scenery and wonderful Lake Skadar and its surroundings are without doubt one of the crowning jewels of this picturesque country. The vast freshwater lake lies on the borders of Albania and Montenegro and encompasses superb mountains, a rocky shoreline dotted with wetlands and inlets as well as ancient monasteries perched on tiny islets, and some delightful beaches. The varied habitats provide a home for many species of animals and birds, which makes the entire area a must-see for nature lovers. Water sport enthusiasts can sign up for kayaking excursions or even multi-day canoe expeditions that include overnight camping on remote islands and shorelines. The area is also a gourmet’s paradise, boasting fresh organic produce, excellent fish, and wonderful local wines.
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Long Beach (aka Velika Plaza)is an eight-mile stretch of fine sandy beach located in the Ulcinj Municipality in southern Montenegro. Not only is it the longest stretch of beach in the country but it is also one of the longest beaches you will find anywhere in Europe. The beach gets a fair share of wind every afternoon in summer, which makes it an ideal destination for kite surfers and windsurfing enthusiasts who can take lessons at several surfing schools dotted along the beach. The absence of a rocky shoreline or significant currents means that Long Beach is an ideal place for beginners to learn a new sport. Naturists will be pleased to know that the lovely island of Ada Bojana in the Bojana River delta at the end of Long Beach welcomes nudists.
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12.Lovcen National Park
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Located in the rocky foothills of the Dinara Alps surrounding the capital city of Cetinje, the Lovcen National Park is the ideal place for visitors to get back to nature. The park encompasses the “Black Mountain” (from which Montenegro takes its name), which towers to a dramatic height of over 5,700 feet and helps create the unique habitats found in the park. At the second highest peak in the park you can visit the impressive Njegos Mausoleum where Montenegro’s most loved and famous poet Petar II Petrovic Njegoš was laid to rest. The most popular activities in the park include walking, scenic drives, hiking, and cross-country skiing in winter.
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You may well find that Mamula Island (aka The Prison Island) looks vaguely familiar, and chances are that you will have seen it before – the fortified island has been used as the backdrop for several thriller/horror movies. The island was used as a Prisoner of War camp during both World Wars, when it was notorious for torture and cruelty to prisoners. Today you can visit the island on an organized tour by water taxi from Tivat, Porto Montenegro. Several tour options are available, which will give you the chance to explore the island and the surviving ruins, visit some fascinating WWII submarine caves located along the coastline (with the option to try cliff jumping), and lastly visit the famous Blue Caves where you can snorkel or swim.
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14.The Maritime Museum
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The Maritime Museum of Montenegro is housed in a former Baroque palace in Kotor. You can learn a lot about the history of the country at this impressive museum that tells the story of Montenegro, dating back as far at the blockade of the town by pirates in 1539. You also have the option to explore several exhibition halls at your own pace with the assistance of an audio guide. In addition to a large selection of maritime exhibits you can also tour a drawing room which features original furniture and paintings. On display is an exhibit of ancient weaponry dating from the 17th and 18th centuries as well as several exhibits from World War I and World War II.
The Maritime Museum, Square of Boka Marine 391, Kotor, Ph. +382 32 304 720
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15.Mausoleum of Petar
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Situated at the summit of the second-highest mountain peak in the Lovcen National Park near Cetinje, the impressive Mausoleum of Petar II Petrovic Njegoš, guards the final resting place of Montenegro’s favorite son and poet. You will need to be in good shape if you wish to visit the mausoleum – there are no less than 461 steps to ascend before you reach the summit. Once you have hiked to the top your efforts will be rewarded by some of the best 360 degree views in the country. The mausoleum contains a huge statue of Njegos and a serene darkened room which contains his tomb.
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16.National Museum of Montenegro
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The National Museum of Montenegro is not limited to a single building, but rather forms a museum complex including the Museum of History, the Art Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, and the Archaeological Museum. The extensive complex of museums is located in Cetinje, and each of the museums is housed in a historically significant building, which means that history, art, and architecture enthusiasts will all find something to fascinate them. In addition to their permanent collections the museums all host regular visiting exhibitions. You can buy a combined ticket if you want to visit all the museums. Unfortunately there are no audio guides so it would be a good idea to visit the museums on a guided tour or do some homework before you arrive.
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For a unique adventure into one of Europe’s most beautiful natural rock canyons you have to add the Nevidio Canyon to your Montenegro itinerary. The name of the canyon translates as “never seen canyon,” which aptly describes this remote scenic wonder – it is over one and a half miles long but sometimes narrows down to less than two feet wide. Not only will you get to see natural wonders that only a select few adventurers have every explored but you will also have the rafting adventure of a lifetime. Your organized rafting tour will include viewing the dramatic 270-foot Skakvica Waterfall, an approximately three-hour rafting expedition in the floor of the canyon followed by lunch. The canyon is located close to the town of Zabljak in northern Montenegro.
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Ostrog Monastery was carved into the side of a vertical cliff high above the surrounding countryside of Ostroska Greda in Montenegro. The monastery is the final resting place of Saint Basil of Ostrog, who is believed to have had miraculous powers to cure afflictions, and the monastery has become one of the world’s most-visited places of pilgrimage for a mix of religious beliefs. The spectacular site of the monastery offers sweeping views to those who take the trouble to navigate the steep and winding road which takes you to the base of the complex. The fact that the entire complex was excavated out of a natural cave during the Ottoman Empire (1300-1453) is the greatest draw for visitors.
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19.Our Lady of the Rocks
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Approximately 30 minutes from Kotor you will find the ancient town of Perast, which is the starting point for your visit to Our Lady of the Rocks, an ancient church built on a man-made island in the Bay of Boka Kotorska. According to local legend, two brothers found an image of the Virgin Mary on a pile of rocks in the harbor in 1452 and built a small Orthodox chapel on the spot. Much later in 1630 Venetian occupiers expanded the island by bringing in more rocks and sinking ships – they also built a larger Catholic chapel on the site of the original building. The church you can visit today dates back to 1722 and contains a lovely 15th century icon of the Virgin by Lovro Dobricevic, known as Our Lady of the Rocks.
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The ancient small town of Perast is located in the Bay of Boka Kotorska, just a few miles northwest of the city of Kotor. Throughout the ages the town has been occupied by just about every conqueror in Europe including the Byzantine Empire, the Venetian, Hungarian, French, and Austrian empires, all of which left behind examples of their particular architecture and culture. The town is home to many ancient churches and more than a handful of former palaces that will be of interest to architecture enthusiasts. You can also take a scenic cruise on the picturesque bay to visit Our Lady of the Rocks, an historic old church built on an entirely man-made island.
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Art and architecture enthusiasts should not miss the chance to visit the Rezevici Monastery, located on a picturesque hillside overlooking the coastline near Petrovac. The monastery complex is truly steeped in history and dates back to as early as 1223 when one of the two churches in the complex was dedicated. Throughout the ages invading armies have repeatedly plundered the monastery, but it is still remarkably well preserved despite severe damage from the 1979 earthquake. The three churches in the complex contain well-preserved frescoes and icons, many of which date back to the 16th century and are the reason for the monastery receiving UNESCO World Heritage Status.
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From humble roots as a tiny fishing village, the resort island of Sveti Stefan is now a beautiful hideaway for celebrity tourists. The island, which is home to the historic Old Town, is connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway and boasts one of the most well positioned and luxuriously appointed hotels in the world. Although the island is off limits to everyone except pampered guests at the Aman Sveti Stefen Resort, you can enjoy beautiful views of the lovely red rooftops of the Old Town from the mainland. Close by you can visit Villa Milocer, another luxury boutique hotel that was once a royal holiday villa, and enjoy basking in the sun on Queen’s Beach.
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As Montenegro’s oldest town, Ulcinj has a great deal of history to share with curious visitors. For over 2,000 years Ulcinj has stood on the Adriatic coastline of southern Montenegro, withstanding marauding pirates and other occupiers, all of whom have left their mark on the town. You can start your visit by exploring the rambling fortified old town where you can see the stone walls and fortresses built centuries ago. Highlights of the old town include the North Gate, the museum, and several other medieval structures you can discover on foot along quaint cobbled streets. Soaring high above the old town the striking War Memorial is also worth a visit. After absorbing the historic atmosphere most visitors head to one of several great beaches to soak up the sun.
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Virpazar is a small town located close to the shores of scenic Lake Skadar in the Bar Municipality of Montenegro. The region surrounding Virpazar includes the Lake Skadar National Park where nature lovers can go hiking and biking along a variety of paths with the opportunity to see some of the best natural landscapes in Montenegro. The lake is a bird-watchers paradise as it is home to over 260 species of birds including many rare species. You can be as active or relaxed as you wish in Virpazar – kayaking, canoeing and lake cruises are popular activities, but if you are more interested in gastronomy you will be pleased to find several wineries and an abundance of fresh locally produced products to tempt all taste buds.
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25.The War Memorial Ulcinj
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Ensuring that we never forget the turbulence of war, the War Memorial of Ulcinj is located high above the ancient Old Town and seems to keep watch over the holiday-makers on the beaches below. The large concrete monument, which resembles a pair of out-stretched wings, is dedicated to the memory of all the local fighters and civilians who lost their lives during the National Liberation War (World War II) and to the Yugoslavian Air Force. Although the War Memorial is a sobering reminder of past conflict, it does not seem to detract from the holiday atmosphere of Ulcinj, a popular tourist destination that boasts a very picturesque Old Town as well as the lively Korzo strip of bars and restaurants above the lovely beaches.
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25 Best Montenegro Destinations & Things to Do
- Ali Pasha Springs, Photo: Courtesy of jahmaica - Fotolia.com
- Biogradska Gora National Park, Photo: Courtesy of AlexanderNikiforov - Fotolia.com
- Castle of San Giovanni (aka Fortress of St. John), Photo: Courtesy of Olga Iljinich - Fotolia.com
- Cetinje, Photo: Courtesy of Agnes - Fotolia.com
- Djurdjevica Tara Bridge, Photo: Courtesy of tashka2000 - Fotolia.com
- Durmitor National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Andrei - Fotolia.com
- Fortifications of Kotor, Photo: Courtesy of Sergii Figurnyi - Fotolia.com
- King Nikola's Palace, Photo: Courtesy of AlexanderNikiforov - Fotolia.com
- Lake Piva, Photo: Courtesy of saiko3p - Fotolia.com
- Lake Skadar, Photo: Courtesy of monticellllo - Fotolia.com
- Long Beach, Photo: Courtesy of msosnina - Fotolia.com
- Lovcen National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Nikolai Sorokin - Fotolia.com
- Mamula, Photo: Courtesy of watman - Fotolia.com
- The Maritime Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Nitr - Fotolia.com
- Mausoleum of Petar , Photo: Courtesy of mima140186 - Fotolia.com
- National Museum of Montenegro, Photo: Courtesy of railwayfx - Fotolia.com
- Nevidio Canyon, Photo: Courtesy of ammonite - Fotolia.com
- Ostrog Monastery, Photo: Courtesy of dbrnjhrj - Fotolia.com
- Our Lady of the Rocks, Photo: Courtesy of dimbar76 - Fotolia.com
- Perast, Photo: Courtesy of olezzo - Fotolia.com
- Rezevici Monastery, Photo: Courtesy of efesenko - Fotolia.com
- Sveti Stefen, Photo: Courtesy of cge2010 - Fotolia.com
- Ulcinj, Photo: Courtesy of bigguns - Fotolia.com
- Virpazar, Photo: Courtesy of AlexanderNikiforov - Fotolia.com
- The War Memorial Ulcinj, Photo: Courtesy of d3images - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of maksimka37 - Fotolia.com