It was almost a month ago that I was sitting at my favourite coffee shop, waiting for a friend and trying to come up with a plan for the August Bank Holiday weekend. I usually tend to go for a short beach break at this time of the year, but being the avid traveller that I am, I was sort of running out of sun and beach destinations. Spain? Check. The Algarve? Check. Greece? Been there a million times. Croatia? Been there, done that. So where to next?
As I was checking out Google Maps something caught my attention. I love the beaches in the Adriatic Sea, so how about exploring the coast in Montenegro? The country is so tiny that it’s very easy to overlook. Far from being an inconvenience, Montenegro’s small size makes it the ideal destination for a long weekend break. So I decided to give it a shot and by the time my friend arrived at the coffee shop, I had already booked my flights.
You can fly directly from London Stansted to Montenegro (Podgorica airport) with Ryanair. However, there are only 2 flights per week and the days didn’t suit me, so I had to take the long route and fly to Dubrovnik airport in Croatia instead. British Airways flies to Dubrovnik from Gatwick; Easyjet flies from Edinburgh and various London airports; FlyBe goes from Birmingham; Jet2 flies from Belfast, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, and Edinburgh; and there are seasonal charter flights with Monarch, Norwegian Air Shuttle, and Thomson Airways. You can travel to your closest airport by public transportation, book an airport transfer or choose to self drive and use the individual airports car parking facilities.
Direct flights from London take just under 3 hours to reach Dubrovnik. Once there, you’ll have to arrange onward transportation to Montenegro. A word of advice: don’t wait until you’re at the airport to get your transfer plans sorted or you’ll be ripped off. I used this company to pre-book my transfer to Herzeg Novi (a coastal town just across the border), as I knew that time was limited and didn’t want to waste it arguing with taxi drivers.
If you have time to spare and want to take the scenic route, travelling to Montenegro by train is definitely the way to go. I only wish I’d have had more time available to do that! Here’s how you do it: you either take a combination of trains all the way from London to Belgrade (Serbia), or you fly to Belgrade and then go on the train ride of a lifetime through the spectacular Dinar ridge. Check out this Youtube video to get a glimpse of one of Europe’s top train rides.
An even more interesting option is booking a cheap flight to Italy and taking the ferry across the Adriatic. Frequent ferries take 8 hours to go from Bari and Ancona to Bar, in southern Montenegro.
Herzeg Novi: a great introduction to Montenegro
I was glued to the minivan window for most of the trip between Dubrovnik and Montenegro. As we were getting closer to Herzeg Novi, the landscape got infinitely more spectacular. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, dramatic cliffs plunged into the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic, and at that point I knew I’d made the right decision coming here.
I wandered around Herzeg’s Novi old town, where steep and narrow streets link the sea with a great viewpoint on a hill. I used Booking.com to book a whole apartment with stunning sea views for just £16/night. Other travellers I spoke with recommended the Club Riviera, a 4-star hotel that offers fantastic value for money.
Apart from the lively waterfront, my favourite hangout in Herzeg Novi was the Spanjola fortress. I could explain why but I’d rather leave it up to you to discover. For breakfast, I recommend a stop at Peter’s Pir & Coffee. You can’t NOT try the seafood in Herzeg, and the best I found was at Mirista Restoran, which has gorgeous views, attentive service, and a great menu.
I came to Montenegro for the beaches, which are comparable to those in the French Riviera. The Bay of Kotor is 1 hour away from Herzeg and is probably one of the prettiest natural bays I’ve ever seen. Kotor town is a UNESCO site, so enough said! Kotor is simply stunning and its rugged beauty reminded me of Spain’s wild Costa Brava.
I took a boat tour around the bay, stopping at the islands of Skrpjela and Sveti Djordje, and enjoyed a wonderful sea bass dinner at Cesarica, one of the best-rated restaurants in town. I didn’t have time for clubbing, but it seems that Maximus Club is the place to go for a night out in Kotor.
I spent my last day chilling at Herzeg Novi’s main beach and planning my return to this gorgeous country. Would I recommend visiting Montenegro? Absolutely!