Only have a few days to explore Montenegro? Here’s how to make it work.
First, let me say that I know I’ve been away for a while, and I’m sorry. My life has been pretty up in the air lately, and while I have lots to fill you in on, for now we’ll have to wait.
In brief, I’m finally back state-side… but, not for long. More details to come!
Alright, without further adieu, let’s talk about Montenegro.
Holy cow, guys.
What comes to mind when you think of Montenegro? Before I visited, I’m not sure I really had any idea of what it was like. I suppose I knew it was in Europe, but in the part that American travelers seldom visit: the Balkans.
Unlike Croatia, this beautiful region remains mostly untainted by cruise ships and vacationers (although it’s becoming more popular on the backpacking circuit).
Montenegro felt like a less-crowded (and less-touristic) version of Croatia. Of course, Montenegro has its own unique culture and history, but the gorgeous coastline and picturesque towns are no less beautiful.
My travel buddy and I decided that Montenegro is the perfect place for a ladies’ getaway. Beautiful scenery, secluded beaches, plenty of cute shops… what’s not to love?
We decided to head to the beach, so we booked a few nights at Hostel Pirate* in the border town of Ulcinj. Besides being a great hostel, there were a bunch of kittens living there so obviously I loved it.
Ulcinj was an absolute dream.
We visited in June, which is at the beginning of the “busy” season, so we had most of the beaches and restaurants to ourselves. I’ve heard that it can get quite packed during the later summer months, so be aware and plan accordingly.
The owner at our hostel gave us some tips on where to go and what to do while we were there.
First, we walked through the charming town and went straight to “Small Beach,” which certainly lives up to its name. Being right in town, it was the busiest of the beaches we visited, but also had the best access to restaurants (and, ahem, drinks).
Next, we strolled South along the boardwalk where we found a flight of stone steps leading up off the beach.
Having been given directions, we knew to walk along the paved road through the trees and follow the smell of sulfur to our next destination.
Yep, that’s right. Sulfur. Yummy, right?
The smell comes from a natural hot spring at the Ladies Only (Nude) Beach. This secluded beach is about five kilometers away from town, and accessible from the road through a thick patch of trees. There’s a guard at the entrance to prevent stray males from wandering in.
Walk down into the natural gorge, pay a few dollars to the ladies with the cash box, and park it on a beach lounger. Bring your own towel!
I don’t have any pictures of the nude beach, for obvious reasons, but I can describe it to you nonetheless.
It’s protected by a natural alcove along the rocky coastline, as well as hanging camouflage-like curtains to obstruct the view from the road.
Women of all ages, religions, and body-types come here to sunbathe, swim, and reap the benefits of the natural hot spring; all in the nude. It’s not a strict requirement to take it all off, but I highly recommend it.
It’s such a relief to release your inhibitions surrounded by supportive and non-judgmental women. It is simply exhausting to feel observed by watchful male eyes on a regular beach, even while wearing a swimsuit.
Pour the hot mineral water through your hair, massage your skin with exfoliating mud, and float on your back in the sea. You’ll feel like a goddess by the time you leave.
Plan to be there for the whole day. If you get hungry, there’s a little cafe on the premises serving snacks, light meals, and drinks (both soft and hard).
Oh, and bring LOTS of high-SPF sunscreen. Your, ahem, lesser-exposed parts will thank you later.
If you’re not interested (or allowed) in the Ladies Beach, you can take the path to the Long Beach (about 45 minutes walk from town).
This route takes you through a beautiful pine forest and along the craggy shoreline. Bring your camera for this one, the views are beautiful!
The beach itself is pretty standard — sand, umbrellas, snacks, and drinks.
If you’re sick of relaxing on the beach (huh?), there are lots of beach clubs on the walk back toward town. They are usually pretty busy during the day, empty at dusk, then frequented by the late-night crowd after dark.
Ulcinj also has a lovely Stari Grad (old town), complete with its own castle.
Perched atop a cliff overlooking the Adriatic Sea, the castle is now inhabited by homes, shops, restaurants, and even a few beach bars snuggled right into the ruins.
There’s a lot of history to take in throughout the old part of town.
You can visit the square which held the market of slaves captured by pirates, take in the views from the fortress walls, and enjoy a spectacular dinner of fresh fish at a very affordable price.
We loved Ulcinj, but before we knew it it was time to move on to historic Kotor.
Kotor is surrounded by steep cliffs in the deepest bay in the Mediterranean.
Known for its medieval fortifications and churches, Kotor is less-visited than nearby Budva, but still rather crowded. A few cruise ships call at this port, so it can get very busy in the middle of the day.
There’s no shortages of hostels in town — we stayed at Old Town Hostel* and I slept like a baby. A mildly drunk baby, but that’s another story.
If you’re staying in town, take advantage of the quiet mornings by hiking up the path along the Upper City Walls to St. John’s Fortress.
The views are sensational and best seen early in the day before the crowds (and the heat!) spoil the fun.
Spend a day exploring the old town, relaxing near the bay, and popping into various shops and museums.
I visited the Cat Museum while I was there (cat lady alert), but I wouldn’t really recommend it.
You’re better off simply watching the stray cats that roam through town.
That’s all for today, friends –I hope this post has helped pique your interest in visiting this Adriatic jewel!