Montenegro is quickly becoming the place to go on the Adriatic. From sweeping views to a fresh focus on food—and ample outdoor activities to keep your heart pumping—this often-overlooked country might be the most surprising place you visit in 2017.
This pearl of the Mediterranean, unique in many ways, is situated in the south of the Adriatic. Nowhere else can you find, so much natural wealth, beauty, mild beaches, clear lakes, fast rivers, and gorgeous mountains in such a compact area as in Montenegro. In the morning, you can wake up along the beautiful Adriatic coast, have lunch on the banks of Skadar Lake, and enjoy an evening walk in the Montenegrin mountains. Montenegro cannot leave you indifferent. Montenegrin history has had as many twists and turns as its roads. For centuries, it was a fluctuating East-West frontier between competing empires, ideologies and faiths. It was the occupying Venetians who christened the area Monte Negro (black mountain) which was to become the country's name, as well as the architecture of beautiful coastal towns such as Kotor and Perast. It was annexed by Yugoslavia in 1918.
In the Sixties and Seventies, this stretch of coastline was the St-Tropez of the Adriatic, where the likes of Sophia Loren, Princess Margaret, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor holidayed. Today, it has regained a flavor of the glamour of its heyday with the restoration of Sveti Stefan, a compact and picturesque group of red-roofed former fishermen's cottages on an isthmus south of Budva.
The fare might seem recognizably Mediterranean as you hop from restaurant to restaurant in Kotor, Budva, or Sveti Stefan, but there’s far more depth to the local cuisine than meets the eye. Thanks to the country’s strong Balkan heritage, the dishes are just as influenced by neighboring Albania and Macedonia as they are by Croatia or Greece. The fresh-caught octopus is grilled and drizzled with olive oil and served alongside sarma (cabbage leaves stuffed with mincemeat) or slices of salted sheep’s cheese arranged around platters of succulent vegetables. The flakey burek, which is inspired by the Turks, is stuffed to the brim with an assortment of cheeses, spinach, or meat and is best noshed for breakfast as you’re strolling the streets of Kotor or Budva. For a hearty bite that’s 100 percent traditional, head to Pod Valet, a carnivorous restaurant in the city of Podgorica, which offers hearty slabs of lamb kebobs, meat stews, and “cevapcici”, a typical grilled southeastern dish of mincemeat made with sausages. For a meal that’s a little less artery clogging, stop by Restaurant Conte on the Bonte Bay. Here you’ll find locally sourced seafood dishes like the Perast appetizer, which is a bountiful collection of mussels, octopus, anchovies, and squid, and poached local fish served with succulent prawns.
The country’s prime location on the Mediterranean means the seafood is bar none, which is precisely why famed restaurateur and actor Robert De Niro opened one of his world-renowned Nobu restaurants on the stunning Sveti Stefan island. Although the yellowfin tuna and famous black cod are flown in, the other seafood is locally caught. Other high-end restaurants are joining Nobu’s lead, so don’t be surprised if you find more globally recognized eateries popping up in some of the country’s newest luxury hotels (like the much-anticipated Chedi, slated to open in early 2018.
With a marvelous setting on a peaceful bay, the town of Kotor invites visitors to step back in time, into its Medieval maze of churches, city walls, and public squares. Listed as a UNESCO World Natural and Historical Heritage site for its well-preserved buildings from the Middle Ages, it’s a perfect town for strolling, relaxing in a café, or admiring the vistas of the fjord and bay. Don’t miss the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, a symbol of the city. The 12th and 13th century church’s of St. Ana, St. Luke, and St. Mary and the more recent 19th century Napoleon’s Theatre are also interesting sights to take in as you meander through town.
Note: To learn more about Montenegro, please visit here: Montenegro National Tourist Office