Nine days may not be enough to cover entire cities in some cases, but a small country means you can enjoy every bit of scenery to the fullest and spend less time between locations when on a road-trip holiday. And Montenegro is as small a country as it comes.
However, with its incredible natural wonders and its thousands of years old historical sites, there is plenty to see in the Balkan state, from rugged mountains and amazing medieval villages to beautiful beaches, and they can all be appreciated in under 10 days.
Montenegro’s capital doesn’t enjoy the best reputation among travelers as it is not as beautiful as the rest of the country, so feel free to pick up the rental at the airport and skip Podgorica entirely.
The 30-minute drive to Lake Skadar at the Albanian border will feel like entering another world. The lake is the largest freshwater body in the Balkans and definitely worth exploring by boat.
Trips start from Virpazar on the western shore, which also has excellent dining options.
If you are looking to spend the night, neighboring Donja Seoca is the place to be. The small village can be reached via a single-lane road along the shore, which is not for the faint-hearted.
However, the picturesque place, famous for its light and sweet wine, is definitely worth the trip.
The best views of Lake Skadar National Park come on the drive from Virpazar to Rijeka Crnojevica, which takes about one hour on one of Montenegro’s most beautiful roads.
Rijeka Crnojevica is a dreamy place. Having coffee at one of its river cafes is most recommended, before heading up to the popular Pavlova Strana viewpoint, which offers perhaps the most spectacular view of Lake Skadar.
Follow the road to the M2-3 from here, which will bring you directly to Budva. After the mountainous landscape, the Adriatic Sea now shows itself for the first time, and the coastal city awaits in the sunshine at the end of the serpentine roads.
The broad seafront is lined with palm trees, and visitors are welcomed by the smell of the sea. Budva is used to tourists and has a lot of different accommodations to offer – places in the old town and close to the coast are most atmospheric.
Budva is a tourist hotspot, and before the pandemic, many came here to party. But the old town, enclosed by an ancient city wall, has still retained its appeal. Its alleys are great for an extended stroll and sometimes open up unexpectedly at the small beach bordering on the old town, a great spot for watching a spectacular sunset.
Two larger beaches, Mogren Beach and Mogren Beach 2, are also within walking distance.
The small, picturesque island Sveti Stefan, just off Budva, is definitely worth a visit and is only 15 minutes away by car.
Unfortunately, the village itself has been converted into a luxury resort and can only be accessed by guests, but the island’s beaches are still worth a visit.
The next stop on the itinerary is Kotor, but make sure to stop at Porto Montenegro on the way, which offers a great view of the Bay of Kotor from the Jadranska Magistrala road along the coast.
Kotor is possibly Montenegro’s most popular tourist spot, and you immediately know why when you get there. The country’s oldest city was founded over 2,000 years ago by the Romans and is densely packed with historic sights.
After a quick refreshing glass of lemonade on Kotor’s central square, head up the 1,300 stairs to the fortress ruins, and you will be rewarded with a fantastic view of the surrounding fjord landscape.
If you want to escape the crowds, stay the night at neighboring Dobrota, which is a bit quieter and has a lot of private accommodation and more great views to offer.
The next, and so far longest, leg takes us back into the mountains. After one hour, you reach Lovcen National Park, with lots of spectacular views on the way.
Once you enter the park, the road narrows into a single-lane street that ends at the viewpoint. Here, 460 steps lead through a tunnel before you reach the mausoleum of Petar II, the most famous Montenegrin poet and ruler.
Back on the way to the Bay of Kotor, another sight awaits: Perast, possibly the most romantic coastal town in Montenegro, with great seaside restaurants. Follow route E65 along the coast until you reach Herceg Novi, a town offering beaches, a seaside walk and an old town with fortress ruins and an amphitheater dating to the 16th century.
Today you will have to spend an exceptional four to five hours behind the wheel, but the Ostrog monastery, at an altitude of 900 meters (2,952 feet), is definitely worth it. At the sight of the building, one wonders how Bishop Vasilije Ostroski was able to complete the monastery at this spot in the 17th century.
The next stop is Zabljak, in Durmitor National Park, where you should definitely spend two nights.
Zabljak, at an altitude of 1,456 meters, is the ideal spot to explore Durmitor National Park. An easy hike leads you to Crno Jezero, the Black Lake. Despite its name, the water gleams in an emerald green between the trees.
The Tara River Canyon is another highlight and one of Europe's most impressive canyons, stretching for about 78 kilometers and over 1,000 meters deep.
Durmitor National Park also houses Montenegro’s highest mountain, Bobotov Kuk. Climbing to the top takes about three hours and requires some experience, but hiking fans will not want to miss it.
The road leading back from Zabljak to the capital is another highlight, following the river Tara for some time.
After 25 kilometers, you will reach the Durdevica Tara Bridge, which crosses the river at an altitude of 150 meters.
Stop for lunch in the village of Kolasin to brace yourself for Podgorica. Once back from the road trip, it is clear why the capital cannot compete with the rest of the country.
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