If Croatia seems like the brand new Italy, then might Montenegro, its smaller neighbour to the south, be rising as the brand new Croatia? It’s exhausting to scroll via Instagram today with out recognizing somebody residing their greatest life on the seashores of the Adriatic — however relatively than having fun with the shores of Rimini or Puglia, it appears we’re taking to Dubrovnik, Hvar and Break up simply as a lot.

However what do the southernmost climes of the Dalmatian coast provide? This summer time, I took a flight to Dubrovnik as a gateway to find Montenegro’s unheralded highlights.

Following my take-off from Cork, I arrive at my gateway of Dubrovnik on essentially the most sweltering of July nights on the Adriatic. Given my night arrival, the so-called pearl of the Adriatic made for a great first evening base, notably for my pal, Carolyn, who had by no means visited town earlier than.

I’d visited the area a decade in the past, however bussing up the coast to its metropolis limits, I’m quickly arrested by how completely beautiful the area is. Resort hamlets twinkle within the nightfall whereas out within the sea, superyachts and galleons illuminate the waters.

There’s a French Riviera buzz with a Balkan twist right here, not least when the Outdated City of Dubrovnik emerges over the headland.

Rural scenes in Montenegro

On a finances and with only one evening within the metropolis, we e-book a €60 Airbnb within the lofty Kono district of Dubrovnik which suggests tremendous views and a brief downhill jaunt to the Outdated City. This historic centre itself is jaw-droppingly beautiful, virtually like a medieval Disneyland filled with Love Island beauties and the subsequent morning we get pleasure from a wonderful seafront brunch at Gradska Kavana Arsenal and a leisurely dip at metropolis seaside earlier than catching the Balkan equal of the Aircoach south.

It’s backpacker central on the metropolis’s bus-stop however we’re quickly on the air-conned refuge of our coach and winding down the Adriatic. It’s solely 40km from Dubrovnik to the Montenegrin border however with summer time site visitors and a double disembarkment at every nation’s border crossing (you might be leaving the EU, in any case) it’s a few hours earlier than we earn the passport stamp. 

After I visited Montenegro ten years in the past, I stayed within the nation’s important Adriatic resort of Budva so for a barely extra unplugged expertise, this time I opted for the historic city of Kotor, set in a mountain-flanked bay not not like the Norwegian fjords.

I’ve checked into many Airbnbs in my day however arriving at our Kotor Outdated City base by way of a moat bridge and the city’s epic south gates certainly ranks as essentially the most epic. After winding via the Kotor’s fabled cobbled lanes, and navigating a couple of napping cats, we lastly discover our medieval condominium and clear up the keypad entry like we’ve simply cracked the Da Vinci code.

Evening street life in Kotor
Night avenue life in Kotor

The bolthole, with shuttered home windows and thick uncovered partitions is a fairytale base not least with our terrace view overlooking the terracotta-topped roofs of Kotor. The city itself virtually has a Mykonos appeal (with out the froth events) and that night we get pleasure from seafood risottos at one of many city sq. taverns whereas stay jazz and native wine soothes our souls.

The following morning, we’re off on a Montenegrin road-trip and after trawling Google for an reasonably priced automobile, I discover myself on the harbour sealing the €65 deal for convertible Peugeot from a chap named Mario. The 200K on the clock in all probability explains the worth however that’s extra a trigger for reassurance than concern as we wind up the epic Kotor Move, Balkan CDS procured from the petrol station discount bin providing us a becoming soundtrack.

Winding up the 30 breathtaking hairpins of the serpentine route, we arrive at our first attraction, the Mausoleum of Njegoš, the place literary nice and nationwide hero Petar II Petrović-Njegoš is interred. I’d been impressed to view the positioning after viewing a Montenegrin Eurovision video (not my typical supply of journey ideas) however it lives as much as the drama in actuality; its setting overlooking the Dinaric Alps combines each a pure and architectural marvel. Not least when a peregrine falcon whooshes previous me at speeds which might make my Peugeot blush.

Mausoleum Montenegro
Mausoleum Montenegro

Afterward, it was time to get pleasure from a well-earned lunch within the mountains of Montenegro and the place higher to dine than within the nation’s oldest restaurant, Kod Pera na Bukovicu. The road-side tavern, which punctuates the roadside slightly like Moll’s Hole, was established in 1881 and serves its friends with two easy specialties: domestically smoked pršut, a Montenegrin prosciutto with slightly extra chew that it’s Italian counterpart, and Njeguški cheese (akin to a moreish Manchego). Served on the terrace with olives, recent bread and small tumblers of white wine, it’s essentially the most satisfying pitstop to any Montenegrin road-trip.

Following the aid of returning my convertible to Mario in a single piece, the subsequent morning we left our coastal stint and made tracks for maybe one in every of Europe’s lesser-known and definitely least visited capital cities, Podgorica. We arrive there after touring down the coast to Budva earlier than winding up in Montenegro’s mountainous centre.

Podgorica, roughly the scale of Limerick is a historic but low key crossroads and with temperatures hitting 40º Celsius, few locals are braving the walkways. We disembark on the bus-meets-railway station, reserving our onward tickets to Serbia from a clerk who could possibly be a doppelganger for Rita from Coronation Avenue going ‘out out’.

Tom's Airbnb in Podgorica
Tom’s Airbnb in Podgorica

Podgorica is one in every of Europe’s most cost-effective capitals and €40 get us a centrally positioned twin room with balcony views over grape vines within the backyard and the mosque subsequent door. Out within the metropolis there may be an architectural mélange of Orthodox church buildings, Communist period workplace blocks and new period avenue improvement which just about seems like an unplugged Rodeo Drive. 

Following a day of eating on bus snacks, we dine at conventional Montenegrin restaurant Pod Volat earlier than heading to Bar Berlin the place younger locals are belting out the Balkan classics to a stay guitar-playing crooner. We could have lyrical FOMO however we toast what has been an unbelievable few days on this culturally wealthy, lovely and reasonably priced patch of Europe.

Montenegro sizzling spots

Stari Bar: Town of Bar, not removed from the Albanian coast, might not be the preferred vacationer spot however its outdated city referred to as Stari Bar is an historical city marvel. Set on scenic foothills 5km from the brand new city, the medieval centre encompasses a monastery, greatest considered at sundown.

Perast: The Bay of Kotor is rather more than its eponymous city. Simply 5km north of the bay’s important hub is the postcard fairly settlement of Perast. It’s additionally an amazing choice to base your self and whereas there, ogle the church islands on the bay.

Sveti Stefan: Maybe one of the vital lovely spots to get pleasure from a swim within the Adriatic, Sveti Stefan is a jaw-dropping islet simply south of Budva. The location is hooked up to the mainland by a tombolo and whereas it’s a non-public resort resort these days, the spit of land acts as a north and south going through seaside for essentially the most idyllic bathing.

Porto Montenegro: Test any Balkan inflight journal these days and also you’ll discover apartment adverts for the area’s latest actual property hot-spot, Porto Montenegro. The resort lies near the Croatian border and is nice to people-watch for the Balkan daring and the gorgeous. E book into luxurious new inns such because the Regent Porto Montenegro or possibly even put money into your personal vacation escape! Adriatic dream pad, anybody?

Biogradska Gora: For a tiny nation, Montenegro packs a biodiversity punch, not least on account of its smallest nationwide park. Situated within the north of the nation, it incorporates a few of Europe’s final remaining primeval forests and one in every of simply three rainforests on the continent. It’s a 90 minute drive from Podgorica and with climbing and mountain hut tenting makes a dream for extra intrepid trekkers.

Get there

  • Aer Lingus fly to Dubrovnik 12 months spherical from Dublin and function a particularly in style summer time service from Cork which ends this month and returns subsequent Easter. From Dubrovnik, there are a number of bus operators heading south to Montenegro.