The Road Tripper's Guide
The Ultimate Road Trip Guide to Montenegro
As one of the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations, Montenegro is taking its place on every serious traveler’s bucket list. But what’s the big fuss about? Imagine a country the size of Connecticut with a population on par with Vermont that sees over 2 million tourist visits per year — a number four times its population! The reason is that Montenegro truly is the Balkan’s hidden gem. Nestled between Serbia to the east, Albania to the south, Bosnia to the north, and the Adriatic Sea to the west, this little country is absolutely brimming with natural beauty and culture. The country also shares borders with Croatia and Kosovo, making it perfectly central for exploring anywhere your heart desires.
Montenegro’s landscape comprises every sort of terrain, from rugged mountains to idyllic beaches. Its small stature makes it easy to travel from one extreme to another, but because the country is quite remote and still relatively new to tourism, your best bet to make the most of your trip is to rent a car. Not sure where to begin? Fret not, we give you ten of Montenegro’s must-see places to start you off in the right lane!
Table of Contents
If you’re flying into Montenegro, you’re likely landing at one of the country’s two international airports: Podgorica or Tivat. For the sake of this itinerary, let’s assume you’ll be arriving at the former. Keep in mind that since our itinerary is circular, it doesn’t really matter where you begin – just follow the list from your point of departure!
Once you pick up your rental vehicle, it’s time to head to Podgorica’s Old Town, where you’ll discover one of the country’s most culturally iconic monuments: The Sahat Kula Clock Tower. The stone Tower was built by Turk colonists in the mid-17th-century, and stands at a height of 19 meters. Locals erected a small metal cross atop the Tower when Podgorica was incorporated into Montenegro in the late 19th-century.
If you’re a wine-lover, consider taking a tour of the country’s finest wineries. Or, if you’re a history-buff, take a self-guided walking tour of the Ribnica Bridge, a set of ancient Roman ruins. While Podgorica is the capital of Montenegro, it’s often overlooked by tourists; however, Podgorica’s charm is alive in its fascinating hodgepodge of the traditional and the modern.
Next Stop: 15 – 20 min.
2. SKADAR LAKE NATIONAL PARK
Skadar Lake National Park is just a short drive from Podgorica. The lake itself is the largest in the Balkan peninsula and, more generally, in southern Europe. You’ll find it situated near the Albanian border as it gently snakes its way through idyllic valleys and lush green mountains. The park is home to over 20 historic landmarks, including villages, monasteries, churches, and fortresses. Looking for the best photo-op in the park? Head to the top of Pavlova Strana for its renowned horseshoe bend lookout. If hiking’s your thing, there are plenty of accommodation and camping options around the park, so you can spend a few days leisurely exploring this national treasure.
Next Stop: 4 hr.
3. ZLA KOLATA
Montenegro’s highest peak, Zla Kolata stands at an imposing height of 2,534 metres (8,314 ft) on the Albanian border. While not for every road-tripper, Zla Kolata is a worthy draw for mountain bikers and hikers alike. The shortest route to the mountain cuts through Albania, meaning you’ll get the chance to experience two countries in a single day!
Next Stop: 4 hr. 45 min.
One of Montenegro’s leaser-known destinations, Durmitor National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and for good reason. The park rewards ambitious travellers with myriad hiking trails and one of the world’s most scenic drives along its winding parkway. You can spend the day simply driving and taking in the majestic views, or trek through the awesome landscape, building a portfolio of travel photos that are sure to leave your friends back home jealous.
Next Stop: 1 hr.
5. PIVA RIVER
The epic limestone mountain ranges that cut across Montenegro’s border with Bosnia are rife with alpine lakes, endless canyons, and big wilderness. Piva River in particular coils timelessly through deep, narrow valleys, offering breathtaking views from every vantage point (all the more so the further north you go). The crystal clear waters will enchant you, even from a thousand feet up. If you’re a lover of the outdoors, consider camping in some of the area’s designated campsites. Or, if you’re looking for a dose of high-octane adventure, sign up for some unforgettable rafting along the River itself. And don’t forget to check out the medieval Piva Monastery!
Next Stop: 10 min.
An off-the-beaten-path destination with friendly locals, scenic beach bungalows, and a sunset to die for. Pluzine really is the ideal place to recharge your batteries in perfect comfort while overlooking a magnificent stretch of the Piva River. Grab a drink, stroll through the sleepy red-roofed town, and spend a restorative night before hitting the road!
Next Stop: 2 hr. 30 min.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Montenegro’s oldest and most breathtaking towns. The ancient cobblestone streets are nestled amidst jagged mountain ranges, the turquoise Bay of Kotor, and a captivating blend of architectural styles. Plan your road trip to arrive in the early morning or late afternoon; the city is a popular drop-off for sightseeing cruises and tourist numbers can quickly rise. Looking to nab a few souvenirs for friends and family back home? Kotor offers a wide array of quirky shops and eclectic boutiques. Make sure to visit the infamous fortress for some of the best vistas of the Bay and some Insta-worthy pictures.
Next Stop: 20 min.
Road trips are great, but sometimes a little self-indulgence is in order to make up for those long stretches behind the wheel. Pull into the luxurious seaside town of Tivat and immerse yourself in the local culture of refined dining, retail therapy, beautiful high-end apartments (with stunning sea views), and yachts galore. Tivat is also a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Kotor’s nearby Old Town, and simply take in the slow saunter of life with a grappa in hand.
Next Stop: 30 min.
Budva’s Old Town is a weekend draw for nighttime party-goers. While not exactly known for its bumping nightlife, Montenegro’s Budva still manages to bring the bass for those looking to get their dance on. Don your Sunday best and bar-hop your way through the town’s wild bars, clubs, and pubs till the wee hours of the morn! Note the ancient Venetian walls surrounding the Old Town that add a certain historic touch to your festivities.
Next Stop: 17 min.
10. SVETI STEFAN
Just 6 km southeast of Budva is the islet of Sveti Stefan. This sleepy hamlet is steeped in natural beauty; the white-sand beaches hug the coastline while tall mountains penetrate the skyline. Sveti Stefan is the perfect place to unwind after a long and half-forgotten night in Budva. Take in one last, unforgettable sunset from the Queen’s Beach before heading back to Podgorica, just an hour away. You can also opt to stay in one of the islet’s many 5-star hotels.
The best advice for road-tripping through Montenegro? Take your time and don’t be afraid to make detours! There is so much to see and do in this little country that you shouldn’t restrict yourself to just these ten places. In fact, since the country is so compact, heading off-the-beaten path is always an easy side-trip that won’t cost you much in fuel or time. And don’t forget to book your amazing vacation apartment rental in Tivat — keep your eyes open for THE STELLA’s upcoming collection of luxury apartments overlooking the majestic Bay of Kotor!