Planning a trip to the Balkan Peninsula in Europe? Make sure you place Montenegro on your itinerary! And keep reading to discover the most exciting things to do in Montenegro when you do visit.
Montenegro is one of the tiniest countries in Europe. But don’t let its size fool you. There is so much to experience in this tiny country!
Montenegro’s natural beauty is the stuff of National Geographic features. It is famous for its mountains, which feature rugged landscapes, beautiful Boka Bay, which is reminiscent of a fjord, and its coastline along the Adriatic Sea.
But Montenegro also has a fascinating history, and the country’s old towns are wonderful for wandering, to take in the architecture and savor the ambience.
Montenegro came into being in the 15th century, evolving from the Slavic state of Duklja. In 1929, it became a part of erstwhile Yugoslavia.
The country only declared its independence in June 2006, making it one of the youngest modern European nations.
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN MONTENEGRO
Located between the Dinaric Alps and the Adriatic Sea, Montenegro features some of the most stunning natural scenery in Europe. Its interior is mountainous, and its coastline idyllic.
No matter where you look in Montenegro, odds are you have a picture perfect scene in front of you. In one week in Montenegro, I was barely able to put my camera away, even though it rained off and on through our visit.
Excited? Let’s get started discovering the very best things to do in Montenegro!
#1 Wander the cobblestone alleys of Old Town Kotor
Kotor Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. With its beautiful architecture, old walls, and cobblestone alleys complete with cats, Kotor is a wonderful place to just wander.
Tryphon Cathedral with its twin towers is stunning, but keep an eye out for other churches around the town as you walk. Admire the many palaces, take a photo of the clock tower in the main square, and browse the souvenir shops.
Kotor is a cruise ship port, so pick a day when no ships are scheduled to be in port, or do your walk early in the day or late for a more enjoyable experience. In season, Kotor’s narrow alleys can get congested during the day.
Like its swankier neighbor Dubrovnik just across the border in Croatia, Old Town Kotor will reel you in with its old world vibe and small town charm. It is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Montenegro!
Short on time but want to see it all? Join a highly rated guided walking tour of Kotor Old Town that will take you past all the must-not-miss spots in just 90 minutes. You’ll get a great overview of the town’s history as well! Book this tour now!
#2 Hike to the fortress of San Giovanni in Kotor
Also part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kotor’s town walls, leading up to the fortress of St. John at the top, are gorgeous. Walking the old town walls of Kotor is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Montenegro.
The leg-busting hike is not for the faint of heart. But the views of Kotor’s rooftops and the bay from the top are well worth the effort! You can also climb part of the way if you like: you’ll still get great views.
Partway to the top, you’ll come to the cute Church of Our Lady of Remedy. Built in the 16th century as thanks by survivors of the plague, the little church makes a great place for a breather on your way up.
#3 Visit the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks in Perast
Legend has it that the little islet on which the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks stands was literally built rock by rock by the fisherfolk in the area. After an icon of Madonna and Child was found on a rock on the water, residents created the artificial islet over time until the church could be built.
A stunning photo op from the shore, the church is also worth viewing up close. Simply walk up to the pier at Perast and you’ll find boatmen ferrying visitors back and forth. Our boatman gave us an hour on the island, which was plenty of time.
Inside the church, you’ll see beautiful paintings and artifacts. In season, the church can get claustrophobic during the day, with lots of tour groups visiting, so try and visit early or late in the day.
There’s another islet close by, the Island of St. George. This islet is natural and also looks gorgeous from the water, with the Benedictine monastery and the evergreen trees. The Island of St. George is not open for visits, so you cannot disembark.
#4 Walk the tiny town of Perast
The small town of Perast is located at the base of the hill of St. Ilija, just a few miles from Kotor. This is the town closest to the two little islets in Boka Bay. We found Perast very picturesque, particularly from the waterfront and the water.
Perast is an old town, and became particularly prosperous in the time of Venetian rule. Its slender campanile rises gracefully into the sky, and multiple palazzos line the main street. There are 16 churches in this tiny town!
You can walk Perast in less than an hour, before or after your boat tour to the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks. Don’t forget to walk the waterfront from end to end as well…you’ll get some lovely photos!
#5 Admire the Roman mosaics in Risan
Risan is a quick and convenient stop as you are driving along the Bay of Kotor. Known as Rhizinium in Roman times, Risan was a prosperous settlement in the 1st and 2nd centuries, home to many impressive villas.
In 1930, archaeologists unearthed the remnants of one of these grand residences, and it’s now a museum you can visit. Here you’ll see a number of Roman mosaics, from the original floors of different rooms in the villa.
The bedroom floor, appropriately enough, has a beautiful mosaic of Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep. The dining room floor features herbs and flowers.
You’ll also see the artifacts recovered from the site. The mosaics are well preserved and restored, and it’s worth paying the modest entrance fee for a tour of the small site.
#6 Experience the beauty of Boka Bay
The Bay of Kotor is about 17 miles long, with the towering mountains of the Dinaric Alps rising up on either side. There are actually several little bays that make up the big body of water known informally as Boka Bay.
The shore of the bay extends for about 67 miles, and is dotted with little towns. The drive along the Bay of Kotor is beautiful. In the spring, you’ll see tons of wildflowers growing by the side of the road.
Also make the time to enjoy the beauty of the bay from the water. You can certainly do a dedicated boat cruise (some will take you to the Blue Cave for a swim), but even just a ferry ride is wonderful. We took the ferry back from Perast to Kotor one day and enjoyed the 40 minutes out on the water.
The bay is one of the wettest places in Europe, so you’re likely to encounter some rain when you visit. We had rain off and on two out of the four days we were based in Kotor. When it clears up, the bay looks dramatically beautiful, with wisps of clouds hanging from the mountains.
#7 Explore Lovćen National Park
As you’d expect in a country blessed with so much natural beauty, Montenegro has a number of gorgeous national parks. And if you’re based in (or near) Kotor, Lovćen National Park is one of the most convenient to visit as a day trip.
Mount Lovćen is also known as Crna Gora or Black Mountain, because of the dark forests that blanket its sides. And that’s where the name Montenegro for the country came from! The massive mountain has two peaks, one of them the tallest point in the park.
Lovćen National Park is famous for its natural beauty, of course, but it also contains a number of important historical elements. The one you have to visit is the Njegoš Mausoleum.
Climb the 461 steps that lead to the top of Jezerski vrh, the second peak of Mount Lovćen, to visit the mausoleum and to take in the magnificent panoramas from the top. Apparently, Montenegro’s poet-philosopher ruler chose his final resting place himself.
You can also go hiking in Lovcen National Park, to explore the beautiful backcountry. Especially in the fall, many trails offer glorious fall colors to enjoy as you walk.
If you don’t have a car, you can see Lovćen National Park and Lake Skadar National Park on a full day tour from the coast. The tour is highly rated, and includes Njegusi village, Lovcen National Park with its mausoleum, Cetinje, Crnojevic River and Sveti Stefan.
Book this tour now!
#8 Enjoy a boat ride on Lake Skadar
Lake Skadar is the largest lake in the Balkan peninsula. Two-thirds of the lake is in Montenegro, and the remaining one-third in Albania. The portion of Lake Skadar in Montenegro was designated a national park in 1983.
Visiting Lake Skadar is one of the nicest things to do in Montenegro. Not only is the lake beautiful, it is also a habitat for tons of birds, numerous species of fish, and thousands of water lilies. If you’re lucky, you can even get glimpses of the endangered Dalmatian pelican.
The best way to experience Lake Skadar is by boat. Boat rentals are available at Virpazar, easily accessed by bus from Budva, or at Rijeka Crnojevica. You can also do a guided hike through one of the many trails in the park.
#9 Take a photo of Lake Skadar from Pavlova Strana
Looking down on Lake Skadar from the Pavlova Strana viewpoint is a must-do when you are in the area. The horseshoe view of the lake is reminiscent of the famous Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, and just as stunning.
A movie was being filmed at the viewpoint when we visited, so I could not get a shot of the full horseshoe shape from where I was permitted to stand and take photos. But the view is so spectacular you have to go see it for yourself!
Be warned: to get to the Pavlova Strana viewpoint, you have to drive along a narrow unnamed cliff road, and I would not advise attempting it on your own unless you are a really experienced driver with advanced driving skills.
We hired a car and driver for the day when we visited Lake Skadar, and Luka, our driver and guide, had no problems getting us safely to the viewpoint and back out.
#10 Be awed by the switchback road from Kotor to Cetinje
Full disclosure: we didn’t drive this road on our own! Both my husband and I wanted to enjoy the views without fretting about the road, so we hired a car and driver for the day.
The 24-mile road that connects Kotor to the old Montenegrin capital of Cetinje is super exciting. Part of the road is called the Kotor Serpentine, and if you see aerial photos of the road, you’ll see exactly why it has that name.
With 25 numbered switchbacks, and views looking down upon the picturesque Bay of Kotor, the opportunities for oohing and aahing over the views and taking photos are endless.
Driving the road during the day is plenty exciting, but driving along it at twilight adds a whole another dimension of thrills. By the time we were down to the lowermost switchbacks, it was dark.
Our local driver seemed pretty unruffled as he negotiated the hairpin bends, but I heaved a sigh of relief when we were back at water level!
#11 Stroll through the old Montenegrin capital of Cetinje
Founded in the 15th century, the old royal capital of Montenegro is a lovely place to visit. Cetinje sits on a karst plain in the midst of tall mountains, and its name is derived from the Cetina river.
Visit the Cetinje Monastery, which had to be rebuilt several times over after it was destroyed time after time by Ottoman invaders.
Pop into the little Court Church on Cipur, just across the street. Set in the midst of beautiful green meadows, the church is the resting place of King Nikola and his wife.
Walk the streets of Cetinje, where you can admire the architecture. Many countries had their embassies in Cetinje during its time as the capital of a European nation.
#12 Take a walk through Old Town Budva
Budva in general is sadly overdeveloped, a pity because its location by the Adriatic is simply spectacular. But Old Town Budva is definitely worth a visit.
Set right on the water, the orange rooftops of Old Town Budva beguile you even from a distance. Up close, you can wander its charming narrow streets, lined with stores and eateries.
Pay the entrance fee to visit the Citadel. The views of the water and the town rooftops are beautiful, and the terrace cafe is a nice place to relax for a bit with a drink and a pastry.
#13 Marvel at the beauty of Sveti Stefan
Sveti Stefan is a gorgeous islet set in the Adriatic Sea off the Montenegrin coast. It used to be a fishing village, but now it’s a swanky resort.
The resort is not open to folks that are not guests of the resort. But you can take photos of the islet from a viewpoint on the mainland.
#14 Walk the magnificent Tara Canyon Bridge
Walking the Đurđevića Bridge over the Tara River and Canyon in northern Montenegro is one of the coolest things you can do in the country. The bridge is open to traffic, but there are walkways on both sides along which you can walk from one end to the other.
The beautiful arch bridge was built between 1937 and 1940. It is just under 1,200 feet in length, but trust me, you’ll be stopping every couple of feet to gawk at the scenery on both sides and to take photos. So budget plenty of time!
The bridge comes with a sad story. When Italy took control of the Tara Bridge in 1942, Lazar Jauković, one of the engineers that built the bridge, helped to blow it up, so that Italy could not advance further. But the Italians eventually captured Jauković and executed him.
The bridge was rebuilt in 1946, after the war ended. Today the Tara Canyon is a popular destination for adventure sports such as ziplining and rafting on the river.
If you are based in Kotor, this highly rated tour is a great way to take in Durmitor National Park and Ostrog Monastery. The full-day tour is a long day, but worth it to see Tara Canyon and Black Lake!
Book this tour now!
#15 Visit the Ostrog Monastery
With two churches built into the rock face high above the ground, the Ostrog Monastery will take your breath away. The monastery is dedicated to Saint Basil of Ostrog, who is believed to have performed many miracles of healing.
Pilgrims traditionally walk barefoot from the lower monastery to the upper monastery, where the two churches are located. Wear appropriate attire if you plan to step inside the churches.
Both church interiors have frescoes, and the relics of Saint Basil lie in the Church of the Presentation. The church interiors can get congested during the day.
The views from the monastery are stunning, and the courtyard is a lovely place to relax after your climb. Outside, you’ll find vendors selling colorful blankets. Pilgrims donate them for use by the monks.
It is a steep uphill trek to the monastery from the lower parking lot. You can either climb up several flights of steep old steps, or trudge up the winding paved road. There is an accessible parking lot at the top though, also used by bus tour groups.
#16 Gape at the beauty of Durmitor National Park
Montenegro is home to a number of gorgeous national parks, but Durmitor National Park is so far the only one to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The park is part of the Dinaric Alps, and was created by glaciers long ago. Outrageously scenic, Durmitor National Park requires at least several hours if you plan to just drive around and maybe do a short easy hike, and a couple of days if you wish to do a long hike.
We didn’t hike when we visited, but attempting at least part of the trail to Bobotov Kuk, the highest peak in the park, is on my wish list for our next visit!
If you’d rather do a structured group tour, you can do a combination tour of Durmitor National Park, Tara Canyon, and Ostrog Monastery from the coast. It’s a long day, but you don’t have to drive!
#17 Enjoy a walk at Black Lake
A visit to Black Lake is a must when you are touring Durmitor National Park. A glacial lake that’s considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, Black Lake is located just under 2 miles from the town of Zabljak.
Located in the shadow of glowering Meded peak, Black Lake gets it name from its dark waters. You can go for a stroll along its perimeter. If you plan to walk to the water, wear waterproof boots: it was quite squishy next to the water when we visited.
The restaurant by the lake is a lovely place to have lunch. And the pine forest along the access road is gorgeous: dark and wild and mysterious.
#18 Explore the old town of Herceg Novi
Herceg Novi sits at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor, and it is the first Montenegrin town you’ll see if you are driving from Dubrovnik. The nearby Savina monastery is also worth a visit.
The Old Town is a picturesque jumble of red tiled roofs going down a hillside. Wandering the streets is a must! We did it on a rainy day and still enjoyed it.
Climb to the top of Kanli Kula fortress for beautiful views of the rooftops of the town and the water. Visit the Church of the Archangel Michael, and the Church of St. Jeronim. If it’s a nice day, take a boat tour to the beautiful beaches of the Luštica peninsula.
#19 Enjoy some beach time
From Herceg Novi in the north to Ulcinj in the south, Montenegro’s coastal region boasts a number of gorgeous beaches. So if you visit in the summer and the weather is nice, aim to get in some quality beach time!
From Herceg Novi, take a boat ferry out to the beach at Dobreč on the Luštica Peninsula, where the water is crystal clear. In Budva, head to Mogren Beach, to enjoy the beautiful blue Adriatic Sea.
Down south in Ulcinj, enjoy the serenity of Ladies’ Beach, or visit the beach on Ada Bojana, which goes all the way to the Albanian border!
#20 Try rakija or homemade wine
Almost every home in Montenegro has a grape vine in the yard. Most Montenegrin households make their own wine, and sometimes a more potent brew, called rakija. Sooner or later, someone will offer you a taste of rakija in Montenegro!
While rakija in Montenegro is most commonly made from grapes, you’ll occasionally find it made from plums or peaches or other fruits. I couldn’t get up the nerve to even try a sip, but my husband did, and he found it super strong!
If you don’t drink alcohol, try homemade fruit syrup! It’s very sweet, but it tastes awesome diluted in chilled sparkling water.
#21 Visit Ulcinj, Montenegro’s most southern town
We didn’t get to visit Ulcinj on our trip to Montenegro, but it’s on our list for our next visit. The beaches of Ulcinj are among the best in the country, so if you visit in the summer, go check them out!
Velika plaža is Montenegro’s longest stretch of beach: it’s almost 7.5 miles long. And it’s a fine sand beach: you don’t find too many of those along the Adriatic coast.
A visit to picturesque Old Town Ulcinj is a must. Ulcinj is one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic Coast, and you’ll find the walled castle-town on the hill.
Stop by the beautiful 19th century Clock Tower, and Pasha’s Mosque, with the country’s only functioning hammam.
Drive past old olive groves to beautiful Valdanos Cove. Along the way, you can pick up some local olive oil at a roadside stand. Finally, don’t miss Ulcinj Salina, where you can see flamingos in the wild.
#22 Take in the beauty of Rijeka Crnojevica
Rijeka Crnojevica is a tiny, very beautiful town near Lake Skadar. The river of the same name runs through the little village and merges into Lake Skadar.
With its photogenic arched stone bridge and tranquil ambience, Rijeka Crnojevica is a great place to relax for a bit while visiting Lake Skadar National Park. You can also take a boat tour of the lake from here.
The little town was actually the capital of Montenegro at one point, when Ivan Crnojević moved his capital here after the Turks captured his seat in Žabljak. Today, its sleepy beauty will charm you.
#23 Sample local cuisine
Montenegro’s cuisine is varied, with seafood predominant in the coastal region, and meat in the mountains.The prosciutto from Njegusi is famous, as is lamb (or other meat) cooked with potatoes under a dome. And around Lake Skadar, you’ll find lots of freshwater fish.
As a vegetarian, I had a little difficulty finding hearty dishes in restaurants, but the vegetables were some of the most flavorful I’ve had anywhere. Here I had my first taste of Swiss chard with potatoes, a dish I would have all over the Balkans!
If you like seafood, black ink risotto is a must-eat when on the coast. You’ll also find lots of great lamb dishes everywhere in Montenegro, as well as cevapi, which are local sausages.
We ate lots of pastries in Montenegro, but I also enjoyed nuts and dried fruit steeped in local honey, available everywhere in jars.
#24 Do a day trip to Biogradska Gora
Located in central Montenegro, Biogradska Gora National Park is the smallest national park in the country. But it makes up in beauty and diversity of flora and fauna what it lacks in size.
With lots of tall mountains and glacial lakes, Biogradska Gora is fun to drive through. It is home to one of Europe’s last remaining large virgin forests, and you’ll see lots of mature evergreens and deciduous trees. Some trees here are over 500 years old!
Take a walk around Lake Biograd or take a boat out onto the water. If you have the time, you can also do part of one of the longer trails that starts at the Visitor Center.
#25 Explore the southern town of Bar
While you are based on the Montenegrin coast, drive down to the southern town of Bar for a few hours. Far less frequented by tourists and far less developed than Budva, Bar is a little rough around the edges but still fun to explore.
Walk Stari Bar, the Old Town, where you can see ruins from long ago. Admire the oldest olive tree in Europe: it’s 2,000+ years old! You may also want to pick up a bottle of local olive oil here.
Browse artifacts in King Nikola’s Palace, located on the waterfront. Walk the waterfront promenade. Visit the baroque Church of St. Nicholas. There’s a lot to do in Bar!
So there you have it: my list of 25 exciting things to do in Montenegro, one of the most beautiful countries we have visited so far.
If you haven’t yet visited, I hope my list of the most beautiful places to visit in Montenegro inspires you to start planning a trip!
And if you want to learn how to put these fabulous things to do into an itinerary, check out my Montenegro itinerary for ideas on planning your visit!
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