Montenegro, which means ‘Black Mountain’ in English has increasingly grown as a yacht charter destination since its emergence 10 years ago after a vote of independence from its union with Serbia.
Bordered by Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, the scenery has been compared to Canada, New Zealand or Austria but Montenegro exists as a unique country with its’ own character, rich in a diverse mix of medieval towns, and stunning natural beauty including beautiful National Parks, Instagram-ready beaches facing the Adriatic Sea, densely forested mountains and spectacular waterways.
Montenegro has 3 main seaports and a number of existing and proposed marinas including Zelenika, Meljine, Luštica, PortoNovi, Budva, and Porto Montenegro.
Porto Montenegro is a full service marina in Tivat offering 450 berths, onsite provisioning, a Crew Club (membership is free with bar, access to the Port Montenegro Sailing Club and complimentary use in winter of a ski chalet), Wifi, chandlery services and the Italian palazzo-styled Regent Hotel Porto Montenegro with swimming pools, dining and Spa facilities. Porto Montenegro is situated 7 kilometres from Tivat Airport, 46 kilometres from Dubrovnik Airport and 96 kilometres from the airport in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital city.
The Porto Montenegro Marina Village has amenities including a bank, grocery store, drycleaner, hair salon, florist, Sports Club and day spa – ideal for short visits or longer yacht charters. Luxury residential complexes at Porto Montenegro are named after significant Montenegrin figures including Milena (named after the Queen under whose rule Montenegro gained independence), or Teuta (the Illyrian Queen who reigned from 231 BC to 227 BC).
Chic boutiques cover high-end shopping across brands such as Lanvin, Valentino, Givenchy, Tom Ford, Chloé and Isabel Marant with tax-free shopping benefits for visitors from outside Montenegro (Spend a minimum of 100€ in the same boutique in Porto Montenegro displaying a Tax Refund sign and you can claim back up to 19% VAT). Porto Montenegro also has a Naval History Museum which has interesting collections of maritime artefacts including a restored P821 Yugoslav submarine which keeps children entertained after they burn off the energy at the museum playground.
For food and wine options ashore, Porto Montenegro presents a range of restaurants and bars that cater for different tastes – try Adriatic cuisine at ONE, enjoy a glass of fine wine at Crush Wine Station, share Lebanese meze at Byblos Restaurant and Meze Lounge, sip cognac at the Regent Library Bar or sample Chef Mitsuteru Arai’s authentic Japanese and oriental fusion creations at his namesake restaurant ‘Mitsu’. In summer, the heat turns up at Platinum where you’ll find cocktails, live entertainment and the best sound system in town attracting punters until the wee small hours.
Montenegro is often combined with Croatia for amazing yacht charter itineraries that highlight the best of both countries, and as a stand-alone charter destination it’s certainly gaining more momentum with berths and fuel at a lower cost than Western Mediterranean ports.
A Balkan Pearl
Montenegro sits at the crossroads between Europe and the East – a melange of religious faiths, cultures and cuisines and therefore it has a complex history being ruled in the past by Venetians, Yugoslavs, the Ottomans and Austro-Hungarians and French.
For a small country, Montenegro is like a pearl, revealing its true beauty on closer inspection. When on a yacht charter, there are a multitude of beautiful places to discover in Montenegro. Naturally, coastal zones are a prerequisite but some of the most breath taking locations are found further inland so it’s easy to visit many fantastic areas when ashore, especially when taking advantage of the 250 sunshine days a year the country boasts.
Located at the entrance to Boka Kotorska, better known as or the Bay of Kotor, Herceg Novi was founded by Bosnian King Tvrtko I as a key stop on the salt route. Stroll the promenade with palms and banana trees, explore some of the town’s fortifications such as Kanli Kula or Forte Mare (Sea Fortress), appreciate the frescoes and coastal views from the Savina Monastery or cruise across to the clear waters of Žanjice.
The Bay of Kotor is a maritime highway with fjord-like beauty that anchors the eye from the sky to the mountains and sea at the narrowest point, just 300 metres wide. UNESCO-listed Kotor was rebuilt extensively after earthquake damage in 1979, today this walled town is a must-see destination for yacht charter guests. Stop by the St Clara Church with its baroque altar, visit the watchmaker shop run by the same family for over 300 years under the iconic Kotor Clock, or muster the stamina to pound the 1200 steps up to the Kotor Fortress on St John’s Hill for jaw-dropping views over the bay and Old Town. At night, the bay looks spectacular when the walls of the Fortress are illuminated in an arc up the hillside.
Muo and Prčanj are fishing villages across the bay from Kotor Old Town and offer great Adriatic dining; take in the marvellous views of the Bay of Kotor as you dine on seafood at Konoba Lanterna.
Perast is nearby to Kotor but poles apart in character. This UNESCO-listed town is more relaxed than Kotor and resplendent with 16 churches and 17 preserved baroque palaces. Drop into the Perast Museum housed in the Bujović Palace to view the period furniture and old maritime charts before climbing the belltower of St Nikola Church for great views. From Perast, you can see 2 small islands – St George and Our Lady of the Rocks. Tiny St George has an old monastery and graveyard, and Our Lady of the Rocks is a man-made island with a chapel built to honor the icon Virgin Mary and Child; entrance to the chapel is free. Every year on 22 July, locals participate in the fašinada where they row boats out and throw rocks into the sea at sunset in a symbolic act of widening the island.
Thirty minutes from Kotor, you’ll find the walled city of Budva. It has a reputation as a resort town and is the place to go for night life or to head to Bečići, one of the most popular beaches. Just outside of Budva, Aman Sveti Stefan is a 5-star resort connected to the mainland by a miniature isthmus. For those that miss out on reserving an Adriatic Suite or Grand Suite with ocean views, you can admire the islet from the adjacent public beach.
Bar is mainly a port town and transport hub, however Stari Bar located an hour up in the hills is worth a visit to ramble through the uncrowded ruins.
Cetinje, was the former Montenegrin capital until 1946 and is full of medieval architecture and religious buildings. Top attractions there include the Vlaška Church, Cetinje Monastery and the National Museum of Montenegro.
Ostrog Monastery is a Orthodox Christian monastery situated around 3 hours’ drive from Kotor or one hour’s drive northwest from the city of Podgorica. Reached via precipitous mountain roads with hairpin bends, it’s a significant pilgrimage site in the Balkans and worth the journey to see the buildings built into the vertical cliff.
The most southernmost town near to Albania, Ulcinj has over 20 kilometres of beaches on the Montenegrin coast and an impressive Old Town. Stretch out in the sun or try kite surfing at Velika Plaza (Big Beach), eat fresh fish on the island of Ada Bojana or go bird watching at the Ulcinj Salinas, an important bird habitat for over 250 species including flamingos and pelicans.
Stunning natural beauty
Just 40 minutes’ drive from Cetinje, Lovčen National Park has extreme altitudes that foster diverse flora and fauna including 2000 plant species. A major attraction of the park is the Njegoš Mausoleum dedicated to the Prince-Bishop of Montenegro – you can reach it via 460 steps and the views from atop the mountain are wide reaching.
We highly recommend visiting Durmitor National Park, a beautiful area of northern Montenegro with mirror-like lakes, mountains and canyons. Winter welcomes skiiers and snowboarders; the rest of the year visitors make good use of the hiking trails. There are 18 glacial lakes in the park – don’t miss stopping by the major attraction Crno Jezero, the Black Lake, where you can follow a walking path around the perimeter. Typical wildlife in the park includes wolves, eagles and brown bears. Tara River Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the USA and 82 kilometres in length with the turquoise and emerald green Tara River pleasing adventure seekers who choose to raft or kayak the river.
Biogradska Gora, located in central Montenegro has been a protected area since 1878 and exists as the sole temperate rainforest in Europe. As expected, the flora and fauna there is diverse with a huge range of insect life, birds, mammals and plants. A shore excursion can incorporate forest walks or fishing.
National Park Skadar located on the border with Albania is a quiet getaway. Lake Skadar, the largest lake in the Balkans is a biodiversity-rich wetlands area for wildlife including the Dalmatian pelican and it’s a scenic setting surrounded by karst mountains.
Head to the Prokletije region, where you can find lakes of spectacular beauty surrounded by forest including Lake Hrid (Hridsko Jezero) and Lake Plav, and the crystal clear Springs of Ali Pasha at Gusinje.
Check out Bespoke Yacht Charter’s Montenegro Yacht Charter Guide
This article was written by Rebecca Whitlocke, who with over 10 years travel industry experience loves to share ‘must-do’ destination tips and hidden spots to discover in Europe and beyond.
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