BlogItinerariesMontenegro

Exploring Montenegro: A Breathtaking Road Trip

A funky cafe in Niksic
534Views

In the summer, we spent 8 days in Montenegro and Slovenia, two spectacularly beautiful countries in Central Europe.  My husband and I, and our two daughters (13 and 21 years old) visited as much of each country as we could. One of the amazing things that we did was an epic one day road trip exploring Montenegro.

In total, we spent four nights and three full days in Montenegro. During our time there, we criss-crossed the country. That included going almost the total length and width of the country, nearly reaching Serbia to the north, Croatia to the west, and Albania to the east.

 

exploring Montenegro
The view after leaving the Bay of Kotor.

 

We saw much of this on our first day when we took our road trip to the north, however, not all.  On another day, we took a private speed boat and visited Perast and Our Lady of the Rocks Church, then onto the Blue Caves in the Adriatic Sea. On our final day, we drove east to Lake Skadar National Park for a wonderful day on the lake and the surrounding towns. Montenegro is simply stunning. I would recommend doing everything that we did, and more.

 

exploring montenegro
A view of Perast.

 

In this blog, I am going to discuss in detail our first day, when we took our epic road trip to the north exploring Montenegro. Although most people come to Montenegro to spend time on it’s beautiful coast and its beaches, everyone should allot some time to explore the north. It is beautiful with rugged mountains and glacier lakes that are completely different than the coast. It is well worth the drive!

 

 

Where to Stay

In a previous blog, Kotor Old Town, Montenegro: The Best Place To Stay?, I discussed why we stayed in Kotor while we were there. I think it is worthwhile to read this blog if you are trying to decide where to stay while exploring Montenegro. The country is absolutely jammed packed with mountains. There aren’t a lot of roads and highways and those that exist can be very congested with traffic depending on where you are. You need to be very thoughtful about which town you choose to stay in and what you hope to do while you are there in order to get the most out of your holiday.

 

Exploring Montenegro on our Road Trip

We left early morning from Kotor old town and 13 hours later, we were back. It was a long day but I loved it. My only regret… that we didn’t split up this road trip into 2 or even 3 days. Not that we had the time to do so on this trip. However, there is so much to see and do, it is simply amazing. If you can spare the time, I would HIGHLY recommend giving yourself more time to explore the north.

 

exploring Montenegro
Our road trip

 

The Cost

We hired a driver/guide for this excursion. The cost was ridiculously inexpensive – $90 USD for the driver/guide, plus the cost of the rental car. We were also responsible for all incidentals such as gas, food, and entrance fees to National Parks. These costs were also minimal.

 

The Drive

There are drives that you take that are a means to get to the ultimate destination. There might be moments along the way where you see something beautiful or interesting, or you stop in a town that is fun to visit. However, for the most part, it is the destination for which you are driving.

Then, there are drives where the drive itself and the scenery are the reasons to take the drive. Where every few minutes you want to yell “Stop the car! I need to take another photo!”. This is what you will experience during your WHOLE drive exploring Montenegro. Moment after moment of beautiful views of enormous majestic mountains, and sweeping views down valleys or over lakes and rivers await you on this drive.

 

exploring montenegro
Mountains and valleys are everywhere in Montenegro.

 

Once we left the coast, there was practically no traffic on the road. Quite frankly, we barely saw any tourists anywhere. The exception was Black Lake in Durmitor National Park. We found a few large buses in the parking lot and groups of people hanging around the lake. However, even that was barely noticeable in light of the breathtaking scenery.

 

Risan

We started exploring Montenegro by travelling northwest from Kotor (towards Croatia) along the Bay of Kotor. Our first stop was a small town called Risan. Risan has Roman mosaics from the 2nd AD which have been identified as originating from a Roman Villa. We spent around 15 minutes exploring the mosaics. If you can, I would allot around an hour here so you can fully appreciate these mosaics and learn about their significance.

 

exploring Montenegro
One of the mosaics.

 

Niksic

Our next stop exploring Montenegro was Niksic which is the second largest city (next to Podogorica, the capital) in Montenegro. Niksic has a rich history but there is very little left to see that celebrates that history. We walked the main square and had a coffee at a funky cafe. It is a nice place to do both of these things, but other than that, there isn’t much to see or do here.

 

Durmitor 

Black Lake is a gorgeous glacial lake surrounded by mountains and trees. There are several easy hiking trails, a beach and playgrounds. We only had around 30 minutes to walk and take in the majestic surroundings. I would recommend 2-3 hours here so that you can linger, eat lunch and go for one of the hikes that takes you around the lake.

 

exploring Montenegro
Black Lake

 

Tara River Canyon is one of the deepest river canyons in the world.  We stopped at Tara Bridge and watched some crazy zip-lining across the gorge. I don’t know if I was relieved or disappointed when it started to rain and we couldn’t try the zip-line (I’m thinking relieved…). Rafting along the Tara River is a recommended activity for this area. I could only imagine how beautiful this area would be from deep below the mountain ranges.

 

exploring Montenegro
Tara Bridge

 

 

exploring Montengro
The view from Tara Bridge where people were zip lining.
If you can, I would set aside at least one full day to explore Durmitor National Park, Black Lake and Tara River Canyon.

 

Biogradska Gora

Our next stop exploring Montenegro was Biogradska Gora National Park, the most northeasterly National Park in Montenegro. It is the site of one of the last untouched forests in Europe with trees over 500 years old. We visited Biogradska lake which is attached to a camping ground. Like Durmitor, Biogradska is surrounded by mountains that are over 2000 m (6000 ft) and has six glacial lakes. According to Wikipedia, there are 26 different habitats of plants with 220 different plants, 150 species of birds, and 10 species of mammals that live in this Park. In its forest, there are 86 species of trees and shrubs.

 

exploring Montenegro

Kayaks were available to rent to explore the lake but we didn’t have time to do so. I would have loved a couple of hours here.

 

Moraca Monastery

After Biogradska Gora, we headed south  to Moraca Monastery. This Monastery is a Serbian Orthodox monastery founded in 1252. It is one of the best examples of Medieval architecture in Montenegro. It is on a beautiful compound with mountains on one side and a valley to the other. The monks live with their families next to the church.

 

exploring montenegro
Walking on the grounds of the monastery. The church is in the background.

 

exploring Montenegro
The home where the monks live with their families.

 

exploring montengro

 

exploring Montenegro
The cemetery of the monastery.

 

 

The church is very small but absolutely exquisite. The ceiling is covered in intricate frescos that made me want to lie down and gaze up uninterrupted. We only had around 20 minutes to spend at the monastery. We saw everything. But, I would recommend giving yourself more time to linger in the church.

 

Back To Kotor

By the time we got back in the car after visiting Moraca Monastery, it was already late afternoon. We still had approximately 3 hours of driving before we would reach Kotor. I had hoped we could continue exploring Montenegro. I wanted to stop and see key sites in Podogorica (the capital) and Budva, both on our route home,  but that was impossible with night time approaching. Instead, our driver drove us back to Kotor without stopping in these cities.

The views continued to be spectacular from Moraca Monastery to Kotor.

 

Conclusion

We took one of our three full days of exploring Montenegro to drive to the north and see as much of the country as we could. I am thrilled with that decision. Had we not done that, I would not have believed that the majestic mountain ranges that surround the Bay of Kotor continue throughout all of Montenegro. Nor would I have believed how untouched by tourism Montenegro is once you leave the coast. My only regret is only having one day to make this road trip. If you love nature and the ability to explore areas that have not yet been impacted by tourism, then I would encourage you to treat yourself to a few days to see this beautiful part of the world.

If you would like to save this article for future use, please click on “Save” on the photo below. 

A one day road trip from the Adriatic Sea north through rugged mountains and glacier lakes. A spectacular way to explore Montenegro. #travel #familytravel #Montenegro #Europe | Balkans, Bay of Kotor, Black Lake, Durmitor National Park, Kotor, Kotor old town, Lady of the Rocks, Perast, Podogorica, Tara Canyon, Tivat, Vardar Hotel, World Unesco, Yugoslavia|

18 Comments

  • I knew Montenegro is becoming a touristic place, putting there a lot of services and taking care of customers. I will have a better look after your post about this amazing place.

    • Yes, the tourist infrastructure is very good. The locals were very friendly, hard working, intelligent and offered great service. It would be a nice place to go on your next trip to Europe.

  • I did not know that Montenegro was so beautiful. A road-trip must have been super fun. I and my husband loves to drive around too. And I am shocked at the prices, 90 dollars is so cheap.

  • Montenegro is a beautiful country, also I recommend you visit Tivat on your next visit, you can never miss with Budva, although it can be a bit on the pricey side, but the beauty of the city and the beaches is excellent

  • I have heard really great things about Montenegro. It’s crazy that it’s possible to circle the whole country in one day! How are the roads there? I think I would like to rent a car and drive it myself if the driving isn’t too crazy over there!

    • For the most part, the roads are very good. If you were to duplicate our drive, I would have no hesitation to recommend renting your own car and doing it on your own. We had such limited time, I just wanted to see as much as we could without worrying we would get lost. However, there were some roads that I would ABSOLUTELY not recommend driving on your own. This was not the case with this road trip, but we did go on one on our trip from Lake Skadar. It was death defying trip down the side of a mountain with practically no barriers. I think there are a few of these very dangerous roads in Montenegro. I don’t think that should stop you from renting a car and doing this trip. I just think that you should ask a lot of questions from locals about whether your proposed route has any issues.

    • From what I saw, it looks like the people love children and they welcome them. The only concern that I had was one day our driver showed up without the middle seat belt working on our rental car. We refused to use that car and he seemed genuinely perplexed why we would care whether our daughter had a seatbelt. When I asked whether he would put his child in a car without a seatbelt, he shrugged and said yes, This reaction was similar when we talked to the travel agent.

  • That is a beautiful town! Very walkable and scenic. We would definitely love to visit there; too bad it’s a bit impossible for us at present due to our familial responsibilities.

  • I appreciate you were constrained in terms of time but you would have loved the road trip so much more if you had 1-2 weeks for it. I did a road trip in Montenegro last year and in 1 week we covered only Kotor, the bridge with the zip line (we stayed not too far away from there for 3 Days in this eco-village place – views were out of this world), and climbed bobotov kuk which is the highest peak in Montenegro. And it already felt a bit rushed. Also – I suggest hiring a car next time without the guide, a bit of googling can save a lot of money. Especially if you are not crossing any borders.

    Oh… This brought so many good memories!

    • I’m glad that you had the time to enjoy northern Montenegro. Next time, I will definitely give myself more time to really explore Durmitor National Park and the surrounding area. Self driving would not have worked on this one day trip. We all wanted to look out at the scenery and enjoy the drive which we were able to do with a driver and guide. The extra 90 euros for the driver was excellent value and allowed us to relax and enjoy our day.

  • I was hardly aware of this pristine locality called Montenegro. You have nicely listed all the places in one. Durmitor national park looked really interesting. The best way I think now is road trip across these places.

  • This is so beautifully rustic and charming. Those hills and valleys look so pretty and so does the monastery. I would love to stay there.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

I would love to send you the latest content first.
Let's explore the world together!
I respect your privacy and no spam emails will be sent.