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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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