Offering verdant mountain terrain and turquoise waters in equal measure, Montenegro also has medieval fortresses, old towns and a thriving party scene.
Here’s why every intrepid traveller should fit in a trip to this Balkan gem before the end of the year.
Prices are still relatively cheap compared to other destinations in the eurozone. You can pick up a cone of gelato for a mere 70 cents in Budva or Kotor, for example, and dine like a king for under £15. Villa rentals plus yacht chartering and marina fees are also good value.
Take to the sea
Floating festival The Yacht Week now even includes a Montenegro route, offering the opportunity to live onboard a yacht for seven days, stopping off at pretty Herceg Novi, historic Kotor and the exclusive Porto Montenegro Marina, with parties in hard-to-access venues all included as part of the trip.
Get back to nature
There are five huge national parks in Montenegro, perfect for getting off grid. Get lost in Biogradska Gora, one of the last remaining large virgin forests of Europe, where you can hike, fish, kayak and canoe in relative solitude, or visit Europe’s biggest bird sanctuary at Lake Skadar. Tara River Canyon is a favourite for white-water rafters, and also happens to be Europe’s deepest canyon.
Montenegro’s quaint old towns are a lure for any romantic or history buff. Party spot Budva dates from 2,500 BC; you can walk the medieval city walls and not pass a single tourist on some days. Sunset in Kotor is best enjoyed with a view of its bay from the Castle of San Giovanni, a 1,600-step hike up from the old town.
Herceg Novi’s microclimate
Picturesque Herceg Novi, with its winding, stone-paved alleyways and pick-and-mix architecture left behind by the Venetians, Spanish, Turkish and Austrians who once settled and ruled here, has an unusual microclimate — it’s sunny for more than 200 days of the year.
Clubbing in style
Top Hill, in Budva, should be top of any party-lovers’ Montenegro agenda. This open-air club has a 5,000-person capacity yet people still struggle to get onto the guest list. International DJ acts including Fatboy Slim, Fedde Le Grand and David Morales are flown in.
Squid ink black risotto is a must-try dish, as well as fresh fish wrapped and cooked with seasonal vegetables. Head to Ribarsko Selo, on a rocky outcrop just past Zanjice Beach, for organic vegetables sourced straight from the onsite garden and whole fish caught fresh each day, or opt for no-frills dining at Galerija in Kotor.
See unmanned submarine caves from the Second World War, islands along the coast that are home to Austro-Hungarian forts and crumbling mansions hidden beneath dense foliage.
Montenegro has upped its game in the arts and culture stakes. This year Kotor has hosted an International Art Festival in its old town, while other art festivals have been held in Tivat and Podgorica. The Centre for Contemporary Art hosts rotating exhibitions of international artists’ work, as well as a permanent collection of more than 1,000 works; Galerija Pizana in Podgorica showcases the best contemporary homegrown talent.
The Montenegrin coast is lined with sandy beaches and rocky outcrops that feel almost Jurassic due to the mountainous, plant-laden backdrop. There are also plenty of uninhabited islands, perfect for exploring and escaping the hordes. Sveti Nikola, off the coast of Budva, offers scenes more akin to far-flung destinations in Thailand or the Philippines. Zanjice and Miriste Beach, which have a free camping policy, are also both exceptionally lovely.
Ryanair (ryanair.com) offers flights from Stansted to Podgorica from £14.69 one way.