Crowded out by the nearby hotspots of Croatia and Greece, Montenegro often gets unfairly forgotten. We believe it deserves to be scratched off every backpacker’s map, so we’ve put together a quick guide to Montenegro for backpackers.
Aside from having pretty much every natural landscape you could wish for —beaches, mountains, valleys and canyons —it’s also got history, art and culinary delights covered too. So whether it’s rafting down the Tara River, throwing back a shot of rakija or visiting the Ostrog Monastery, you won’t be stuck for things to do in Montenegro.
What to eat in Montenegro
Montenegrins are real foodies and when it comes to portions they go by the motto ‘the bigger the better’. That applies to both the fancy restaurants and the little rustic tavern-type settings known as konobas. Both give you a hearty helping of flavoursome food. If you’re inland and off the beaten track that’ll cost around €7, but expect the price to rise in busier locations like Budva, Kotor and Tivat.
In these coastal towns, right on the Adriatic Sea, fish is the main dish. Octopus salad, sea bass and cuttlefish ink rice are all major must-tries.
Further inland, by Lake Skadar or Lovćen national park, locals love their wine, cheese and ham. Pljevlja and Njeguski are the main cheeses to try and often follow Balkan cevapi kebabsor burek pastries (also must-tries).
If you’re heading higher to the mountain locations of Cetinje or Žabljak, make sure to dig into jagnjetina ispod saca. This lamb stew may look petty ordinary but, cooked by hot coals, it’s bursting with rustic mountain flavour.
Wash it all down with rakija, a traditional brandy served several times a day in Montenegro.
Where to stay in Montenegro
Montenegro translates to ‘Black Mountain’ and although that sounds kind of sinister, its accommodation is anything but. Many people picture it as a somewhat dilapidated country when, in reality, Montenegro has plenty of cute and quirky hotel, hostel and Airbnb options.
In Budva, the favourites for a budget bed are Freedom Hostel and Saki Guesthouse, while Old Town and Pupa hostels are popular choices in Kotor. You can expect to find a bed in a dorm room for around €7 and a night in a decent Airbnb can be found for about €30 —bargain. Of course, more touristy locations can mean steeper prices, but if you’re savvy enough about sleep arrangements and plan ahead, you should still be able to find a bed for no more than €10 a night.
How to get around Montenegro
Direct flights to the capital of Podgorica or Tivat Airport are pretty common. Some find it cheaper to fly into neighbouring Dubrovnik and make the journey across the border by bus or car.
Whatever way you arrive, once you’re in Montenegro and ready to explore, buses are your best friends. Services like Autoboka, the main operator, make the whole system safe and easy to navigate. With tickets to most major towns for under €15 it’s also an ideal backpacker mode of travel. Making the buses even better is the fact there’s little need to book bus tickets ahead of time – in fact it’s cheaper to buy on the bus, so hello spontaneity and last minute planning. Kotor to Podgorica, Herceg Novi to Tivat, this network has got you covered.
If you’d rather be master of your own journey, then consider renting a car. Prices come in at around €50 a day and allow you to see the stunning scenery up close. The Bay of Kotor to Cetinje, Podgorica to Andrijevica and Tara Canyon to the Piva Canyon are some of the most Insta-worthy drives to do with canyons, bridges, peaks, drops and historic towns making this a journey to stay awake for. The only thing to note is that the rugged terrain may add additional time onto any journey, so factor that in.
Where to party in Montenegro
We’ve already mentioned how Montenegrins love a casual brandy and that same social spirit translates into Montenegro’s nightlife. Of course, those more rural locations tend to have less going on, but the likes of Podgorica and Budva have big party scenes. In fact, it’s clubs like Emporio, Maltez and Top Hill that have given Budva its nickname as the Montenegrin Miami.
Back in Podgorica, if you’re looking for some laid-back bars with a quirky vibe, Caffe Berlin, Buda Bar and Bibliotheque, with its literarydécor, are top places to go before it all culminates somewhere like Culture Club Tarantino, where the token telephone box is a favourite photo pitstop.
From open-air clubs, chill-out bars to underground raves, Montenegro really has it all covered, and with the average price of a beer coming in at only €2, it’s bottoms up.