I have just returned from a wonderful week in Montenegro, a petite country in the south-east of Europe, next to Croatia, sitting on the Adriatic Sea and having an intoxicating vibrant Mediterranean energy. A destination which I believe is very underrated and a place where I will certainly revisit on multiple occasions for its beauty and adventure.
This country on the southern Adriatic coast never ceases to amaze, from its natural beauty of green forest covered mountains, sun-kissed beaches, clear lakes and many island beauties to its cozy towns filled with ancient history and architecture.
Ideally I would recommended renting a car so as you can explore all the wonderful regions which I will break down below, but first let me share my experience at the beautiful luxury resort One & Only Portonovi located in the Herceg Novi region at the entrance of Boka Bay on Montenegro’s Adriatic Sea.
Fifteen minutes drive from Tivat airport and you arrive at the ferry crossing for a 10 minute ocean crossing. Its such a lovely way to be introduced to Montenegro with the stunning fjord like mountain range and the picturesque coast line.
The One & Only Portonovi is the first location of this reputable brand in Europe and its located on the waters edge in the glamorous new Portonovi Marina. Surrounded by the ocean and rugged mountains with a large beautiful white sandy beach and pretty grounds lush in lavender and agapanthus flowers, the setting for this resort starts lulling you into that luxury-tinted peaceful feeling.
The property provides a modern Venetian architecture with many room categories in different buildings which all offer either beach front or Boka Bay views. We stayed in the Panoramic Bayview Room with sweeping views of Boka Bay and Tapasake Club which is their Japanese restaurant around the adult pool – a daily beehive of activity with a DJ usually playing cool vibes and a selection of beds and amazing cabanas scattered around the pool with easy access into the sea.
The large open plan rooms are beautifully designed with the signature One & Only finish and come with a large balcony. I have to say the bathroom is simply stunning - a lounge chair is located in the middle of the bathroom, two sinks, his and her wardrobes, separate shower and a bath come day bed under the huge window – a perfect relaxing area overlooking the ocean. If spending time in the bathroom is your thing then this is the prefect location for that!
The rooms are a very generous size but the suites take comfort to another level – huge, elegant and available in a 2 bedroom which are perfect for families. If you want to have a private pool then there are two Mediterranean style villas which offer a 2 and 3 bedrooms . With arched hallways and cool stone floors exuding Montenegrin style, while the lush outdoor living area draws you out to enjoy your private pool and inviting garden on the edge of Boka Bay.
For larger families I would recommend the Signature Villas which are located slightly away from the main hotel but have buggy access. These villas are all duplex with 3,4 and 5 bedrooms and have a private beach, private jetty, large gardens with a pool and come with butler service. I could see my family settling in quiet nicely to the modern yet elegant villas and spending the entire summer relaxed with easy access to visit all the regions within Montenegro.
The two headline restaurants are beachside Sabia, from Michelin Starred Italian hero Giorgio Locatelli, and Tapasake Club, from ex-Nobu Chef Yannick Bayjoo. This kind of pedigree speaks for itself and delivers exactly based on that kind of level.
La Veranda is set within the gardens and serves all day dining and where breakfast is served. If you fancy dinner out of the hotel one evening then a 5 minutes walk to Portonovi Marina you will find many dining spots to chose from.
The food in Montenegro was amazing – if you love seafood then you certainly will not be disappointed!
There is an excellent all day kids club, a buzzing climbing activity centre along with a long list of indoor activities as well as the requisite water sports such as kayaks, SUPs, water polo and beach volleyball; there is also an expansive infinity pool to lounge around and three fresh water pools located next to the sandy beach. You can also take a One & Only boat from their jetty to explore the hidden gems such as the submarine caves and the blue caves.
Chenot Espace Medical Spa
This is a destination in its own right and perfect to visit any month of the year. The impressive Chenot Espace spa combines Chinese medicine and Western technology. It runs intensive multi-day detox programs, supervised by doctors and nutritionists, tailored to individual guest's requirements. Treatments include bio-energy, hydrotherapy, cryotherapy, ozone therapy and hydro-colon flushes. There's a modern gym with the best equipment and personal trainers, and the most beautiful indoor pool I’ve ever seen. Combined with the relaxing ambiance and great cuisine I would come again just for the spa.
One & Only Portonovi is a stunning property that has everything you need and more. It's an ideal place to simply relax, inhale the fresh sea breeze air and explore the magic of Montenegro.
Regions of Montenegro
known for its state-of-the-art luxury marina (owned by The Investment Corporation of Dubai, main investment arm of the Government of Dubai) offers a great marina lifestyle with designer boutiques, great restaurants and the marina club which offers sailing and is also home to Buddha Bar.
Bay of Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest natural harbor in the Eastern Mediterranean. Here you will see lots of cruise liners coming in to the harbor. Book a private boat tour to explore nearby attractions such as Our Lady of the Rocks, St George Island, the Blue Caves (amazing clear ocean perfect for swimming) and explore the submarine tunnels.
Old Kotor you can walk around the old piazzas and through the narrow streets you will spot the famous walls which is a trademark of the town. The walk will take you approx. 1 hour and provide stunning views.
Perast is located in the Bay of Kotor and for me my favorite region as its so picturesque with lots of lovely eateries on the waters edge. Its just one kilometre end-to-end, but what makes Perast truly unique is that the town has kept its traditional appearance, meaning there’s no modern architecture and all the buildings are built in the traditional stone style with Baroque Palaces and churches. The stone palaces and church belfries are interspersed with palm trees, vivid greenery and bright purple bougainvillea flowers that climb up over terraces and shade courtyards. It’s almost like the town has been frozen in time, its so pretty and a great place to enjoy lunch or dinner.
While in Perast, right opposite you will see the two most famous islands - Saint George Island a Benedictine monastery, and the other, Our Lady of the Rocks, which is a Catholic church and museum that attracts thousands of visitors. If you want to do a quick tour of both of the islands you can take a boat across.
Although it’s become a busy tourist destination, Perast’s charm is undeniable and a visit to, or stay in, this historic town is a must when you visit the Bay of Kotor.
Cetinje is the spiritual capital of Montenegro and home to the Royal Castle, museums and many monasteries including Cetinje Monastery. 35 minutes past Cetinie is Budva Rivera famous for its beautiful beaches, great restaurants and a fun nightlife.
While in Budva Riviera make sure you visit the unique island Sveti Stefan which used to be a hotel – its so beautiful. Sveti Stefan is a signature postcard moment of Montenegro and a must see.
Bar is the largest coastal town in Montenegro. Enjoy the area and then make your way to the old town of Bar which preserves the spirit of old Turkish towns, paved with stone.
Head south towards Ulcinj down the coastal road and head towards the old town. Here you will hear tales about the pirates and Cervantes, a prisoner of the dungeon. Walk around Ada Bojana the place where the River Bojana meets the sea and stop for lunch at one of the many wonderful restaurants offering gastronomic experiences.
Take the old road to Ostros the picturesque route to Podgorica the capital of Montenegro. Drive along the shore of Lake Skadar which is the largest lake in the Balkans and visit the scenic town of Virpazar.
There are lots of ways you can experience Skadar Lake’s beauty and culture. From the national park’s gateway town of Virpazar you can take a relaxing boat cruise to see the wildlife and islands, or explore on your own in a kayak or hike up the trails and stumble on ruined fortresses.
Durmitor National Park is one of the most beautiful National Parks in this part of Europe. Among over 18 glacial lakes called mountain eyes, the Black Lake takes the prime. Whichever option you go with, you will experience Montenegro’s wild beauty. Visit two beautiful areas: Biogradska Gora on the north east or Durmitor on the north of the country. Biogradska Gora is an untouched forest with trees over five-hundred-years old, large mountain slopes and glacier lakes at over 1800 meters, and an easily accessible lake at the very entrance to the Park.
Again this is a great location for kayaking, zip lining, hiking and horse riding.
One of the deepest canyons in Europe is Tara River which snakes between sky- high mountains,. Here you can explore canyons, dive off cliffs into spectacular waterfalls and ride the thrilling rapids. This is where you can enjoy incredible moments surrounded in nature and then raise your adrenaline even further as you cascade down some ferocious white water rafting.
This area is also called the Tear of Europe because the water is so pure you can literally drink it!
If you want to take it slow, enjoy the more rustic side of Montenegro and visit Lustica peninsular its such a pretty raw area that's recently built a stunning new marina and housing development. There is one hotel in this area, read the review here:
For more information on Montenegro, exclusive hotel rates and a detailed family itinerary contact Unique Family Travels.
* If you are visiting Croatia/Montenegro add a few extra days to your trip and visit Montenegro/Croatia - it's an easy border crossing from Dubrovnik. International airlines that don't land in Montenegro will land in Croatia.
* If you are renting a car – keep swimwear with you at all times as the coastal road is so inviting to simply pull over, enjoy a beach hut bite to eat and have a dip in the ocean.
*From Dubai - FlyDubai fly direct to Montenegro during late June/July/August and early September. Vaccinated visitors only require showing their vaccination report. UAE Nationals do not require visas to enter.
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