Experience roadtripping, hiking, and camping Montenegro best places along the Adriatic Coast, the Bay of Kotor, Buljarica Beach, and Durmitor National Park.
Guest Post by Joey Holmes
Table of Contents
- 1 Roadtripping, Hiking & Camping Montenegro
- 2 Montenegro Best Places: Kotor
- 3 Montenegro Best Places: Buljarica Beach
- 4 Montenegro Best Places: Durmitor National Park
- 5 A Word About Driving in Montenegro
- 6 Back for More
- 7 Discover More European Destinations at Backroad Planet
- 8 Map It!
- 9 We Would Love to Hear From You
- 10 Pin this Post!
Roadtripping, Hiking & Camping Montenegro
Everyone’s heard of Croatia.
The country received almost 20 million tourists last year who all “did” it: got the suntan, sampled the lager, lazed on the golden sands, and dabbled with the colorful nightlife.
Montenegro, on the other hand, isn’t quite so well known, or indeed, visited. Though it shares the same pristine coastline as it’s ever-popular neighbor, Croatia, it only received around 1 million visitors the same year, and that was a significant increase on the previous year.
Luckily for me, I was one of the those visitors.
It was mid-July when we landed in Dubrovnik, just near Montenegro’s western border. Our party of four had twelve days on our hands. We had not much more of a plan than to “do” Croatia for a few days and spend the rest of our time roadtripping, hiking, and camping Montenegro best places.
So we hopped in our Croatian rental car, headed east toward the border to escape the hoards and to see what the dusty road had to offer.
Montenegro Best Places: Kotor
It turns out the roads in Montenegro aren’t so dusty after all. Not near Kotor and its jaw-dropping scenery, at least.
Boasting a walled medieval old town, complete with its own cathedral, Kotor is a must on the itinerary of any visitor. This UNESCO World Heritage site sits below Mount Lovec—the inspiration behind the name of Montenegro, which translated means Black Mountain—and it is nestled into the deepest corner of the fjord-like Gulf of Kotor. This body of water receives vast cruise ships that seem to dwarf the harbor and the edges of the town.
If you like cats, then you’ll LOVE Kotor. They are everywhere. There is even a cat museum! We didn’t visit that. Instead, we whiled away much of our day getting lost in the winding, cobbled streets of the old town—the best way to peek into the secret lives of the street cats.
Of course the ancient architecture was intriguing and the history fascinating. Plus, the views at the top of our scramble through the undergrowth to the upper wall ruins was worth the sweat, scratches . . . and dust!
Ah, but the cats . . .
There is also a small pebble beach which provides an excellent place for a picnic and a much-needed swim. Although that didn’t seem to be the “done thing,” as we were the only ones enjoying the cool and refreshing waters of the deep gulf. Even so, it helped put Kotor on the list of Montenegro best places.
Montenegro Best Places: Buljarica Beach
Our next stop took us further southeast along the coast. We were wanting some beach time, and after some extensive research—trying out as many beach options as a day of driving would allow—found the perfect spot: Buljarica.
You’ll not find much about this place in the guidebooks. By all accounts it’s fairly unremarkable: a pretty bay lined with caravans and small holiday shacks set against an arid mountainous backdrop.
But there was a very cheap campsite (field where you could pitch your tent) only meters from the beach, a bar, a restaurant, and of course the inviting turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea.
Plus, there were very few English speakers, and Buljarica is a holiday destination for Montenegrins, giving us the chance to properly holiday like the locals at yet another one of Montenegro best places.
From the coarse sands of Buljarica Beach you can take a boat trip around to Uvala Pecin, or Queen’s Beach. This secluded and idyllic bay is inaccessible by car and is a big attraction for visitors. Well worth a trip, we were told.
However, there were more important matters at hand: beach volleyball. The local holiday-makers, who spend their time sitting outside their shacks but not on the sand, seemed to have control over the single net on the beach. The only way we were allowed to use the court was if we took them on—at least that’s what we understood of our negotiations with them. Despite their initially intimidating and surly demeanours, they turned out to be excellent sports, funny, very silly, and also a little bewildered at the idea of women playing sport!
There were no clear winners, that I recall, but let’s just say that we didn’t let our country down . . . .
So after our fill of excellent local dishes, and with gashed knees from the intense volleyball competitions on the gravelly sand, we packed up camp and headed north.
Montenegro Best Places: Durmitor National Park
Durmitor National Park, also a UNESCO World Heritage site, is situated up in the northwest region of the country, a 3 to 5-hour drive from the coast, depending on which way you go. We took a fairly direct route along main roads that occasionally turned into 4-lane roadways.
The beauty of Montenegro, for roadtrippers, is its size. With an area of only 13,812 km2, you can really get around easily. Plus, the roads are relatively quiet, if not a little scary at times.
The further north we ventured, the higher we climbed. The scenery became more and more dramatic with every bend and the air turned cooler. It became alpine, and was a welcome contrast to the heat of the beach and its scorching sand.
We arrived in the mountain town of Zabljak late in the afternoon to stock up on supplies for the coming days. Zabljak is a ski town through the winter months. Come summer, it provides a picturesque base to access the network of hiking trails in Durmitor National Park, which is what we were there for.
With a rough route planned out, and some advice from the wardens about water sources and such, we ditched our car and took to the trails on foot.
Most people head to Durmitor for day hikes. You can reach Bobotov Kuk, the highest peak, in one big day. Some hikers set up a base camp in the mountains, or stay at one of the mountain refuges, and satellite out to surrounding peaks each day.
We wanted to make a journey of our time there, so we did a 4-day circular route. And boy are we glad we did!
First of all, one of the days we were there happened to be the anniversary of the opening of the national park. This meant that hoards of day hikers made the pilgrimage to the top of Bobotov on that day. Thankfully, we’d bagged that peak the previous day— had it all to ourselves late in the afternoon as we didn’t need to allow time to hike out.
Secondly, our circular route took us away from the more commonly trekked trails and into areas that were pretty tricky to access in just a day. The result was that it felt like we had most of the park all to ourselves. We only encountered one couple also taking on a multi-day route, and they were going in the opposite direction to us.
Our four days hiking in the park were the absolute highlight of the trip.
You can free camp anywhere in Durmitor National Park, although the wardens encouraged us to stay at or near the refuges.
Instead, we chose some epic spots with stunning views that couldn’t have worked out better for us; the weather delivered perfectly for camping Montenegro. We had one overcast afternoon and a few spots of rain, but otherwise the sun beat down in that invigoratingly refreshing way that only mountain air can make happen.
The area exceeded our expectations by a million miles. The mountain scenery is dramatic and varied. There are crazy rock formations ranging from pointy pinnacles to vast folds of rock flanking the valley sides.
The wildflowers were a spectacle on a whole other level, and the blue lakes offered yet more variety, and respite from the July sun.
All things considered, camping Montenegro was a dream, and Durmitor National Park was the very best of the Montenegro best places.
A Word About Driving in Montenegro
I’d read a few things about the risks of driving a Croatian rental car in Montenegro; that the locals aren’t as respectful of their neighbors’ vehicle choices as you or I might be. But we found our foreign number plates to be no problem at all.
The style of driving adopted by Montenegrins, however, was another matter entirely! I am well used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road while abroad. And negotiating small, winding roads through steep mountain passes (on the wrong side of the road) are nothing new to me, either.
What was new to me, was finding myself dealing with oncoming traffic coming directly at me—in my lane—each time I took a bend on the mountain passes. It was exciting, to say the least! Apparently a two-lane road is always wide enough for three cars.
Thankfully, there was an abundance of police patrol cars on all the main routes, which kept the speeds low-ish in the high risk areas. That said, be sure to stick to the speed limits—which aren’t always as obviously signed as you might hope—the police really are everywhere.
Back for More
If I’d had my way I would have spent the rest of the trip in the quiet of the Montenegrin mountains. But as a group we agreed to move on.
In all honesty, Croatia was a bit of a letdown after such a wonderful time in the small unknown country of Montenegro. Croatia was unexpectedly expensive, crowded and very tourist-focused. That’s not to say we didn’t have a great time. But it didn’t make me want to go back.
The little “taster” I got of roadtripping, hiking, and camping Montenegro best places, has most certainly left me hungry for more.
Discover More European Destinations at Backroad Planet
We Would Love to Hear From You
We enjoy dialogue with our readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. Have you ever experienced roadtripping, hiking, and camping Montenegro best places? If so, we would love to hear about your experience. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!