Montenegro had caught my attention when about ten years ago, a friend showed me some holiday pictures. They displayed some charming, old buildings with playful accents like a brightly-colored door or colorful flower pots. A small cobblestone street ran through the village and behind it, some majestic mountains peaked out that looked very inviting. Since, I have always been looking for an opportunity to visit, and last October, I was finally able to go.
It was a wonderful trip, and even more so because the guy with whom I had planned on going months before... had become my boyfriend in the meantime. But the landscapes were pretty nice too! :)
As soon as I find time, I'll write more detailed blog posts about the places we've been to, but in the meantime, I'll give you our itinerary, which might help you plan your own trip. We've travelled for two weeks and a half, but for most people, at least three weeks would probably be better (unless you like waking up with the first light at 6:30am -as we did- to see as much as possible in a day). In our defense, in October, the sun goes under around 5:30pm, so we wouldn't be able to do much if we didn't wake up early.
As mentioned early, we've driven around by car, which I guess is the easiest way to do this kind of trip. It was a long drive from Belgium, but once in Montenegro, it came in really handy to have car to move around. I don't think it's very easy to get to all those small and remote places using public transportation. Additionally, the car gave us extra flexibility, because not knowing where we'd end up by the end of the day, we often simply parked when we were tired and slept in the car.
So here's what we did:
Day 1: A long ride from Brussels in Belgium to Rothenburg in Germany. After visiting Rothenburg in the evening, we spent the night there.
Day 2: We came back to see Rothenburg by daylight, after which we set of for another long ride to Rovinj in Croatia. At night, we ate out in Rovinj and strolled through its old cobblestone street center, then slept there.
Day 3: We visited Rovinj again in the morning and made our last long drive until reaching Herceg Novi in Montenegro, which is where we slept.
Day 4: It felt like the holidays had really begun now! On a bright sunny day we visited Herceg Novi, which isn't very large, so we got around in a few hours. We drove up to the abandoned Spanjola Fortress. We rode around the entire bay of Kotor, with a quick stop in Risan (which wasn't really special). Perast was nice and very nice to walk through as we arrived by the end of the day and all tourists had already left. By sunset we had arrived at the lovely little place of Stari Mlini. We drove on in the dark until we reached Kotor, where we would spend the night.
Day 5: We had a lot to do today, so we woke up super early to visit the center of Kotor, which streets were still completely empty when we walked around the center. After breakfast, we started our climb up to the fortress on the hill next to Kotor. In the early afternoon, we were back in the center of Kotor, so we drove on to the Njegos mausoleum through the Lovcen National Park. After a quick visit of Cetinje, we parked and slept somewhere between Cetinje and Rijeka Crnojevica.
Day 6: In the early morning, we visited Rijeka Crnojevica with its famous bridge, which seemed to be preparing itself for hords of tourist coming in later in the day. In Virpazar we walked to the Besac Castle for a panoramic view over the village. We absolutely loved exploring Godinje with its overgrown stone houses and ruines. Vranjina wasn't very appealing, so we took one photo and left again in the direction of Pavlona Strana, to watch the sunset over the river bend. We spent the night in the car somewhere close to Kosmac Fortress.
Day 7: It was an easy hike up the hill to Kosmac Fortress, completely abandoned, and thus especially charming. We drove back to the coastline to visit Budva with its maze of small streets. In the early evening, we drove past Petrovac, which didn't seem very interesting, but stopped a little further, at Sveti Stefan to take a photo of the islet that now has become a luxury holiday resort. We drove up to until Bar to spend the night there.
Day 8: It was so windy when we hiked up to the castle ruins of Haj Nehaj that at the top, we were afraid to be blown off the cliff. In the afternoon we visited the old village of Stari bar and finally, we made it just in time to Ulcinj to see the sun dive into the sea.
Day 9: We came back the next morning to visit Ulcinj by daylight. Then, we drove to Albania and stopped just over to border to watch an unexpected traditional singing and dancing event. We resumed our trip to visit the Shkoder Rozafa castle and the city of Shkoder (which had only one 'touristic' pedestrian street). Our furthest point in Albania was the old Mes bridge, after which we turned back to Montenegro. It was a long drive to Niksic, our next destination, so we decided to cover the large distance now in the dark in order to have more time to enjoy the daylight the day after. We spent the night in Niksic.
Day 10: We woke up with a view over the dried up Slanksko Lake that was still beautifully covered with a thin fog. (I want this kind of view everyday at breakfast!) Then, we went in search of the Most na Mostanice bridge, a small and old Roman bridge, which was hard to find. We drove on to Ostrog Monastery high up in the mountains, then continued to Podgorica, which was really disappointing. We left the city much earlier than expected and instead visited the Niagara waterfalls closeby. A little less impressive than their big brother in America, but still more enjoyable than Podgorica. We used the last hours of daylight to drive to Biogradska Gora (where it suddenly had become Winter!) to spend the night there.
Day 11: In Biogradska Gora, we did a day hike through the snow to the beautiful viewpoint Bendovac. By the time we got back to the car, it wasn't dark yet, so we quickly drove on to see the huge Tara bridge just before sunset. Finally, we ended the day in Zabljak where we had booked a guesthouse.
Day 12: Getting used to the cold and snow, we made our way to Black Lake, from where we started a more serious hike to Jablan Lake. After a failed attempt to see the tomb stones close to Zabljak, we headed back to our guesthouse to dry our shoes and clothes, all wet from the snow.
Day 13: Before leaving the region, we would hike up to Curevac, which offers a panoramic viewpoint over the Tara Canyon. Afterwards, our plan was to take the scenic route through the mountains between Zabljak and Pluzine, but because the road was blocked with snow halfway down the trip, we had to make a dangerous U-turn and take a long detour. Despite the long drive, we were able to see the huge dam of Pluzine just before sunset. We crossed the Bosnian border and drove on until we found a peaceful place to sleep.
Day 14: After a visit to the Bosnian historical city of Jaice, we took up another long drive. We made it to Bohinj, where we camped next to the lake.
Day 15: There is no better way to wake up than to open your tent and look over the beautiful Bohinj lake that is covered with a mysterious fog. We had breakfast in the adjacent forest that looks at its best in its bright Autumn colors. Bohinj is officially my favourite place in Slovenia. Regretfully, we said goodbye to Bohinj and drove on to Bled, where we hiked up to the castle, then to the Ojstrica viewpoint. We also stayed for the night in Bled.
Day 16: We left Bled in the morning and drove to Austria, where we stopped to visit Salzburg. There wasn't enough time to see everything, but enough to grasp the vibe of the city. Then, we drove on to Liechtenstein, where we ate in McDonalds because we were so aghast by the price of food. Then we found a quiet place in the mountains next to a lake to park the car and sleep.
Day 17: The holidays are over... After a long drive, we found ourselves back at our starting point in Brussels.
On the map:
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