A Road Trip in the Western Balkans : Part 2, Montenegro

To read about Part I of this road trip (our time in Croatia), click here

Coming from such a stimulating country as Croatia, my comrade, Rachel, and I weren't quite sure what to expect upon continuing our road trip by crossing into the little country of Montenegro.  I mean, it's not a country that usually jumps out in your mind when thinking about places to visit, and its teeny size helps to keep it under the radar when it comes to the "must-sees" of travel destinations.

Turns out, this is a very good thing.

Entering the country on the little two-laned Adriatic Highway, you can't help but feel like you're one of the first travelers to "discover" it's charm and beauty.  Perhaps its the feeling of leaving behind the throng of Big Boat Day Trippers back in Dubrovnik.  Perhaps its the lack of informational highway signs and "proper" tourist information stops.  Whatever it is, Montenegro almost immediately takes your breath away. In keeping with the open road-trippin' spirit, the Bay of Kotor greeted us with plummeting fjords, lush vegetation, and rocky outcrops, all enjoyed on that same little two-laned road curving through little villages and tightly hugging the blue waters.

Stari grad, or walled old town, #4 for us on this trip was that of Kotor, a darling gem of a place that begged us to come in, wander for a bit, and soak up some food and atmosphere.  

It's becoming rarer and rarer, especially in Europe, to experience a country which has yet to be discovered by international chains.  To sit in a Medieval old town with nary a branded logo in site is magical.

Heading down the coast on the Montenegrin Riviera, sits a small islet containing a 14th century village now known as Sveti Stefan.  We couldn't resist visiting anyplace that sounded like "Sweaty Steven" to us, so we went down to check it out.

Turns out the entire village is now a luxury hotel and spa complex, and you can't actually cross the bridge way unless you're a guest.  Luckily for us, we could still enjoy the warm waters and the views without having to spend a cent!

Budva was a place where we could not only enjoy another quaint, walled old town, but also brief celebrity status as some of the only tourists not speaking Russian:

The quaint little old town of Herceg Novi (seventh of the trip, incase you're counting), is the perfect place for a little outdoor dinner, serenaded by a chior of church bells and children playing.  For our last night in Montenegro, the people-watching couldn't be beat!

So, if you're camping during your romp around Montenegro, where should you sleep?  Might we suggest Camp Full Monte.  The name is a bit suggestive, and it is indeed a triadic play on its Montenegrin locale, the owners' British roots, and the fact that it's a clothing optional camp.  Whether you're a naturist or not (for the record, it's something we haven't made any habit of--why do I suddenly feel the need to hit the gym?), it's impossible not to feel at home and at ease at this little eco retreat high in the mountains (indeed, our driving directions included such phrases as "look for the large tree stump" and "turn after the wooden boat").  

Steve and Den have done such a magnificent job of carving out an existence here that's totally off the grid!  Everything is grown, created, reduced, reused, recycled, and green, green, green--they rely a lot on volunteers, so if you need to get away from it all and get back to nature a little (or a lot!), this is your place!

As I often find myself lamenting in these types of situations, our time in Montenegro was entirely too short.  Although it's a tiny country, we only had time to stick to the coast and didn't even come close to exploring what I can only imagine is some mind-blowing scenery in its interior.  You always have to have your "something to go back for," and for me, it's definitely the whole country for Montenegro!

Next up, Part III--the last part of this road trip--in Bosnia & Herzegovina...