Montenegro achieved independence just ten years ago, in 2006. That same year, Daniel Craig’s James Bond hurtled towards it in a bullet train, poised to oppose Le Chiffre in a poker game that revitalized the franchise and put the newfound country on the map. I made reservations immediately, not knowing the Bond movie was actually filmed in a remote spa town in the Czech Republic. And I was not alone — throngs of Europeans decided to make this a hotspot once again for the old-world elite, a status it has enjoyed with good reason ever since.
Montenegro is known for its pristine sandy beaches, charming medieval towns, and imposing mountains. Experiences here range from old-world sophistication to new-world glamour, with just about everything in between. The entire country has a population roughly equivalent to Baltimore, Maryland. To see the whole range of Montenegrin experiences, even if they’re nothing like the movie Casino Royale, you must visit:
Understated luxury: Sveti Stefan
Now operated by Aman Resorts, Sveti Stefan has been a playground for the rich and famous since the 1960s, playing host to the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Sofia Loren. Today, the islet resort is comprised of 50 stone cottages and suites that once made up a fishing village but now consist of luxury accommodations, bars, restaurants, swimming pools, and even a discotheque. Make sure to partake in the local šljivovica, homemade liquor made from fermented plums. The resort now owns and operates the Villa Miločer, across the narrow isthmus from the islet, which boasts eight grand suites and a marvelous beachfront restaurant.
Unparalleled vistas: Bay of Kotor
You’ll have to take some very windy roads if you approach the UNESCO World Heritage city of Kotor from another route than the sea. You will see the flags of Montenegro flying, but also carvings of those of the Republic of Venice, which ruled Kotor from 1420 until 1797. This influence is evidenced in the architecture as well. With narrow streets, Kotor is best to explore by foot. You’ll pass by the 12th-century Cathedral of St. Tripun, the 17th-century Prince’s Palace, and the Watch Tower before settling into one of the amiable squares for an aperitif.
For the history buffs: Cetinje/Budva
The former capital of Montenegro, Cetinje, was once the home of Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, the country’s most renowned statesman and poet of the 19th century. Erected here in his honour is the National Museum of Montenegro, which was once the royal residence, and features a fence made out of the barrels of enemy rifles. Stroll around and have a coffee in the charming square before making your way down to Budva, one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic, which stretches back two millennia. This medieval walled town was under Venetian rule as well and was fortified to defend itself from Ottoman invasions. Now it’s perfect for finding a pint or nice little shops to wander away the afternoon.
Something a little flashier: Porto Montenegro
Looking for a place to dock your yacht? Look no further. There are almost 600 berths here deep enough for today’s superyachts. Don’t have a yacht? Not a problem. Live like you have one, by renting a daybed or cabana poolside at the PuroBeach. You can find houses here in the millions of Euros, but there are no gated communities, so all beaches and restaurants are open to the public whether you sail or drive in.
Beauty in nature: Lovcen National Park
Lovcen National Park covers 6,400 hectares (almost 16,000 acres) and includes the mausoleum of Petar II Petrović-Njegoš atop Mt. Lovcen. There is also Skadar Lake, the Mediterranean’s largest body of fresh water, which is festooned with water lilies, surrounded by churches and fortresses, and home to 280 species of birds.
Text by Laine McDonnell Translated by Rui Chen