Montenegro has quite an interesting past regarding their status internationally as a nation. Throughout its history, Montenegro suffered from numerous invasions and occupations during the Napoleonic Wars and the Balkan Wars. Montenegro fought for centuries to liberate itself from the Ottoman Empire, which they eventually succeeded in. Montenegro wasn’t recognised as a state until 1878 internationally, and the country's sovereignty didn’t last for long. After World War I, Montenegro became a part of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes which would soon turn into Yugoslavia. While other countries a part of Yugoslavia gained their independence in the 90s, Montenegro didn’t gain their independence from Serbia until 2006 after voting in an independence referendum that was recognised by the United Nations. Despite all the hardships, the small country has managed to maintain their unique cultural identity and traditions, with a lot of pride for its small yet mighty country.
This delightful fusion food is a mix of neighbouring countries like Croatia, Serbia, and Italy, coming together to create a delicious, unique cuisine that is underrepresented internationally. Montenegro is home to a lot of delectable dishes that are a must-try. The iconic dish of Njeguški Pršut is a delicacy that is a dry-cured ham that is salted, smoked, and air-dried in the mountain air. Along the coast and lakes, seafood is common, but there is one seafood dish that is a must-try in Montenegro: their fish stew! Skadar Lake is the Balkan’s largest freshwater lake, and the dish combines a variety of fish species with vegetables, herbs, and spices to create this delicious dish, but variations of this stew can also be found on the coastline with fish from the bay.
Montenegro is home to gorgeous cities with a rich and diverse cultural makeup. The Bay of Kotor was granted UNESCO World Heritage site status and rightfully so, as the city of Kotor has impeccably preserved medieval architecture and city walls. While Kotor definitely draws in the most international attention, the beauty of Montenegro’s historical cities doesn’t stop there. Budva is an atmospheric city that has a past that dates back 2,500 years, and strolling the winding streets of Budva Old town is like stepping back into a different era! Another must-see is one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic Coast, Ulcinj, which dates back to the 5th century BC, the ancient port city now reflects influences from many different settlements throughout history, including the Ancient Romans, Ottoman Empire, and present-day a city interestingly made up of a majority Albanian population! Montenegrin cities are relatively small in population and size, so compared to cities in other countries, they may feel more like towns to some, but the deep cultural history and unique architectural landscape make them a gem to explore and get lost in, and you won’t even notice the size since their beauty is so much more captivating!
Although small in size and population, throughout history Montenegro has preserved their wonderful culture, creating a nation extremely proud of their distinctive cultural identity. Centuries of outside influences shaped the culture of the Balkan country til this day, but strong preservation efforts have maintained some of the unique aspects of Montenegrin culture, such as their traditional folk music and dances which are often accompanied by the distinctive instruments of guile and the accordion, accompanied by lively traditional dances, known as Kolo, a traditional dance where participants hold hand in a circle, resembling unity amongst the community, something that has held the culture of Montenegro together for years on end.
Music and the incorporation of beautiful poetic lyrics are an insightful look into the cultural unity that is so highly valued in Montenegro. The epic songs of Montenegro have long been linked with the country’s struggle for freedom throughout history, and these songs share stories of heroes and battles for Montenegrin independence. The sentimental, empowering lyrics are motivational and inspirational for the majority of Montenegrins, historically being linked with the challenging movements of the country. The wonderful songs educate on the country’s tough times and are a traditional, unique aspect of Montenegrin culture, standing the test of time and overcoming cultural suppression.
Montenegro is a cultural paradise with four UNESCO World Heritage sites. While the number may seem insignificant to some, it is a pretty significant number of sites, considering how small the country of Montenegro is! The Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor, Dumitor National Park (the only nature site included in the list!, the Stecci Medieval Tombstones Graveyards, medieval tombstones that have been around since the 11th century near the border with Bosnia, and the Venetian Works of Defence between the 16th and 17th centuries, defence works that span between Croatia, Italy, and Montenegro, a unique representation of the defensive efforts made by the Venetian’s along the Adriatic Coast. All the sights offer a profound look into the history and natural beauty of Montenegro, and are must-visits for any history buffs stopping by in the country.
The three major geographical regions of Montenegro are:
The administrative regions of Montenegro are divided into 24:
Possibly the most mesmerising aspect of the small Balkan country is its untouched and pristine nature. From rugged coastlines to canyons and national parks, there is so much beauty just waiting to be explored that is often overlooked. The coastal country is not short of breathtaking beaches, with just as beautiful waters as its more famous neighbour Croatia, with less crowds and equally as impressive, the most famous being the Bay of Kotor, explorable by boats, kayaks, and by foot along the mesmerising waterfront.
Explore the interior of Montenegro at Durimotor national park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, ideal for any adventurous folk visiting Montenegro. The national park has a variety of different hiking trails to embark on, each with a beautiful viewpoint at the end of the road, possibly overlooking deep canyons, glacial lakes, or perhaps in the midst of the dense forests. For the super adventurous, there are a lot of mountaineering and climbing opportunities in this stunning park.
Another hidden gem in Montenegro’s natural landscape is the deepest canyon in Europe, and the second deepest in the world behind the Grand Canyon at Tara River Canyon. The breathtaking canyon is amazing to catch some views, from the intense cliffs towering over the turquoise waters. Visitors can even ride down the canyon’s roaring rapids with activities like rafting which offers a unique viewpoint of the canyon.
Montenegro’s vibrant cultural heritage can be explored deeper in the country’s art scene. Visitors exploring the nation's capital of Podgorcica will stumble across many art galleries and museums that showcase the works of underappreciated local artists, depicting beautiful artworks of Montenegrin landscapes, beaches, as well as historical scenes from the country’s past. The cultural heritage of the country, its tradition and past serve as inspiration for artists in the country, incorporate traditional elements of Montenegrin culture with their modern artwork.
Another key thing that has shaped the landscape of Montenegro is its religious background, a diverse landscape where the main population belongs to the Serbian Orthodox Church, but other minority groups like Sunni Muslims, Protestants, and Catholic exist in the country, maintaining the diverse religious scene. The importance of religion in both the history and past of the country can be seen, as a huge number of the Montenegrin landmarks are religious landmarks, like the jaw-dropping Ostrog Monastery, uniquely built into the wall, and the beautiful St. Tryphon’s Cathedral in Kotor, amongst many.
Montenegro is an amazing destination to visit year-round. The best time to visit the coastline is during the summer to ensure beach weather, but coastal regions like the Bay of Kotor are stunning any time of year, and cities are great to visit year-round. If you’re interested in hiking in Montenegro, perhaps come in Spring or Autumn to avoid the heat.
Montenegrin is a Slavic language spoken primarily in the country, although Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Albanian are also recognized languages of official use. English is not widely spoken in Montenegro, so it is important to know some key phrases while traveling.
The two main airports in Montenegro are the Podgorica Airport and the Tivat Airport, although from a lot of major European cities, it may be difficult to find direct flights.
Trains from Belgrade connect to Bar and Podgorica in Montenegro, and is one of the most scenic train journeys in all of Europe!
Getting to Montenegro via bus is one of the most affordable and easiest options, as the country is easily connected by bus with a lot of the surrounding Balkan countries.
In Montenegro people drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left. In order to drive in Montenegro, visitors must be 18 years old with a valid driver’s licence. If renting a car, rental car companies in Montenegro require a minimum age of 21 and you must have experience driving a car for at least 2 years.
Intercity buses are the easiest way to get around between Montenegrin cities and within the cities, and it can take you almost anywhere in the country besides very remote villages. Another great option is because the city is so coastal, you can hop on a ferry between seaside towns and cities. This is a beautiful, quick option to explore the country as you’ll get great views from the ocean!
Montenegro’s cities are extremely walkable, and going on foot is often the most convenient way to explore them. Use our map to find out what’s near you, or combine it with the bus or metro for a hassle-free day out.