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Montenegro Travel Guide & Road Trip Itinerary

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Updated: 16th September 2016

Road-tripping through Montenegro went down in the travel diary as one of my all-time favourite trips. The famous bay of Kotor and the beautiful coastline might be edging their way into the spotlight on the world travel stage, but there is plenty more to discover.

I hope this overview of my one-week Montenegro road trip itinerary can help you plan an equally amazing trip through this special country. This video is old – so apologies for my terrible editing and filming – but it gives a brief intro into what we saw on our Montenegro road trip.

The Basics: Map, Need to Know and Questions…

Get a car if you can. I can’t stress this enough: a car hire in Montenegro is, in my opinion, essential. You can take tours and some public transport, but the beauty I found of self-driving was being able to stop every time something took your breath away, which is a regular occurrence here. Also, the mountainous terrain really made exploring so much easier. If you are crossing the Balkans, then one-way fees and insurance can be high. So consider taking a bus or a Croatia transfer from Dubrovnik and then picking your car up in Montenegro.

That said, there are some public transport options for getting around Montenegro if you don’t plan to visit the country’s most remote corners.

Is it safe… Many people have a strange perception of the Balkans being the wild west (or east) of Europe, which is certainly not the case. I actually found it felt like one of the safest places I have ever visited, and the hospitality and warmth never faltered.

Getting there… Crossing from either Bosnia & Herzegovina, as part of a Croatia itinerary, or after exploring the best places to visit in Albania is possible by car or bus. With its own airline and other carriers serving two airports on opposite sides of the country in Podgorica and Tivat, flying is possible. Cruises and day trips here are popular, but I urge you to spend longer here and really explore it. You can also take a ferry from Italy to Bar on the coast.

If you don’t have a car… Day tours to places such as Durmitor Park are possible, and getting along the coast and main sights is simple enough with public transport. Montenegro is a lot more developed than most people believe, and taxis aren’t overly expensive.

Let’s talk about Money… Montenegro uses the Euro, unlike most of its neighbours, even though it is still not officially part of the EU. This does bring prices up, and cocktails in Budva can be like most major western cities, where a delicious inland meal might be a few dollars, and a perfect wood cabin can come in at $25 bucks for three people in the peak of summer.

Where to stay… There are plenty of hotels in the most popular destinations, as well as some more quirky options. Two places that really stood out to me were the charming Holiday Bungalow in Pluzine, where we were welcomed with home-made Rakia and the Rafting lodge in Piva, right on the river.

Language… The official language is Montenegrin, which is very similar to Croatian/Serbian. English is widely spoken along the coast and much of inland. As always, study some words before you arrive.

The Bay of Kotor and the Coast

The bay of Kotor will be your first major stop if you have picked your car up in Herceg Novi and crossed from the Northern border or are coming after spending some time travelling around Croatia. This beautiful body of water has small villages, tiny beaches and the cruise port of Kotor itself.

Kotor Old Town is by far the most popular destination in this country. The cobbled street with hundreds of cats who now have their own museum is perfect for spending a few hours or more, and the views when you hike up the hill are breathtaking.

Although it is arguably the most popular destination in this country, it was actually where I spent the least of my time. Luckily, my friend Sonja recently wrote a great post about the best things to do in Kotor, which is ideal if you plan to be based there.

Tivat, further around the bay, is a luxury Marina, and although not much is here, it’s a perfect place for a coffee stop and some people-watching.

As you follow the coastal road, you will hit Budva. The old town of Budva has a few beaches and heaps of shops and bars, making its narrow streets feel packed. By night, both the old and new town come alive, with everyone dressing up and creating an electric atmosphere. Top Hill is an incredible venue. Funnily enough, it is at the top of the hill, and if you are there for a big event, it is an ideal place to get going till the early hours.

Further along the coast, you will hit Bar, which has a ferry connection to Italy, and eventually, you will come to Ulcinj with beautiful beaches, yet another history-filled old town and its rugged rocks with houses towering above the ocean.

As you drive along the coast of Montenegro, you will find small coves, near empty beaches, sand-based parties and little churches on rocks, which you can take boats out to. Stopping regularly should be expected!

The Beautiful North

I have two things to say to you. Piva River and Durmitor National Park.

In fact, let me show you…

Once you leave the coast, the mountains build up and the roads climb higher and lower and pass the most beautiful bodies of water you can possibly imagine. You will stop a lot, stumbling upon little villages to marvel at, eat and get a local feel.

Piva River and Tara River canyon offer up the opportunities to go rafting, kayaking or simply just standing in awe. Running all the way into neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, this is something you can not miss in Montenegro. Take a look at the pictures below, and you will understand why!

Durmitor National Park is the best thing in Montenegro, I believe. With wild horses, dogs and sheep littering its rugged mountain landscape, you literally have your head in the clouds here as you take the small single road winding through the park and again, stop every five minutes for another OMG, I need a photo to believe this moment… see a theme here?

With lakes, treks, mountains, tiny restaurants and even the odd rainbow this is something you are mad to miss and if you only do one thing beyond the coast, do Durmitor.

The capital and south

Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, is a funny little place. At first glance, you can almost miss it. With its tired and abandoned train tracks and strange collection of malls, I can’t say it blew me away, but it did hook me in after a couple of days with some charm I can’t put my finger on.

Lake Skadar National Park and the small villages surrounding it are only about a 30-minute drive from the capital and one you simply can’t miss. From little houses with colourful boats to an all green horseshoe bend kinda view a few hours at least driving through here and then getting out to hike, or even take a boat ride, is simply one of the best days of nature you will ever have.

The Other Stuff

There are so many small places you will drive past and stop at. Whether it is for a quick photo, to enjoy a viewing platform, or just to stock up on some food and coffee. My memory is not good enough to list them all by name, but take a look at the map above for where they are.

Whether you are marvelling at the small green islands of Slansko Jezero or stopping off to be wowed by a monastery built into these impressive mountainous rocks a road trip through Montenegro is incredible.

61 replies
  1. Vucko says:

    Awesome summary of my native country, Dan! I love the explanation of the Montenegrin language, and the similarity between ours and other Balkan languages :)
    Photos are incredible as well!

    Next time you go, make sure you check out Canyon Nevidio.

    Happy travels!

  2. Diana says:

    Hey Dan, I must be blind but I can’t see the map anywhere. You refer to the map below and above but I cannot spot it anywhere in between :D Can you help me, please? :) Thank you!

  3. Ludovic says:

    I see the comments and Monténégro looks great. That could be thé Foret Time for me and in August this year.
    Maybe a pretty naïve question but is it as Packed as Croatie during August please ?

  4. Lorie Kent says:

    Greetings to all:

    So, my husband and I are planning a 3 week trip to Bosnia and Montenegro this September. We are planning to hike around 50% of the time, starting in Sarajevo, going to Jablanica, Mostar, Lake Skadar and Zabljak. We will be going to three national Parks, Blindje, Durmitor and Lake Skadar Park along with doing quite a bit of hiking around Kotor. I basically have the entire trip worked out, along with hotel possibilities. The only thing I need to find, which seems to be impossible for some reason is a driver/guide. We don’t want to drive on our own as we really want to relax and leave the driving to someone else. It is imperative, as you know to have a car, yet we were hoping to be able to hire a driver/guide for our vacation. Do you have any suggestions? We certainly don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a driver/guide, yet we are certainly willing to pay accordingly. There are tons of tours, yet we can’t seem to find independent driver/guides. Do you have any suggestions. Peace and well-being, Lore

  5. Frank says:

    Nice post, we’re going back for a few weeks and previously hadn’t seen much outside of Kotor. Will definitely rent a car this time around.

  6. Hazel Joy says:

    Montenegro’s coast is stunning and the best way to travel it is by boat. I drove around but found that the roads were jam-packed as were the beaches. I visited in the last 2 weeks of June but discovered that Eastern European schools break up for the summer holidays mid-June. My tip? Visit Montenegro before mid-June.

  7. Ari says:

    Hey Dan,
    this guide is fantastic !! My friend and I are planning a 10 day trip, but do you think it is possible to take the train instead of the car ?

  8. Halina says:

    What a great post, Dan!!!
    We are planning a Montenegro and Croatia trip this coming May and hope to drive in Montenegro for a week -10 days. Our concern is that we are 60 year-old Australians – so drive on the “other” side of the road.
    We’ve only recently driven in Siena, Italy for 350km (mainly in the countryside), for the first time. Managed well but other places in Italy (Naples, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast ) would have been far too challenging for us so we used public transport. What is your opinion of driving in Montenegro for novices? (Also Croatia, if you’ve done any road-tripping there, too). Thank you

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Have a fantastic time!

      I think you would be okay, the roads weren’t too busy and weren’t as hair raising as driving the Amalfi Coast at all. To be honest, it’s quite hard to explore Montenegro without the car, so I think it would be worth trying.

      I can’t comment on Croatia though, but whenever I have travelled Croatia by bus I’ve found the road network great quality.

  9. Varsha says:

    Hi Dan, please could you send me your route you followed please. I want to book the hotels/Cabins before I go. Many Thanks

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hi Varsha,

      I’m so sorry but I lost the actual map route of what we drove when I deleted my Google account and got a new one. Basically started on the border, when to Kotor first, then on to Budva, then carried on along the coast. We then drove back, came round past Tivat and into Kotor again. From there, took the road out towards Pluzine and Piva Canyon, carried on after the night in Pluzine to the rafting and canyon, then returned the same day. We then the next day carried onwards through Durmitor park and then drove slowly back through the towns on the otherside. There are very limited road options in the mountains so you can’t really take too many detours. Have a great trip!

  10. Iris says:

    Hi Daniel, could you tell me where you take the photo front Lake Skadar, which view point? Kind regards Iris

  11. Anonymous says:

    There no such language as Montenegrin – it’s Serbian. That’s like saying American is a language.

  12. Debbie says:

    We are planning a trip to Croatia and Montenegro this June (2018). Most of the time will be in Croatia, but we want to spend 5 nights in Montenegro. Our thought is to drive from Dubrovnik to Durmitor to stay two nights, and then head south. Someone advised that we go to Kotor for the rest of the time and do day trips, but that seems like more driving and back tracking. I’m instead thinking of driving from Durmitor to Lake Skadar to spend one night, and then slowly drive along the coast to Kotor for the last 2 nights. We have been planning to try to go to Locven National Park, but not sure we have time for all of this. I noticed that you did not include that in your itinerary, and I also haven’t seen much about it in Tripadvisor forum discussions. Photos of it look pretty, though. Have you been to Locven? Do you know anything about it? Do you think our proposed plan makes sense? Thanks for your input!

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hi Debbie.

      I’m so sorry in the delay in coming back to you, it’s been a super hectic couple of weeks. I’m sure you have your plans set but just in case:

      I think that would make more sense, rather than backtracking. Although the distances aren’t too far, the roads, especially towards Durmitor, can take a while as they are not straight or the best. AAs such, I think heading to Skadar and then back along would be great. I wouldn’t advise day trips, you’ll waste time going back and forth. I haven’t been to Locven, we just didn’t have time so chose Skadar which was a really great day out.

      Have an amazing time :)

  13. Matt says:

    Great post. My wife and I are headed to Montenegro in SEP.
    We’ll be coming from Croatia>Dubrovnik. I have 2 questions.

    Is it best to rent in Montenegro or drive with a rental from Dubrovnik?
    Also, what are your thoughts on renting a place for the week and driving out each day or do you think its large enough that we should book different places along the way.
    Thanks in advance,

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hey Matt,
      I’m so sorry for the delay in coming back to you, it’s been a hectic couple of weeks.
      I’m sure you have your plans set but Driving out from Croatia shouldnt be a problem as long as you don’t have any extra chargers for border crossing, I did 3 countries in one trip so changed cars in each destination. That is also possible by taking a bus over the Montenegro border and there is a couple of car places that can meet you in Herceg Novi (if you pre-book) which means you can still enjoy the drive into Kotor bay.

      Personally, i’d suggest not doing day trips when it comes to Durmitor/Podogorica/Skadar/Piva if you are heading to those, you’ll spend a fair bit of time back tracking, especially in places where the roads are not great. A circular route would likely be the best.

      Have an awesome time.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Hi Dan,
    I was wondering if you could tell me how you went about finding places to stay in Montenegro and roughly how much you spent per night? We’d be looking for a double room, nothing too fancy. We’re not intending spending much time on the coast. We’ll have a car and plan on heading to the mountains and National Parks.

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      I honestly can’t remember, I think I was searching through Trivago as there was not that much listed on line. We may have even just rocked up in Pluzine and found our hut there. It wasn’t even more than $40 a night, and that was in August, but because we had the car we never stayed in a city, always off a highway in more guest house type places.

  15. Dani says:

    Dan, you actually missed most beautiful part of Montenegro, which is Plav, Plavsko lake, Hridsko lake and Prokletije mountains (all in Prokletije national park) which is Northern-Eastern part of the country. Also, Biogradska gora national park as well as Bjelasica mountain, Moraca canyon are perfect places to visit. I think you should get back. :) Greetings from Montenegro!

  16. Mike says:

    Really good post! My wife and I are heading to Montenegro this weekend. We are coming from Sarajevo BiH, bu bus and heading to Durmitor as our first stop. If we wanted to do some exploring by car, do you think it’s best to head to Kotor after Durmitor and pickup a rental there? We haven’t booked the bus into Montenegro yet..

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      I’d suggest looking at picking up the car in Herceg Novi or Kotor on the way to Durmitor, it’s such a huge park with places like Piva and Pluzine nearby that I would personally want a car for them. Depends where the bus from BiH comes in from, ours went the long way via Dubrovnik which made picking the carup first much easier :)

  17. Linda Bibb says:

    I’m loving your itinerary, Dan. We took a cruise a few years ago and had an opportunity to spend a day in Kotor. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I can see why it’s so popular with tourists, but I do feel sorry for those who don’t leave its cobbled streets. The bay is far prettier when seen from other nearby towns.

    Judging from the map, It looks like you spent quite a lot of time in research and planning. How did you finally decide which places to see?

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Thanks, Linda. Kotor was a beauty for sure but not my favourite spot :) We mainly just kept driving and stopping when we saw cool stuff, we actually had no plan at all when we picked up the car but there are so few roads you kinda just have to go wherever they go :)

  18. Deena says:

    hi Dan, how long did you spend on your roadtrip? What do you recommend as the ideal length of stay?

  19. Sofie says:

    Hi Dan
    Amazing photos. We are going to Montengro next week. What kind of camera do you use? Best Sofie

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hey Andreea, thanks. I stayed at Hotel Bungalow in Pluzine which was super cute huts, in Podgorica it was a chain hotel Aurel and in the south it was in a guesthouse in the middle of Kotor and Budva (so a car or taxi would be needed) – Ivetic Apartments in Radanovice

      Thanks :)

  20. Anonymous says:

    Really loved your blog! Will be your fan with no doubts. A question: flying to Dubrovnik and thinking if better to rent a car in Croatia or take bus to Montenegro and rent It there? Thanks

  21. Anonymous says:

    Hi Dan! We’re off to Montenegro and Albania, starting in July! What time of year did you go? We’ll start in Dubrovnik, make our way to Kotor, then to Durmitor and then.. not sure! We thought Petrovac, but were recently told that it is awfully overcrowded and not enjoyable. I’m not sure if you went in peak time to be able to advise if it is as crowded as they say?

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      I was there in July/August too. Dubrovnik was certainly crazy but Durmitor was surprisingly empty. The main beaches in Albania were hectic, but a little driving and searching for a more remote spot wasn’t too hard if you have a car :) Have an awesome trip!

  22. Rachel says:

    Hey Dan, thanks so much for this informative post! My husband and I are heading to Montenegro in May and we’re excited to head to Durmitor National Park. However, there’s not much information regarding the scenic driving routes around Dumitor National Park. Do you happen to have a map of the rough route you drove around Dumitor? Thanks in advance! :)

  23. thecarbot says:

    Hi Dan – Your travels look great. I would love to see the route you took but the map doesn’t seem to be working on the site. Is there another way you can share this?

  24. bbabroad says:

    I should be around. Let me know if you want to explore some of the other mountain areas, visit locals and experience village life and farm stays, as well as adventure with some local mountaineers in the highlands.

  25. Brit says:

    Dan – good highlights overview. Montenegro by car is definitely a good way to see a lot fast.

    Glad that you were able to enjoy the road from Durmitor to Piva and see Kotor and the Skadar Lake area. There is still so much here that is waiting for you and others. Look me up the next time you are headed to Montenegro and I can show you some of the lesser known places and experiences.

  26. Mike says:

    Fantastic guide Dan.

    This looks like an incredible experience and the pictures. you have shared look stunning. I’ve only been to Kotor and Budva before but not explored much of the rural side. I loved those places but seems I need to go back :-)

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