Welcome to another post of Behind The Lens! In this section I will be writing a little guide about the places we visit. We travel with a tight budget so that means we have to prepare quite a lot before hand, and that also means that we are able to get to know quite a lot about the countries we visit so I thought that would be a nice idea to share it so you can benefit of it and hopefully save you time. I will include images, tips, hotels, restaurants, routes and many more. Also make sure you check the bold words together with the Tips section to get key information about your trip.
I really hope you enjoy it and find it useful!
The cameras of choice are Sony A7R and sSony a6300. For this trip I took 3 lenses with me: Sigma 16mm for video, Sigma 35mm 1.4 ART for photos and also Sony 85mm. As always I took my drone with me, DJI Mavic Pro with its polarised filters. Finally I took the DJI Ronin SC.
Not sure if you have ever heard about Montenegro, and if so, what about it? In my case I never heard much of this country but everything was positive so that made me think why not to plan a visit?
My plan is simple: make you want to go there after you read this article. But not because I have any interest, just because after what we saw there, I think it would be unfair not to do my best to portray it’s beauty. Are you more of a mountain or beach person? Either way you can get some of the best bits of both in that small country so it’s a win win! However be aware that depending on when you visit Montenegro you will be able to see some things or others, I will explain later on… Let me tell you what we did:
First we took a flight from London STD to Podgorica, the flight was really cheap, around £35 return per person! Once in the capital (Podgorica) we just took the car from the rental place and drove to our first destination: Budva.
Budva is a medium sized town in the coast of Montenegro. The new city is a bit like Benidorm, big buildings and 10 million casinos prepared for the tourist, so if you are after this type of holiday make sure you go between May – September.
We are just the opposite type of tourist so we just visited Budva for a day. The old town is very nice but quite small so you will be able to stroll around and not much more. I would not go again there as after what we visited I think Budva would be at the bottom of the list. We stayed at Apartments Menuet, but there are many options there depending what you like. I am sure though that it is a great place for a summer holiday as it is in the middle of the coast so you can drive north or south whilst you stay at Budva.
After Budva we drove for about 15min to Sveti Stefan, a very small town but quite unique. A fort was built around the island back in 1442 to protect it from pirate and Turkish attacks.
This island type of town is now a resort, and many famous people have been there. Again, you won’t need much time there, however we drove up to a church where there’s an amazing view. You can park there and enjoy the views, much better than driving to the beach.
From there you can see how pretty the turquoise water is. This viewpoint is called: Church of St Stephen. Also there is a hotel by the main road called Hotel Adrovic where you can go inside and enjoy of the views.
We drove to Kotor from Budva. Before we got to the town we drove up the Serpentine, which is a dangerous road with 16 hairpin turns. I would not recommend driving there if you are not a confident driver or if you don’t have full risk insurance. Once up there we went to the viewpoint and we can say it was well worth it. You can overlook the town but also the whole bay. Once you’ve enjoyed the views and taken a few pics, then drive back to Kotor town and walk around the old town which is surrounded by city walls. Fun fact: They call Kotor the city of cats! simply because it is full of them, they even have a Cat’s museum. Spending half a day would be wise, including the drive up the serpentine.
After visiting Kotor we drove towards Durmitor National Park, that took us around 3 and a half hours to drive.
The drive itself was quite fun as the scenery changes so quickly and is so diverse. Also the temperature started to drop as we were getting closer to the national park. In Kotor the temperature was of about 23 degrees celsius, and by the time we got to Durmitor the temperature was 1 degree and full of snow! We headed directly to the cabin and dropped our stuff in the house. If you visit the area I would strongly recommend to stay at Vila Calimero, typical wooden cabins right next to the national park. Not sure about you but one of my favourite places to stay are wooden cabins with interior fire pits, and we had that in Vila Calimero. 3km from the place you can find the Black Lake, one of the highlights of the national park, once there you can walk around and enjoy the wild scenery. We found so many bear footprints around the lake. Also there is a nice restaurant with local food available.
There are plenty of routes and places to go in the national park but because there was so much snow we were very limited, so i would recommend visiting when there is less snow, unless you are into snow trekking or you just want to chill in the cabin surrounded by snow, which doesn’t sound a bad idea at all. From there we got to Tara Bridge which was 25min away.
It must be amazing to see this area in summer when everything is green, however the view is breathtaking and you can stroll around. The canyon is the deepest in europe and the color of the river is amazing. From there we drove to our next location, which was a Spa (Bianca Spa & Resort) in the middle of the route to the next location. There is not much near the Spa but it is great to spend a day there and enjoy the facilities and top up the batteries.
That was our final destination before we headed to Podgorica stopping first in Skadar Lake. Prokletije, also known as Albanian alps, are the mountains that border with Albania and Kosovo. Prokletije means cursed mountain and they are one of the wildest places I have ever been. Wild, raw and dramatic, this mountain range are not very touristic and that makes them quite hard to get around.
The highlight of the area would be Grebaje Valley. You will drive towards the mountains and will pass Plav, which is a small town near a Lake. From there you will start to see the mountains but the closer you get to Grebaje the wildest it will get. In less than 30min you will be in the middle of a valley surrounded by giant peaks, for sure on my Top 3 of places EVER! From there you can take many routes, but the best would be hiking Volusnica. It will take you around 5h if you take the easy route. It is just amazing to see how in 30 min drive you start to see the mountains and by the time you realise you are on the feet of the mountains, it is an incredible feeling.
You will not be able to do hike much if there is snow unless you have equipment, so if your goal is to hike, make sure you go between May-September. From there you will feel like you are on top of the world. There are many other routes but this one would be the best in my opinion. From there you can also cross to Albania and visit places like Valbone or Teth, which are very recommended as well. We stayed at Apartmani Vuceljic, which was a great place and very cheap but a bit far from the mountains (30min drive). In that time of the year there was not much more opened but if you visit later on you should find many places to stay near the valley. If you are a mountain lover, this is the place to go, you will not encounter many people around you and will be a great experience with nature.
From there we drove to Podgorica to catch our flight but first we stopped by Skadar Lake. It is a really cool place and again we went from -4 degrees to 23 degrees in just 2-3h! There are plenty of little towns around Skadar lake and viewpoints to enjoy the scenery. Our favourite town was a small fishing village called Rijeka Crnojevića. Very nice place with amazing clear water, also apparently the restaurant Stari Most is amazing, but was not open when we visited due to coronavirus lockdown.
From there we drove toward the airport to catch our flight, or that was our intention, cause when we got there, they had shut down the airport 3h before due to coronavirus lockdown. They said there were no flights for 30 days and they had closed the borders of the country so nobody could leave or get in, so we were stranded in the country. How did we manage to come back? That probably needs it’s own article!
The currency they use is EURO, and there are plenty of ATMs around, however make sure you have cash if you visit Durmitor or Prokletije as there are not many ATMs there. Also if you rent a car keep an eye on speed limits, normally 80km/h as there is quite a lot of police and they have portable radars checking speed. As I always say, plan in advance, there is a lot to see there but if you don’t plan in advance it will be hard to manage. Accommodation is quite cheap, specially if you book it way in advance through booking. Also the high season starts in May, so if you go before May the prices will be cheaper for almost everything. The language the locals speak is Serbian and in many places they won’t speak English, so in our case was great to have offline Translator. Also we had offline maps, as roaming there was quite expensive. Local food is great, with many influences, make sure to try a bit of fish/seafood in the coast and meats and goulash in the mountains. That being said, the best time is probably May or September, as any time in between will be more expensive and may be more people around. If your goal is to rest and enjoy the snow then any time during spring is fine but keep in mind you will be limited by the snow. If you are a drone operator, you need to know that you need to register your drone way in advance. That is a complicated and long process but if you don’t do that, they will confiscate your drone upon arrival or when you leave the country. They are quite strict but it is how it is. Find more info in Google about registering your drone in Montenegro but even then there have been cases when police at the airport asked for more money so I would not recommend bringing a drone to the country unless you really want to risk it (my case).
So as you can see, Montenegro offers such a variety of landscapes, from some of the best beaches in Europe to some of the best mountain range in Europe. Such a small country but so diverse… You don’t believe me?
I met Milenko Mumin in Zabljak, a humble hard working man that has been living in the wildest part of Montenegro since birth. I was able to interview him and he wanted to explain to you why he thinks Montenegro is one of the best countries in the world.
I bet he will convince you… not sure? Watch the video: