A couple of years ago a friend of mine has changed his Facebook profile picture to the one showing him on the top of the mountain with the unrecognizable (for me then) flag waving above his head and a spectacular landscape around. I had no idea what this place was but I desperately wanted to visit it, this view looked simply incredible!
Years have passed, I’ve learnt the picture was taken on the top of Lovcen mountain, one of the highlights of Montenegro and the whole Balkans. It immediately became one of the reasons why I wanted to return to Montenegro, to see this view myself.
Unfortunately it’s not so easy to get to Mount Lovcen with public transport and for someone who doesn’t even have a driver’s license and prefer to travel solo it’s extra challenging. Fortunately I found out about the Kotor day trip that, among other amazing places, includes Mount Lovcen. I really couldn’t wait to go!
Table of contents
- 1 My return to Kotor – one of my favorite places
- 2 Best view of Kotor Bay
- 3 Oldest restaurant in Montenegro
- 4 Mount Lovcen: expectations vs. reality
- 5 Cetinje – the royal capital of Montenegro
- 6 Skadar Lake – the pristine wonder of nature
- 7 Budva – more than just a party hub
- 8 Great Montenegro Tour – is it best Kotor day trip?
- 9 Kotor – practical information
My return to Kotor – one of my favorite places
After my recent visit to Kotor at the end of last year I knew I want to return as soon as I can to see more highlights of Montenegro. I dare to say this place, together with Slovenia, are the countries that have it all yet are small enough to easily travel around.
The opportunity came up very soon and so I came back in May. I stayed in Kotor, in beautiful 600 years old Palazzo Drusko, and used this most beautiful town in the country as my base to discover Montenegro.
I didn’t want to waste my time and wanted to make my dream of visiting Mount Lovcen true as soon as possible. On the next day after arriving I went for the Great Montenegro Tour offered by 360Monte which was supposed to be the best Kotor day trip.
Best view of Kotor Bay
Already in the morning the weather wasn’t the best but I was really hoping once we cross the mountains it will get better and I will be able to enjoy spectacular views.
The first stop was in the mountains above the Bay of Kotor. The old road between Kotor and Cetinje is known all over the world for its 25 serpentines and you need to be a really good driver or have a strong stomach to get through it easily.
It was built at the end of the 19th century when Kotor was under the Austria-Hungary rule. Actually in the middle of the road there was a border between the Habsburg Empire and Principality of Montenegro, you can still see the remnants of the border post along the way.
If you’ve seen amazing pictures of the whole Bay of Kotor and surroundings bays of Risan and Tivat that’s where it was taken from. Even in the cloudy weather with a rather hazy visibility this view was breathtaking and the strong wind didn’t stop me from falling for this place. Maybe it wasn’t as perfect as on the pictures online (like the one taken recently by my friend Ewa that you can see below) but it still was one of the most spectacular sights I’ve ever seen. And it put my hopes really high for the rest of the day (read: Mount Lovcen).
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Oldest restaurant in Montenegro
Before heading to the Lovcen National Park we paid a visit to the oldest restaurant in Montenegro – Kafana Kod Pera na Bukovicu founded in 1881 – in the village called Njeguši. As a vegetarian I skipped the ham tasting part but the local cheese was pretty amazing too!
Even if the village is rather small it’s one of the most important settlements in Montenegro, famous for its smoked ham (there are signs with selling points all over the way) and for being the birthplace of Petrović-Njegoš dynasty that ruled the country from 1696 to 1918.
Mount Lovcen: expectations vs. reality
Now it was time for my supposed highlight of the day – Mount Lovcen. At the top of the mountain there is a mausoleum of Petar Petrović Njegoš – one of the greatest rulers of Montenegro. He himself chose the place to be buried at and when asked why he didn’t want to rest on the highest mountain in the country he said he believes there will be better rulers than him in future. It’s so nice to see that even some of the most important people in the history had lots of humbleness, the quality I value the most.
At that point of the day the weather was already getting worse and when we arrived to the parking lot at the bottom of the 461 stairs leading to the mausoleum you could see nothing but 5 meters ahead. And I mean really nothing. The way up was a little bit exhausting with all those stairs but because the visibility was nonexistent I was really surprised when I reached the top as I was so sure I’m maybe half way there.
It was one of the spookiest moments in my life to be honest. I walked out of the tunnel that covers part of the way to the top, could see nothing around me and suddenly I’ve noticed I’m literally in front of the massive concrete structure. It turned out that was the mausoleum!
Inside you can find the big monument of Petar Petrović Njegoš sitting with cross legs, accompanied by the eagle. It’s pretty impressive and the golden mosaic above just adds up to the overwhelming feeling of the place. Directly beneath the sculpture, in another room, there is a modest grave of Petar Petrović Njegoš. The whole mausoleum is guarded by two massive sculptures of women – something rather unusual in those kind of places. They are the mother and the sister of Petar Petrović Njegoš.
On the other side of the mausoleum you can find a small path leading to the view point. That’s where my friend took his Facebook profile picture, that’s the place I’ve been dreaming of visiting and finally, that’s the place from where apparently you can see 70% of Montenegro. I only have to believe it as I literally could see nothing, not even the path back to the mausoleum.
It was your typical expectations vs. reality situation and a perfect lesson of humbleness. To make everything even more hilarious couple of days later, when I was going from Kotor to Podgorica to catch my flight back home I could see from the bus the top of Mount Lovcen in its whole glory. I literally snorted with laughter then, especially when I thought I had to climb 461 stairs for nothing. Oh well, at least I have a reason to go back to Montenegro (not that I need any!)
Cetinje – the royal capital of Montenegro
From Mt. Lovcen it was a short ride to Cetinje, a former capital of Montenegro. I’ve heard various opinions about the town, from totally exciting to totally disappointing so I didn’t know what to expect. And well, Cetinje didn’t disappoint but also didn’t impress all that much. It was a small, sleepy down with a pleasant pedestrian street. It kind of felt like the town is stuck in time but there is a very well explanation for that.
Cetinje was founded in the 15th century and ever since has been one of the most important places in the country. That’s where the Montenegrin statehood and culture was born, Cetinje is also a well known center of the Orthodox religion. Due to its importance the town was granted the title of honorary capital of Montenegro and the official residence of the president is located there.
But Cetinje was the capital of the country already between 1878 and 1946 and you can still find numerous remnants of the great period strewn around the town. The main pedestrian street is lined with the grand buildings of former embassies, a little bit further you can find the Palace of King Nikola or Biljarda – residence of Peter II Petrović Njegoš, with the Court Church at Ćipur and Monastery of Cetinje being the icing on the cake.
For such a small town Cetinje is packed with monuments, I actually found it really fascinating. Such an inconspicuous place surrounded by incredible mountains turns out to be the cradle of the country – it’s the perfect example than Montenegro is so much more than just breathtaking views!
Skadar Lake – the pristine wonder of nature
Another quick hop on the bus and we have a photo stop in one of the most popular picture location in the country. I’ve seen the picture online numerous times yet I somehow never knew it was taken in Montenegro. Rijeka Crnojevića twists around the lush hills before entering Skadar Lake – one of the most pristine places you will find in Europe.
Skadar Lake is the biggest lake in the Balkans (or even in Southern Europe), divided between Montenegro (70%) and Albania (30%). To be honest when I saw the pictures of the Lake I wasn’t too impressed, it looked nice but definitely not incredible. How wrong I was! It’s one of those places that look so much better in real life, the photo can’t show its beauty.
When I visited Montenegro at the end of last year and first my plane was landing in Podgorica airport and I could see the lake from above and then my bus to Kotor was crossing the lake I instantly knew I have to visit the place! We did so with my friend couple of days later, only getting to Lesendro Castle (not the smartest idea, going along a busy road or railway tracks). And it was beautiful!
During the Great Montenegro Tour I was really excited to experience more of Lake Skadar. And so after the delicious lunch in the restaurant with a view over Rijeka Crnojevića it was time for a boat ride!
We’ve spent over one hour on the waters of Rijeka Crnojevića that is already part of Lake Skadar and I honestly didn’t think it was that much time, it felt more like 15 minutes! At that time the weather has already improved a bit and it was a pure bliss.
At first I was cautiously sitting inside the boat but with every passing minute I gained more confidence and eventually I’ve spent half of the journey just standing at the very front and enjoying the moment. It was perfect, the sun was peeking through the clouds, the wind was blowing in my hair and on top of that I could observe the birds in their natural. It was the first time in my life I was so close to the birds and I finally understood people interested in ornithology as it was truly fascinating!
Budva – more than just a party hub
I could have stayed at Lake Skadar much longer and just enjoy the pure beauty of the place and the incredible nature around but it was time to hit the last stop on the tour – Budva. This is probably the most known seaside resort in Montenegro, popular especially among Russian people, where the prices of properties can be as high as 1 million €!
The majority of people visiting Budva come here for the famous nightlife but the town has a small yet very charming old town too! It’s your perfect picturesque Adriatic settlement with red rooftops, narrow lanes, fortified city gates and walls surrounding the old town – it reminded me of a much smaller version of Dubrovnik.
To be honest with Budva’s reputation of Montenegrin party hub I didn’t have my expectations too high but the old town really is a lovely place to stroll around and is definitely worth a visit!
Budva was the last stop of Great Montenegro Tour and by 9pm we were back in Kotor.
Great Montenegro Tour – is it best Kotor day trip?
I honestly can recommend this tour to everyone visiting Kotor who either has a very limited time or doesn’t have their own mode of transport (or both). Even if you could easily spend the whole day in each of the places that the tour covers here you can see many of the highlights of Montenegro in just one day.
I didn’t feel the tour was rushed all that much, we maybe could have more time in Cetinje but still it wasn’t that bad. And it’s kind of incredible how many different places you can see in just one day, from harsh mountains to lush hills and pristine nature, from the old royal capital to picturesque Adriatic old town. Montenegro is such a diverse country and here you get the best of it!
The tour departs every day from Kotor Old Town at 8:30 am. (minimum of 4 people is required, on my tour there were around 15 of us). The price is 39€ which I think is really fair for all the attractions you get. You only need to pay extra for breakfast and lunch (if you wish) and entrance fee to Lovcen National Park and mausoleum (5€ in total). It’s best to book the tour one day in advance at the latest. Here you can find all the details about the tour and book it for yourself.
Kotor – practical information
How to get to Kotor
During my both recent trips to Montenegro I flew from Berlin to Podgorica with Ryanair. You can find tickets as cheap as 20-30€/return. As always I look for the best deals at Skyscanner as I’m a huge fan of their “anywhere” and “anytime” options – it has helped me to find so many great deals, including those to Montenegro. From Podgorica airport you need to take the taxi to the bus station (don’t believe when they quote 15€ or more, you can get there for 10€) and then take the bus to Kotor. Buses run frequently and the ticket is around 7€/one way, the journey takes around 2 hours. In Kotor the bus station is within walking distance from the Old Town.
Where to stay in Kotor
Recently I’ve stayed at amazing Palazo Drusko and it was beautiful! You can check the current rates and availability here.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option then I definitely recommend Hostel Old Town. I stayed there the first time I was in Kotor and it was pretty great too! That’s also where the Great Montenegro Tour departs from. Click here to check the current rates and availability!
Don’t travel without a travel insurance! I’ve learnt my lesson that you never know what might happen and I don’t leave the house without being insured. Click here for more info and best rates on travel insurance at World Nomads!
Disclaimer: My trip was in partnership with 360Monte but as always all opinions are 100% mine.
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