Winding our way up, the bends in the road seemed unfeasibly tight and sharp. They are known as the Serpentines and this old road has existed for centuries. The only connection at one time between the old royal capital of Montenegro and the Bays of Kotor and Boka. I try to imagine a settlement of people who had been so isolated until this road. Even afterwards, it would take days to transport anything between the capital and outlying areas. I was on a day trip to see other areas of Montenegro with 360Monte.
It was the first time out of Kotor and I was looking forward to exploring more after great first impressions.
Old Road of Serpentines
Each turn in the road took us up to higher heights until we were above both the Bay of Kotor and Boka Bay. We stopped briefly to take in the view. This place is unbelievable. I hadn’t been prepared for the sights of this country. I hoped for a nice waterfront and some historical sites too but what had been delivered was far better than I thought. In the Old Town of Kotor, I was surrounded by layers of history and stories of many generations of people. I had learnt more in a day about a tiny maze of a city than a whole weekend in other places. I was getting used to being surprised.
I took my camera out and started to shoot the bay from above. The colours were so vivid and the slight haze in the distance made it look dreamy. There was a bright sun in the sky, gently warming my skin and there was a stillness. We were above any noise from the settlements and the colours of blue and green kept us staring for minutes. What a beautiful view.
Njeguši, Mount Lovćen
Our first stop was famed for its cheese and smoked ham. This sleepy mountain village was actually the birth place of one of the most important dynasties in Montenegro. The Petrovic dynasty originate here and stone houses that have stood for centuries still exist. We tried the smoked ham and cheese in a sandwich. They give you slabs of bread here so you will be full. I got a coffee too and it cost a few Euros which isn’t included in the price of the tour.
I also had a shot of rakija which is the national drink made in Montenegro. This is totally optional and not for everyone at 10am!
The next part of our tour was a highlight for me. It is the main place you can look out to five other countries. You stand in Montenegro and can see Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo and Croatia. I learnt a lot and we asked questions about former Yugoslavia, its rulers and becoming independent.
We headed into the Lovćen National Park area and up to the King’s mausoleum. The drive goes through a forest and up higher into the mountains. The National Park is a protected area of nature and also protected historical buildings and archaeological sites. We were told there are bears, wolves and often sightings of eagles and the peregrine falcon. It costs an extra few Euros to pay for entry to the park which is collected by the guide.
All of the 461 steps you have to climb here are worth it! Just keep going. It can be tough but the views are incredible.
King Petar Petrovic Njegos had a wish that his final resting place would be high up looking over Montenegro and it was granted by building his mausoleum on Mount Lovćen.
The burial chamber with the tomb is completely white marble and the room upstairs is black marble and 18 carat gold. There is a huge black marble sculpture and the inside is cool in temperature. This is actually the highest mausoleum in the world. It feels quite unique and is a testament to the respect the people of Montenegro had for their King.
The landscape here was a major highlight for me and we heard about the Great War and how Montenegro took in refugees from Serbia. Finding out about this culture and the resilience of Montenegrin people was very interesting. Former Yugoslavia had its advantages and some people were still against the new independence. History in textbooks or in mass media is often portrayed in a different light to how people really feel. It was great to hear the perspective of locals.
Cetinje, the Old Royal Capital
From the King’s mausoleum, we travelled down towards the old capital.
Cetinje has many buildings of importance and the two that stood out for me were the Court Church and Cetinje monastery.
Court church is the place where Ivan Crnojevic and King Nikola and his queen are buried. These leaders of Montenegro shaped this old capital and the history of the whole country. There is a great iconostasis in the church as well as being the resting place of former leaders. From the outside, it is a very humble small looking place. Inside it is richly decorated. The church sits on the old foundations of Cetinje monastery.
We weren’t allowed to take photos inside and I like that these rules are observed and the places of such significance are preserved.
Next we walked to Cetinje Monastery. We had to cover up with wraps that were provided for those of us showing knees or shoulders. Our guide asked permission for our entrance and we were told when we were allowed to enter.
The monastery has icons and incredibly old art but the major part of religious significance was the remains of St Petar Cetinjski. Many people will make pilgrimages to visit this important site. Some of the rooms, particularly the baptism room, were small and ornate. The books and documents here, and in other places of Cetinje, dated back centuries and were now part of a museum.
This complex of buildings has been rebuilt over time due to conflict. It has been almost destroyed in the past by Turkish conquerors.
River Crnojevića – lunch
We got back in the bus and travelled to River Crnojevica. This was a very picturesque stop. The river gently winds its way through the hills. The greens of the landscape are fantastic so I didn’t edit my photos here at all. It is a beautiful and relaxing place to stop and have a bite to eat.
We settled down in the outside terrace overlooking the river.
There were three options for lunch; fish, meat or veggie and I chose the fish. It comes whole with all bones and the head. The sides were potato and salad. Everything was very fresh and tasty. If you are happy to eat fish whole like the photo, then I recommend trying this here. It was one of my top things to eat in Montenegro.
We briefly stopped at an ancient bridge which is built into the side of a house. It was nice to stop and see the river from this perspective too. It is a peaceful and photogenic place.
Budva and Jaz Beach
Our final stop of the day was Budva and Jaz Beach. A popular tourist destination, this is bigger than Kotor or the villages that we visited previously.
It felt more built up and had a large old city and port. We explored some of the buildings of the old city and went through small streets to get a better idea of the place.
The city walls and old buildings like the church were my favourite parts. It felt like walking back in time and the architecture was beautiful.
The beach is nice but the pebbles are a killer. I much prefer sand beaches for lying out or going into the water. Take a pair of sandals you can wear for this part.
We had some drinks and snacks at the beach bars and sat and enjoyed the end of our day trip. It had been quite a packed schedule and we had learnt a lot about Montenegro from first meeting that morning.
This was a great day trip and actually good value. To get to any of the places listed is a good drive and the guide is an added bonus. Ours was very knowledgeable and I felt that I had learned about important historical and cultural places in Montenegro afterwards. This is not a tour for people with mobility issues. There are stairs and uneven paths/beaches at various points. The climb up to the mausoleum was moderate and we did all stop a couple of times.
I thought there was a long time between breakfast (smoked ham and cheese) and lunch at the river. We probably went from 9:30am until 3pm so a snack and definitely a big bottle of water is advisable. The extra costs you need to factor in are for breakfast, lunch, water, the national park fee and any souvenirs. 20 Euros would cover everything extra.
I loved seeing the sights and learning so much about the country. It has inspired me to go back and see more of Montenegro.
Would you like to visit Montenegro? Which places would you like to see in person?
Disclaimer – my tour was provided by 360Monte and Kotor Tourism. I would have happily paid for this day trip and my views are my own, as always