Montenegro’s wild beauty and incredible heritage, encompassing the legacy of the Venetians, Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire and former Yugoslavia, make it a unique and enticing area to explore. Only independent once again since 2006, this small yet mighty country boasts fascinating history and truly magnificent scenery. Christened Montenegro by the Venetians for its imposingly rugged mountains – seen from the sea, the towering peaks appear black – this tiny Balkan nation combines an alluring coastline with a glorious, wild hinterland.
Neighbouring Dubrovnik, described by Byron as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, is the icon of Croatia’s spectacular Dalmatian Coast. The perfectly picturesque old town offers unforgettable vistas that never fail to impress, whether you are visiting for the first time or the 50th. A prosperous independent republic and sea power for centuries, UNESCO-listed Dubrovnik affords wonderful views from every angle with its Baroque buildings and marble streets harbouring riveting stories.
While Montenegro has been conquered many times, it is telling that the Venetians and Austro-Hungarians never took the starkly rustic inland areas and instead settled the rich coastal areas. This left the bucolic village life of the Montenegrin mountain clans barely changed over the centuries and with little in common with the seafaring traders of the coast.
From its hearty mountain fare of smoked meats and cheeses, to the many traditional dishes left behind by successive invaders, Montenegrin cuisine is appetising and varied. The UN’s 192nd country also has excellent but relatively unheard-of wine – little surprise with its pleasant Mediterranean climate and proximity to Italy’s wine regions.
An integral figure in Montenegro’s eventful past is Nikola Petrović, who ruled Montenegro for 50 years as a duke and eight as a king. Nikola and his wife, Milena, drove their tiny kingdom into the 20th century with innovations including the country’s first constitution and currency. The forward-thinking monarchs also increased Montenegro’s presence on the international stage by marrying five of their daughters to European princes and kings, earning Nikola the epithet of ‘the father-in-law of Europe’. We will learn about Nikola, his queen and the rest of the intriguing Petrović dynasty’s impact on Montenegro during an enthralling tour of their former royal seat.
You will return home with memories of the wonderful contrasts of this compact country, from the drama of the immense landscapes and mesmerising coastlines to how the people of the historic towns of Cetinje, Kotor, Budva and Bar shaped this surprising corner of the Balkans. Along with the eternal magic of Adriatic gem of Dubrovnik in neighbouring Croatia, Montenegro offers us a glimpse of the Mediterranean of yesteryear. By the end of this insightful tour you will have explored the rustic charm and coastal appeal that characterise Montenegro: a country still off the beaten track.