Departures from April to October 2019
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 fiftieth. 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.
You will be greeted at the airport by a member of the Riviera Travel team to help you check in for your flight to Dubrovnik or Tivat. Upon arrival, you will be escorted to the four-star Hotel Moskva.
Settle in before rejoining the group this evening for a welcome reception with drinks and then a tasty dinner in Hotel Moskva’s restaurant: the perfect opportunity to meet your fellow travellers.
After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, we head to Cetinje, the former capital of Montenegro and royal seat of the ruling Petrović family. On our journey, we pass through rugged mountains covered with pine forests and dotted with idyllic, small holdings – take in the quintessential Montenegrin landscapes as eagles swoop overhead.
Attractive Cetinje is home to fewer than 15,000 people now but is replete with signs of its prestigious past status as capital, with ornate former embassies and traditional-style public buildings. Off the pleasant main square with its al fresco café culture, we find King Nikola’s Museum. This large yet unassuming, burgundy house gives little away from the outside of the fascinating artefacts within. Learn the incredible story of this tiny kingdom over the 58-year reign of its innovative rulers, Nikola and Milena, through a guided museum visit. From examples of the first Montenegrin currency, vibrantly hued national dress and captured Ottoman flags illustrating the long struggles with its erstwhile neighbour. While smaller and simpler than other nations’ royal palaces, the museum provides a glimpse into the compelling story of the proud Montenegrin people through the 19th and 20th century.
Following our museum visit, we visit an authentic restaurant in the countryside for a tasting session of traditional Montenegrin favourites: smoked meats and cheeses with delicious priganice – incredibly moreish doughnuts served with honey, which locals traditionally offer to house guests.
Afterwards we return to Budva to get to know our base for the holiday and uncover the secrets of its delightful Old Town with our expert local guide. Blessed with a beautiful climate and stunning coastline, lively Budva attracts visitors of all ages with its mix of attractions and entertainment options including a lovely marina. Tonight we enjoy dinner together in one of the town’s charming restaurants.
This morning, we drive west to the breathtaking Boka Bay and the towns of Kotor and Perast. Only Montenegrin for the last century, the legacy of 400 years as part of the Republic of Venice is strongly felt here. From the winged lion, the symbol of San Marco and emblem of Venice above the city gates, to the archetypal Venetian-style buildings, there is a strong feeling of the ‘Serenissima’ in the air. Called to protect the city from the attacking Ottomans, the Venetians closed off the neck of the bay with chains to keep the invaders’ ships out.
We make a stop on the twisting road down into Kotor to marvel at the awe-inspiring view of the city, set against the commanding backdrop of towering peaks surrounding Boka Bay.
Guarded by medieval stone walls, the city is home to numerous churches including the 850-year-old Catholic cathedral with relics of the 3rd-century martyr, St Tryphon, set against the incredible terrain of the dramatic mountains, and the Orthodox Church of St Nikola with large and amazing paintings. The Veneto-speaking residents of old Kotor were skilled sailors and traded the local resources of salt and silver, incredibly coveted in medieval times, bringing prosperity to the city. Strolling around the narrow lanes with your local guide, spare a moment for the city’s feline residents: they saved the city, then named Cattaro, from the plague by catching the disease-transmitting mice, and became unofficial mascots of the city.
You have a wide range of cafes and restaurants in Kotor to choose from at lunch time, before we continue to the captivating town of Perast. Flanked by rugged mountain scenery on one side and the placid waters of Boka Bay on the other, this lovely, small town is known for the two church islands just off the shore. We take a short boat ride to the man-made Our Lady of the Rocks island, shaped like a boat. Local legend states it was started by a wounded sailor, who was healed after finding the Virgin Mary’s image on a rock and dedicated himself to making a church in her honour. The island’s small Catholic church is resplendent with art, including many Baroque works by famous 17th-century local artist, Tripo Kokolja, and countless silver votive tablets from sailors grateful for salvation on the seas. Upstairs the tiny museum is crammed with treasures, including a masterpiece painted by Kokolja at only 14 years of age and a tapestry worked on for 25 years by a local woman waiting for her husband to return from sea. Amongst the gold and silver threads, she added her own hair and finally became blind from the years of dedicated work. After a truly memorable day, we return to the hotel for dinner together.
Today we discover the well-kept secret that is Montenegro’s wine industry and see the understated capital city of Podgorica. Known as Titograd for Yugoslavia’s leader during communist rule for nearly half a century, this inland city is home to the mammoth Šipčanik wine cellar. Occupying what was once an underground military aircraft hangar, it was abandoned after NATO bombing in 1999 and now houses around 2 million litres of wine. Set directly below the vineyards where the grapes are grown, the cellar is the perfect setting for a taste of Montenegrin wine.
There’s free time for lunch in Podgorica before we return to Budva and have dinner together in the hotel.
Today we visit Montenegro’s neighbour, Croatia, with a local expert to see the unique city that Byron dubbed, ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. As with Montenegro, Dubrovnik has a history with the Venetians although it later thrived as an independent city-state for 700 years and is markedly different to the rest of Croatia. The stunning baroque city we see today is the result of wealth built up through trading throughout the Mediterranean and with the Ottoman Empire. Nestled behind the excellently preserved city walls are countless narrow lanes with steep stairs just waiting to be explored. From its origins in the 7th century, the city has withstood earthquakes and war across the ages to emerge triumphant. Paved with marble, the main street gleams enticingly in the sunlight and takes you all the way through the Old Town, from the fortified Pile gate to the Ploče gate by the harbour. For lunch today you may wish to dine at one of Dubrovnik’s many top-quality restaurants. Why not take the opportunity to try some tasty Dalmatian-coast seafood or risotto?
Today you have a free day to explore Budva as you wish. Why not meander along the marina or explore the narrow cobbled lanes in the Old Town? Later we enjoy our final dinner at Hotel Moskva.
Stari Bar, or Old Bar, is a time capsule dating from 1878 when the town’s old quarter was abandoned following liberation from the Ottomans. The steep but pretty street leading up to Stari Bar is filled with small shops and quaint cafés with colourful shutters and flowers. There’s a wide variety of lunch options to choose from here, looking down over the new town to the Adriatic. Against the now-familiar Montenegrin backdrop of stunning mountains dotted with cypress and olive trees, peaceful Stari Bar, with its cobbled streets, is worth exploring on a short walking tour for those who wish.
The largest lake in southeastern Europe is our destination for the afternoon: Lake Skadar is home to half of Europe’s population of endangered Dalmatian pelicans, amongst over 280 bird species which call this vast, unspoilt wetland area home. Spanning both Montenegro and neighbouring Albania, and fed by 6 rivers, this natural paradise is fringed by tall reeds and contains huge expanses of waterlilies that call to mind the work of Monet. To fully enjoy the lake’s serene and dreamy ambience, we take a boat trip with birds flying alongside us and occasional fishermen dotting the banks. Surrounded by mountains and with just the sound of birds, it’s easy to imagine you have left the 21st century far behind. In the summer months, there is the possibility to take a dip in the pristine waters of the lake, or just sit back and unwind with some complimentary local cheese, priganice doughnuts and traditional brandy.
Afterwards we enjoy a farewell dinner together at the historic Hotel Pelikan in the fishing village of Virpazar. To reflect Montenegro’s mix of maritime and mountain heritage, tonight we tuck into a hearty fish supper straight from the lake as we look back together over the memorable experiences of the past few days.
Transfer to either Dubrovnik or Tivat airport for your return flight.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on one person in a double/twin room for sole occupancy. The price includes seven nights’ accommodation with breakfast and dinner, all tours as mentioned, all transfers, all local accommodation taxes and the services of a Riviera Travel tour manager.
Included excursions are Cetinje with entrance to King Nikola’s museum, traditional Montenegrin tasting lunch, guided walk of Budva, Kotor & Perast including Church of Our Lady, Dubrovnik, Podgorica Wine Tasting, Visit to Old Bar, Lake Skadar Cruise and Fisherman’s Dinner.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Airport||Hotel location||Transfer time|
|Dubrovnik Airport||Budva||3 hrs including border crossing|
|Tivat Airport||30 mins|
Visas and Passports
UK passport holders do not require a visa for this holiday, however, please be aware that holders of other passports may require visas for entry into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia. We advise that you check with the relevant embassy prior to booking.
UK passport holders must ensure passports have been issued within the last 10 years, are undamaged and valid for 3 months after the planned date of departure from Montenegro.
Whilst care has been taken to ensure that the information provided relating to visa requirements is true and correct at time of publication, changes in requirements after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information. Therefore, whilst we strive to provide the most up-to-date information, we strongly suggest that you re-confirm requirements with the relevant embassy prior to application.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.