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Montenegro Vacation: Visit Europe’s Newest Country

Montenegro, Mountain Hiking, Nudists, Yugoslavia

In a recent referendum on independence, voters in tiny Montenegro opted to sever their union with Serbia and strike out on their own as Europe’s newest country. An independent nation before WWI, Montenegro is divorcing its politically troubled sibling, Serbia, and untying the last laces of the former Yugoslavia. Though leaning westward and modernizing carefully, Montenegro retains a rustic appeal that will only beckon more visitors as the nation gains more international name recognition. Within the mere 13,000 square kilometers of Montenegro, one can find the “black mountains” from which it derives its name, sand-and-pebble Adriatic beaches, coastal towns of red-capped roofs, and a friendly, slow-paced capital – Podgorica.

Montenegro Vacation: Kotor

In some parts of Montenegro, the rugged mountains butt right up against the sea, with quaint towns wedged between blue Adriatic waters and rocky mountains. Kotor, protected by UNESCO, is particularly noteworthy among these towns for its intact medieval walls and alleys, its stunning fjord-like Adriatic harbor, and its old churches and gates, including St. Tryphon.

Montenegro Vacation: Zabljak and northern mountains

The inland mountains of Montenegro have their charms, too, offering outdoor recreation unspoiled by excessive commercialism. Consider Zabljak, a high-altitude town that offers nearby skiing, rafting in one of Europe’s deepest canyons (Tara River), and mountain hiking and biking – all alongside quaint attractions like old monasteries and tiny farmhouses.

Montenegro Vacation: Riviera on the Adriatic Sea

If sunny beaches and bars are more your style, there’s Budva and Sveti Stefan, coastal resorts that feature picturesque old towns complemented by beaches long and short, pebbly and sandy, popular and isolated. Along the so-called Budvanska Riviera are some 17 beaches, including some for nudists. Of all the coastal areas, this stretch bustles with a mixture of spartan and lavish small hotels, unassuming nightlife, trinket and art shops, and (of course) restaurants serving everything from fresh seafood to Montenegrin specialties like hams, muttons, cheeses, and hearty breads.

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Montenegro Vacation: Podgorica, fledgling capital

After visiting and northern mountains and the southern shores, tourists will also find Europe’s youngest capital, Podgorica, to be unexpectedly worthwhile. Once known as Titograd (can you tell this was Yugoslavia?), Podgorica balances its unfortunate Communist-era architecture with smart new additions like the Millennium Bridge, which crosses one of the five rivers in the city. The real charms of Podgorica, though, lie in historic and cultural attractions like the Turkish-style old town, the ruins of Nemanja, and the old churches, including St. George’s, dating from the 900s. The relatively young and more progressive population of Podgorica tends to speak English and welcomes tourists to its cafes, traditional restaurants, and its clubs. Podgorica is a great place to sample the array of Montenegrin wines, as well as plum and grape brandies popular with young and old alike.

Montenegro Vacation: Small but Mighty

For European tourists who want something comfortable yet unspoiled, Montenegro is a tiny gem in the rough. Podgorica, while not itself breathtaking, is the tourist’s best connecting point to the coast and the mountainous countryside, although nothing is ever more than a few hours away from anything else. During a one-week Montenegro vacation, a tourist can sun on the beach, climb a mountain, party with students, explore ruins, visit museums, try new cuisine, and otherwise delight in the landscape and culture of this Balkan beauty.