Montenegro is a small country in the Balkans with some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe. I was continually amazed at the beautiful landscapes, from mountains to lakes, from coastal towns to the sea. The country has a lot to offer and in my brief stay I know I only uncovered a small part of this hidden gem! If you’re heading to Montenegro, here are a few of the country’s highlights:

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Ostrog Monastery

This Orthodox monastery is essentially built into the mountain rock wall around it. The monastery was founded in the 17th century and is dedicated to Saint Basil of Ostrog (who is buried there). It is the most popular pilgrimage site in Montenegro, and there are lots of legends surrounding the monastery. My favorite was the shell that fell on the monastery during World War II—despite the direct hit, the shell didn’t go off, sparing the monastery from destruction!

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Lovcen National Park

This park has some beautiful scenery, being nestled around the mountains—including the highest mountain in Montenegro, Mt Lovcen (the black mountain that gave Montenegro its name). The Njegos Mausoleum is located 461 steps up on top of a hill and houses the tomb of the bishop-prince Petar II Petrovic Njegos. There are amazing views of the surrounding countryside from the Mausoleum—on a clear day, you can even see Albania!

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Lake Skadar National Park

This lake is the largest in the Balkans, and part of it forms the border between Montenegro and Albania. I didn’t make it to the lake itself (the road I was driving on had fallen off the mountain) but the scenery surrounding the western tributaries/wetlands were stunning.

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Cetinje

This quiet, sleepy town used to be the Old Royal Capital of Montenegro. While I didn’t find it all that captivating, if you’re passing through it might be worth a stop: there are several museums, as well as the Vlaska church, and the Cetinje Monastery (pictured).

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Kotor

I was based in Kotor for my stay in Montenegro, and would absolutely recommend visiting for at least a day. The Old Town is full of narrow, winding streets and squares full of restaurants and cafes. St. Tryphon’s Cathedral was built in 1166, and there is an Orthodox church as well. Without a doubt, the main attraction in Kotor are the town walls, which you can walk up for fantastic views over the whole Bay of Kotor. If you have the time, walk down the twisting back road from the fortress—it was the old peasant route to central Montenegro. There are more places in the Bay of Kotor that merit exploration, so if you have the time, head down the bay!

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Coastal Road Trip: Budva, Sveti Stefan, and Bar

Definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Montenegro was renting a car and driving along the Adriatic coast. I thought Budva was a quieter, smaller version of Kotor, although apparently it is the place to party in the summer. There are a few museums within the walled Old Town.

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Sveti Stefan is 6 km away from Budva, and today it is a private hotel. You can’t actually visit the islet (unless you’re staying there, of course), but it makes for one of the most picturesque features of the Montenegrin coast.

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Bar is another coastal town, but two of its main attractions are outside the city. Stari Bar is the original Old Town of Bar, which was abandoned and today is the site of archaeological ruins. It was fun to wander around the old, grown over remains—highlights are the aqueduct and the citadel. Bar’s other claim to fame is its proximity to the Old Olive Tree (Stara Maslina), which is a 2000 year old olive tree! It costs 1€ to walk around the tree, but you can both see the tree and read the information board from outside (without paying).

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My coastal road trip was a lot of fun—especially when we decided to drive into the mountains! The roads were narrow and winding and very scary (I was glad I wasn’t driving), but the views were incredible.

Durmitor National Park and Tara Canyon

This is absolutely my number one thing to do next time I get to Montenegro—while I didn’t make it on this trip, I heard nothing but good things about Durmitor and Tara Canyon. Tara Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, after the Grand Canyon in Arizona!

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The Basics: Montenegro has a population of roughly 600,000 people, 200,000 of which live in the capital city, Podgorica. While Montenegro is not a member of the EU, the official currency is Euros. The Cyrillic alphabet is more commonly used here than the Latin alphabet. Montenegro has connections all around the Balkans, mainly to Serbia, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and coastal Croatia (Dubrovnik).

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Getting Around: Within Kotor’s Old Town, everything is definitely within walking distance. While public transportation does connect much of the coast (and the capital), it might take a while due to the winding roads going over mountains. If you want to go further into the country, I recommend going on a tour or renting a car (if you can brave the roads).

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Where I Stayed: I stayed at Montenegro Hostel in Kotor. It was an excellent location, in the center of the Old Town, and a very good value for the price. The staff were really friendly and helpful in booking tours! They also had common rooms and kitchens which were nice for hanging out. I stayed in a 6-bed dorm, which was on the small side, and the lockers weren’t big enough to fit my big backpack. The bathrooms also usually had dirty floors and overall the hostel could have been a bit cleaner. Ultimately, I would stay here again for the great price, but I would lower my expectations.

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I absolutely loved exploring Montenegro. It’s a country that surprised me throughout my stay, and I enjoyed my time in Kotor. The country has some incredible scenery that is not to be missed on a trip to the Balkans!

Have you ever been to Montenegro? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!