A road trip in Montenegro promises an unforgettable holiday. This Balkan country is renowned for its stunning landscapes. As you travel from one enchanting destination to another, you will witness these breathtaking landscapes. It is no coincidence that numerous routes in Montenegro are designated as ‘panoramic roads’! In fact, a road trip is the optimal method to truly experience the beauty of this country. In this blog, we provide you with practical advice and a comprehensive Montenegro road trip itinerary for a car or camper trip around this Balkan country.
Montenegro Tips: how to prepare your trip
#1 Verify Your Insurance Coverage
While Montenegro is situated in Europe, it is not a member of the European Union. Therefore, it is essential to review your insurance policies and ensure they provide adequate coverage for non-EU countries.
Typically, travel insurance includes coverage for Europe and is not limited to the EU, which means you will be protected while in Montenegro. Similarly, cancellation insurance usually applies to Montenegro without limitations. However, it is advisable to double-check this information for peace of mind.
If you plan to drive to Montenegro using your own vehicle, such as a camper, it is crucial to review your car insurance as well. We encountered fellow travelers who discovered that their car insurance did not cover all the Balkan countries outside the European Union they intended to visit. Consequently, they had to arrange alternative insurance on the spot. To verify this, check your insurer’s green card, which indicates the countries covered by your policy. Fortunately, Montenegro was included in our motorhome insurance, along with the other Balkan countries.
Remember to carry your car or motorhome insurance green card while traveling. It may be requested at the border crossing.
#2 Bring euros
Montenegro is a small country that does not have its own currency; it uses the euro. Despite not being part of the European Union or the eurozone, you can easily make payments with euros here. Formerly, the German mark served as the official national currency until Montenegro adopted the euro following Germany’s transition.
While card payments are accepted at many establishments in Montenegro, we found that cash was often the preferred payment method. Therefore, it is advisable to have some cash on hand. Keep in mind that debit card payments in Montenegro, being a non-EU and non-eurozone country, may incur additional fees. Check with your bank for any potential charges, allowing you to plan accordingly.
#3 Skip the capital
Contrary to the typical allure of capital cities, Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica, is considered the ugliest and dullest capital in Europe. It lacks a historic center and notable attractions, making it a destination to skip during your Montenegro road trip.
Did you know that Montenegro still maintains an alternative capital? Cetinje served as the country’s former capital and is still regarded as its cultural hub, hosting numerous museums. However, we decided to forgo visiting Cetinje as the local museum offerings did not capture our interest.
#4 Purchase a Local SIM Card
Since Montenegro is not a member of the European Union, regular SIM cards may not work there. Therefore, we recommend buying a local SIM card with internet access to navigate with Google Maps, stay connected, and do your travel research.
Fortunately, acquiring a SIM card in Montenegro is straightforward. You will find many small tobacco shops or newsstands in towns and along the streets where you can easily purchase one. Remember to bring your passport as you will need it for identification purposes. We were fortunate to find an offer of 500 GB for only €10 in October 2022.
Budget tip: Similar to the European Union, the Western Balkans have a SIM card zone, allowing you to use a SIM card from one country in others. Although this may not always apply to prepaid tourist cards, it is worth checking with the provider’s customer service if you plan to visit multiple Balkan countries like we did.
#5 Discover the ‘Panoramic Roads’
Montenegro is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, and embarking on a road trip through the country provides opportunities to explore these beautiful locations. However, you can elevate your road trip into an extraordinary experience by venturing along the designated ‘panoramic roads’.
One notable route is the stunning car route that winds along the edges of the Bay of Kotor, offering continuous views of the azure waters and picturesque villages nestled between the bay and surrounding mountains. This stretch is part of Route 3, which extends along the coast and reaches Lake Skadar.
Montenegro by camper
We embarked on a camper van adventure in Montenegro, where we encountered numerous fellow camper travelers throughout the country. Montenegro proves to be an ideal destination for a memorable camper trip, offering well-maintained roads, breathtaking routes, and an abundance of scenic spots.
It’s important to note that wild camping in Montenegro is strictly prohibited, as explicitly stated by prominent signs at the border crossing. Furthermore, clear prohibition signs are prominently displayed in various specific locations, including the picturesque Bay of Kotor. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t find suitable camping alternatives. By avoiding prohibited areas and ensuring that you don’t disturb the surroundings, it’s still possible to enjoy wild camping experiences discreetly. To make informed decisions, we extensively researched reviews and insights shared by fellow motorhome owners via the Park4Night app.
Additionally, Montenegro offers a wide selection of official camper spots and campsites, each boasting its own unique charm. While prices can vary considerably, diligent exploration will lead you to competitively priced campsites that cater to various budgets.
The ultimate Montenegro road trip itinerary
#1 The Bay of Kotor
Located in the southwestern part of Montenegro, near the border with Croatia, lies one of the most exquisite destinations in the Balkans: the Bay of Kotor. Often referred to as the southernmost fjord in Europe, this bay is a unique geological formation created by the carving of a river that has long since dried up. Unlike traditional fjords shaped by ice masses, the Bay of Kotor is a breathtaking display of mountains and sea. It comprises three interconnected bays, with the renowned town of Kotor nestled in its farthest corner.
Exploring the Bay of Kotor is a feast for the senses, with picturesque villages dotting its coastline and magnificent vistas embracing the entire bay. To make the most of your visit, we highly recommend embarking on a scenic drive around the lake. Additionally, driving up the narrow, winding road to the viewpoints of Kotor provides an awe-inspiring panoramic view of the bay, especially during sunset.
While there are several noteworthy stops along Kotor Bay, including Herceg Novi, Perast, and Tivat, none compare to the charm and allure of Kotor itself. As the most renowned attraction in Montenegro, Kotor attracts a large crowd of visitors, including cruise ships that dock in its port, thanks to its prime location on the bay.
Situated at the foot of a majestic mountain range along the Bay of Kotor, the walled city of Kotor stands as one of Montenegro’s most beautiful places to visit. The idyllic setting amidst breathtaking landscapes has earned it a coveted spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Step into the atmospheric old town, and you’ll be transported back to the Middle Ages, as the ancient streets and structures have remained remarkably well-preserved.
The main attraction in Kotor is its atmospheric Stari Grad, or historic city center. Lose yourself in the labyrinth of narrow streets, staircases, squares, churches, fountains, and palaces that characterize this charming old town. Exploring Kotor wouldn’t be complete without a stroll along the city walls, which offer an extensive vantage point over the entire town. For the adventurous, a steep climb to the San Giovanni fortress rewards you with the most breathtaking views of the old city.
While Kotor is renowned for its historic center, it has also gained fame for its feline residents. Even if you haven’t heard of Kotor’s reputation as a cat town, you’ll immediately notice the presence of numerous cats lounging on street corners. The cats of Kotor have become so beloved that a Cat Museum now exists, and souvenir shops offer an array of cat-themed memorabilia. We recommend visiting the souvenir shop of local Danijela, where proceeds go toward feeding and caring for Kotor’s cats, including necessary medical attention.
#3 Lovćen National Park
Among Montenegro’s most extraordinary places to visit is the Lovcén National Park. The national park can be reached via a long, winding road with numerous hairpin bends, ascending from Kotor into the mountains. Although the road can be steep and narrow at times, it is well-maintained and even accommodates coaches, surprising visitors with its accessibility.
The focal point of the park is the Njegoš Mausoleum, perched atop one of the park’s highest mountains. Ascending to the mausoleum involves traversing a cool tunnel encompassing more than 450 steps. The mausoleum stands as a tribute to Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, a national hero of Montenegro. A colonnaded courtyard, adorned with two stone figures, grants access to a chapel featuring a statue of Njegoš. Dominating the central space is a modern-looking statue, surrounded by a golden mosaic ceiling.
Behind the mausoleum lies one of Lovćen National Park’s most captivating viewpoints. For many visitors, this scenic spot is the primary reason for their visit. From here, a phenomenal panorama of the national park unfolds, and on clear days, views can stretch as far as Italy. Moreover, the turquoise waters of the Bay of Kotor are a captivating sight that should not be missed.
#4 Coastal town of Budva
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the stunning coastal town of Budva while on a road trip through Montenegro. Here, you can experience a captivating blend of a historic center, vibrant nightlife, and picturesque beaches.
Budva has a new and historic part. The new town may not possess the same aesthetic allure as its historic counterpart, but it boasts a plethora of restaurants, bars, discotheques, and cafes. If you’re seeking an exhilarating night out in Montenegro, the new town of Budva is the place to be, particularly during the high season when it pulsates with parties and open-air clubs. For those with a penchant for culture or those desiring a fusion of culture and nightlife, a visit to Stari Grad, the old town of Budva, is highly recommended.
Within the historic city center of Budva – or Stari Grad – wander through narrow alleys enclosed by ancient city walls. Don’t miss the Holy Trinity Church, where stunning wall paintings and even ceiling artwork await. For a delightful breakfast accompanied by specialty coffee or an evening beer with delectable snacks, Casper Specialty within the walled area of Budva is the perfect spot.
When in Budva, be sure to enjoy the numerous beaches in the town and its surroundings. You’ll find splendid city beaches near both the new and old parts of town, as well as some of the most stunning beaches in the area. We highly recommend taking a leisurely stroll from the old town to Mogren beach. The beach is delightful, and the scenic walk along the steep rock face offers panoramic views of the peninsula where Stari Grad is nestled.
#5 Resort Peninsula Sveti Stefan
Regarded as one of the most picturesque landmarks in Montenegro, the island of Sveti Stefan should not be missed on your road trip itinerary. Situated just a stone’s throw away from Budva, this stunning attraction captivates visitors with its ethereal beauty.
Sveti Stefan is a small island connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. Centuries ago, this easily defensible piece of land served as a residential area. Today, the island, once inhabited, has transformed into a prestigious tourist destination since the 1940s. Renowned artists and affluent figures have made this luxurious paradise their haven. In fact, the entire island was purchased in 2007 and transformed into an exclusive resort for the wealthy. The medieval town, characterized by its narrow streets, has been preserved, offering an atmospheric backdrop for the vacations of global stars.
Unfortunately, access to Sveti Stefan’s resort is limited to hotel guests. However, even without a visit to the island itself, a trip to this exclusive enclave is still worthwhile. Take the opportunity to enjoy the nearby off-coast beaches as a non-hotel guest and visit the viewpoint near St. Sava Church for a splendid view of Sveti Stefan. Located on the mountain opposite the islet, this viewpoint offers an enchanting perspective of the island.
#6 Ruin village Stari Bar
The most renowned attraction in Bar, and the main reason for our visit, is Stari Bar, or Old Bar. Contrary to what the name might imply, Stari Bar doesn’t refer to a historic city center but rather to the former town. Located slightly inland from Bar’s present location, the old town was once a bustling hub. However, a devastating earthquake in 1979, which caused severe damage to the vital aqueduct, led to the relocation of the town’s inhabitants to the coast, where the new Bar was established.
Read more: best things to do in Bar
The aqueduct has since been restored and transformed into a monument, while the walled city itself has become an open-air museum. Although life has returned to some extent outside the city walls, it is far from being a bustling town. Upon arriving at the parking lot, a steep road leads to the old main gate in the city walls. This colorful street is lined with souvenir shops and restaurants. The spacious terrace against the city wall is an ideal spot to relax after a rewarding stroll through Stari Bar.
Within the old city walls, you’ll encounter captivating ruins, now adorned with lush plants and shrubs intentionally guided along frames for photogenic effect. Some buildings have been restored, particularly the churches, offering a glimpse into the town’s former glory. At the highest point lies the old citadel, providing a panoramic view of Stari Bar and the aqueduct.
To access Stari Bar, a ticket costing € 3 can be purchased just after the old city gate. Throughout the city, informative signs provide background information about the buildings, and an augmented reality app is available, allowing visitors to visualize the city as it once stood. A large sign at the entrance displays a QR code leading to the app.
#7 Lake Skadar
As the largest lake in the Balkans, Lake Skadar deserves a prominent spot on your Montenegro itinerary. Straddling the border with Albania, approximately one-third of the lake lies within the neighboring country, while the most stunning and expansive portion rests within Montenegro. Undoubtedly, it stands as one of the most spectacular landscapes the country has to offer.
Lake Skadar encompasses a vast expanse of water, forming a national park that seamlessly blends elements of a lake and a wetland. In certain areas, an abundance of water lilies and other vegetation creates a mesmerizing floating grassland effect. Summer, when the water lilies are in full bloom, showcases Lake Skadar at its most resplendent. However, it’s worth noting that this season can be scorching hot and busier compared to the low season.
A visit to Lake Skadar revolves around two key experiences: a boat trip on characteristic wooden boats and relishing the captivating views over the water. Along the lake’s shores, numerous options exist to embark on boat trips, ranging from a couple of hours to a full day. These excursions often encompass visits to small islands, some of which are home to monasteries or other unique attractions, while others meander through the wetlands.
Another highlight awaits at the renowned Pavlova Strana Viewpoint, easily discoverable on Google Maps. This location, along with the road leading to it and the subsequent hairpin route, offers breathtaking vistas over the lake. The narrow section of the lake winding around a mountaintop resembles a horseshoe bend, offering one of the most splendid views of the entire lake. Additional panoramic roads encircle the lake, many of which are designated as such, providing remarkable viewpoints to immerse yourself in the stunning scenery.
#8 Durmitor National Park
Nestled in the northwest of Montenegro lies Durmitor National Park, a true gem of the Balkans and one of the country’s most prized natural wonders. Praised as one of Montenegro’s most beautiful national parks, Durmitor offers a stark contrast to the coastal towns and beaches found in the rest of the country. Here, jagged mountain peaks and dense forests reign supreme.
Exploring Durmitor National Park is a journey that requires several days, as the vast nature reserve attracts hikers, kayaking enthusiasts, and nature lovers alike. The charming mountain village of Žabljak serves as the park’s most popular base, offering information centers where you can gather details about the park’s most picturesque hikes and embark on exciting excursions to witness its most stunning landscapes.
Among the park’s highlights, the Tara Canyon and Black Lake stand out as must-see attractions. As some of the most iconic places to visit in Montenegro, they epitomize the park’s natural beauty. Even if your visit is limited in time, make sure to allocate some moments to explore these remarkable sights.