Balkans

Montenegro Road Trip: An Easy Itinerary for the Bay of Kotor

A beautiful blue bay with mountains and villages along its rim.

Glorious mountains, Venetian old towns and one of the most sublime stretches of coastline in the Balkans – Montenegro is a great place for a road trip. This one week Montenegro road trip itinerary is perfect for first-time visitors who want to see the best of the country in 7 days.

Boka Kotorska. Don’t you just love how that sounds? It’s the Montenegrin name for the Bay of Kotor, a stunning landscape of winding coves, sandy inlets and deep-water harbours on the country’s northern Adriatic coast.

The area has been inhabited since antiquity (most famously by the Venetians) and was a popular holiday spot when Montenegro was part of Yugoslavia. Like in neighbouring Croatia, relics of forgotten holiday resorts are strewn up and down the shoreline.

A triangle-shaped bay and an old town made up of hundreds of orange roofs viewed from above.
Kotor Old Town – a must-see on any Montenegro road trip.

The roads around the bay are well-worn, but they definitely don’t see as much activity as they once did. However, tourism, especially cruise ship tourism, is starting to take off in Montenegro again. These days, it really helps to have a car so you can get off the beaten path in Montenegro – and away from those menacing liners.

With your own wheels, you can escape the bright lights of Tivat and Budva and get into some of the smaller cities and villages around the bay. A car will give you access to the monasteries and national parks high in the mountains above the sea – and an opportunity to experience one of the craziest switchback roads in the world, the Kotor Serpentine. (Just don’t do what we did and get stuck up there in the dark!)

Mountains and a bay at blue hour.
Another day in paradise – AKA Montenegro!

Based on our own one week road trip around Montenegro, this itinerary will help you see some of the country’s most magical landscapes and interesting towns in a short period.

Before I go on, I’d like to thank Rhino Car Hire, who sponsored our rental car in Montenegro. Our experience with Rhino and Green Motion (our agent in Podgorica) was faultless, so I’m more than happy to recommend both. As always, all opinions expressed here are my own.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Wander-Lush is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. Learn more.


About this Montenegro road trip itinerary

There are lots of different routes you can take in Montenegro. When planning our itinerary, we focused on a logical course that would involve minimal time in the car (I did 100% of the driving) while still allowing us to see as much as possible.

Our road trip itinerary is a simple loop, starting and ending in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital city. We travelled a total distance of roughly 500km (300 miles) and I spent approximately 10 hours behind the wheel.

Our one week Montenegro itinerary follows a pretty relaxed pace, including two two-night stays. This gives you the option of taking a day or two completely off from driving if you find you need a break.

Some of Montenegro’s best scenery lies between the hot spots of Kotor and Durmitor. Because we decided to hire our car in Podgorica instead of Kotor or Tivat, we were able to see Lake Skadar, parts of the southern coast and Ostrog Monastery as well.

I really enjoyed driving through the interior part of Montenegro, an area a lot of tourists tend to skip.

Our itinerary includes a half-day trip to Lovcen National Park, but you’ll notice we didn’t make it all the way to Durmitor. This was never our plan – we were travelling at the end of winter and it simply wasn’t the right time of year to be hiking (or navigating icy mountain roads). And to be honest, we had already sent all our winter gear home!

A person looking out over a river and low green hills.
Lake Skadar. Not bad, even on a grey day.

Speaking of weather… We had absolutely rubbish conditions for the first half of our road trip. I can laugh about it now, but at the time there were definitely some tears! There’s nothing I hate more than driving in the fog and rain, especially on unfamiliar roads.

My advice is to always have a back-up plan in case you encounter inclement weather. Luckily, Montenegro is small enough that you can detour from your original route without too much fuss. We had originally planned to visit Lovcen on the first day of the trip but had to push it back after a storm blew in. We were never more than a 2-3 hour drive away, so we were able to double back as soon as the weather improved.


One week in Montenegro itinerary: Our Montenegro road trip route

  • Day 1: Podgorica to Lake Skadar via Cetinj – overnight in Rijeka Crnojevica
  • Day 2: Lake Skadar, Petrovac & Sveti Stefan – overnight in Sveti Stefan
  • Day 3: Sveti Stefan, Budva & Lovcen National Park – overnight in Sveti Stefan
  • Day 4: Sveti Stefan to Kotor – overnight in Kotor
  • Day 5: Kotor to Perast – overnight in Perast
  • Day 6: Perast & Risan – overnight in Perast
  • Day 7: Perast to Podgorica via Niksic & Ostrog Monastery – overnight in Podgorica


What would I change?

The itinerary I’m presenting here is for 7 days. However, our road trip actually lasted for 8 days. We spent our final night and an extra day in Herceg Novi, a larger city located at the very northern tip of the Bay, close to the Bosnian border.

Maybe it’s because it was the end of the trip – or because I had a migraine from the moment we arrived – but Herceg Novi just didn’t click with me. To get there from Perast, we had to do the longest single stint of driving for the whole trip, only to have to double back on ourselves the next morning to get to Podgorica.

For me, Herceg Novi is just too far out of the way to justify a visit – on this itinerary anyway.

Another thing our itinerary is missing is the drive from Podgorica to the coast via Lake Skadar. The land bridge over the lake (part of the E80 highway) is one of the most scenic stretches of road in the Balkans. The road runs parallel to the tracks the famous Belgrade to Bar train takes.

I left this out because I knew we were coming back to ride the train from Podgorica to Bar later in our trip. If the train doesn’t factor into your plans, you might like to re-route on day 1 so that you can drive over the lake.


Where to stay during your Montenegro road trip

When planning your road trip, you have to be somewhat strategic about where you choose to overnight. Obviously you need a place with parking – but not all hotels or guesthouses offer a space on site. We found much better options for our price point ($30-$50/night) on Airbnb.

In bigger, busier places on the bay such as Kotor and Budva, it’s very difficult to drive in and get a street park if you’re visiting for the day. I much prefer to stay in smaller towns, but a dedicated hotel parking spot in Kotor/Budva is worth its weight in gold.

We stayed in Rijeka, Sveti Stefan, Kotor and Perast during our Montenegro road trip. This gave us a good mix of bigger and smaller towns, and allowed us to split the driving into manageable chunks. We started and ended our road trip in Podgorica, so we also spent a couple of nights in the capital.

Podgorica: Montenegro Hostel B&B has an unbeatable location in the heart of the Old Town. Doubles with shared bathrooms and dorm rooms are available, all for a very reasonable nightly rate. For something more upmarket, Hotel Hemera is well-positioned and features a lovely outdoor terrace as well as designer-finished rooms.

Rijeka Crnojevica: There’s only one place you should stay in Rijeka, and that’s Konak Perjanik. This historic stone house is built into the old bridge (the Prince used to sleep here on his visits), giving you wonderful views of the river from a small terrace. The owners, Ljudmila and her husband, are helpful and cook up a mean breakfast.

Sveti Stefan: We chose this Airbnb to stay at in Sveti Stefan. It’s absolutely huge, with two bedrooms, a terrace, a full kitchen, and on-site parking.

Kotor: In Kotor, we stayed at this petite but comfortable studio just outside the old town. Nancy is an amazing host and even jumped in our car to help us navigate the narrow streets around her place. Balkans experts Allison and Stephanie over at Sofia Adventures suggest staying in the nearby town of Prcanj to avoid driving in Kotor, which is honestly a bit of a nightmare. Here are their Kotor accommodation recs.

If you’re interested in any of the above Airbnbs, you can use my referral code to get a $38 AUD credit off your first booking 🙂

Perast: Perast is my favourite place on the bay (you’ll find out why soon enough). It’s small, but there are loads of pension-style guesthouses in the hills above the water. We stayed in a small but sufficient apartment at Apartments Jovanovic. The owners are lovely, there’s ample parking on site, and everything of note is within walking distance.

If you can afford it, Conte Hotel on the waterfront is the best boutique accommodation in town and probably the nicest hotel on the whole bay.



Tips for driving in Montenegro

For the most part, driving in Montenegro is pretty straightforward. The highways are good, there are very few tolls, and distances are short. There are, however, some strange quirks and learning curves you have to get to grips with. It really helps to familiarise yourself with local rules (and the local driving style) before you jump in the car.

There’s a lot to say on this topic, so I’ve written a separate post with all my Montenegro driving and rental car tips.


Check out my Montenegro road trip video!

To inspire you to visit, we put together this short clip of our Montenegro road trip.


Montenegro road trip itinerary: Day by day

Here is a full day-by-day breakdown of our trip, including things to do in each location, driving distances, where to park your car, and recommended driving routes.

Day 1: Podgorica to Lake Skadar via Cetinj

  • Distance covered: 62 km / 39 miles
  • Total drive time: 1.25 hours
  • Recommended route: M2.3

After picking up our hire car in Podgorica, we started driving south-west. Our first destination for the day was Cetinj, Montenegro’s old capital. By the end of the night we would find ourselves on the shore of the spectacular Lake Skadar, wrapped up in a blanket inside a homestay in the little village of Rijeka.

When you collect your car, the first thing you should do is figure out how the headlights work. Montenegro law says your headlamps should be on (dim) at all times. There is a tunnel between Podgorica and Cetinj, so you need to know how to work the lights properly right from the get go.

The airport area is pretty quiet and easy to get out of. The first leg of the drive is very tame, just a few roundabouts but otherwise a straight shot to Cetinj.

A stone-coloured building with arches and a tower.
Cetinje Monastery.

Cetinj

Cetinj, the Old Royal Capital of Montenegro, is a pleasant little place with a country town vibe. Its Historic Core made it onto UNESCO’s tentative list in 2010 for its architectural and historic value. Cetinj’s quiet streets are filled with interesting architecture, including a few former embassy buildings and an old palace.

The main attraction is Cetinj Monastery, a Serbian Orthodox Monastery that was founded in 1484. It houses several important relics and icons, and is a popular religious pilgrimage site for families in Podgorica.

Allocate about 90 minutes in Cetinj to see the main sights and grab a coffee, more if you want to visit either of the museums.

Things to do in Cetinj

  • Cetinj Monastery. A few of the grottoes and chapels are open to the public. Entrance is free, and visitors should dress modestly (covered shoulders and knees).
  • Castle Church. A petite Orthodox church located opposite the monastery.
  • National Museum of Montenegro. The country’s main museum is located in Cetinj. Exhibits trace Montenegro’s history from prehistoric times up until the dissolution of Yugoslavia.
  • Billiard Palace. One of Cetinj’s most famous landmarks, the former residence of prince Petar II Petrovic Njegos was built in 1838 and housed Montenegro’s first pool table. A small exhibition of the prince’s personal affects costs $3 to view.
  • Grab a coffee from one of the outdoor cafes on the main street.
  • Visit the former Embassy of France. The 1910 facade is covered with striking green and opal-coloured tiles.
  • Wander down Njegoseva, Cetinj’s main pedestrianised street, and admire the old houses (particularly Djukanovic Palace) and community street art murals.

Where to park in Cetinj

Parking in Cetinj is plentiful and mostly free. We parked in a marked bay behind French Embassy. There is also a designated carpark at the bottom of Njegoseva (search ‘Trg Umjetnika’ on Google Maps).

Where to eat near Cetinj

We had a memorable lunch at National Restaurant Belveder, which is located just 7 minutes’ drive from Cetinj towards Lake Skadar. Lamb is the specialty at this home-style taverna. There’s a cosy fireplace inside, and when the weather is nice, an outdoor dining terrace affords spectacular views of the mountains and valley. More info and reviews here.

A very old stone bridge and stone houses overhanging a river.
Danilo’s Bridge in Rijeka. The white facade is the guesthouse we stayed at.

Rijeka Crnojevica (Lake Skadar)

Rijeka was our wildcard on this itinerary. As it turns out, we *accidentally* booked the most charming homestay in all of Montenegro and had a fabulous time learning about this tiny town’s royal history over shots of rakija with our hosts.

Rijeka is located at the very western tip of Lake Skadar and is a gateway to the lake’s marshy wetlands. The riverbank is dotted with stone houses built by Prince Danilo (prince of Montengro from 1851 to 1860). A long stone marketplace was also erected on the orders of the prince and housed craft workshops on its top level. In its heyday, Rijeka’s artisans were known for their embroidery and leatherwork, and the town attracted traders from across Montenegro and Albania.

Rijeka has seen better days for sure – things started going downhill after the local fish factory closed. The school, which used to have 800 pupils, now has only 6 students. But there’s something very charming and ‘undiscovered’ about this place. We were the only tourists in town when we visited, but I expect it’s a bit livelier in the summer, when the riverfront cafes open up, and skippers lead boat trips and kayaking expeditions on the lake.

Things to do in Rijeka

  • Mostina. Rijeka’s old stone bridge, built by Prince Danilo Petrovic in 1853, has stood the test of time.
  • Konak Perjanik. At one end, the bridge connects directly to a stone house – this is the guesthouse where we spend the night. I can’t remember the full story, but the gist of it is that the owner of Konak Perjanik inherited the property from his ancestors. A little breakfast terrace looks directly out onto the bridge and river – it’s very cool! Rooms are available to rent via Airbnb.
  • Lake Skadar. We saved our boat trip for Virpazar, but it is possible to take a Skadar cruise from Rijeka. Small boats dock right in the centre of town. Prices start from 10 Euros.
A glassy river winds through small round mountains.
Pavlova Strana – one of Montenegro’s most magnificent viewpoints.
  • Pavlova Strana. One of Montenegro’s most stunning viewpoints, Pavlova Strana, is a mere 6-minute drive from Rijeka. If you want to be up there for sunrise or sunset over the lake, Rijeka is an ideal place to stay the night. The road is quite treacherous, so you wouldn’t want to be driving too much further in the dark. The viewpoint is marked on Google Maps. There is a small bay where you can park.
  • In 1493, the first Cyrillic printing machine in the Balkans was sent to Rijeka from Venice. It was housed inside the town’s monastery, on the main street. The press has since gone and the monastery is now closed, but if you wander up, someone will likely open the gates for you so that you can poke around the garden.
  • Rijeka is filled with intriguing old houses. One, date marked 1900, served as a children’s dormitory but fell to ruin when the school closed. It’s interesting (and a bit pensive) to walk up and down Rijeka’s streets.
  • If you like brutalist architecture, there is an impressive Soviet-style memorial on the way into town.

Where to park in Rijeka

There is ample free parking all along Rijeka’s main street.

Where to sleep and eat in Rijeka

Konak Perjanik is the place to stay in Rijeka. There are restaurants along the waterfront, but I recommend eating at least one meal at the guesthouse (Ljudmila, the owner, is a terrific chef). They can also cook you up an amazing breakfast of eggs, local cheese and prosciutto. If you’re not staying here, the restaurant downstairs is open to walk-ins.

Book via Airbnb, and remember to use this link when you sign up to get $55 AUD credit towards your first booking (if you book a night at Konak Perjanik, that’ll cover the entire cost – with change left over!).


Day 2: Rijeka to Sveti Stefan via Virpazar & Petrovac

  • Distance covered: 62 km / 39 miles
  • Total drive time: 1.75 hours
  • Recommended route: M2 / E80

Day two of our Montengro road trip, Rijeka to Virpazar, was one of the most scenic portions of our drive. We took the country back road that traces the western tip of the lake, leading drivers through terraced farmland, past cute cottages and verdant valleys.

Despite being very, very beautiful, it’s not a popular route at all. We only saw 3 other cars in the hour or so it took us to reach Virpazar. The road is narrow but pretty well maintained.

Bright green hills and two small stone houses at their foot.
On the road outside Rijeka.

Virpazar

Perched on the edge of the vast lake shared between Montenegro and Albania, Virpazar is a popular starting point for boat trips around Lake Skadar National Park. Like Rijeka, this small town has a long history. There’s not much to see today, but in the past, Virpazar boasted a Turkish fortress, a lively marketplace, and a strategic port.

Where to park in Virpazar

As soon as you turn into town off the highway you’ll see a free parking area to the left along the river bank. There are usually people hanging around to guide cars into vacant spots.

Chartering a boat in Virpazar

Cafes, guesthouses and agencies all around town organise boat trips on the water. You pay per person, so it’s more economical to join a group rather than take a private tour (although you do have that option). This means you might have to wait until there’s enough passengers to set off.

As soon as we parked our car, we were approached by a young woman from Golden Frog (the most popular company in Virpazar) who offered us two places on a departing tour. We paid 25 Euros each, plus 2 Euros per person for entrance to the Park.

Cruises on small wooden boats typically last about 2 hours. Our driver was very knowledgeable and spoke great English. He pointed out a range of bird species, including herons, and also took us to see the ruins of the Turkish-built Besac Fortress.

A cliff hanging over the ocean.
A view of the cliffs from the top of Petrovac Fortress.

Petrovac

After our boat ride, we said goodbye to Lake Skadar (for now – we would be returning to the Albanian side later in our trip) and drove west towards the Adriatic Sea.

As soon as we reached the coast we noticed an immediate change in the weather. Petulant Old Man Sun who had been avoiding us finally decided to make an appearance!

Our first stop on Montenegro’s famously beautiful coast, Petrovac did not disappoint. Petrovac is tiny and relatively unknown compared to other beach towns in the area, but it still has a lovely promenade and a white-sand beach. A 16th-century Venetian fortress guards Petrovac’s modest harbour and is a nice place for an after-lunch stroll.

Things to do in Petrovac

  • Eat a seafood lunch at one of the sun-soaked restaurants that line the waterfront. We enjoyed our meal of squid and fish at Riblji Restoran Katic, one of the more reasonably priced eateries.
  • Clamber up the stone steps of Kastio, the petite Venetian-built fortress that juts into the water off Petrovac’s harbour. Note the dramatic limestone stratified rock cliffs on the western side.
  • Walk the pine tree-shaded Pešačka staza Petrovac – Reževići, an elevated pathway on the opposite side of the cliff. It takes about 30 minutes to complete, and you get a wonderful view of the castle below and beach beyond.

Where to park in Petrovac

There is lots of free street parking in Petrovac. We parked near the VOLI supermarket.


Day 3: Sveti Stefan, Budva & Lovcen National Park

  • Distance covered: 116 km / 72 miles
  • Total drive time: 2.75 hours (return)
  • Recommended route: M2.3

On day three of our one week Montenegro itinerary, we made our way north along the coast towards the Bay of Kotor. We stayed in Sveti Stefan for two nights and made day trips to Budva and Lovcen National Park from there.

The scenery driving up Montenegro’s coast is absolutely breathtaking. It gets better and better with every turn.

A person stands on a round viewing platform overlooking the ocean and a small island.
Looking down on Sveti Stefan island.

Sveti Stefan

Halfway between Petrovac and Budva, Sveti Stefan is an ideal place to base yourself for a couple of days when exploring Montenegro’s coast. Again, it’s far less touristy than some of the bigger towns, which means accommodation is more affordable and it’s easier to find a car park.

Sveti Stefan is best-known for the tiny islet that protrudes from its coastline into the sea. It’s privately owned, so unless you’re staying at the Aman Resort, you can’t cross the land bridge onto the island. You can, however, drive (and climb) up and down the forested hills around Sveti Stefan to get some beautiful views.

All the buildings on the island have their white shutters drawn 24/7. I must admit it’s slightly creepy to look at!

Things to do in Sveti Stefan

  • Church St. Sava. The most epic views of Sveti Stefan island (pictured above) can be seen from the lookout at Church St. Sava. It’s located high above the town, roughly a 30 minute drive up a steep road.
  • Praskvica Monastery. This gorgeous monastic complex in the hills above Sveti Stefan features tranquil gardens, a beautiful cemetery, and a very entertaining family of resident goats.
  • State Park. This coastal trail stretches north from the island and affords great views of the islet and beach. Stop for sunset (and maybe a picnic) at one of the bench seats along the trail.
  • Walk the 7 Bay Trail. We planned to do this epic walk from Sveti Stefan to Budva, but unfortunately the weather had different plans. You can find more information about the Trail here.
  • Swim at Sveti Stefan’s beaches. In summer, Sveti Stefan’s white sand beaches heat up. Queen’s beach, Kamenovo beach and Crvena Glavica beach are all popular.

Where to park in Sveti Stefan

Parking is at a premium all along the coast, but it’s still much easier to find a spot here than in Budva for example. We chose an apartment that came with free on-site parking. If you’re staying here and your accommodation doesn’t come with parking or you’re visiting for the day, you can find street parking along the highway.

A few shaded paths provide shortcuts from the highway down to the beach.

A person walks between stone buildings through a courtyard.
Budva Old Town.

Budva

One of the oldest urban settlements on the Adriatic coast, Budva is home to a Roman-era acropolis and an atmospheric walled old town that backs directly onto the sea. In my opinion, Budva isn’t a patch on Kotor. If I had to choose just one to visit, it would be Kotor every time.

The area around Budva’s old city is very touristy – think massive shopping malls and casinos. I personally didn’t like the feel of Budva all that much. But I’m still glad we decided to drop in for a day and see what all the fuss is about.

Things to do in Budva

  • Wander the cobbled old town. The open plaza around the church is particularly pretty.
  • Eat something sweet at Branka Pastry Shop. Quite possibly the best-value cafe in Budva, this local milkbar-style joint serves 1 Euro coffee, homemade icecream, and 80-cent cakes.
  • If you have more time in Budva, get out on the water. This kayak tour takes you to coastal caves around the bay.
  • For magnificent views of the Boka, you can even try paragliding.

Where to park in Budva

Trying to find a park in Budva was a traumatic experience! (And remember, we were there in the off-season.) After driving around for an hour, we eventually got lucky and found a vacant lot. If you’re willing to pay, there are pay-by-the-hour lots around town.

A stone lookout platform with thick grey clouds in the backdrop.
Njegos Mausoleum on a very cloudy day!

Lovcen National Park

Lovcen National Park sits in the mountains above the Bay, between Kotor and Cetinj. You can access it from north, east or west. We originally planned to drive up on the first day from Cetinj, but when a storm broke, we changed our plans and left it until later in the trip.

If you’re coming from Kotor, Budva or Sveti Stefan, you can take the famous Kotor Serpentine up to the park entrance (more in the next section).

The main attraction at Lovcen is the Mausoleum of Petar II Petrovic-Njegos. Accessed via a very long undercover staircase, it’s seated high in the mountains and often shroaded with mist as a result. The Mausoleum itself features two larger-than-life granite statues and a burial chamber. Out the back, you can find amazing views of the mountains from a 360-degree viewing platform.

Clearly we didn’t get much of a view at all on the evening we visited (!), but on a clear day, you can see as far as Albania and Croatia.

Driving in Montenegro, looking down on a narrow bay with thick clouds overhead.
Views of the bay from the top of the Kotor Serpentine.

Driving the Kotor Serpentine

If your will is strong and you’re feeling confident with your driving abilities, the Kotor Serpentine is Montenegro’s most spectacular stretch of road. With no fewer than 16 hairpin bends, it’s a nail-biter for sure, but the views you get of the Bay make it worthwhile.

The best vistas are on the way down, so plan your journey accordingly. We set off in the late afternoon and drove back down just as dusk was falling.

On a clear day, you get perfect views of Kotor, Tivat, and the entire Bay, edged by unreal-looking pleated mountains. There are designated viewing areas all along the road where you can stop for a photo. Use caution when stopping on the road shoulder, and drive safe!


Day 4: Sveti Stefan to Kotor

  • Distance covered: 32 km / 20 miles
  • Total drive time: 1 hour
  • Recommended route: E80

On day four of our Montenegro road trip we finally reached the Bay of Kotor. Our first stop was the old town of Kotor, the Venetian settlement that gives the bay its name.

We decided to stay the night in Kotor, which gave us two full days to explore. We could easily have stayed longer!

An old town with red roofs, seen on a Montenegro road trip.
Looking down on Kotor old town from the fortress.

Kotor

Kotor is an old Mediterranean port encased in lofty fortifications built during the Venetian period. A sea of orange-roofed houses and meandering stone streets, Kotor Old Town is one of the prettiest of its kind in Europe.

In recent years, cruise ships have transformed Kotor from a quiet little bay into a tourist mecca. It can get very busy, especially when there’s a ship in port, so I recommend staying at least one night and getting up early to explore the Old Town.

Things to do in Kotor

  • Hike the Ladder of Kotor to visit San Giovanni Fortress. In olden days, Kotor and Cetinje used to be connected by long a stone road. The portion that remains today, a steep uphill path, connects Kotor Old Town with San Giovanni Fortress. From the top of the fortress, you can peer directly down onto the triangle-shaped Old Town. If you’re trying to save cash, there’s back way you can go to avoid paying the castle entrance fee (you didn’t hear that from me).
  • Take a walking tour of the old town. You can easily follow your nose and get lost in the rambling back alleys of the UNESCO-protected Old Town. If you prefer a more organised approach, this private 90-minute tour focuses on Kotor’s architectural heritage, while this alternative walking tour of Kotor includes a wine tasting.
Shuttered windows with washing hanging on lines.
Kotor. What a place to live!
  • Visit the morning market. Running along the sea-facing outer wall of the Old Town, Kotor’s food and fish market is a hive of activity on weekends.
  • The waters around Kotor are particularly calm and good for water sports. You can take a boat cruise or try stand up paddle boarding.

There is a lot more to love about Kotor – I realise now that we didn’t have enough time to do it justice. Discover more Kotor must-sees – you’ll soon see why you should stay longer than one night!


Days 5-6: Kotor to Perast & Risan

  • Distance covered: 23 km / 14 miles
  • Total drive time: 30 minutes
  • Recommended route: E65 / E80

On day five, we continued winding our way north along the Bay until we reached the lovely town of Perast. Perast is the place I most enjoyed visiting in Montenegro, and it’s definitely one of my favourite small towns in the Balkans.

We stayed in Perast for two nights, taking our time to wander the silent streets on foot and absorb as much of Perast’s fascinating history and architecture as we could.

A white Venetian building on a harbour with boats and a stone tower in the background.
Beautiful Perast.

Perast

Much like Kotor, Perast flourished as port city under Venetian rule in the 15th century. The settlement was first established much earlier by Ilyrian tribes. Of all the towns on the Bay of Kotor, Perast is perhaps the most unique. That might be because it’s the most autonomous. Perast has its own local traditions, its own culture and festivals – oh, and it’s own special dessert, Perast cake!

Things to do in Perast

  • Wander the waterfront. Perast is tiny, with one main street that runs along the length of the waterfront and a number of narrow alleys that track inland up the hill. An hour or so is enough time to take in all the beautiful Venetian mansions, plazas and Catholic churches whose bells toll no longer.
  • Visit the Perast Museum. This small institution presents a collection of historical objects. The main attraction, however, is the front balcony, which affords stunning views of Perast harbour.
  • Take a boat to Our Lady of the Rocks and tour the church. One of two islands just off the coast of Perast (the other island is closed to the public), Our Lady of the Rocks supports an exuberant Catholic church. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the Balkans and well worth the short boat ride out.
A small island with a blue-domed church.
Our Lady of the Rocks.

I’m currently writing an entire post devoted to Perast where I go over more things to do and see in this wonderful little town. Look out for that in the coming weeks!

Where to park in Perast

If you’re only visiting for the day, there are designated parking bays (called ‘Perast parking’ on Google Maps) at the top and at the bottom of the main street.

The silhouette of a small island wreathed by golden leaves on a shimmering ocean at dusk.
Perast at dusk.

Risan

Less than 10 minutes’ drive from Perast north along the Bay, Risan is a small town that’s worth visiting as a side trip. It’s biggest draw is a collection of Roman floor mosaics that date back to the 2nd and 3rd century AD.

Once part of a large and apparently very opulent private villa, the intricate black and white and coloured mosaics have been well preserved by a team of archaeologists. An open-air museum has been erected around the site. Entrance costs a few Euros.

While you’re in Risan, I recommend grabbing a bite to eat at Hipnos Restaurant, a very reasonably priced Balkan-style eatery on the waterfront. You can park your car there, or at the supermarket nearby.


Day 7: Perast to Podgorica via Niksic & Ostrog Monastery

  • Distance covered: 160 km / 99 miles
  • Total drive time: 3.25 hours
  • Recommended route: P11 / M6 / E762

The last day of this Montenegro road trip has the longest drive. From the Bay, start heading inland, tracing the Bosnia and Herzegovina border before veering east to Niksic, Montenegro’s second-biggest city.

Along with the road from Rijeka to Virpazar (day two), the first part of today’s drive inland is one of the most beautiful stretches in Montenegro. When we were there, it was desolate – for a while we wondered if we were going the wrong way or might eventually come to a dead end. But no, the road continued on, carving a flat passage between soaring mountains and sprawling fields with their little farm houses tidy in a row.

We only had time for a quick stopover in Niksic. There was plenty of free parking on the main street, so we grabbed a quick breakfast at one of the al-fresco cafes there and pushed on.

Ostrog Monastery

From Niksic, we continued south to Ostrog Monastery. The most important pilgrimage site in Montenegro for Orthodox Christians, Ostrog is the country’s most recognisable religious landmark. It’s located roughly one-third of the way between Niksic and Podgorica, making it an ideal final pit stop on your way back to the airport or the city.

The uphill drive to reach Ostrog is very long – so be prepared for that. When you finally arrive at the complex, it’s not immediately clear where you can park or how far up the mountain you can actually drive. There are huge lots staggered up the hill. We chose a park then walked up a flight of stairs only to realise we could have driven up even further. But no bother, the path is shaded and it’s quite a nice place to stretch your legs. Parking and admission to the monastery is free.

Ostrog is set in a rock face, its glimmering white profile almost flush against the cliff. Inside, there are grottoes, open-air terraces and chapels, some decorated with brightly coloured mosaics applied directly to the rock.

After you’ve walked through the monastery, it’s time to head back down the mountain. Stop off at the point marked ‘Ostrog Monastery approach’ on Google Maps, where there’s a small viewing platform with front-on views of the monastery in the distance.


Onward travel from Podgorica

When we arrived back in Podgorica, we returned our car and got a lift back into the city with one of the staff from Green Motion. We spent our final night doing washing at the city’s only coin laundromat – actually the perfect way to end a Montenegro road trip!

The next morning, we boarded an early train for Bar, where we explored the old town and ate a delicious lunch before taking a bus to Ulcinj. From Ulcinj, we cut through Albania to Prishtina to start our 10-day trip around Kosovo.

This corner of the Balkans – southern Montenegro, northern Albania and Kosovo – is one of my favourite parts of the region. Combining these three countries into one itinerary (maybe 10-14 days) would be a wonderful introduction to the Balkans.

Keep the road trip going! Here is my round-up of the best self-drive itineraries in the Balkans.

Are you planning a Montenegro road trip? If you have any questions about this our week Montenegro itinerary, leave a note below and I’ll try to help out where I can!


Montenegro road trip: Pin it!

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