For all of you reading this and thinking you too don’t know anything about Montenegro, is let me give you a little background. Montenegro was previously part of Yugoslavia until 2006 when it declared independence and has been a sovereign state ever since. It is located on the coast of the Adriatic Sea and borders the countries of Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Albania.
My obsession with Montenegro began eight years ago in Vietnam. This is where I met my bright eyed, wild and fun Serbian friend, Natasa, for the first time. She had made the spur of the moment choice while in Australia to travel through SE Asia with my other good friend Michelle after the two of them spent just a few short days together in a hostel. Then my last minute decision to fly to ‘nam to join in put us all on a six week crash course on getting to know each other. By the end of it, I had made a lifelong friend in Nat. After her world trip wrapped up she invited me to England, the next summer, to visit her and her sister as well as to their family’s vacation home in Montenegro. At the time I had no idea Montenegro was even a country let alone a place I should visit, but I obviously was on board for the adventure. Little did I know the small coastal country would soon forever hold a special place in my heart. I spent an entire week there with Natasa, her amazing sister Marina, their spicy (in the best way) cousin Ivana and my good friend Kate Gallacher from college. We beach hopped, clubbed, ate everything in sight and pretty much lived the dream for seven days.
Fast forward to present day when Natasa told us that her, Marina and her cousins would be on holiday once again in Montenegro around the time we’d be in close proximity on our trip. She invited Katie and I to spend a week with them and we obviously accepted. I was secretly a bit nervous to visit again as the first trip created such a high bar for the country. I figured a trip this many years later and with so many more countries under my belt, the same magic wouldn’t be there. Thank god I was dead wrong as the country, albeit different, is still just as amazing as when I last left it.
Ivana and Nat picked us up from the Dubrovnik airport in Croatia and drove us back across the border to the small town of Tivat where their family’s home is located. We flew into Dubrovnik due to the cost and without traffic it is only about an hour drive along the beautiful coastline. Huge bear hugs resulted after seeing them both for the first time in almost a decade and Katie getting to finally meet them for the first time. It’s crazy to think its been that long especially when we have kept in close touch for all these years. After the hug-fest was over we played speed catch up on our lives over our drive and then arrived back at their condo where we caught up with Marina and their cousin Filip, who I last saw when he was 11 years old (now 18).
Over the next couple of days, I reacquainted myself with the city and the beaches and was shocked to see they built a new 400 million dollar port just a couple of minutes walk from their place. As a whole Montenegro has changed a lot as the smaller, local pocket beaches are now much more touristy and busy but still just as beautiful. When I was there last I was pretty much the only blond haired, blue eyed person on the beach but now the area is full of tourists from all over the world. Many arrive on cruise ships coming in to port in Tivat and Kotor.
Some of the highlights of our time in Monte:
- Frequenting Almara Beach Club (about a 30-minute drive from Tivat). They had the best beach chairs, music, people watching and water to plunge into.
- Hitting up a couple of other beach spots to soak in the sun. In Monte it is very normal to be at the beach for 7-10 hours a day and many places take reservations for beach chairs so you can stroll in around 11am then hang out until 8pm when the sun goes down.
- Making friends with an awesome French guy, Sebastian, and his mother and stepfather. They were so wonderful to spend time with and really helped make the week even better.
- Being invited by Sebastian’s stepfather to have a night of food and drinks on the 105 foot, 15+ million dollar yacht he captains. Yes, I said 15+ million dollar yacht. Buuuuucket list. Most of the night consisted of Katie saying under her breath “Play it cool Trav. Play.It.Cool.” (As I spilled olive tapenade on my shirt a time or two).
- Getting to play with a Seabob (underwater jet ski thingy you hold onto and it pulls you underwater at a crazy speed–up to 60mph). Sebastian brought it out to the Almara Beach Club a couple of times for us to use.
- Walking through the walled city of Kotor and climbing to the top of it’s wall for some epic pictures (see below).
- Seeing Nicky Romero (famous DJ) play at the Top Hill club for Natasa’s bday blowout. The club is appropriately named because its a huge open air venue sitting on top of a hill with capacity of over 5,000 people. We stayed out until around 4:30am which is about six hours past our usual bedtime #oldpeople
- Driving around the Bay of Kotor to see all the amazing views and villages along the way.
Overall, the time in Monte was amazing and felt like a true vacation from our big trip. We could sort of go on auto-pilot and not have to plan anything, not worry about the language (Serbian), or know where we were going, etc. It was so much fun having a group of people to spend time with. While Katie and I are great together, having a group dynamic adds a lot of laughs and random adventures we wouldn’t get with just the two of us. Huge shout out to Marina, Natasa, Ivana and Filip for looking out for us and ensuring we had a killer time. Monte is seriously nothing without them and we are so lucky they are in our lives. Just hope we are able to repay the favor someday.