Main attractions in Montenegro invariably relate to its long history and its natural wonders, with many ancient walled towns to explore and sights of breathtaking natural beauty to wander. Getting around, especially by car, is comparatively easy, with several attractions able to be seen in a single day. Longer trips into the mountains take a little planning, but the scenery is literally some of the most beautiful in all of Europe.
The ancient coastal town of Kotor and its surroundings are UNESCO World Heritage listed for their natural, cultural and historical significance. Set in a secluded part of the lovely Gulf of Kotor, once a river canyon and now submerged, the walled city was built by the Venetians and is surrounded by dramatic, overhanging limestone cliffs. Highlights include ancient fortifications, the 12th century Cathedral of St Tryphon, the Church of Our Lady, and the town’s unbelievably imposing fjord-like backdrop of bare rocky mountains.
Address: Gulf of Kator, Montenegro
Durmitor National Park
This breathtaking national park is Montenegro’s second UNESCO World Heritage site for its amazing topography formed millions of years ago by glacial activity. The region contains 16 glacier lakes, rivers, pine forests, deep gorges, Mount Durmitor and its plateau, and the massive Tara River Canyon, the deepest in Europe. Its location and range of altitudes have resulted in an exceptional variety of flora and fauna. The Tara River is one of Europe’s last truly wild rivers, with a 4,000 ft gorge and waters fed by the Black Lake and the region’s many underground rivers. Brown bears, wolves, boar, chamois, wild cats and many bird species inhabit its virgin black pine forest and the eroded limestone karst towers.
Address: northwestern Montenegro
The Venetian town of Perast is one of Montenegro’s loveliest settlements, set on the Bay of Kotor, fronted by the ocean with offshore islands overlooked by the Hill of St Elijah. Its 500 years of Venetian domination resulted in four typically baroque palaces, many period churches and the famous Church of Our Lady of the Rock, built on the offshore site of the discovery by a local fisherman of a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary. The church has been a pilgrimage site and holy place for mariners for centuries.
Address: Bay of Kotor, Montenegro
Grim, grey, and partially ruined on the shore of spectacular Skadar Lake on the Albanian border, the Lesendro Fortress was built by Petar II Petrovic Njegos as a last line of defense against marauding Ottoman armies. It’s located at the end of a causeway and can be safely approached on foot by walking along a disused rail line. There’s a visitor center explaining the history of the fortress and boats can be rented for a journey around the lake.
Address: Lake Skadar, Montenegro
Now a major visitor attraction, the coastal town of Herceg Novi lies on the edge of the Bay of Kotor on the site of a Roman settlement. It’s famed as a health center and spa for its healing sea mud and mineral water springs as well as for its picturesque, looming 14th century sandstone fortress and the town’s diverse architectural styles. The lovely Lustica Peninsula can be reached by boat.
Address: Bay of Kotor, Montenegro
The city of Bar is Montenegro’s main port is a developing town, attracting tourists to its pristine beaches and charming Old Town of Stari Bar. You’ll find churches dating back to the 14th century and earlier, monasteries, both ruined and occupied by monks, charming streets crowded with stores and eateries, an ancient aqueduct, and two historic mosques. The city’s most famous attraction is its 2,000-year old olive tree with its many trunks and spreading foliage.
Address: southern Montenegro
Set on Montenegro’s border with Albania, Lake Skadar is the largest freshwater body in the Balkans, with its Montenegrin portion now a national park and its Albanian waters a managed nature reserve. It’s one of Europe’s largest bird habitats with over 270 species including one of the continent’s last surviving pelican colonies. It’s listed as an internationally important wetland and is surrounded by mountain massifs. The shores and lower hillsides are home to many traditional fishing and agricultural villages, medieval towns and the ruins of long-time Roman and Greek settlements and historic monasteries.
Address: Albanian border, Montenegro
In this land of monasteries, gleaming white Ostrog is the most spectacular, tucked into a depression of a vertical rock face above the Bjelopavlici plain. Dedicated to St Basil of Ostrog and founded in the 17th century, it’s an important pilgrimage site even today. The monastery’s church holds 17th century frescoes and has two tiny cave churches at its heart, one the burial place of the saint who founded the complex to whom it’s dedicated.
Address: Bjelopavlici plain, Montenegro
Once the Royal capital of Montenegro and now its honorary capital, Cetinje was founded in the 15th century and became the religious center of the country. Set in the picturesque streets at the base of Lovcen Mountain, the city’s museums are a starting point for an exploration of the royal town. The National Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, the History Museum, and the Art Museum give an overview of the country and its impressive past, but the Cetinje Monastery with its saintly relics is Montenegro’s most famous attraction.
Address: near Podgorica, Montenegro