Table of Contents
This post may contain affiliate links to things like tours, hotels, Amazon associates and products. These help me earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.
Planning a trip to Montenegro? It’s a beautiful and underrated country you’re going to love. During this Montenegro itinerary, I’ll help you plan where to visit, what to do, how to get around and more.
Montenegro is one of the most beautiful countries in the Balkans, if not all of Europe. With a spectacular coastline and catholic churches (rather than the mosques in Ottoman-influenced Balkan countries like Albania and Kosovo), it feels like a lesser-visited Croatia and makes a great addition to any Balkans itinerary.
Although Kotor and Budva are cruise ship stops these days, the prices are still lower and the streets are nowhere near as packed as Split or Dubrovnik despite being just as picturesque (in my opinion). The day trips you can take encompass spectacular hiking, history, coastline and cuisine.
How to plan a Montenegro itinerary
Initially, I felt confused when planning my trip because most sources on the internet suggest hiring a car and exploring Montenegro as a road trip. As a solo traveller and non-driver, this wasn’t the best option for me.
After my trip, I can confirm there are at least 2 fantastic ways to plan a Montenegro trip:
- Option #1 – base somewhere central like Kotor and take day trips. This a great option whether you have a car or not.
- Option #2 – move around and spend a few nights in different places. This is easiest with a car because you can visit iconic places en route and save time.
- Option #3 (what did) – a combo. Spend a few nights in Kotor or Budva exploring central Montenegro during day trips, then pick a new destination(s) for the final few nights.
Getting to Montenegro
By air – the main airport is in the capital, Podgorica. I use Skyscanner to find cheap flights, searching by whole month to see the cheapest dates to fly.
By car – popular places to arrive from include from Croatia, Albania, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
By bus – I arrived via the southern border by bus from Albania (side note, if you think Montenegro is beautiful, consider hiking in the Albanian alps!). My trusty mode of transport in Europe, the Flixbus, cover some routes in and out of Montenegro. Where they don’t operate, it’s easy to get local buses. From Kotor, I caught a bus to Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina booked on the Busticket4me website.
By boat – some people arrive by cruise but this would never be my chosen method of transport!
Getting around Montenegro
By car – this is obviously a great option with all freedom to you. I recommend Rentalcars.com for hiring vehicles in Montenegro.
By bus – you don’t need a car for your Montenegro itinerary: there’s a decent bus network. I used BusTicket4Me to book journeys between towns, always for under €10.
Day tours – companies like GetYourGuide and Viator have lots of trips and excursions from popular towns like Budva and Kotor. It’s easy to jump on these and see a lot during one day. Group tours aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but they’re a good way to meet other travellers if you’re flying solo.
Budva or Kotor?
These two destinations are very different. Booking to stay in the wrong one (by which I mean the wrong one for you based on your travel style – there’s no ‘wrong’ option!) could impact your trip considerably. So, what’s the difference between Budva vs Kotor?
Well, Kotor is more historical and charming, while Budva is more of an upmarket and relaxing holiday destination known for highrise hotels and fancy resorts. I spent most of my time in Kotor as I found it more appealing, however honeymooners and families may prefer Budva.
The two popular bases are just a 30-minute drive away so it’s easy to travel between them, plus you can book all the same Montenegro excursions from either place.
The ultimate Montenegro itinerary
The itinerary I took aims to explore as much of Montenegro as possible. So if it’s your goal to squeeze in all the sights and visit as many places as possible, follow along!
- Kotor – up to 5 nights (depending how many day trips you want to take)
- Budva – 2 nights
- Stari Bar – 2 nights.
Let’s get stuck into the details…
Days 1-5 – Kotor
Kotor is a gorgeous town with a well-preserved Old Town comprising quaint alleyways, cute cafes and authentic restaurants. When you walk outside of the old city walls, you’ll be greeted with spectacular Boka Bay.
As I was visiting Montenegro without a car, it was easiest to stay in Kotor and explore the many beautiful places in Montenegro via small group tours with GetYourGuide and Viator.
Things to do in Kotor:
- Hike up St John’s Fortress – observe 1,000 years of history as you take the challenging but rewarding hike of 1,350 stairs to the best viewpoint in town. Instead of paying at the official entrance, take the Ladder of Kotor for free passing the Cheese Shop where a local family serve homemade snacks and pomegranate juice.
- Visit the quirky Cat Museum or simply meet friendly street cats around Kotor Old Town
- Maritime Museum – learn about the history of the city through stories and exhibits about ships and the sea
- Go kayaking in the bay
- Visit Saint Tryphon’s Cathedral and look over the main square from the balcony
- Walk through the Sea Gate to see authentic local life at Kotor Farmer’s Market
- Relax on Kotor Beach and take a coastal walk to relaxed Dobrota neighbourhood.
Read next: what to see & do in Kotor, Montenegro
Where to stay in Kotor
- Hostel – Old Town Kotor Hostel is easily the best budget accommodation with comfy dorm rooms with lockers, a swimming pool and daily activities from sunset BBQs and boat cruises. Check availability from €25.
- Budget hotel – stay at Boutique Hotel Astoria for lovely, individually designed rooms just metres from the beach. Check availability from €75.
- Midrange hotel – Hotel Monte Cristo inside a traditional Old Town building has a terrace restaurant for breakfast and large rooms with period features from €116, while Hotel Libertas has a swimming pool and ocean views from €113.
- Apartments – stay at Wine House Apartments for city centre accommodation from €35 and Apartments Babilon for the best sea views from €78.
- Browse all hostels on Hostelworld and apartments and hotels on Booking.com.
Where to eat in Kotor
On to the important stuff!
- Marinaio – delicious cheese and meat platters with a glass of wine for €10.99! The best bargain in Kotor if you ask me.
- Pizza Pronto – budget travellers will be pleased to hear about giant €3 pizza slices! Two make a decent cheap lunch or dinner.
- Cafe Mone – head here for healthy food and brunch including avo toast, salads, smoothie bowls and quality coffee.
- BBQ Tanjga – for an absolute meat feast, this local restaurant slightly out of the old town has grilled meat served with chips, salad and local dips.
- Restobar Taraca – veggies, vegans and lovers of Asian cuisine will be in their element at this cool restaurant with riverside seating.
- Cattarissimo / Marshall’s Gelato – the best places in town for dessert! Try the cream cake at Cattarissimo and the pistachio gelato at Marshall’s.
Day 1 – explore Kotor
Spend your first day settling into Kotor and ticking off some of the activities above like the Fortress hike and museums. In the summer, I’d recommend climbing the fortress either early in the morning or late in the afternoon to beat the heat. Sunset from the top is spectacular but take into consideration you’ll have to hike down as it’s getting dark.
Day trips from Kotor for days 2-5
- Durmitor National Park – the small town of Zabljak is the launching point for hiking around the famous Black Lake. Hikers may wish to spend 1-2 nights here to explore properly and take numerous hikes. If you’re more about the scenery, it’s easy to visit as a day trip via car or group tour.
- Boka Bay – the bay surrounding Kotor is easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. The best way to explore it is by boat.
- Ostrog Monastery – this 17th-century monastery is a popular pilgrimage site following the well-renowned ‘Ostrog miracles’. More details to come…
- Tara Canyon – the largest and deepest canyon in Europe is a must for your Montenegro itinerary. One of the most popular ways to visit is by rafting through it.
- Lake Skadar National Park – this spectacular lake bordering both Montenegro and Albania is a popular place for river cruises and Insta-worthy photoshoots.
- Perast – there are few European villages more idyllic than Perast with its sea views and €5 water taxi rides across to Our Lady of the Rock floating church.
- Herceg Novi – another lakeside town past Perast with beautiful ocean views and architecture.
- Tivat – quite the contrast to Perast and Herceg Novi, this waterfront village (15 minutes from Kotor by car) is known for yachts and designer shops.
- Keep reading for some highly-rated tours visiting multiple places during the same day.
Let’s dive into these options in more detail…
Boka Bay boat cruise
The Bay of Kotor is full of wonderful surprises like caves creating brilliant blue optical illusions, a hidden wartime submarine bunker, a floating church and sublime towns nestled on its banks. Despite all this, my favourite part was the simple pleasure of jumping into the clear waters and soaking up the scenery. It’s a stunner!
The best way to visit is by boat trip from Kotor. There are plenty to choose from but this 3-hour speedboat tour includes all the highlights or you can opt for a more leisurely 8-hour sailing trip.
On the banks of the bay, around a 20-minute drive from Kotor, this tiny town is nothing short of idyllic. Things to do in Perast include visiting Church of St Nicholas and Bujovic Palace and looking across the bay to Our Lady of the Rock, a church on a manmade island with a captivating legend behind it. Take a €5 boat tour from Perast if you haven’t already visited during a Boka Bay boat trip.
If you’re visiting by car, you could stop in for an hour before heading to other bayside villages like Tivat and Herceg Novi. To visit by public transport, set aside half a day. The local bus costs €1.50 each way, departing at 15 mins past the hour from Kamelija shopping centre and returning from Perast beach parking area at 25 past the hour.
Fancy Tivat may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s certainly an impressive addition to any Montenegro itinerary. From yachts in the harbour to high-end stores selling Prada and Versace, it feels worlds away from historic Kotor YET it’s only a 15-minute drive.
Although Tivat wasn’t a match for my backpacker’s budget, it’s worth a visit to see how the other half live, or treat yourself to grilled seafood at one of the many harbourfront restaurants. Some Boka Bay boat trips will call here so check their itineraries if you want to visit.
At the foot of Mount Orjen looking across the Bay of Kotor, Herceg Novi is another idyllic town to check out. Surrounded by mimosa trees growing pink flowers (sadly not mimosa cocktails, my initial hope) there’s even a Praznik Mimosa Festival dedicated to them.
With a well-preserved Stari Grad (Old Town), it takes around an hour to drive from Kotor, passing by Perast first. This would make a beautiful road trip!
17th-century Ostrog Monastery is a brilliant white church that stands out against the craggy brown and orange Ostroška Gred cliffs behind it. Dedicated to St Basil of Ostrog (at the time known as the Bishop of Herzegovina), it has a reputation as a pilgrimage spot partially because of the Ostrog miracles.
Intrigued? So was I. The legend goes that St Basil was influenced by God to build this monastery and selected three caves for the church and its relics. When a huge fire wreaked havoc in 1925, the two most important sections miraculously survived.
By this point, the miracles were already in full swing. After St Basil was buried at the church, he started to appear to locals in dreams and seemingly heal their ailments. People soon started visiting Ostog Monastery in search of redemption, health and good fortune.
Getting there: driving from Kotor takes around 2 hours. Many day trips visiting Durmitor National Park include a stop at Ostrog.
Skadar Lake National Park
The largest lake in the Balkans can be seen during either an Albania itinerary or a Montenegro one. Known for its wide array of birdlife, lilypads and scenic viewpoints, it’s an idyllic place to explore. There are two little villages, Virpazar and Vranjina, that act as launching points for boat trips.
Getting there: it takes 1.5 hours to reach Skadar from Kotor by car or you can opt for a day trip that includes it. If you plan to visit Bar later in your Montenegro itinerary (keep reading to learn why you should), it only takes 45 minutes to reach the park so one idea is saving it ’til then.
Cetinje (old capital)
There’s little debate as to whether the old capital of Cetinje is more beautiful than the new capital of Podgorica. Spoiler, it is!
The small, inland town of Cetinje began life in the 15th century and became the grand capital of Montenegro in 1878. However, after WWII, the capital was moved to Podgorica and placed under communist rule with the name of Titograd (translating as Tito City referring to the Yugoslavian leader, Tito).
Although Cetinge is no longer the capital, it’s a beautiful place to visit beside Lovcen National Park. It’s around an hour’s drive from Kotor and a stop on some day tour schedules.
At the heart of Lovcen National Park stands Lovćen Mountain offering incredible views from the top. Here you’ll also find the mausoleum of Petar II Petrović Njegoš, the famous Montenegrin leader and poet.
If you have a car, it’s best to visit early in the morning before the tour groups arrive. I visited as part of a tour and, although it was busy, it’s a lovely spot.
Tours from Kotor
Great Montenegro tour – this is a great option to see a lot during one day. We started in Njeguši village for a local cheese and wine (champion’s!) breakfast and continued to Lovcen Mountain, the historic old capital of Cetinje, Lake Skadar (stopping at the famous viewpoint, having lunch then boarding a boat trip), finally finishing with sunset beside Sveti Stefan. It was a busy but amazing day! Book from €59.
Tour North Montenegro – visit Ostrog Monastery, Tara Canyon & Durmitor Nat Park during one day. Browse tours to Ostrog & Durmitor.
Tara Canyon rafting tour – this is a fun option to experience the beauty of Tara Canyon during an adrenaline-filled day rafting down the river. A skilled guide and all your safety equipment are included. Book from €50.
Sample Kotor itinerary
- Day 1 – enjoy Kotor town
- Day 2 – take a Boka bay boat trip
- Day 3 – visit towns around the bay such as Perast, Herceg Novi and Tivat. If visiting by public transport, just visit Perast
- Day 4 – Great Montenegro tour to Lovren, Cetinje and Lake Skadar
- Day 5 – day trip to Ostrog Monastery and Durmitor Nat Park.
Days 6-7 – Budva
Note – this could also be a day trip from Kotor If you’re pushed for time.
Another place to check out during your Montenegro itinerary is Budva. From Kotor, it’s just 30 minutes by car or 40 minutes by €2 local bus. Stay overnight to explore the beaches, walk to Sveti Stefan and enjoy the restaurants and nightlife.
Things to do in Budva include:
- Explore the historic Old Town with cobbled streets and atmospheric alleyways. There are 3 characterful churches, Holy Trinity, St. Sava and St. John the Baptist, with a pleasant square between them.
- Let your hair down – after sundown, the Old Town becomes more lively with plenty of bars opening their doors.
- Enjoy the beaches. Greco is closest to town but it’s worth travelling the 3km to Becici which is much nicer. Mogren Beach is another popular spot where you can lounge on the sand or go cliff jumping… If you dare!
The final thing to do in Budva deserves its own section…
This stunning islet on the Budva Riviera is an exclusive hotel owned by the 5* Aman Resorts. Although non-guests (AKA us peasants who can’t afford to splash out €800 a night) can’t go onto the island itself, it’s an iconic spot for photos, especially at sunset.
The history of Sveti Stefan dates back to the 15th century when it was fortified to protect against invasion from the Turks. It was once home to 400 people but, after the population declined, it was repurposed as a playground for the elite (such as Sylvester Stalone and Claudia Schiffer) with a heydey in the 1970s.
It fell into disrepair during the 90s but has since been restored. Recent celebrities to visit include tennis star, Novac Djokovic, who got married there in 2014.
Getting there: it’s around 6km from downtown Budva. While it’s easy to get there by car, bus or taxi, a recommended activity is to walk there, soaking up the coastal views. Sunset is easily the best time to visit!
Days 8-10 – Stari Bar
The first stop on my Montenegro itinerary after crossing the border from Albania was the charming town of Stari Bar (Old Bar) near the larger coastal town of Bar. Although most people come to Montenegro for the coastline, this charming inland town is well-preserved with an ancient fortress, cobbled streets, beautiful scenery and authentic restaurants. A real hidden gem!
Spending a few days here relaxing was an absolute dream after my busy 2 month Balkans itinerary! But you could also swing by as part of a road trip in just a couple of hours.
There’s not loads to do in Stari Bar but that’s part of the charm. Visiting the Fortress is the main attraction (€3 entry) and the Old Olive Tree is also worth a visit, thought to be over 2,000 years old making it one of the world’s oldest!
As I mentioned before, it’s easy to visit Lake Skadar as a day trip from Bar. Book your boat trip in advance.
Where to eat in Stari Bar:
- Merak – this lovely cafe serves a fantastic breakfast of lokum (pancakes) with honey and jam, best served with authentic Turkish mint tea in a silver pot with sugar cubes.
- Konoba Bedem – the best place for an authentic Montenegrian dinner with sharing platters of local meat, cheese and veggies, plus seafood dishes, pasta and more.
- Restaurant Kaldrma – next door to Bedem is another lovely local restaurant with a colourful outdoor seating area serving traditional dishes and desserts.
Getting to Stari Bar: obviously you can arrive by car (1 hour 15 minutes from Kotor, 1 hour from Budva and 1 hour from Podgorica), otherwise you can arrive into Bar bus station. From here, get a taxi (€10) or a €1 local bus (the Mediteran Express) to Stari Bar.
Where to stay in Stari Bar
To be honest, the whole reason I came to Stari Bar was to stay at the Grove, a highly-rated hostel inside an old mill converted into some of the best budget accommodation I’ve ever seen! Each guest gets a double bunk bed with an orthopaedic mattress but the real treat is the garden area beside the river with hammocks, a little swimming pool and fruit trees.
It’s a sociable place to stay with staff organising daily trips hiking and to waterfalls and Skadar Lake. There are also regular group dinners to local restaurants and a pizza oven in the garden. Best hostel ever! Book from €15.
2023 update – the Grove has now sadly closed down! Gutted!
Not a hostel person? Guest House Endi is an affordable budget hotel while Apartments Villa Bar has a beautiful pool and outdoor area. Kula Boutique is the best mid-range hotel.
Alternative stops for your Montenegro itinerary
- Ulcinj – close to the border of Albania and the banks of Lake Skadar, this beautiful Adriatic settlement dates back to the 5th century. With a predominantly Albanian population and an Ottoman feel, it blends culture, history and sublime coastline. You can explore the town in a few hours but 1-2 days is an ideal amount of time to spend should you wish to relax.
- Komovi – this spectacular mountain range is a favourite with hikers. Štavna pasture is a good base at the heart of the range with chalets to stay overnight.
- Prokletije National Park – there are few places in Europe more striking and underrated than the mountain ranges between Montenegro and Albania. Hikers and nature lovers take note!
- Piva Canyon and Piva Lake – another unbelievably beautiful lake near Durmitor National Park in Northern Montenegro measuring 45 metres in length and 200 metres in depth. It’s the perfect spot for sightseeing, photography, swimming and boat cruising.
Best season to visit Montenegro
Summer (late June-early Sept) is the most popular time to visit Montenegro, especially during school holidays. However, the weather can be almost too hot (up to 42 degrees Celcius) plus it gets very crowded.
Shoulder seasons (March-early June and mid-Sept-Oct) are the perfect times to visit in my opinion with fewer crowds, milder weather and better deals on accommodation.
Winter (late Oct-Feb) – is the low season with many businesses closed and temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius. However, you’ll get great bargains and have places all to yourself!
Hiring a car in Montenegro
Although I completed my Montenegro itinerary without a car, it’s certainly beneficial to have one. You may even save money when you consider the cost of taking organised day trips to out-of-town attractions. If you’re an independent traveller who hates crowds and tour groups, you will definitely want to hire a car!
I would recommend Rentalcars.com for hiring vehicles in Montenegro and around the world. You can pick it up in Podgorica, Kotor, Tivat or Budva and either return it to the same location or, for a small surcharge, select a different drop-off point.
Costs of visiting Montenegro
Montenegro is geographically located between Croatia and Albania/Bosnia & Herzegovina and the costs match this. Even the most population destinations are far cheaper than Split and Dubrovnik but I personally found it expensive after getting used to paying €5 for dinner in the other, cheaper Balkan countries!
Some average prices are:
- Meal and drink in a restaurant – €12-20
- Bed in a hostel dorm – €15-25
- Budget hotel – €50+
- Local intercity bus ticket – €1
- Bus in between cities – €5-10.
Is Montenegro worth visiting? Absolutely! Montenegro is one of the most underrated countries in Europe, in my opinion, along with Albania. I’d advise you to plan a trip sooner rather than later.
Is it worth visiting Podgorica? The capital gets a bad rep and to be honest, it’s justified. Podgorica isn’t very pretty or exciting so I’d say you can miss it. However, if the cheapest way to arrive in Montenegro is to fly into Podgorica airport, it’s not so bad. Spend a day and move on.
Where’s the best place to fly into? Podgorica is usually the cheapest option but Tivat also has a small airport close to popular tourist locations like Kotor and Budva.
How many days do you need in Montenegro? I would say you need at least 5 days in Montenegro but you could easily spend up to 2 weeks enjoying the various destinations without getting bored. I spent around 10 days in Montenegro.
Thanks for reading!
Check out all my Balkans blogs including my Balkans itinerary.
Serbia: Things to do in Belgrade, Serbia
Kosovo: What to do in Pristina, Kosovo
Albania: The ultimate Albania itinerary | Things to do in Tirana, Albania | Theth hiking guide
North Macedonia: Attractions in Skopje, North Macedonia
Romania: 2 week Romania itinerary | What to do in Brasov, Romania | Things to do in Timisoara, Romania | hidden gems in Bucharest | Romania travel tips
Bulgaria: 2 days in Sofia, Bulgaria | Hiking Rila Lakes in Bulgaria | Visiting Rila Monastery, Bulgaria
Slovenia: The perfect Slovenia itinerary | Things to see and do in Ljubljana | wine tasting in Ljubljana | the best restaurants in Ljubljana
Croatia: 7 day Croatia itinerary | Things to do in Split | Split day trips | Split restaurants | Split coffee | Krka falls from Split day trip | What to do in Trogir | Things to do in Dubrovnik | Lokrum island guide | Croatia solo travel | What to do in Zagreb | Zagreb cafes | Plitvice day trip from Zagreb | Zagreb street art | things to do in Zadar | Pag island | Dugi Otok Island
Bosnia & Herzegovina: Things to do in Mostar | The top attractions in Sarajevo | Reasons to visit Sarajevo
TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR VISITING MONTENEGRO
Getting there by air – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.
Driving in Europe – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in European countries (and all around the world).
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!