The Truth About Montenegro
I say this as someone who on my first trip to Montenegro had bright eyes and a bushy tail about this prospect. You could even say I expected this to be the highlight of a trip that also included Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia (and that would have seen me continue in Kosovo, if my time in Montenegro hadn’t been for me. had not been so hot).
I’m getting ahead, however, let’s stay on topic. I wrote this post not to express my grievances, but to minimize your chances of having travel regrets.
Why I visited Montenegro
Before I explain why I find Montenegro worth a visit, allow me to explain why I traveled there in the first place. It was my first trip to the Balkans, in 2016, and I ended up exploring Croatia and Bosnia. However, despite the beauty of these two countries, I was actually more excited for my maiden trip to Montenegro. And yes, especially the Bay of Kotor and the charming town that surrounds it.
Indeed, although I had planned to move to Kotor, I also intended to rent a car and go elsewhere in Montenegro. Or maybe take the bus, I wasn’t sure. I was convinced, in both cases, that Montenegro would mark the real beginning of my trip to the Balkans. It definitely wouldn’t be a low point, or a 3-4 day period that made me wonder why I came to this part of the world in the first place.
5 reasons why I found Montenegro overrated
Kotor quickly reveals his hand
With its cobbled streets, ancient bell towers, and panoramic views of the coastal town square above the water and beneath the mountain peaks, Kotor is a sight to behold. Sadly, very little sets Kotor apart from dozens of other European cities, other than its relatively small footprint and the speed at which you’ll invariably see it all.
Getting out of Kotor is tedious
Part of the reason I thought Montenegro was worth visiting is that I had planned to see other destinations, namely the seaside town of Budva. Unfortunately, I did not find any help in terms of inconvenient local bus timetables, nor in any car rental shops in Kotor. “We’re full today,” they all told me, “and tomorrow isn’t looking good either. “
After the Covid-19, I hesitate even to evoke the trope of “overtourism”, let alone give credit to the elitists who use it as a rallying cry to make tourism a luxury for the rich. On the other hand, it’s hard to characterize the feeling of seeing a cruise ship full of passengers disembarking in Kotor as anything other than stressful.
Ditto for people who come to Kotor on a day trip, most often from Dubrovnik or Split. Turns out, just because you think Montenegro is worth visiting doesn’t mean you think it’s necessary to spend a night or two in a hotel there.
Neighboring countries are more interesting
Ultimately, destinations exist in context, not in a vacuum. If Montenegro were the only country in the Balkans, I might be willing to sing its praises more loudly. Sadly, it just can’t compare to Croatia, Bosnia, or even Serbia, on any level.
Should you visit Montenegro?
It really depends on you. I would say that as a general rule, if you are planning to be in the Balkans anyway and have some time between your visits to Croatia / Bosnia and Kosovo / Serbia or Macedonia, there is little downside. to spend a night or two in Kotor. The worst thing that can realistically happen is for you to come back from your stay here feeling like me: glad you visited; determined never to return.
Other FAQs about visiting Montenegro
How many days should I spend in Montenegro?
Assuming that you want to visit many destinations in Montenegro and not just Kotor, I recommend that you spend at least 3-5 days in Montenegro. That might sound like overkill, until you keep in mind that bus schedules are paltry and rental car stocks can be the same.
How is Montenegro like to visit?
Kotor both feels like any other European city – perhaps, an alternate universe version of Venice? – and as elsewhere, since it is the tourist center of autonomous Montenegro. The experience of visiting Montenegro is not in itself disappointing, although when combined with the effort it takes to get there, it may seem so.
The bottom line
If you are wondering “Is Montenegro worth a visit?” ”, Chances are you already have doubts. I am sad to say that you are justified in having them. While Montenegro is a perfect place to visit on your trip through the Balkans, I’m not sure a trip there justifies the time and energy it takes. This is especially true if you also plan to visit neighboring countries such as Croatia and Bosnia, which is pound for pound more interesting than Montenegro, especially if it’s your first time in the Balkans.