montenegro

Five reasons why it's time you visit Montenegro

Sharnaz Shahid

If you've yet to visit Montenegro, what's been keeping you? Situated on the Adriatic Sea, this place is fast-becoming the IT travel destination which should make the top of your bucket-list - immediately. Over the years, Montenegro - also known by its traditional nickname 'Black Mountain' - has been admired by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Princess Margaret and Sylvestor Stallone, and it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. With its unique location, deep cultural roots, and incredible history, I highly recommend you make it the must-see place of 2018.

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Beautiful view of Sveti Stefan on the Adriatic coast of Montenegro

1. The turquoise water

I was in awe of the beauty which forever surrounded me, there are very little places in the world that can boast a marble-blue sea, a major lake and mountains - all a stones-throw away from each other. There are no shortages of glorious islands and islets to take your breath away. One of the best ways to discover the coastal side of Montenegro is by boat, a reason why sailing here is a favourite pastime for summer vacationers and locals. The country's crystal clear seas, large marinas and suitable climate allow for a variety of sailing experiences as you cruise along one of Europe’s most spectacular coastlines. Keep your eyes peeled as you might just see a pod of dolphins. Whatever itinerary you decide upon, your trip will certainly involve beautiful sun-kissed beaches, hidden coves, and quaint coastal towns full of rich history.

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Seafood is popular with Montenegrins

2. Food and Drink

The diverse regions and foreign influences over the centuries have left their mark on Montenegrin cuisine. I sampled traditional food - a varied selection of fresh seafood and hearty meat dishes - all made up of strong Central European influences. My first stop was at a family-run winery, called Savina, located on a hillside just above Savina Monastery in the town area of Herceg Novi. I was served tender lamb cooked in a sweet gravy with potatoes, along with a side of fresh salad and olives. For dessert there was a wonderful selection of baklava. The restaurant and winery, and its cellars are open to the public for tasting - depending on the availability. Guests can be accommodated in rustic rooms with wooden floors and beamed ceilings, tastefully furnished with antiques. In the evening, I travelled to the quaint medieval town of Kotor where I enjoyed dinner at Stari Mlini, which used to be a family operated flour mill in the 1700s. Spoilt for choice, I was treated to a selection of grilled fish, potato and steamed spinach as well as tiny plates of squid ink risotto and mussels, prawn risotto, homemade pasta and squid over seasoned octopus salad. The splendid meal was rounded off with a almond tartlet with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream as well as a board of traditional cheese. Usually local meals are accompanied with a glass of grape brandy - something which has to be drunk in one shot, no exceptions!

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Stunning view overlooking Boka Bay

3. History

Nature aside, Montenegro is home to some fascinating historical sites that date back between the 12th and 17th centuries. Among the most distinguished is Our Lady of the Rocks, one of two tiny islets in the Bay of Kotor. The Roman Catholic Church on the island is a must-see. I also enjoyed the picturesque views of Kotor, a quaint old town located near the harbour and surrounded by mountains. Although the walk to the top of Kotor’s Fortifications is slightly challenging - with over 1200 steps - taking a moment to stop and take the view was truly worth it. You can see the cobbled streets and the citadels as well as its beguiling ancient walls. For the athletic type, a trip to Lovćen National Park is highly recommended. Located between, Boka and Kotor Bay as well as the Riviera of Budva, the walk up the slopes of Lovcen Mountain is a steep one but the vast view of the bays are incredible, this certainly provided a memorable experience.

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The old town gate in Herceg Novi

4. Culture

Poetry, theatre, music and dance all play a large role in Montenegrin culture, with popular festivals held every summer. The city of Budva is known for its medieval walled city and diverse nightlife, although I didn't get the best impression, I can imagine during peak the fancy resorts and hotels come to life. The place is also home to the Sea Dance, which is a three-day music festival placed on one of the longest beaches in Montenegro. Some of the biggest names to play there include Jamiroquai, Prodigy and Roisin Muprhy.

5. Portonovi

A new £500 million, 60 acre, luxury development at Portonovi, is being built on the secluded shores of Boka Bay, one of the most picturesque parts of Montenegro. This resort is set to make Montenegro the next hot destination for the discerning global traveller and property investor with the first phase due to open in 2018. For more information, visit www.portonovi.com.

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