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  • Writer's picturewanderingmiles

Hvala Montenegro

When looking for an ideal European destination for a girls holiday with my friends I had Dubrovnik in Croatia at the top of my list. A country I have wanted to visit for years and which has grown in popularity recently. However, having spent the last year completing unpaid placements and living off a small student loan I realised very quickly that I would have to look for somewhere cheaper...this meant going onto the Ryan Air and EasyJet apps and just looking up flight destinations from Manchester airport. I could have used sky scanner but I have found the apps to be easier and with less differences between costs every time I click out and back in again. It was via EasyJet I found flights to Tivat for about £70 return (even cheaper at times). Somewhere I had never heard of so naturally I headed to google to find out more. Picture this: tranquil blue waters, glistening sunshine, beautiful historic buildings, another worldly kinda feel and you'll understand why it took me 5 minutes to decide this is where we should go for a mini getaway.

When I told people I was going to Montenegro for a holiday I was mostly met with questioning looks and 'that's a random choice' replies. A lot of people (not everyone) hold misconceptions or prejudices left over from 20/30 years ago which, while I can understand, are now out of date and I am not one to listen to a negative review about a country from someone who has never even been there. And so, this is your reminder to do something different and go somewhere against the norm because it was absolutely worth a trip and I couldn't recommend more (also, anyone we spoke to who had been in recent years had nothing but good things to say) Top tip - despite the fact that since early 2023 Montenegro now uses the euro, it is currently not in the EU and therefore UK mobile data is not free so check your data plan as I only realised the day before that I wouldn't have any data! It was actually great to switch off when I didn't have wifi and I should probably do it more.

It's approximately 2.5 hours from Manchester to Tivat and we booked an airbnb in Kotor, about 15 minute drive from the airport. There were 6 of us and we paid £50 per night each for an absolutely stunning apartment - views below. I would 100% recommend booking a transfer through your hotel/airbnb before you arrive because we paid 80 euros for 2 taxi's from the airport but then booked transport via our host for our return and it cost us 60 euros. Only 20 euros difference but it still adds up.

Our accommodation had 2 double beds and 2 large single beds and was the perfect space - it came with a pool shared with the other apartments but the best part for me was the balcony and it's insane views where I could enjoy a red wine looking out at the mountains and the sea - my FAV >>>

We took an early morning flight and landed at about 10.45am local time. We got to our airbnb about 11.30am and we were able to check in early which was amazing because we could change and head straight out. We planned to explore the old town and walk to the top of the walls which is approx 1350 steps up. You'll find the entrance to the steps about 5 minutes into the old town on the left past the Moritz Eis ice cream shop (incredible pistachio ice cream from here) and they cost 8 euros to climb. It was about 37 degrees and the humidity was high, we had actual sweat dripping down our legs and even with a brief rain shower half way up, it was a sweaty activity. But so worth it. took us about 2 hours up and down (down obviously a lot quicker). Take LOTS of water or buy water on the way up for between 2-4 euros depending on how far up you are (they obviously charge more if they've dragged the cool box and water further up). We met some lovely people on the way up - most notably a retired teacher from NZ who was on a 3 month world trip - icon. Definitely worth doing on the first day - if we had left it for the end of the trip we'd have probably sacked it off.

Day 2 was a pre booked boat trip around Boka Bay with 360 Monte via Get Your Guide. It was about £70 each for an 8 hour boat trip with a small glass of champagne, a Rakija shot and tickets to the Our Lady of the Rocks church and museum for a little local history (everyone needs to take a t-shirt to cover their shoulders if you decide to go into the church and museum). This was our most expensive day but so worth it. Our tour guide on the boat was amazing and so were the staff. We had swimming opportunities, sunbathing on the roof opportunities and we even saw a dolphin! The sea was absolute swimming perfection, so refreshing in the heat of the day and the boat was very comfy, with beanbags to relax on and enjoy the experience - I always love a boat day and thought this was perfect. There was bout 20 of us on board because if you want a private boat you need a bigger budget but it didn't feel overcrowded and everyone was lovely. We had lunch in Porto Montenegro and explored this area which seems to be Montenegro's answer to St Tropez - fancy hotels, super yachts and designer shops - and also another amazing ice cream shop called Goddo right on the water. Fresh melted chocolate poured into your cone before the ice cream for a special extra. We got back to Kotor by 5pm which was plenty of time to go back to the apartment and rest before getting ready to go back out for dinner.

Day 3 was a designated beach day - Kotor is not known for it's beaches so we had decided we would get the bus to Budva, a nearby beach town and a bit more of a popular holiday destination. We walked to the bus station and bought a bus ticket for 5 euros each to get us there. Google had suggested the bus would take 50 minutes and that was pretty accurate. It was a little stressful at the bus station as we had no idea which bus was ours as every bus which came said it was going to Budva and the guy who scanned our tickets just kept telling me 'no' while lots of others got on. When our bus eventually came we were able to get a seat and it had perfect air con. I will say if you ever get a bus around Montenegro and are a tourist with a suitcase which needs to go under the bus, be prepared to have a euro to tip the driver as he almost didn't let someone on who didn't have a euro to give him (someone else paid for him). If you're a group and find a nice taxi driver - a taxi might be a better option for about 2 euros more each.

Once we arrived in Budva we headed off for the Old Town as were were advised the best beach was near there, after walking approx 15 minutes we found a beach which wasn't the prettiest, but we were tired and it had 5 euro sunbeds so we settled down for the day. We ate a beautiful meal at a restaurant looking out to sea called Coco and for most of the group, this was their top meal of the trip. Would 10/10 recommend.

After lunch I went for wander round the old town because I have to go and explore in a new place and old towns are just so beautiful to me - I love walking aimlessly around. It was very similar to Kotor but busier and a bit bigger. If I had had data I could use, they had QR codes on the historic buildings which sent you to information about where you were stood which I think is an amazing idea you can do for free. Budva was beautiful but we are definitely glad we stayed in quieter Kotor. We maybe needed more time in Budva to get a proper feel for it or possibly a car to get to the more beautiful areas. There was building work and hotel development everywhere so it's definitely somewhere which is preparing to get super busy in the next few years.

I would 100% recommend a trip to Montenegro - Kotor was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Welcoming, sunny, relaxing and with lots of different foods - definitely try some local fish, Dalmatian salad or Kajmak (a local, buttery/milk type sauce) because I enjoyed all the local foods I tried and there is still lots more to experience! It is definitely somewhere I would recommend to groups/couples and even though it's a popular stop off for cruise ships, we didn't feel this impacted our trip at all. The cats of Kotor are also an absolute highlight. Stray but clearly well looked after by the locals. They seem chill and happy and bring a lovely little something to the town. It's somewhere I will definitely go back to and travel more of - Lovcen National Park is a top spot which we didn't have time to see but will be at the top of my list for next time!

** Tivat airport is somewhat chaotic, it's very small and wasn't built for the demand of visitors it now has so if you're flying home from there, prepare to queue for everything and just be patient - they rush you through if your flight is next as there isn't a lot flights in and out. There is also no cafe/restaurant once you're through security, just a small duty free where you can buy crisps and drinks and apparently sandwiches but there weren't any left when we got there so maybe take some snacks with you for your wait.

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