Magnificent Montenegro

Clean beaches, jaw-dropping mountains and pretty towns, Montenegro might just be your next top holiday spot

Montenegro is a small Balkan country with rugged mountains, medieval villages and a narrow strip of beaches along its Adriatic coastline. The Bay of Kotor, resembling a fjord, is dotted with coastal churches and fortified towns such as Kotor and Herceg Novi. Durmitor National Park encompasses limestone peaks, glacial lakes, wildlife such as bears and wolves, and 1,300m-deep Tara River Canyon.

Where to go

Its beaches and idyllic old towns make the coastline most appealing for the traveller, though its most precious jewel – phenomenally photogenic Kotor – sits just a little inland at the end of a fjord-like bay. Beach-fringed Budva is the other real highlight, but you should also try to make time for the ruins of Stari Bar. Away from the coast, pleasures are mainly confined to the mountains, particularly the spectacular national park of Durmitor, while the old Montenegrin capital of Cetinje is also well worth a visit.

The mountains visible from the Montenegrin coast hint at the beauty of its interior, an area sadly bypassed by most travellers. The capital, Podgorica, is one of the most natural in Europe but gets almost no backpackers while Cetinje makes a delightful stopover.

Best of all is the mountainous north, particularly the national park of Durmitor, where you can hike though unspoilt pastureland, ski past 2000-metre-plus peaks, or raft through the colossal Tara Canyon.

When to go

The best time to visit is broadly between April and September. Montenegro’s climate broadly follows two distinct patterns: the coast has typically Mediterranean weather, with very warm summers – temperatures regularly hover around the mid- to upper thirties – and mild winters; while the interior manifests a sub-alpine climate, characterized by warm summers but bitterly cold winters – temperatures can drop to as low as minus fifteen or twenty degrees – with occasionally heavy rainfall and much snow.

The coast is a pleasant place to be at any time of the year but it can get congested in July and August, when temperatures and crowds reach their peak. Accommodation is at its most expensive during this period. June and September are the optimum months for a visit, when the weather is still hot and there’s less pressure on facilities.