Montenegro's west coast is on the Adriatic Sea and it borders five other countries: Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania.
Catriona Rowntree put her hand up for Getaway's first visit to the small country with a population of less than 700,000. It has withstood centuries of conquests and more recently tourism suffered greatly from Yugoslavia's civil war in the 1990s. It has emerged as the second-newest country in the world, declaring independence from Serbia in 2006, and tourism is once again looking healthy. It is touted as Europe's next hot spot.
With guide Slaja Tomanovic, Catriona set out on her discovery tour.
Boat ride from Perast
Perast is a beautiful old World Hertitage-protected village dating back centuries and steeped in maritime history. It's one of the most beautiful examples of baroque architecture anywhere. It has one main street with several churches. Montenegro is a very religious country and its faith has been tested again and again.
On the way they passed Our Lady of Rocks, a manmade reef of sunken ships. Locals built a votive chapel and blue-domed church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which seems to float on the gulf's calm waters. Built in 1630, it is occasionally used for services. The artwork, ceiling and murals took one painter more than a decade to complete.
A keeper's lodge has been turned into a museum devoted to deliverance from perils at sea.
The former mill built in the 16th century sits on top of a wild river and views of the winding bay are grand. In the 1770s, Stari Mlini was a family-operated flour mill serving Kotor. Three-hundred years later another family preserved the mill and turned it into a fairytale restaurant. It offers casual fine dining and there is the option of arriving by road or by sea. They specialise in trout farmed on site, wild Adriatic seafood, prosciutto, octopus and squid-ink risotto.
If you visit just one place in Montenegro, Kotor should be it. It's Montenegro's national icon and described as southern Europe's most spectacular fjord. Kotor is one of the best-preserved and most beautiful medieval towns in the Mediterranean.
The walled town is a maze of cobbled streets and centuries of history. Rugged mountains plummeting to the Adriatic and beautiful thick Mediterranean vegetation make the beauty meter tick.
Locals are extremely proud of their Cathedral of St Tryphon built in 1166. The stunning example of Roman architecture contains a treasury of artefacts and it's older than Paris' Notre Dame.
Every weekday at the entrance to the old town you will find local markets, and for a pleasant change, they aren't the place for touristy souvenirs. It's where the Montenegrins shop.
It has shops and boutiques selling clothing and footwear of renowned European and world designers, particularly Italian. There are also interesting shops selling jewellery, books, antiques, beauty salons, cafes, pizzerias and pastry shops. It's a great place to wander.
The second entrance to the old town takes you to the Kotor bazaar. It began forever ago for the exchange and barter of goods and merchandise. Today it markets fruit, vegetables and fish, but you will see some other little shops.
"At the moment of the creation of our planet," Lord Byron wrote, "the most beautiful merging of land and sea occurred at the Montenegrin seaside." Since the 15th century to the 1950s the tiny island housed a small fishing community. Then it became a haunt of the rich and famous. Right now it's closed and has been for a couple of years for construction by a hotel group.
It will reopen in the middle of 2011 and the Aman Group will have three hotels, two villas, spa, restaurants, shops, sport facilities and nightclubs.
The nautical word "azimuth" has its origin in Arabic meaning "the right way" and this is definitely the right way to enjoy a luxurious boutique hotel in the heart of Sveti Stefan.
The hotel has 16 rooms and you can choose from a double, double luxe or apartment. Rooms are modern and have a living room and the highlight is definitely the private terrace with stunning views of Stefi Stefan.
Check out the spa and wellness centre, indoor pool with ocean views, Turkish bath, sauna and jacuzzi. If you crave a serene, Zen-like atmosphere then indulge in one of their luxurious massages, which will heal you from the inside out.
The hotel has a private beach and accessories are free so you'll always have a sunbed and umbrella to laze under. The restaurant has a spectacular view of Sveti Stefan and their wine list is impressive. For cooler months there's a winter terrace with a library and halls for playing bridge cards and billiards.
Montenegro in south-eastern Europe, about two hours from Dubrovnik.
Greece & Mediterranean Travel Centre has a four-day Montenegro Experience tour available. It includes return transfers from Dubrovnik Airport, accommodation and full-day Montenegro tour starting at $459 per person twin share. They run year round.
Emirates has flights to Rome. Connections to Dubrovnik are available.
Airfares start from:
- Perth $1701
- Melbourne and Adelaide $1704
- Sydney $1722
- Brisbane $1728
Fares are for sale between June 24 and 28, 2010, for travel between October 1 and November 30, 2010.
Prices correct at June 24, 2010.
For further information
Ph: 1300 303 777
Greece & Mediterranean Travel Centre
Suite 2, 644 Botany Road
Ph: (02) 9313 4633 or 1300 661 666
Fax: (02) 9313 4475
Ljuta bb, Dobrota
Ph: +382 32 333 555
Ph: +382 33 468 992 or +382 33 468 993
Visas: A passport is required but a visa is not necessary.
Electricity: 230V at 50 Hz.
Time zone: GMT +1.
Currency: The euro.
International dialling code: +382.
It is recommended travellers to Montenegro see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au