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Montenegro, May/June 2019

Mostly the Bay of Kotor, but also other places.

Contains 1164 photos, the last of which were added 2 years, 11 months, 30 days, 18 hours, 36 minutes, and 49 seconds ago.

Moved to Bijela in the Bay of Kotor. It's beautiful, peaceful but not dull. Plenty of places to swim and hike, or bus to for day trips.

An afternoon wandering around Herceg Novi.

Boat ride from Herceg Novi, around Mamula island (abandoned prison being turned into a hotel), to the blue cave, a stop at Zanjice beach and a visit to Fort Arza, and some old torpedo tunnels. Rained a bit.

Boat ride from Herceg Novi, around Mamula island (abandoned prison being turned into a hotel), to the blue cave, a stop at Zanjice beach and a visit to Fort Arza, and some old torpedo tunnels. Rained a bit.

Kamenari is about a 30 minute walk around the bay from Bijela, and from there there's a free (for foot passengers) ferry to Lepetane. It takes about 15 minutes to cross, and they run 24/7. Once one is filled up with vehicles it leaves, and the next one starts loading. Pretty neat!

I went across to check out the small town of Lepetane, following the coast around in both directions. I would definitely consider staying here if I return to this area. If you head east (away from the direction that would take you to Tivat) the road leads around to the head of the bit of land, where you can climb down to the Church of the Gospel of the Angels, sit by the ocean, and have a view of Perast.

I decided not to return by road, instead climbing up a switchback trail in the carpark across the road from the steps to the church. From there, it appeared that a trail ran parallel with the road back to the town. It should have taken about 45 minutes. It took several hours. It deterioated quickly into definitely not actually a trail, and I found my self suspended in giant ferns, battling spider webs, worrying about snakes in the undergrowth, and not really able to see the ground or the drop down the side of the verge. It wasn't too bad just far enough and just often enough that I made it too far to turn back. It would get more accessible for a few meters so I'd press on, thinking the real trail must emerge eventually. It did not. My legs got completely scratched up by the spikey bushes that hide in the ferns. It was too hot. This was not a fun adventure. The view was really good though when I had brief windows to enjoy it, and I saw a tortoise.

Eventually I emerged at an unfinished house on the edge of the top of Lepetane. I had to climb a tree, through a ditch and over a fence to make it to solid concrete ground. Then I had to climb another fence to get out of the house grounds and to the road. I limped back to the ferry and home.

Working and hanging around Bijela.

Hike from Lepetane to Kotor via For Vrmac, across the Vrmac mountains. It wasn't too strenuous, although we lost the trail a few times and had to double back or do some rock scrambling. The views were breathtaking in most directions. Thunder was rumbling after a few hours, but fortunately we found ourselves on a relatively flat straight trail for the duration of the rainstorm. The clouds parted and Kotor was revealed for a final trek down a never ending switchback just across the bay from the city.

We limped to Ombra restaurant for vegan pizza, and took the bus home (€2.50, 40 mins).

Hanging around in Herceg Novi, and a walk through Igalo and around the bay. Vegan food at Barbarella.

An afternoon in Tivat. I walked around the coast from Lepetane, stopped at a beach bar for limunada and wifi, went for a swim in the sea, wandered through the surreal main promenade of Porto Montenegro, and looked at the opulent hotels and superyachts. The bus back from Tivat to Lepetane is €0.70.

I took the bus to Perast, around the bay from where I'm staying, towards Kotor. The main road runs behind the town, and there's no non-local traffic allowed in the town itself, so cars and coaches stop at one of the carparks on either side. This is also where you can pick up a coach to get out again, though the bus stops are not really marked and to go back in the Herceg Novi direction involves waving from the wrong side of the road because the other side has only sheer cliff face. Anyway, I did manage to negotiate the buses and spent an afternoon here. An afternoon is plenty, I think, without including time for a meal or something.

I climbed steps right to the top of town, where there's an abandoned fort and amazing views of the bay. I went up the church tower for €1, which also gives a good perspective on the area. There are museums which I didn't visit. I took a boat ride to Our Lady of the Rocks, the blue-domed island church, for €5 return. There's a small museum with only artefacts and no signs inside the church, which costs €2 to enter. Nice to get out of the sun, and spend the 20-30 minutes the boat captain allows you. The other small island houses a monastary. I had thought it was closed to visitors, but when we sailed past there were definitely people swimming there who did not look like monks. Passing all the way through town to the Kotor-end yields less crowded concrete beaches, even with some shade, and really nice swimming.

An afternoon in Budva. The bus from Bijela is about €4.50-5 depending on the bus you end up on and should take a couple of hours but took about five because we sat in traffic near Tivat airport for forever. I went straight to Paradise Foods, the only vegan place in Montenegro, and ate a substantial and extremely cheap lunch.

Then through the main strip to the beach, which was crowded with tourists and sun umbrellas, but not too obnoxious. I thought it might be nice to take a pedal boat around the bay. There are boat trips of varying lengths, and a water taxi to the island in the bay too. I walked through the old town, which is pleasant. I particularly like the stone archways which open directly onto the beach.

I followed the cliffedge path to see the Dancing Lady statue, then continued past to Mogren beaches. The furthest beach has good shade in the afternoon, and isn't as loud and full as the first one. Some rock clambering after that to a point with local kids jumping into the sea from high rocks. Some as high as a two storey house; I watched them psyching themselves up for a while and really thought they wouldn't survive. (They did; didn't do it again though.)

I swam and napped and made my way back to Paradise Foods before it closed to pick up supplies, then bussed home.

There's plenty to do in Budva I think, and the surrounding area. I'll probably spend more time here.

Road trip! Got in on a car rental and drove to Ostrog Monastery, stopping for coffee in Niksic on the way. The Monastery is cool, accessed up some windy mountain roads and free to enter. It's built into the side of the cliff, and many of the inside walls are cliff face. Some are adorned with paintings and mosaics directly onto the rocks. The views are spectacular of course.

Lunch in Podgorica, the captial. It didn't seem like a very exciting town. There's probably stuff to do if you're looking for it, but there's no obvious old town or forts or anything. There's a big hill I might have climbed if it wasn't so hot. Didn't stay long.

Driving on to Skadar Lake, a giant freshwater lake that's 2/3 in Montenegro and 1/3 in Albania. The main town to stop at is Vipazar, which is populated entirely with people trying to sell you a boat ride. So we went on a boat ride of course, because going out onto the lake was kind of the whole point of going. It was beautiful, with a huge diversity of flora and fauna, from gnarly trees growing right out of the water in cool groves, to vast expanses of green waterlillies carpeting the lake's surface. I jumped right in at the first opportunity to swim.

The road along the lake heading south is not well served by public transport, and dotted with many small towns and villages. The views are consistently incredible, especially as the sun starts to set. Started to figure it's a shame to be driving the majority of the length of the lake in the dark, and just be rushing all the way back to Bijela; simultaneously a series of signposts started appearing along the road for a B&B somewhere. I proposed the wild idea that we just stop at the next village and look for somewhere to stay the night, and continue on in the morning. The next village, Donji Murici, turned out to be where these signs were leading us, so we followed them all the way down the side of the hill to the very edge of the lake. Rented a room, which was a small log cabin with a shared bathroom, minutes from the lake beach. The little restaurant only served fish, but we survived on tomato and cucumber salad and bread just fine, and the same for breakfast the next day. So we spent a peaceful evening by the lake. The next morning it was hot early so I swam of course. Waking up by the lake without the faintest sound of traffic was wonderful too.

The drive continued through the rest of the small towns, stopping occasionally for the view, and a detour down to the lakeside in Ckla where we saw snakes in the water and decided against swimming. The road almost meets Albania, then doubles back sharply. There's a viewpoint there, with a great lookout over Albanian mountains.

Driving up the coast with stops in Ulcinj and Bar. Ulcinj is very full and touristy and the old town is half destroyed, half new restaurants and bars. It didn't have a particularly good vibe. The Long Beach to the south has 100% coverage of sunbeds. Smaller beaches to the north seem nicer; we swam at one, but there was boat fuel in the water which did not smell good.

Bar is a big port town with connections to Italy. Didn't hang around the center. Stopped by the beach at Susanj, and then went to Stari Bar, the destroyed old town, which is further up the mountain. Parking is free unless a random dude hands you a receipt for €2.50 and you just pay him because it doesn't seem worth arguing about. It's a kind of structured begging, I guess (parking scams like this are common all over Montenegro, actually). The little street full of restaurants on the way to the old town is nice, and reminds me of a bit of Sarajevo. The old town is a giant museum, costing €4 to enter and is totally worth it. I could have spent longer than the 2 or so hours I did, only leaving because the close at sunset. It's full of creepy cellars to explore and castle walls to climb. It kept taking me by surprise with how much of it there was, but of course it's a whole town. The views over to the valley on the other side are neat too; there's a waterfall.

I'd read no end about the amazing hiking on the Lustica Peninsula, the bit of land that sticks out and around in front of Herceg Novi. I also found some blog posts from the end of last year, official announcements about the improved hiking trails there; apparently now well-marked and accessible for hikers and cyclists. Well, they may have been premature because some of the trails were definitely not well marked or maintained, and some undergrowth scrabbling was required. They were mostly marked with red dots though. I wanted to finish the hike in time to take the water taxi back from Rose at the tip, to Herceg Novi. Taking a charter boat would have been €20 or more, but the water taxi is €3; only it ran at limited times, and the last one was (as far as I knew when I started out) at 1900 (actually turned out to be 1830). I budgeted 9 hours for the hike including distractions, plus some time in Rose at the end. There's a bus from Tivat to Krasic, a good place to start hiking from, at 0730 but buses from Lepetane to Tivat don't start until about 0830, but I managed to flag down a long distance coach to Tivat in Biejla at about 6am and it all worked out. Starting early was a good idea anyway, and I was lucky with overcast weather for most of the day; it would have been far too hot otherwise, there's very little shade on Lustica.

The beginning of the trail from Krasic is at the start of the village. The bus wizzed right past and I happened to see the map on the wall I recognised from my extensive googling, and when I eventually got the bus to stop we had to walk all the way back. Once the trail departs from the road, it becomes obvious but rugged, which is perfect. Better and better views as one ascends the mountainside. Then an encounter with a giant piece of machinery widening the trail; it later became apparent that this was for one of the houses being built in another village, probably, rather than anything to do with the hiking trails.

We detoured from Gosic through Radovic and down to Plaza Horizonti, a large beach that there is actually a direct bus to from Tivat as well. It was early but already filling up with people. Following a small trail around the bay a bit leads to some rocks without people on, which are good to climb down and swim from. So we did.

Back up to Radovici then picked up the trail again to head in the general direction of Rose. A lot of the 'trail' turns out to be on the road actually. One of the off-road detours was completely overgrown and quite difficult to pass.

Considered a few detours to beaches on the seaward side of the peninusula, or climbing up to the main ridge, but mostly ran out of steam. We did look at one of the forts on the way to Rose (there are a few) and it was mostly underground and overgrown. But from there we could climb down to the torpedo tunnels and walk along inside it, around the back, and out the other side. That was pretty cool. We tried to follow the coast all the way around to Rose from here rather than climbing back up to the road. Eventually the rock faces got a bit sheer for my tiny legs, but rather than give up I swam the rest of the way to Rose. While I was in the sea a massive rainstorm rolled right in. I could see it coming at me. Herceg Novi disappeared entirely and the sea was churning as I emerged from port in Rose. I walked through town in the pouring rain in my bikini because what else was there to do? A man beckoned us inside from not-yet-open restaurant; his name is Yusuf and his Turkish restaurant is opening in July. He was just getting everything ready. He gave me a towel, and turkish coffee. The rain stopped, and we wandered around Rose, but there's not much to see. The water taxi schedule was by the jetty, and the last departure was 30 minutes earlier than I thought. Good job we hadn't taken any of those detours.

A day in Budva. Featuring two trips to Paradise Foods (and working from there a bit), a 2.5 hour walk around the coast to Sveti Stefan, sightings of mandatory-use €120 beach sets (2 chairs and an umbrella, maybe towels) and the resulting empty beaches, very swanky hotels, and swimming near the Sveti Stefan resort hotel island.

A day chilling (working) in Bijela by the sea.

A visit to Kotor on my last day in Montenegro. I climbed the Ladder of Kotor, a switchback up the side of the mountain behind old town. On the way up there's a seemingly abandoned house, but if you stick around to take in the view for too long an old man shows up to sell you lemonade for extortionate prices. From there the trail goes up and up and into the mountains, if you have time for that. What I did was bear right, where there's a secret entrance into the top of the Fortress. Entering from the old town costs a steep €8, but there's a person-sized hole in the wall you can enter for free if you've made the climb up the Ladder. The Fortress is steps on steps; all abandoned, lots to see, and amazing views of course. I returned down all the steps and into the old town, where nobody is checking tickets on the way out.