Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Montenegrin Riviera: Kotor & Budva

In addition to a day-trip to Mostar, we also took an excursion to Croatia’s southern neighbor and newly independent nation, Montenegro. The two-hour drive along the sapphire blue Adriatic Coast from Dubrovnik to the Bay of Kotor was a spectacular one, and it definitely ranks on top as one of the most scenic drives after CA’s Highway 1 and Chapman’s Peak Drive in Cape Town.


Montenegro’s scenery, especially the Boka Kotorska, or the Bay of Kotor (UNESCO World Heritage Site), is jaw-dropping beautiful -- Europe’s southernmost fjord is set against the backdrop of steep grey pine-clad mountains. No doubt Montenegro has all the right mix to make this stretch of the Adriatic the next big destination in Europe with sandy beaches, picturesque walled cities, gorgeous coastline, and forest-studded mountains.

We stopped along the side of the road just a few miles outside of Perast for a photo-op of the Boka Kotorska. Once under the control of the Venetians between 1420 to 1797, Perast contains over a dozen of Baroque palaces in addition to numerous Catholic churches including the picturesque Our Lady of the Rock set an artificial island. 


Our next stop was to the lovely town of Kotor, a charming walled city also built by the Republic of Venice, hence the Venetian-influenced architecture of the red orange rooftops and piazzas. Aside from meandering through the narrow atmospheric cobbled streets, you could also make the trek up the steep stairs for a superb view of the town.
Photos around Kotor:
Next we made a stop at Sveti Stefan, a former sleepy fishing village cum luxury cottages set on a tiny peninsula just south of Budva, to admire the gorgeous views. Tourism suffered tremendously in Montenegro during the height of the Yugoslavia Wars in 1990s and Sveti Stefan closed its doors to the public. It is once again a posh resort in waiting as the Singaporean-based Amanresorts is poised to restore the property to its former glory in the coming years.

Montenegro is a bargain destination relative to its neighbor, Croatia. Although not part of the European Union, Montenegro has adopted the Euro as its official currency in hopes to attract foreign investment from its wealthy Western European neighbors as well as the Russians as evident with Russian-financed luxurious Hotel Splendid (it was used in Casino Royale) and the seaside town of Budva, the summer playground for wealthy Russians. Budva was nice, but it had a slight touch of Euro-trash which didn’t appeal to us. Like Kotor and Dubrovnik, Budva also has a nice, but small walled city surrounded by shingle beaches and a nice harbour full of glitzy yachts. We had a pleasant seaside lunch of seafood pasta and mussels along the promenade and enjoyed the glorious sunshine and of course, the view. 

Watch this space, as I am certain that Montenegro will become a trendy destination in the coming years. It is a beautiful place and if time permits during your stay in Dubrovnik, definitely consider heading south to Montenegro.

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