Why go to Montenegro when there are so many other places in Europe? Despite its diminutive size, this Balkan jewel is packed with breathtaking scenery, pristine beaches, and charming towns. Montenegro is a distinct nation known for its amazing scenery and rugged terrain. Whether you like to take in the local culture, eat delicious seafood, travel along scenic routes, or simply take in the breathtaking environment, a 5 day trip in Montenegro will not disappoint.
This is an itinerary for anyone who has one week to spend in Montenegro. It works best if you self-drive, although it’s not difficult to organise day tours while in Montenegro. You may want to swop out/add in more hikes while in Montenegro. This was hampered by the rain due to the time of year I visited.
I did this trip with my friend Expat Elephant; we visited Montenegro as two women of colour in October 2023.
Important: Like many well-known tourist locations in Europe, Montenegro experiences overtourism, particularly in the summer months of July and August. The infrastructure in more well-known locations is beginning to seem overcrowded, which might take away from the allure of Montenegro’s previously undiscovered treasures. In Montenegro, traffic congestion can occur during the summer months due to a mix of factors such as lack of infrastructure, natural topography, and overcrowding. Even though the nation is only a few hundred kilometres long, travelling to well-known locations or crossing borders might take up a whole day.
Note: The flights, accommodation and activities for this 5 day trip in Montenegro were NOT sponsored/discounted/gifted. Full cost breakdown below:
Is it Safe?
I felt quite safe walking around different parts of Montenegro, even at night.
South African passport holders (and many other nationalities) require a visa to enter Montenegro. However, Montenegro has a policy where you can use other valid visas from “strong” countries to enter. You can check the requirements here under “Article 7”. I used my USA B2 visa to enter and had no problems.
What to do about money?
The official currency used in Montenegro is the Euro (EUR). You can easily withdraw or convert money anywhere in the country. Very few places accept card payments, especially out of Kotor and Budva. Cash is key!
How to travel around during your 5 day trip in Montenegro?
We rented a car through MTL Car Rentals. I strongly recommend this locally owned and operated company as they do not block any amount of your credit card and do not require an international license. For this itinerary, you do not need any particular type of car but since the roads in Montenegro are very narrow, I would rent a small car.
How to communicate?
Most tourist places in Montenegro speak English. I did not find language to be a barrier during the course of my 5 day trip in Montenegro.
FIRST IT’S TIME FOR A BRIEF PPG (PANDA’S PROGRESSIVE GEOGRAPHY) LESSON!
The name Montenegro was given to the region for the first time in the fifteenth century. The Ottoman Empire struggled for a long time to conquer the region. In the period between 1500 and 1800, Montenegro developed into a theocracy, with Bishop Princes as its rulers and the state intertwined with religion. The government and the church split in 1852.
Following the First World War, Montenegro joined the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes before joining Yugoslavia. Montenegro adopted communism and officially joined the Soviet Union at the same time as Yugoslavia. When the Soviet Union fell apart, Montenegro allied with Serbia to form a federation. Montenegro proclaimed its independence and separated from Serbia in 2006.
Montenegro is bordered by Bosnia and Herzegovina to the north, Serbia to the northeast, Kosovo to the east, Albania to the southeast, and Croatia and the Adriatic Sea to the northwest.
Day1: Arrive in Montenegro
Montenegro is well connected to neighbouring countries by road and air. You can consider taking a bus into the country from one of its neighbours. Alternatively, Tivat and Podgorica are Montenegro’s main international airports, but it is often easier for visitors to arrive via Dubrovnik Airport (in neighbouring Croatia), as it is served by a greater range of flights and airlines.
We landed in Podgorica after a 40 minute flight from Belgrade, Serbia. First order of business was to pick up our rental car from the airport and hit the road. Note that it will be easier to get an affordable rental car at the airport rather than in a smaller town.
Stop 1: Pavlova Strana Viewpoint
From the airport we drove 40 minutes to Pavlova Strana Viewpoint. The Pavlova Strana Viewpoint, which is close to Lake Skadar in Montenegro, provides breathtaking panoramic views of the area.
At a towering 680 metres in elevation, this viewpoint offers an unmatched perspective of the surrounding landscapes, luring visitors to take in the breathtaking beauty of the area. Although the route is paved and in good shape, it can occasionally be congested and winding. You can leave your car opposite the viewpoint and walk a few steps to admire the view.
Slow down when you see this building and this sign:
Cost to visit: Free
From here we continued to the town of Rijeka Crnojevića to take some photos of the iconic bridge and find our accommodation for the night.
Where to stay: We stayed at a simple but clean guesthouse called Drago Dujeva Resort. It was basic in terms of facilities but does have access to stunning views and a private “beach” area (a 15-20 minute walk) which makes it a worthwhile stay. This was the view from the beach on property:
Day 2: Explore Durmitor National Park and Tara Canyon
Stop 1: Durmitor National Park
From Rijeka Crnojevića we headed north to Durmitor National Park. We had a few mishaps as the toll roads were closed and we had to detour along the back roads. There was also construction on the route which delayed us further. On any journey, account for extra time.
If you are heading to Durmitor National Park, use the Google Maps Link for Crno Jezero (Black Lake). If you use the pin for Durmitor National Park, it takes you to the middle of nowhere. I learnt this the hard way.
Along the way you might be lucky enough to find Tara Canyon. You will see the piercing blue water from the road and there’s a little boardwalk to walk along the pool.
Our time at the Black Lake was short lived as it started pouring but I can imagine this to be a serene spot during summer where you can picnic and relax. There are other hikes at Durmitor worth doing (you can read this blog for more information) but due to the weather and time constraints, we could not spend a lot of time here.
There are small souvenir shops with local artisans displaying their crafts so take cash if you wish to support them!
Cost: 5EUR per person (cash only)
Stop 2: Vrazje Jezero (Devil’s Lake)
This is a beautiful glacial lake located at an altitude of 1,411 meters in the Durmator National Park near Žabljak, surrounded by a beautiful landscape of meadows, vast green fields. The lake has distinct shades of blue however, because of the weather, we could not get the full effect.
Cost to visit: Free
Stop 3: Žabljak
We escaped the bad weather by hunkering down in our accommodation and getting food at a nearby restaurant, Podgora. The food was nothing spectacular but was hearty and filling.
Where to stay: We stayed at Durmitor Paradise which was a beautifully appointed bed and breakfast on the outskirts of the town. The host, Jelena, was extremely helpful in highlighting points of interest nearby.
Day 3: Žabljak to Budva
Stop 1: Picturesque viewpoint
On our way to the coast, we stopped at this viewpoint which offered an amazing view of the mountains.
This is a small stop (off paved roads with a tiny parking area) which would only take you 15 minutes to admire and snap photos. As soon you can see from my photos, it was quite cold when we were there.
Cost to visit: Free
Stop 2: Sveti Stefan
From the mountains to the coast, we embarked on a long windy journey towards the coast. Sveti Stefan was our destination. Since it was a little fishing settlement in the fifteenth century, the Island of Sveti Stefan has seen a stormy and colourful history. The island had a luxurious resort makeover in the 1950s, drawing international monarchy and celebrities. The island nevertheless exudes a feeling of exclusivity, which adds to its allure by imparting a magnetic quality.
I would not say there is much to do here, but you come for the picturesque views. Follow Google Maps to Milocer Beach and park in the allocated parking. Then take a walk around Milocer Park to capture the best views.
Cost: 1 EUR for parking
Stop 3: Dinner at Bankada
Bankada serves locally sourced seafood prepared with global flavours in wildly tasty ways. Moreover, it comes at prices that feel affordable four a toursty town. If you visit during the day, you will also be treated to epic views. Set away from the main tourist strip, the eatery is filled mainly with locals and unpretentious decor. Don’t miss this spot when in town!
Cost: Around 60EUR for 2.
Where to stay: In Budva we stayed at Vivid Blue Serenity Resort which is a beautifully appointed hotel. While the hotel is pretty and has a gorgeous infinity pool, it is isolated from the town (and you cannot walk to the town as it is just off a busy highway). Just something to keep in mind.
Day 4: Budva to Kotor
Stop 1: Relax in Kotor
This was a very restful day for us. We got up late, checked out late from our accommodation and drove an hour to Kotor.
Kotor is the perfect place to wander around, get lost and explore as you’re surrounded by the cobblestone alleys and tall limestone mountains that rise over one of the most picturesque bays.
Kotor is also the most popular place in Montenegro (by far) and up until this point in my trip I hadn’t seen many tourists. Kotor was very different; there are large cruise liners that dock in the bay ferrying hundreds of their passengers into the town. I can only imagine how chaotic this must get in the height of summer!
Stop 2: Dinner in Perast (Stari Mlini)
We took a quick but leisurely drive to Perast to enjoy dinner at what must easily be one of the most beautiful restaurants I have EVER been to. If you can get there for sunset, make this a priority.
I would also make a reservation on their website. The food and service is superb.
Cost: Around 60EUR for 2.
Where to stay: It was a huge challenge to find accommodation in Kotor that offered parking so we ended up staying at Apartments Marilu. Not only was there private parking but our hosts lived onsite and were always happy to help us. The only downside was that this accommodation did not come with breakfast but there were many breakfast options in the area.
Day 4: Take in the views of Kotor
Stop 1: Breakfast at Platanus
An upscale eatery offering an extensive menu with an array of onsite cats! I enjoyed the pistachio pancakes and omelettes. Breakfast in Montenegro is not always a stellar meal (compared to lunch and dinner) so manage your expectations accordingly.
Cost: 35EUR for 2 people.
Stop 2: Hike up Kotor
St. John’s Fortress is located 1,350 steps up a mountain and overlooks the Old Town of Kotor. It’s worth the climb up for the breathtaking views. At 3:30 pm, we paid the 8 euros entrance charge at the North Gate of Kotor Old Town, which dates from 1540, and began the arduous ascent. Although it’s usually a good idea to not count the steps—I have a tendency to do that—my attention was diverted by conversations and the numerous photo opportunities.
If hiking is within your mobility capabilities, I would prioritize this activity as the views are stunning and the hike is not too physically demanding.
For a more detailed guide, you can check out this blog post. The starting point for the hike can be accessed through this entry point:
Stop 3: Dinner at Bastion
We were wandering around after our hike and happened to ask a local store manager where she recommended we go for dinner. We entered Bastion with no expectations and left thrilled (and stuffed). The seafood platter we ordered was delicious and service was impeccable. I was so happy we ended up here.
Cost: 60EUR for 2 people
Stop 4: Dessert at Cattarissimo
One of things you have to try while on your 5 day trip in Montenegro is a Montenegrin cream cake. Unfortunately, very few restaurants in Kotor serve this so we were ecstatic to find one that did. What is life without a little dessert? This little cream cake is decadent so be sure to order one and share.
Day 5: Explore Podgorica
On day 5, we drove back to the capital city to get ready for our departure. We had one day left before we flew out so we decided to try to see what we could explore in Podgorica.
Spoiler, there’s not much on offer in this capital city.
Stop 1: Niagara Vodopad
Apparently in the warmer months with heavy rainfall, this is the best (and only) attraction) in the city. However, due to the fact that we visited when there was little rainfall, I would classify this as rock formations. It’s still a cool place to visit but it’s also important to manage your expectations.
Stop 2: Dinner at Chi Le Ma
I wasn’t hopeful about the variety of food available in Podgorica but through some luck, I found this amazing Asian restaurant. They serve an array of dishes but different Asian cuisines and have a lot of options even for the pickiest eater. The atmosphere is upscale and perfect for a last meal in Montenegro!
Cost: 68EUR for 3 people (this includes around 5-6 dishes)
Where to stay: We stayed at Hotel Keto which clean and basic with a small parking lot. The hotel staff were helpful but it was also a weird set up (having to walk through a bar and restaurant up two flights of stairs with our suitcases).
Day 6: Depart Montenegro
Montenegro’s scenery is both spectacular, unique and tranquil. The gorgeous blue waters lapping at the foot of enormous mountains. Each charming fishing hamlet, with its own unique architecture and small gems of beauty, is perched precariously on the edge of a majestic fjord. The scenery in front of me never stopped changing, captivating my attention. I kept turning and was rewarded with another breathtaking view that was entirely different from the last one over the course of my 5 day trip in Montenegro.
Lastly, I have a wealth of information on my Instagram especially in the Montenegro highlight, Montenegro guide and my reels. Do have a look. If you enjoyed this post about planning a 5 day trip in Montenegro, please pin it using the pin below:
You might be interested in some of my other regional travels:
Have you visited Montenegro before? Or have I inspired you with this travel guide to Montenegro? Let me know in the comments below!