Stay in the Balkans in style
It’s a wonder Montenegro, whose beautiful Bay of Kotor is a Unesco world heritage site, remains relatively unexplored. It’s far greener than Croatia, which lies just an hour up the coast, and much cheaper than Italy. But that sense of being an undiscovered gem is set to change.
Portonovi is a glamorous new 26-hectare resort under construction in the bay, close to the charming, former Venetian town of Herceg Novi. It includes a marina, several restaurants and a luxurious Espace Chenot spa, and has been designed as ‘a place for people who appreciate both traditional values and originality’, according to marketing and communications manager Adrijana Husic. Portonovi Village and Marine Sea View Residences will be available to book from August 1, starting at €350/£313pn (portonovi.com), and in 2020, luxury hotel brand One&Only will open its first European location here.
A more boutique option is the recently opened five-star Hotel Lazure nearby. A renovated 18th-century building off Herceg Novi’s promenade, it offers 25 stylish rooms and a separate spa (rooms from £129pn, lazure.me).
Wellness on the water
The best way to see Montenegro is from the sea. Give stand-up paddleboarding a go: WeSUP (wesuphq.com) launched wellness retreats in Tivat — home to the closest airport — just last year, including four days of paddleboarding, stretch sessions, hikes and all-inclusive vegan meals by Atta Street Food for just £474pp.
Retreat leader Charlotte Lodey advocates ‘the meditative effects of being on water, disconnecting from the everyday and finding a sense of calm’. The itinerary — the next one starts on September 19 — is relaxed, with short walks around local towns (rocking up by paddleboard, naturally), and informal networking is encouraged from the sea to the dinner table.
Accommodation is basic but for something more pampering, try a day at the spa and rooftop pool at Tre Canne hotel (trecanne.me/en) in nearby Budva for just £20pp.
Tiny winery with big flavours
It’s hard to beat the Adriatic views at Castel Savina vineyard, an hour from Tivat, established in 2014. The monastery’s terrace is the place to sample Vranac (Montenegro’s indigenous red varietal) or rakija, the country’s lethal spirit of choice.
This summer, Savina is launching a new dessert wine called Žižak. A 90-minute tasting of three or four wines, two rakijas, snacks and home-made olive oil (book in advance, castelsavina.me) is just £31pp.
Montenegrins love a cheese-and-meat platter so don’t miss a long, leisurely picking at Bocasa (facebook.com/bocasabeach) on Bocasa beach. Try the fluffy kajmak cheese, fresh sea bass and sage green olive cake. Mains start at around £7.
Dance on the beach
Now in its sixth year, the Sea Dance festival (seadancefestival.me) will take place at a new location on Buljarica beach, 30 minutes from the cobbled streets of Budva’s old town. From August 30 to September 1, headliners include David Guetta and Sven Väth. Tickets cost £34 plus booking fee and tents can be pitched 200 metres from the beach.
Fancy something a bit more hardcore? Lakefest (lakefest.me, tickets from £9) is three nights of rock music around Lake Krupac in Niksic, in northern Montenegro, from August 8 to 10. You might not have heard of some of the artists (though we love the sound of Stereo Banana) but it’ll be a chance to let your hair down.
-Easyjet flights from London Gatwick to Tivat operate twice a week throughout the summer, starting at just £33.49pp, while Ryanair flies to the capital, Podgorica, from £23.65pp. easyjet.com and ryanair.com
-Of the five national parks in Montenegro, Lov?en and Durmitor charge an entry fee of just £3 each. visit-montenegro.com
-At no charge, happy hikers can climb up to Jezerski Vrh viewpoint (5,500ft), where locals say you can see seven countries on clear days, and the 3-mile Sedlo trail is another free option.