Gap Year Days 141 – 149
When we planned this next part of the trip we got the map out and looked at where we might like to go, the most logical path seemed to be to make our way along the coast to Budva, only 85km away across the border into Montenegro. We had booked our tickets online, then held our breath hoping the bus would turn up, and it would have vacant seats!
The bus was only twenty minutes late, but we noticed the sign on the window. We weren’t giong straight to Budva along the coast, but rather taking a detour through the capital Podgorica, the next stop on our trip. We would essentially be doubling back, and doing twice the distance. At least this bus was comfortable!
Unfortunately the website had told us this trip would be two hours, but in the end it was four hours, and our poor hosts were waiting for us at the bus station! I just hoped they were more used to the buses than we were, as I had no phoe data and could not contact them to let them know what was going on. Luckily they were still waiting for us when we arrived, and we quickly unpacked our stuff, got a load in the washing machine and headed straight back out to explore Budva.
Budva felt like a breath of fresh air! I’m not sure if it was because the temperature had finally gone from “scorching” to “warm but pleasant”, or because it was starting to feel like we were back in Italy with the Roman influence clear on the old part of the city.
Budva is really a party town squeezed into a small area between the mountiains and the sea. We just missed the end of the season, so many of the venues had started to pack up for the winter, but we could still see some of the outdoor clubs that lined the main beach. Almost every inch of that (and every other) beach was covered with loungers and umbrellas that were able to be rented by the day, as is common in Europe but not in Australia. There were some smaller areas that could be used free, but they were few and far between.
To get great views over both the Adriatic Sea and the city, we visited the Old Budva Castle. For €2.50 we were able to walk up onto the walks as well as visit a small museum and a library. I am a sucker for views, particularly over water and I could spend all day looking at the sea and the coast. If you are like me it could be longer, but a visit here will only take about thirty minutes if you are short on time.
Budva has a well preserved old town within the castle walls, with cute narrow streets filled mostly with little cafes and restaurants, souvenier shops and other stores aimed at tourists. Here I tried one of the local delicacies, Palačinke. This was basically a thin crepe with a topping of your choice. I just went with a relatively plain sprinkling of sugar, but there were many more. complex options available.
From Budva it is an easy bus ride to Kotor, probably the most well known coastal town in Montenegro. It is a popular stop for cruise ships in the Adriatic Sea so during the summer it is particularly busy with visitors. When we visited there was one ship in, but while busy, it was not overcrowded.
There is no need to organise a private transfer between the two towns as the local buses run regularly and at only €3 each way it’s a cheap option. We went over in the morning, and spent a few hours looking around before returning to Budva in the afternoon.
The main attraction in Kotor is the spectacular views from St John’s Fortress. It is about 1350 steps to the top, but well worth the effort to get up there. The steps are a bit on the uneven side, but there are plenty of places to stop, rest, and take some photos on the way up. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get to the top, and less than that to get back down again.
Kotor has another really well preserved old town, with multiple churches and museums that are worthy of a visit. Even just wandering the narrow cobbled streets is a pleasant way to spend an hour or so. We found a nice place to eat in one of the hidden little squares in the middle of the town. It wasn’t until we sat down and looked at the menu that we realised we were in an Australian themed place called “The Harbour Pub”. We proceeded to order pasta and Greek Salad. Not very Aussie of us!
During the Roman times Kotor was called Cattaro. It has a reputation now as the town of cats. Like almost all of cities and towns in the region, cats freely roam the streets. Most of these are street cats. They are not feral cats in the way they are known in Australia, but more like community cats. They will happily greet passers-by, and will be ever grateful for a small morsel of food. The cats are fed by the community, but they could always do with a little more. Here in Kotor, a museum has been set up to help with this. The Cats Museum is a small two room building housing postcards, pictures and other historical artifacts featuring cats. And of course there was a resident cat sleeping in a basket in a patch of sunlight. The entry fee is only €2, and this goes towards food for the street cats. If you are in town consider popping in to make this small contribution towards the cats of Kotor.
Back in Budva I was on the hunt for the Dancing Girl statue. We initially walked the wrong way along the shorefront, but if you want to find this statue, go to the right of the old town along the path towards Mogren Beach. The statue stands out on a rock in the bay, dancing with the old town in the background. Mogren Beach is one popular with the locals, and is one of the best places to visit if you want to watch sunset over the sea. If you keep walking, there is also another, more secluded beach to enjoy too.
We had a great time relaxing in Budva’s perfect weather, but the forecast soon said rain, so it was time to move on to our next destination, Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica.
It is quite possible you have never even heard of Podgorica. We didn’t know an awful lot about it either. In the days leading up to our visit I couldn’t find a lot on line about what to do there. In fact most things I found said there was nothing to do there! Surely that couldn’t be the case! It was well located for the next leg on our trip, and besides, there was a Hard Rock Cafe Simon wanted to tick off his list. We would have to spend a few days there to investigate.
So, ummm, there is very little to do in Podgorica! Even the locals looked at us strangely when we said we were visiting to see the city. We often got told to go to Budva or Kotor, there’s nothing to do in Podgorica!
We were staying quite a distance from the Hard Rock Cafe, so walking there gave us a chance to have a bit of a look around as we walked. In the distance a huge stunning white church. On closer inspection it turned out to be the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, but rather than an old church with lots of history, it was only opened in 2013. It didn’t look open as we approached, so we did not get to go inside and have a look.
The next monument on our walk was the Millenium Bridge. Another white stucture spanning the Morača River. The river is more like a small trickle, but admittedly we were visiting at the end of summer. I expect earlier in the year it would have much higher water levels. We didn’t walk over the Millennium Bridge, but rather crossed using another footbridge a little along the river. The footbridge bounced up and down alarmingly, even with only one of two people walking on it. I’m not sure I liked the sensation too much, and the next time we went that way we used the road bridge.
As we passed back through a small park, we were surprised to see a display of hanging shoes – again white. A trend was forming here! I couldn’t find a sign to say what this was about. Maybe its an art installation, or maybe people are just doing this for fun.
We walked through a few more small parks, and on another day braved the rain to seek out the Ottoman clock tower. This is one of the few remaining Ottoman structures after they were mostly destroyed in WWII. We arrived to find it covered in scaffolding as they were renovating it.
Our stay was not a total loss though. We were staying in the Podgorica Hilton, and had been lucky enough to be upgraded to a suite. Oh, the luxury! We spent our days relaxing, catching up on blogging, talking to people at home and planning the next bits of our trip. We made good use of the gym, working out for the first time in months. I even got on the treadmill to make sure I could still run! The hotel also has a rooftop bar that provided us with great views over the city to the hills, and stunning sunsets. This sort of downtime is exactly what we need occaisionally to be able to keep on travelling without getting too exhausted.
So there was nothing to do in Podgorica, but overall we enjoyed the country. The coast is absolutely beautiful, and as many other Europeans already know, this is a great budget location for a summer beach holiday.
Montenegro was definitely on the cheaper end of the scale. Prices were a little higher than were we had previously been, but still very manageable. A mid-range meal at a restaurant was about €5-7.
Wifi was everywhere – except the one place I needed it, Podgorica bus station! It was available at both Kotor and Budva bus stations, and at every restaurant we ate at.
Buses between the towns were cheap and ran regularly. I found it easy to find information on line, and when we got to the bus stations, there was plenty of information there too, with schedules, arrival and departure screens etc.
Would I go back? I don’t feel a burning desire to visit again, but if I was in the region, or had another reason, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.
Click through the below to see availability on your dates.
Rozino Budva No 1, 85310 Budva, Montenegro
€48 per night
Hilton Podgorica Crna Gora
Bulevar Svetog Petra Cetinjskog 2 , 81000 Podgorica, Montenegro
€98 per night
Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.