Dubrovnik, Croatia has become an increasingly popular place among tourists all over the world, and with good reason. Millions of people visit the this beautiful coastal town from the months of May to August, but not all venture outside of Dubrovnik. Montenegro, Croatia’s neighboring country, does not get nearly enough credit and popularity as Croatia does. If you are looking for an easy Montenegro day trip from Dubrovnik than continue reading below.
Montenegro is easily accessed from Dubrovnik by car, bus, or tour. It also is a stunning change of scenery from Dubrovnik offering majestic mountains peaks and the second largest fjords (Norway has the largest) in Europe. Montenegro was also formally part of Yugoslavia in the 1990s so the language is the same as in Croatia (with a slightly different dialect). Since it was all one country roughly 25 years ago, the food and culture is also similar to its neighbor Croatia. The only thing that the two countries do not have in common is how underrated Montenegro is compared to popular tourists hubs like Dubrovnik and Split. Also if you want a break from the ridiculous prices in Dubrovnik old town, Kotor and Budva will be a nice break for you!
How to get to Montenegro from Dubrovnik:
Getting to Montenegro from Dubrovnik is pretty simple actually. There are three options for transportation as mentioned above. Personally, we rented a car and drove ourselves. Renting a car definitely gives you the greatest amount of freedom and an amplitude of time. If you are not comfortable driving yourself, there are buses that run almost daily from Dubrovnik to Kotor. I am not too sure about the prices, but I can imagine that it is not very expensive. The third option is to take a guided tour with a bus full of people. There are a ton of tour companies outside of the old town Dubrovnik that go to Kotor and Budva daily. I believe the tours are about $50 USD per person.
If you are looking to rent a car in Dubrovnik, the rental car companies are located at the airport. We usually rent from Enterprise or Alamo at the airport once we arrive. It is easy, not too pricey given the freedom that you have to explore. There is a green card that the rental car company will sell you for $50 euros so that you can cross the border, make sure and get this to avoid any issues.
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If you are driving, the border of Montenegro is about a 20-30 minute drive from Dubrovnik. I am sure you have heard horror stories of the long times at the border in peak season. We were in Dubrovnik at the end of July, peak season, and waited at the border to get into Montenegro for maybe 10-15 minutes. We did leave our apartment at 7:30 AM to avoid the long times and it was well worth it.
Getting to Kotor, Montenegro and Exploring:
The first town in Montenegro you will visit is Kotor. I am actually surprised how many people have not heard of Kotor, and it is a real shame. Kotor is most famous for the amazing Bay of Kotor and the Fjord. Kotor is about another hour of travel once you cross the border into Montenegro. There are two ways to get to Kotor by car. You can either drive all the way around to Kotor, or you can take the ferry that will shave off about 30-40 minutes of travel. The ferry ride is about 5 minutes long and will cost you $5 USD for you and your vehicle! We ended up taking the ferry on our way back to Dubrovnik and it was a nice scenic ride, a very memorable 5 minutes!
Once you make it to Kotor, you will want to find some good and reliable parking. There is actually a big parking lot right next to the walls of the old town of Kotor. It is paid parking (honestly cannot remember how much we paid, but it was not a lot) and can get full pretty quickly if you get there too late in the day. Once you park your car, make your way to the old town. If you park in the parking lot next to the walls it is an easy 5 minute walk to the old town. Kotor, just like Dubrovnik, can get very crowded during the day. Even more crowded when the cruise ships begin to dock. So I cannot stress enough how important it is to get there earlier in the day.
St. Johns Fortress (AKA Castle of San Giovanni):
Our first activity in Kotor was to find the bathrooms, ok not really an activity but a must before walking up to the St. John Fortress. There are public bathrooms in the old town, about one euro to use. After our bathroom break, we set out to find the entrance to the climb up to the fortress.The entrance was not that easy for us to find so we had to ask a local to direct us in the right direction. There is an $8 Euro fee per person to climb up to the fortress. Even though I totally think $8 Euros to climb in the heat is absolutely ridiculous, I just knew that the view would be worth it.
The two best times of day to climb to the top are morning or evening during sunset. The afternoon is very very hot in the summer and the climb up is not as easy as you may think. It takes about 1.5-2 hours round trip to climb to the top, or longer depending on stops on the way up. Unfortunately, we did not make it all the way up to the top because hunger set in. Food ultimately wins, especially when you have been climbing up tiny and old stairs in the heat. We did make it up a pretty far distance, and were just below the fortress.
Walking around Kotor Old Town:
Once we got back down from climbing to the Fortress, we decided it was time for some lunch and a cold drink. You could literally spend 2 hours or longer roaming the many alleys and streets of Kotor. It is such a cute little town with white washed buildings, fountains, and cobble stone streets. It actually reminds me a lot of Dubrovnik old town, except smaller. By the time we got down from our climb, it was already 12 pm so the old town was completely packed. Getting crowdless shots at that point was virtually impossible, unless you found a quite little
We got some lunch at one of the many little restaurants, and had of course the traditional cevapi. If you are ever anywhere in the Balkans, cevapi are an absolute must. I have actually been eating cevapi since I was a child, and it is a dish that I am always in the mood for when back home. Cevapi are minced meat sausages usually served with a pita bread and pepper sauce plus onions.
Now that you have explored Kotor, there is the option to see the Our Lady of the Rocks island by the small town of Perast. We actually did not get to go to this little man made island due to time constraints, but I have heard from so many that it is such a beautiful place with some amazing views of the Bay of Kotor.
Another great option before you leave Kotor is to go to Lovcen National Park. I cannot tell you how upset I am that we did not get to drive up to this national park. It is about a two hour drive from Kotor through winding roads on the side of the mountain, which actually sounds super fun. Unfortunately we had already made plans to head to Budva and Sveti Stefan so an extra two hour detour was not in the itinerary. I have seen photos from the Lovcen National Park and it is unreal! If you think that the view from the Kotor Fortress is amazing, than Lovcen will be ten times that.
Getting to Budva and Sveti Stefan from Kotor:
Budva is about a 30-45 minute drive from Kotor. It is literally a straight shot from Kotor and also such a scenic drive. Budva reminds me a lot of Dubrovnik, in that it is a fortified town. The walls and town is much smaller than Dubrovnik, but also just as charming.
Even though Budva is very beautiful, I do not recommend spending a lot of time there as it is pretty small. My main aim was to find a good view point of Sveti Stefan since non hotel guests are not allowed on the actual little island. Sveti Stefan island housed a monastery many many years ago. In the recent years, The Aman hotel chain bought out the entire island, monastery included, and built a five star resort. The Aman Sveti Stefan resort has housed celebrities including David Beckham and his family recently. The hotel is stunning, I immediately went to google to see what this prestigious hotel looked like and I will say that my jaw dropped. No wonder it is a whopping $800-1000 or more USD a night.
Sveti Stefan View Point:
There are two good view points of Sveti Stefan from above it. The first is actually a hotel/restaurant called Hotel Adrovic. We actually decided we were going to have a drink or coffee at their cafe and take in the beautiful view below.
While sitting on the balcony enjoying a cappuccino, a small church at the top of the mountain above us caught my eye. I immediately told my husband that we were going up there, the only issue was how do we get all the way up to the top! Thankfully for google and the help of a local, we found the name of the small church. It is called the Sveti Sava church. The local that we asked about it said that you are not able to drive all the way up to the top, but we decided to give it a try anyway. The good news is that you actually can drive all the way up to the top, yes the road is very narrow but a surprisingly easy drive. There are a lot of homes on the mountain so you are literally driving through a neighborhood.
The best way to get to the Sv. Sava church is from Hotel Adrovic. If you are facing the road from Hotel Adrovic, your back is to the hotel, you will see a road on the left side of the road going uphill. Take that road and literally go straight the entire way up. It will lead you up to the little church and the view point. We also did use google maps on our cell phone that helped guide us up to the top. It takes about 10 minutes or so to get all the way up to the top where the little church is located.
This was totally one of my all time favorite view points in Montenegro (aside from the Bay of Kotor View) that did not require climbing or an intense amount of sweating. It is totally worth it if you are in Budva or Sveti Stefan.
After soaking up all of the beautiful views, we made our way back down and were on our way back to Dubrovnik. On our way back we decided to take the ferry through the Bay of Kotor as I mentioned earlier. It was a nice way to shave off 30 minutes from our driving time and a great way to soak in the views.
I cannot stress enough how beautiful Montenegro is, and I am almost sad that we only had time for a day trip. If I could do that all over again, I would have planned for a two-three night stay in this beautiful little country. I feel like there really is so much to see and so many hidden gems that we just did not have the time for. I hope that when you make your way to the Balkans that you reserve some time for this very underrated country. If you are on a time constraint, like I was, than at least venture out of Croatia to Montenegro and experience the beauty that this little country has to offer.