Dubrovnik, Croatia, has become an increasingly popular place among tourists worldwide, and with good reason. Millions of people visit this beautiful coastal town from 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, 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 mountain 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 are similar to its neighbor Croatia. The only thing the two countries do not have in common is how underrated Montenegro is compared to popular tourist hubs like Dubrovnik and Split. Also, if you want a break from the ridiculous prices in Dubrovnik’s old town, Kotor and Budva will be a nice break!
How to get to Montenegro from Dubrovnik:
Getting to Montenegro from Dubrovnik is pretty simple. There are three options for transportation, as mentioned above. We rented a car and drove ourselves. Renting a car gives you the most significant amount of freedom and amplitude of time. If you are not comfortable going yourself, some buses run almost daily from Dubrovnik to Kotor. I am not sure about the prices, but I can imagine it is not very expensive. The third option is to take a guided tour with a bus full of people. Many tour companies outside the old town of Dubrovnik go to Kotor and Budva daily. I believe the times are about USD 50 per person.
If you want 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 and not too pricey, given your freedom 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 edge 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 a long time, and it was well worth it.
Getting to Kotor, Montenegro, and Exploring:
The first town in Montenegro you will visit is Kotor. I am surprised how many people have not heard of Kotor, which is a real shame. Kotor is most famous for the superb 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 drive around Kotor or take the ferry, which will shave off about 30-40 minutes of travel. The ferry ride is about 5 minutes long and will cost USD 5 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 memorable 5 minutes!
Once you make it to Kotor, you will want to find excellent and reliable parking. There is a big parking lot right next to the walls of the old town of Kotor. It is paid to park (honestly cannot remember how much we paid, but it was not a lot) and can get full 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 ancient city. Kotor, just like Dubrovnik, can get very crowded during the day. You are 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 an activity, but a must before walking up to the St. John Fortress. There are public bathrooms in the old town, and about one euro to use. After our bathroom break, we set out to find the entrance to the climb up the Fortress. The door 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 think 8 Euros to rise in the heat is ridiculous, I just knew 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 sweltering in the summer, and climbing up is not as easy as you 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 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 made it up a 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 lunch and a cold drink. You could spend 2 hours or longer roaming Kotor’s many alleys and streets. It is a cute little town with white-washed buildings, fountains, and cobblestone streets. It reminds me a lot of Dubrovnik’s old town, except smaller. By the time we got down from our climb, it was already noon, so the ancient city was completely packed. Getting crowd-less shots at that point was virtually impossible unless you found a relatively little
We got some lunch at one of the many little restaurants and had the traditional cevapi. If you are ever anywhere in the Balkans, cevapi are an absolute must. I have been eating cevapi since I was a child, and it is a dish I am always in the mood for when back home. Cevapi are minced meat sausages usually served with pita bread, pepper sauce, and 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 did not go to this little artificial island due to time constraints, but I have heard from many that it is a beautiful place with fantastic 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 mountainside, which sounds super fun. Unfortunately, we had already made plans to head to Budva and Sveti Stefan, so an extra two-hour detour was not on the itinerary. I have seen photos from the Lovcen National Park, which is unreal! If you think that the view from the Kotor Fortress is impressive, then 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 a straight shot from Kotor and such a scenic drive. Budva reminds me a lot of Dubrovnik, as it is a fortified town. The walls and town are much smaller than Dubrovnik’s but just as charming.
Even though Budva is excellent, I do not recommend spending much time there as it is tiny. My main aim was to find a good viewpoint 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 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 recently housed celebrities, including David Beckham and his family. 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 viewpoints of Sveti Stefan from above. The first is a hotel/restaurant called Hotel Adrovic. We decided we would 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 we were going up there; the only issue was how we got up to the top! Thankfully with google and the help of a local, we found the name of the small church. It is called the Sveti Sava church. The local we asked about said that you could not drive up to the top, but we decided to try it anyway. The good news is that you can go up to the top; the road is very narrow but surprisingly easy. There are a lot of homes on the mountain, so you are 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 going uphill. Take that road and literally go straight the entire way up. It will lead you up to the little church and the viewpoint. We also did use google maps on our cell phones which helped guide us up to the top. It takes about 10 minutes to get up to the top, where the little church is located.
This was one of my all-time favorite viewpoints in Montenegro (aside from the Bay of Kotor View) that did not require climbing or intense sweating. It is worth it if you are in Budva or Sveti Stefan.
After soaking up the beautiful views, we went 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 an excellent 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. There is so much to see and hidden gems we did not have the time for. When you make your way to the Balkans, I hope you reserve some time for this very underrated country. If you are under a time constraint like I was, then at least venture out of Croatia to Montenegro and experience this little country’s beauty.