Nothing had prepared us for Montenegro. After having visited more than half of the world, we did not expect this mesmerising surprise. What started as just another interesting one-and-a-half-hour drive from Podgorica airport to Kotor turned out to be a breathtaking journey into nature of unimaginable beauty. Layers upon layers of tall mountains with wafting blobs of clouds and a sheer drop into the Adriatic Sea, added a depth of its own to the three-dimensional picture-perfect view. The winding road contouring the cliffs opened up views of beautiful hamlets of red-tiled houses perched proudly by the coast. As we ooh-ed and aah-ed at every turn, we had no idea that what awaited us would take us on a sensory overdrive.
If you are wondering about the location of Montenegro, this is because it is still fairly unknown. Aptly called ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’, this European country is just across Italy, separated by the Adriatic Sea. This youngest Balkan country was a part of Serbia till 2006. Next to Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, it is on the brink of discovery in a big way, as it is slated to become a part of EU in 2025.
Montenegro, or its native name Crna Gora, translates to ‘black mountain’, after its highest peak, Mount Lovcen, covered with thick evergreen forest. With a very interesting and varied terrain, ranging from the Dinaric Alps to Adriatic coastline, it is possible to ski in the mountains and swim in the sea within a couple of hours.
But what makes this small country so remarkable is the Bay of Kotor, a UNESCO world heritage site. An long tunnel opens up into a wonder of nature that is bound to take your breath away. The bay is actually surrounded by mountains up to 1000 mts, that plunge dramatically into the sea. These fjord-like peaks closely enveloping the bay are actually a submerged river canyon. Nature’s allure is accentuated by the proud Venetian fort Kotor overlooking a large part of the bay as a guardian sentinel.
Kotor old town, inside its fortified walls, is a charmer. This town, with its churches, mansions, museums, squares and cafes, will give a glimpse of Italy as it was some fifty years back: pristine, a little rustic, with whole lot of character and a relaxed pace of life.
With the road meandering around the bay for 28 kms, the narrow allowances made by mountains standing overhead house a number of beautiful towns like Tivat, Kotor, Perast and Herceg Novi. The strip of land between the base of the mountains and the bay is so narrow that most of the houses have an amazing view of the bay in front and sheer mountain in the back.
With an ample of opportunities to book an Airbnb for as low as 50 euros a night even in a peak season, you can wake up to a million-dollar view. With the overall cost of living being one of the lowest in Europe, a taxi fare between towns for 2 euros or a hearty meal for two with drinks for 15 euros shouldn’t be a surprise. With grocery bills south of 50 euros per week for a couple, Montenegro is already starting to be discovered as a sunny retirement paradise.
With remote working on the rise, it is attracting the younger generation as well. I personally met a number of digital nomads from the US and UK, including a fairly popular YouTuber couple who sip beer by the waterfront while tinkering with their laptops. With no visa requirement for EU citizens for a stay up to 90 days, a short hop can transport you here within a few hours. For a longer stay you can buy your own slice of paradise and apply for temporary residency. In either case, buying a small apartment in the Bay of Kotor will only prove to be a prudent decision. You will always have a place to stay when you are here and make a profit from renting out the property in the meantime, as its value keeps rising.
This small country blessed with natural beauty is poised for a breakout and is appealing to both explorers and investors. Right now, its obscurity is its biggest asset. Whatever role attracts you, you will not regret it.
Written by Geetanjali Gupta
Photos by Manish Gupta
Photo credits- Manish Gupta