Leaving Croatia was very bittersweet. If you have been reading my posts then you know that I absolutely love Croatia. It is one of my go-to answers when people ask where my favorite place I have visited is (although the answer I give changes depending on my mood). Luckily for me, our next stop, Montenegro, has many of the same attributes that I love about Croatia: beautiful Adriatic beaches, adorable cobblestoned towns, seafood, and prust. Plus, Montenegro is named after one of its beautiful mountains, which fill the interior of this tiny and spectacular country.
The bus ride from Dubrovnik to the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro is windy and breathtakingly beautiful. The whole way I found myself wanting to get off the bus and set up camp along the coast. Our destination was the small town of Kotor, just north of the bigger and more popular town of Budva. While Budva is glitzy and glamorous, Kotor is old and cobbled and alluring. It is the perfect launching point to explore the Montenegrin countryside, which is exactly what we did. Past experience on this trip showed me that renting a car can be a wonderful way to explore places which are otherwise difficult to reach by public transport. This may seem like a big DUH, but for some reason I assumed that renting a car was prohibitively expensive (which it can be, especially in Western countries), so I have never really looked into it in the past. But times have changed, and I am a rental car convert.
After spending the first afternoon exploring town a little, drinking wine, and writing in our cozy room, we were ready to explore! On our second day (and what ended up being our only full day) we spent nearly twelve hours driving up and down the mountains in our little rental car.
Our first stop was Dumitor National Park, which is almost as far as you can drive from Kotor while still being in Montenegro. The draws to this part of the country are the green, green mountains and the even greener Tara River.
After getting nice and lost, which is my mom’s favorite way to explore, we headed up and up and up another mountain to Ostrong Monastery. The monastery was built into the side of the mountain and the twisty road was an experience in itself. We were unsure about where exactly we were going, so we ended up picking up a hitchhiker who knew no English except for “up,” which was all he really needed to say to get us up the mountain. We visited on a Sunday, so the place was filled with locals going to the monastery to pray. People appeared to walk all the way up the mountain, which is CRAZY. Have I mentioned how far up the mountain we were? Far, far, far up the mountain.
The drive back to Kotor took us to Lake Shkoder, which is on the Albanian border, and then back up the coast past the famous beach resort of Sveti Stefan, and back over the mountain to Lovcen National Park. The drive up to Lovcen National Park is one of the most popular things to do in Montenegro, but it is not for the faint of heart. The windy road boasts of twenty-five hairpin turns, each with an amazing view of the stunning Bay of Kotor. We ended up driving down the famous road, instead of up, and we arrived at the top right in time to watch the sunset as we wound down and down and down the road.
The next morning I woke up to a bummed (and slightly panicked) momma, who had just discovered that her flight was THAT DAY, instead of the next day, like we had thought. So, we had to forgo our plans to explore around the bay so that we could get mom to the airport in Podgorica, which is the capital of Montenegro. We had just enough time in the capital to grab a quick, and meaty, lunch before I had to say goodbye to my momma and start my solo adventure.
Mom and I had such a great time traveling together! The three weeks we spent in the Balkans was the longest solid amount of time we had been together, EVER. Well maybe not ever, but definitely since I was a little girl. I feel so lucky to have a momma who is adventurous, fun loving, and free spirited enough to go backpacking in Europe with me. Most of all I am so lucky to have someone who is so supportive of me and my thirst for adventure, no matter how far it takes me. Thanks mom!!
Stay tuned for my next adventures in SOLO TRAVEL!!