Every time people ask me about my favorite destinations, I always mention Budva, Montenegro. This small Montenegrin town on the Adriatic Sea is the perfect destination for summer vacation. A combination of sandy beaches, an old town surrounded by stone walls and crazy nightlife.
How to Get to Budva
Unless you’re chartering a boat, there are only two methods of getting to Budva. The first one would be driving, which was how we got from Kotor to Budva. It didn’t take more than 20 minutes. The second method would be taking a bus. There are buses connecting Budva to pretty much all the big cities in Montenegro. Just an example, a bus ticket from Kotor to Budva costs between 1€ and 4€, and from the capital Podgorica, between 3€ and 9€.
Montenegro has two international airports, Tivat Airport and Podgorica Airport. If you’re flying from abroad and you’re not interested in visiting the capital, the wisest choice would be flying to the first one. Tivat Airport situated near the Adriatic Coast is located 20 kilometers northwest of Budva.
We arrived in Budva during the afternoon. Just like the past few days, the weather was excellent and we couldn’t wait to make the best of our stay.
Unlike the last cities we visited throughout our Ultimate Balkan Road Trip, the architecture of Budva, except for the Old Town, was very different. As we parked and made our way to the seaside, we saw plenty of hotels, clubs and casinos. It wasn’t very different from the Algarve, in Portugal, or Sunny Beach, Bulgaria. I had no idea that Montenegro could be so touristic.
The Budva Riviera stretches for 35 km. Slovenska is the most famous beach, named after the Slovenian architect who designed this part of the town. Alongside the seaside is Budva’s main promenade, where most of the action takes place, just like live shows during both day and night, parties, shopping etc.
Opposite to the town, is located the small island of Sveti Nikola, also known as Hawaii. Despite not being that large, Sveti Nikola is the largest island in this area of the Adriatic, reachable by boat. Rich in vegetation it is inhabited by deer and other animal species.
As we were walking the promenade towards Dukley Marina, we were approached by a man who handed us a flyer for a boat tour departing the next morning. It seemed like a nice deal, 10€ per person, on a nice boat, a duration of two hours, with the chance of open water swimming. We quickly got interested and made our minds.
I got fascinated by the yachts that were docked at the marina. Enormous and luxurious as you can imagine. I wouldn’t mind traveling the entire Mediterranean in one of those, or even move in permanently.
There are dozens of similar settlements on the Adriatic Sea, however according to archaeological evidences, it is believed that Budva is among the oldest, dating back to the 5th Century BC.
Similar to Dubrovnik, Croatia, the Old Town of Budva was built entirely inside massive stone walls on a rocky peninsula overlooking the island of Sveti Nikola, located 600 meters south from the walled city. The same distance that separates Dubrovnik to the island of Lokrum. Coincidentally, both islands share the same length.
Inside the walls, you’ll discover a lovely picturesque town, with narrow cobbled streets connecting its small squares. There’s a Cat Museum, a few churches and cathedrals, and the most famous landmark in the Old Town, the Citadel, which I regret not having visited.
On the southern wall there are gates leading to Budva Old Town Beach, where you’ll find a promenade by the sea, which takes you to Mogren Beach. That is also where you’ll find the Statua Ballerina, a sculpture of a naked ballet dancer by the water. I’ll definitely walk this path on my next visit to Montenegro.
From all the countries we visited throughout our Balkan Road Trip, Montenegro is the only one that uses the Euro as its official currency. We didn’t have many Euros with us, so we wanted to eat on a budget. We picked a place at Slovenska, near the Dukley Marina, named Fresco Burger House. 9 Euros were enough to feed us both, two combo meals with a drink.
A new day, a new adventure. We were now ready to experience a boat tour that will be very hard to forget. It was imperative not to forget our full face snorkel mask and the action camera to film the bottom of the sea.
The boat was already there when we arrived, ready to take us across the Adriatic Sea. It was named Laguna, it was quite large, with capacity for over 30 people. As planned, the departure took place at 10 a.m.
First, the boat took us along the shoreline heading east, providing us the best view of Slovenska Beach and the elite residential complex Dukley Gardens.
After circling Zavala Peninsula we kept heading east without stopping, until the moment we reached the famous Sveti Stefan islet. I had seen so many pictures of it on the internet, however, in real life it is definitely more spectacular.
Its origins date back to the 15th Century, when a fortress was built in the island to defend against the Ottoman Empire that had invaded the region. In the late 50s, the village was turned into the most luxurious hotel complex in the Mediterranean. It hosted some of the world’s most famous celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. Nowadays it is owned by Aman Resorts, it has 58 guest rooms and price ranges from hundreds to thousands of Euros per night.
The highlight of the boat excursion was the open water swimming experience that took place in a cave around the Island of Sveti Nikola. I put on the mask, I turned on the action camera and I jumped into the sea, which was colder than I had expected!
Crystal clear water, we could easily see the bottom, it didn’t matter how deep it was. Watching the fish swimming around us and the rocks covered in black sea urchins was an amazing sensation that I’d like to repeat. I didn’t enter the cave, however I swam to its entrance. Those twenty minutes passed by so fast that when I realized we were being called back to the boat.
Our excursion’s last stop was Ploče Beach. Situated in Krimovica, west of Budva, it is a beach complex with swimming pools, sunbeds, loud music and restaurants that can be accessed by boat or by car. Admission is free, so you just have to pay for your food or drinks, while you lay down and sunbath.
As you lay down, there will be people coming to you once in a while to know if you’re interested in having something. We grabbed a couple of drinks and that was it. Once again, time flew and we were back on Laguna that would now take us back to Budva.
Our visit to the city was now over. It was time to hit the road. From here we drove south, into the 5th Balkan state in our itinerary, Albania, passing through the coastal cities of Sutomore, where we made a short stop, and Bar, home to the beautiful Temple of St. Jovan Vladimir.
Stay tuned for the next part of The Ultimate Balkan Road Trip