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When Montenegro declared its independence from Serbia, it took with it all of the confederation’s coastline. Set along the Adriatic Sea, the beaches are a main attraction, but southern Europe's only fjord is perhaps more iconic of Montenegrin tourism. Located near the town of Kotor, which is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fjord awards spectacular views. Kotor's Venetian influence, manifested in architectural styles dating back to the 15th century, gives the town an antique charm. Tourists are understandably becoming more numerous.
Head inland and you will discover that the Montenegrin landscape is anything but dull. The rugged Balkan mountains peak in Durmitor National Park, another World Heritage Site. Here one can stand in awe at the sight of Tara Canyon. 80 kilometres long and 1,300 metres deep, it is the second largest canyon in the world.
The first recorded settlers of present-day Montenegro were the Docleata, a tribe belonging to the Illyrians. In 9 A.D. the Romans conquered the region. The Slavs massively colonized the area in the 5th and 6th centuries, forming a semi-independent principality, Duklja, that was involved in Balkan medieval politics with ties to Rascia and Byzantium and to a lesser extent Bulgaria. Duklja gained its independence from the Byzantine Empire in 1042. In the next few decades Duklja expanded its territory to the neighbouring Rascia and Bosnia and also became recognised as a Kingdom. Its power started declining at the end of the 11th century and by 1186, it was conquered by the Serbian Empire. After the Serbian Empire collapsed in the second half of the 14th century, the Balšićs family came to prominence by expanding their power in the region. In 1421 it was annexed to the Serbian Despotate, but after 1455 another noble family from Zeta, the Crnojevićs, ruled Montenegro. They were the last to rule Montenegro before it fell to the Ottomans in 1499.
In the 16th century Montenegro developed a form of special and unique autonomy within the Ottoman Empire. Nevertheless the Montenegrins refused to accept Ottoman reign and in the 17th century raised numerous rebellions, culminating with the Ottoman defeat in the Great Turkish War at the end of that century. Montenegro became a theocracy led by the Montenegrin Orthodox Metropolitans. The Venetian Republic introduced governors that meddled in Montenegrin politics; when the republic was succeeded by the Austrian Empire in 1797, the governors were abolished by Prince-Bishop Petar II in 1832.
Under Nicholas I, the Principality of Montenegro vastly advanced and enlarged several times in the Montenegro-Turkish Wars and achieved recognition of independence in 1878. Modernization of the state followed, culminating with the draft of a Constitution in 1905. In 1910 Montenegro became a Kingdom. It initiated the Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913 in which the Ottomans lost all lands in the Balkans, achieving a common border with Serbia, but the Skadar was awarded to a newly created Albania. In World War I in 1914 Montenegro sided with Serbia against the Central Powers, suffering a full scale defeat to Austria-Hungary in early 1916. In 1918 the Allies liberated Montenegro, which was subsequently merged with Serbia. In 1922 Montenegro formally became the Zeta Area of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and in 1929 it became a part of a larger Zeta Banate of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In World War II Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis forces in 1941, and liberated by the Yugoslav Partisans in 1944. Montenegro became a republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, its capital Podgorica was renamed to Titograd in honor of Partisan leader and president Josip "Tito" Broz.
After the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992 and the Balkan war, Montenegro remained a part of Yugoslavia, together with Serbia. In 2003, the Yugoslav federation was replaced in favor of a more decentralized state union named Serbia and Montenegro. The status of the union between Montenegro and Serbia was decided by the referendum on Montenegrin independence on 21 May 2006. 55.5% of the voters were in favor of independence On 3 June 2006, the Parliament of Montenegro declared the independence of Montenegro, formally confirming the result of the referendum on independence. Serbia did not obstruct the ruling, confirming its own independence and declaring the union of Serbia and Montenegro ended shortly thereafter.
Montenegro shares international borders with Albania to the south, Serbia to the east, Croatia to the north and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the north. It lies between latitudes 41° and 44° N, and longitudes 18° and 21° E. Montenegro ranges from high peaks along its borders with Serbia and Albania, a segment of the Karst of the western Balkan Peninsula, to a narrow coastal plain that is only 2 to 6 kilometres wide. The plain stops abruptly in the north, where Mount Lovćen and Mount Orjen plunge into the inlet of the Bay of Kotor. Montenegro's large Karst region lies generally at elevations of 1,000 metres above sea level; some parts, however, rise to 2,000 metres), such as Mount Orjen (1,894 metres), the highest massif among the coastal limestone ranges. The Zeta River valley, at an elevation of 500 metres, is the lowest segment. The mountains of Montenegro include some of the most rugged terrain in Europe, averaging more than 2,000 metres in elevation. One of the country's notable peaks is Bobotov Kuk in the Durmitor mountains, which reaches a height of 2,522 metres.
Zla Kolata in the Prokletije Mountains on the border with Albania, at 2,534 metres, is the highest point in the country.
Montenegro can be divided into 3 main geographical regions.
The Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The natural harbour on the Adriatic coast in Montenegro was an important artistic and commercial centre in the Middle Ages and had its own famous schools of iconography. Many of the monuments like four Romanesque churches and the town walls were damaged by the 1979 earthquake. Since then, the town has been restored greatly and has been seeing more and more travellers during recent years.
Although Montenegro is a small country, with most people living in the capital Podgorica, there is a surprisingly well organised beach-life scenery in the country with the bays of Kotor and Budva being the main attractions. Both have good infrastructures and new places are being built as Montenegro is opening up to international tourists as well. The beaches and rocky sheltered bays are great for swimming and relaxing.
Stari Bar, Bar's Old Town, is one of the world’s largest fortified archaeological sites and is an impressive cultural site which is equally impressively imbedded into the natural surroundings. Much of the ruins are still to be restored, but some of them have been getting some attention. There are churches and buildings from different epochs, squares, medieval palaces and houses that once were abundant with life. Unlike other Montenegrin medieval towns, this place was not inhabited continually. Stari Bar is pretty big and you can easily wander around here for several hours, enjoying the beatiufl views and get your imagination working going back to ancient times. There are a few rooms to sleep and several restaurants and shops in the nearby street leading steeply to the entrance of the old fortifications.
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Durmitor National Park is also on the UNESCO list and is a fantastic national park formed by glaciers. It is traversed by rivers and underground streams and next to the Tara river canyon, which has the deepest gorges in Europe, there are dense pine forests and crystal clear lakes which together are the habitat of a wide range of endemic flora. Naturally, the area is great for hiking and is just a short trip from the capital or the coastal areas.
This February religious event in Kotor commemorates the martyrdom of the popular saint with processions, church services and folk performances in front of the cathedral.
Kotor Carnival is one of the liveliest festivals in Montenegro, kicking off every February with masked balls for adults and children. Theaters put on traditional shows, concerts are held in the streets and venues, restaurants offer special menus, and the streets throng with costumed revelers enjoying performers, fireworks and parades. Another similar carnival is held in Kotor every August.
The Mimosa Festival, held all over Montenegro in February/March, celebrates the coming of spring with the appearance of the first fragrant, yellow mimosa blossoms. The event lasts for several weeks with fine art exhibitions, traditional and modern theater, music and dance, and street fun. Flower shows are a highlight, and costumed girls holding branches of the flowing shrub travel between towns to visit friends and relatives.
Orthodox Easter falls on average two weeks later than in Catholic and Protestant countries, with Holy Week usually held in late April. Processions carrying images of Christ and local saints wind around the streets to the churches and cathedrals, and candlelit services draw huge crowds.
This iconic event is held in Budva over the four summer months, beginning in June to celebrate the traditional musical heritage of Montenegro in all its forms from brass bands to vocal groups, traditional ensembles and more. The concerts are held in various venues, often in the open air main squares, and is welcomed by a huge musical parade to the Old Town to the Square of Poets.
Another Montenegrin event popular with visitors is July’s International Fashion Festival, held annually in Kotor over several days. Top designers from the Balkan nations and the rest of the world attend to share their designs with fashion-forward locals.
Held in the charming town of Perast, the annual Montenegro music festival takes place every August, and is a focus for internationally-known singers, musicians, instrumentalists, and orchestras. Concerts are held in venues all over town, and the event attracts a large number of overseas visitors.
Gornja Lastva is a tiny village near Tivat, known for its August fiesta week dedicated to the preservation of traditional musical and dance in Montenegro. Balkan circle dancing and unique klapa male a-capella songs are the heart of the festival and the iconic Clapper music and other traditional Lastva folk songs draw visitors from Tivat and overseas.
Orthodox Christmas falls at the end of the first week of January, and is a family-oriented time for church visits, celebrations with friends and carolling in the streets. Special meals are prepared, homes are decorated and gifts are given.
New Year celebrations on Montenegro begin on December 31 and end on January 2 so you’ve got plenty of time to welcome in the new year with Montenegrin friends. Everything from street parties and entertainment to the traditional fireworks displays, concerts and other events are held, and hotels and restaurants host special events and parties.
Montenegro is a small country but with differences between the coastline and the places more inland. Inland, summers are hot, averaging around 33 °C in July and August, sometimes over 40 °C is possible. Winters are fairly mild, around 9 °C during the day, but sometimes plummit to -10 °C, even lower in the mountains. This area is also much wetter than the coast and one of the wettest in Europe, especially from October to March, with sometimes around 250 mm of rain (and sometimes snow) a month. Summers are relatively dry with heavy showers possible. The coastline is less hot during the summer and milder during wintertime. Also, rain is somewhat lower. Occasionally, cold winds bring frost here as well though. For much of the country, May and September are very good months for a visit.
Podgorica Airport (TGD), located at 11 kilometres south of the capital, receives international flights, among which are those with the national airline Montenegro Airlines. Destinations include Bari, Belgrade, Frankfurt, Ljubljana, Paris, Rome, Skopje, Vienna and Zurich. A few other airlines provide direct flights as well to other cities like Budapest and Moscow.
In the summer months, the Tivat Airport near Kotor has flights to a number of cities, including St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Oslo. There are also scheduled flights year round to Paris, Moscow and Belgrade.
You can only get to Montenegro directly by train from Belgrade in Serbia. It stops in Podgorica and terminates in Bar along the coast.
You can get to Montenegro by car from all of its neighbouring countries, being Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia (also Kosovo) and Albania. Roads are generally in relatively good conditions and are being upgraded recently. Be sure to have the proper documentation and insurance (green card) and crossings are fast and straightforward.
Buses serve Montenegro from various places in the Balkan region, and Bar is its transport hub, which all the north/south buses passing through, and with frequent connections to Podgorica. Destinations include Dubrovnik and Split in Croatia, Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Belgrade in Serbia. Getting to and from Albania is a bit trickier, as there are no direct buses between any of the major cities in the two countries. Getting to Albania involves a bus to Uljinc, and either a minibus or a taxi across the border to the first city in Albanian side, Shkoder, and continuing from there. Recently, the number of buses from Bar to Uljinc have been reduced, so if travelling late in the evening, check the departure time for last buses to avoid being stuck in Bar.
Railways of Montenegro operates a number of train services and the main line runs into Serbia. Cities and towns with a railway station include Bar, Podgorica, Kolasin, Mojkovac and Bijelo. Especially the route into Bar is very scenic. Trains are cheap, infrequent, slow but comfortable.
Roads in Montenegro are generally in a good condition, especially the two toll freeways, and many roads have been improved during the last decade or so. Still, a few roads are in a bad condition and might be upgraded as we speak. Cars can be hired from international and local agencies at the airport or major towns. Traffic drives on the right and you need an international driving permit.
Travelling by bus is both economical and relatively fast and efficient. Buses depart frequently and usually on time. Common routes such as Budva to Kotor (and vice versa) run all day, with buses every half an hour or so, and take 30 minutes with a cost of €3 one way. Similar connections run to Tivat and Podgorica. There are many coach lines, which can be found at the Montenegro Tourist Directory website.
Although there is no significant and useful passenger service, renting a boat to go out on the Adriatic Sea is a great trip when staying in, for example, Bar.
Holders of travel documents containing a valid Schengen visa, a valid visa of the United States of America or a permission to stay in these countries may enter and stay, i.e. pass through the territory of Montenegro up to seven days, and not longer than the expiry of visa if the period of validity of visa is less than seven days. However, border guards are not fully aware of this information, and they might tell you that you require a visa to enter Montenegro. Stay calm and politely ask them to recheck their information. They will fill a form with your passport and car registration information which can take up to 1 hour!
As of Nov 2010, nationals of the following states may enter, pass through the territory of and stay in Montenegro up to 90 days with a valid travel document without a visa: Andorra, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Greece, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, El Salvador, San Marino, Seychelles, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uruguay, United States of America and Venezuela.
The exemption from the visa requirement also applies to the holders of valid travel documents issued by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China and the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
See also: Money Matters
Montenegro has adopted the Euro (ISO code: EUR, symbol: €) as its official currency. One Euro is divided into 100 cents, which is sometimes referred to as eurocents, especially when distinguishing them with the US cents.
Euro banknotes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. The highest three denominations are rarely used in everyday transactions. All Euro banknotes have a common design for each denomination on both sides throughout the Eurozone.
The Euro coins are 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, €1 and €2. Montenegro does not use the 1 and 2 cent coins, and instead round the sum up to the nearest 5 cents. All Euro coins have a common design on the denomination (value) side, while the opposite side may have a different image from one country to another. Although the image side may be different, all Euro coins remain legal tender throughout the Eurozone.
The official language is Montenegrin. It is essentially the same language as Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian. In some municipalities with an Albanian majority (Ulcinj, Plav, Gusinje) and the Malesia district in Podgorica municipality, Albanian is commonly spoken. Slovenian and Macedonian are also understood. Even though their languages are virtually identical, people still distinguish between the Montenegrin, Serb, Croat and Bosniak ethnicities, Montenegrins forming a slight majority. Montenegrin, while found written in both Cyrillic and Latin forms, Latin text is found to be much more common in usage than in neighboring Serbia and the Serbian portion of Bosnia.
In Podgorica and the coastal area, many people can speak some English, but that is not always the case in the north. Older people sometimes have a working knowledge of German. Italian also comes very handy, especially along the coast. Russian, which belongs to the same family of Slavic languages, is also heard sometimes.
Apart from the hotels located in towns and summer resorts offering half-board and full-board accommodation, and those along the roads and communication lines such as restaurants, pizza places, taverns, fast food restaurants and cafes, there is a choice of national restaurants offering traditional Montenegrin cuisine.
In addition to the standard European and Mediterranean cuisine, Montenegro offers a variety of healthy food products and local specialities.
Cold hors-d'oeuvres include the famous njeguški pršut (smoked ham) and njeguški cheese, pljevaljski cheese, mushrooms, donuts and dried bleak. The main courses specific for the northern mountainous region are boiled lamb, lamb cooked in milk, cicvara in fresh milk cream (buttered corn porridge), boiled potatoes with cheese and fresh cream. A selection of traditional recipes of the central and coastal parts will include the kastradina (dried mutton), smoked and fresh carp (from Skadar lake) and a variety of fresh sea fish and seafood dishes. Donuts served with honey and dried figs are traditional desserts in these parts of Montenegro.
Nikšićko beer (named after the city Niksic), is the best known beer in the country and comes in different varieties: "Nik Gold" and lighter "Nik Cool" variant. The dark variant, "Nik tamno", is also good, but less popular. The light lagers are the best for those hot summer afternoons.
Montenegrin vineyards and the production of quality wine is part of the tradition of southern and coastal wine makers. The best known Montenegrin wines are the premium whites: "Krstač", "Cabernet", "Chardonnay" and reds: "Vranac", "Pro Corde". All of them are produced by the famous company "Plantaže", but there's also some home-made wines of high quality, like Crmničko wine.
The continental region and north are more oriented towards the production of aromatic fruit flavoured brandy (plum brandy - šljivovica, apple brandy - jabukovača). Grape brandy "Montenegrin loza", "Prvijenac", "Kruna" or home made grape brandy (lozova rakija, lozovača) is a must-try, and a good choice to "warm up" before going out in the evening.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Montenegro. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Montenegro. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended.
If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination hepatitis B is also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also: Travel Safety
Montenegro is generally a safe country. There is, like all countries in the world, a number of criminal activities, but police forces are generally fast in their duties. The number is 122, as well as the international distress call 112. When travelling in the areas bordering Kosovo, it is recommended you keep to the main roads. Unexploded landmines may remain along the Kosovo border. You should also avoid areas where there is military activity.
In the resort towns such as Kotor, Budva, Sveti Stefan and Herceg Novi, beggars and pickpockets are not uncommon. As in many other European locations, beggars are part of organized crime groups. Do not give them money. Doing so may also make you a target for more aggressive approaches. Always carry your bags in the safest way, slung around your shoulder with the pouch in front (with your money carried under your clothing) where you can keep your arm or hand across it.
Wi-Fi points in bars and cafeterias are available to customers, and most hotels offer Wi-Fi connection in common areas for their guests. Some central tourist areas are also covered by wi-fi.
Internetcafes are still widely available as well, mainly in larger cities and tourist places, less so in smaller rural towns and communities.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The general emergency number is 112, but you can also contact police (122), fire (123) and ambulance (124) seperately. The international telephone code for the country is 382.
MTEL CG, T-Mobile and Telenor Montenegro provide cell phone services in the country. All providers have national coverage, and provide advanced services. You can buy mobile phone sim cards already for € 1. As of 2011 you need to fill in short form and show ID or passport in order to activate prepaid number at local operator's store. It sure pays to get a local SIM card as data roaming services with you own cell phone are usually much higher.
Montenegro Post provides quite reliable, affordable services, both domestic as well as international. Post offices generally keep long hours, from 7:00 or 8:00am till 8:00pm, 6 days a week, except Sundays. If you want to send a package, it might be better to use an international courier company like DHL, TNT, UPS or FedEx, as they are fast and competitively priced as well.
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