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Montenegro might be one of the top 10 smallest countries in Europe but it sure has much to offer for any traveller. Pristine old towns, incredibly alluring natural landscape and rich culture are only some of the things Montenegrin can be proud of.
I had a pleasure to visit Montenegro in 2019 when we embarked on our two-week-long road trip across Central Europe and Balkans. Although we only had 5 days in Montenegro, I fell in love with its beautiful coastlines, untouched nature and hospitality.
Montenegro only appeared on my travel radar around two years ago before our road trip. The media and travel websites usually wrote more about the neighbouring country – Croatia, so a big portion of travellers who visit Croatia don’t even know about Montenegro or what it can offer.
During recent years, I’ve been trying to transition into a more sustainable travel lifestyle and that involved not only the way I travel but what kind of destinations I am choosing to visit. One of which is adding lesser-known and more rural destinations to my travel list.
After my short trip to Montenegro, I did a bit more research about the country because I knew I would need to come back again and spend more time exploring its rugged mountainous regions. So I am very excited to share a few findings because I think you will love learning about the rural side of Montenegro as much as me.
Since now is the perfect time to dream and research about possible travel destination for future, here are all the reasons why you should add rural Montenegro to your travel list.
Heaven for hiking and adventure enthusiasts
You know how much love I have for hiking and the great outdoors, so trust me when I say that Montenegro can offer endless opportunities for fellow travellers like me.
The famous Bay of Kotor resembles Norwegian fjords with spectacular views is only a small part of it. On the northeast side of Montenegro, we have Durmitor National Park which is often called the most beautiful area of the country. Situated between the canyons of the Tara and Piva rivers, Durmitor mountain range is surely going to leave you speechless with its scenic hikes and glacial lakes.
On the southern part, there is Prokletije National Park, the home of the highest elevation range of Dinaric Alps. The park is very remote and even extends into Albania and Kosovo. But the wildness of the region is enough to catch the attention of the most enthusiastic hikers.
For less adventurous but just as scenic hikes, you can go to Komovi mountain range that is located on the eastern park of Montenegro, right near the border of Albania. The area is famous for its katuns which brings me to the next point…
Rich rural culture
As you probably have noticed, mountains are an integral part of Montenegro landscape. Not many countries can take pride in having such a variety of different mountain ranges in Europe. So it’s apparent that throughout history Montenegrin life mostly revolved around mountains.
Originally, Montenegro was a collection of small villages all across the land. In the northern side of the country where most villages appeared, the life of people revolved around different seasons creating a peculiar circle of life.
During wintertime, Montenegrin lived in villages at the bottom of the mountains and once the snow started melting, villagers moved up in mountain huts that are known as katuns. Such a circular way of life was mostly impacted by vegetation and grass growth.
To this day, in some parts of Montenegro, Katun lifestyle exists. People live in katuns, keep animals, grow vegetables and make their own food such as bread, milk, meat or even cheese which are vital parts of authentic Montenegrin cuisine.
Unfortunately, katuns are slowly becoming extinct as more families are moving out to bigger towns and cities leaving the katun lifestyle behind due to financial reasons. But in order to preserve this integral part of Montenegro, katuns started opening up for sustainable tourism initiative which allows travellers to visit katuns or even stay there for a couple of days and experience the katun lifestyle.
Some of these experiences even offer hut-to-hut multi-day hiking adventures which I find incredibly charming and an authentic way to experience a foreign culture and to get to know locals.
Meanderbug company, which connects travellers with less known areas of Montenegro, created a new video series showcasing Katun lifestyle in the mountains of northern Montenegro which will give you a glimpse of their daily life.
I like to think that one of the best ways to get to know a culture is by trying their traditional cuisine and that’s a very true statement for Montenegro.
If you were to ask a local for restaurant recommendations that serve authentic Montenegrin food, they are most likely to tell you something along the lines of “Have you eaten in the village? No? Well, then you haven’t eaten in Montenegro”.
Apparently, bigger towns and cities are filled with fast food kiosks and occasional western-themed restaurants. If you’re looking for an authentic food experience, you want to go to the outskirts where locals cook and enjoy so-called ‘slow food’ which is often made from organic and locally grown produce.
Once in Montenegro, you just have to try beloved traditional dishes such as kacamak, cicvara, rastan or buzara. Most of the real authentic dishes were made from local ingredients such as nettle, cornflour or cheese instead of meat which was very rare in Montenegrin dishes.
Some of more popular local dishes:
- Kacamak – usually served with yoghurt or kajmak (a dairy product similar to cream cheese). It is made either out of cornflour or potatoes. The texture is very creamy and silky.
- Popara – it’s a cooked leftover bread made with cheese, milk and oil which reminds childhood breakfast for many Montenegrin.
- Rastan – it is a type of cabbage cooked and prepared with spices and meat.
- Japraci – leaves of rastan rolls filled with meat and rice and then steamed.
If you want to learn more about Montenegrin cuisine or even cook traditional dishes, there is a free traditional dishes cookbook which you can check out.
Recently, a unique Farm to Fork culinary experience was introduced in Montenegro. The experience itself takes place in rural locations outside the main cities. It’s an exceptional opportunity to not only taste delicious cuisine prepared by locals but also get to know their culture as you talk over the meal and explore their farms in which the produce is grown.
I wish I knew about these experiences when I was in Montenegro. But I’m definitely adding Farm to Fork to my list of things I want to do when I return to Montenegro for the second time.
As the number of travellers grows each year and we continue to see the negative impact of the travel industry, I believe that the only way forward is trying to change our travel habits and invite sustainable habits into our travels.
I wrote an extensive guide on how to be a more responsible traveller and some of the things I’ve mentioned in the guide is visiting less touristy destinations, supporting local economies and conversing from the locals to gain a better understanding of their culture.
While you might have Kotor added to your travel list, I want to encourage you to see beyond main tourist attractions and consider exploring the rural part of Montenegro which is as enchanting as ancient old towns and pristine beaches.
So if you’re looking for a destination away from the crowds and that offers not only rich cultural experience but serenity for your getaway as well, look no further than rural Montenegro.
Have you ever been to Montenegro?
This blog post is sponsored by the Mountain Bounty project. Thank you Meanderbug for helping answer some of the questions about Montenegro and spreading the message about sustainable tourism. All opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.
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