Once a favourite holiday spot for just your average Russian or Serbian tourist, the tiny Balkan state of Montenegro has worked hard to build up its tourist industry since splitting from Serbia in 2006, both previously republics of the former Yugoslavia.
Its location on the aquamarine waters of the Adriatic Sea, Mediterranean climate, medieval villages and natural beauty – white pebble beaches, lush national parks, and a dramatic, pine-forested mountainous interior - hasn’t made it difficult to attract investment. An early and large marketing boost also came in the form of James Bond’s Casino Royale – which while not filmed in the country, set the location of the eponymous casino in the coastal resort town of Petrovac.
Today, many of Montenegro’s beach resorts have transformed their crumbling, communist facades into flashy, glamorous strips frequented by some of the world’s wealthiest. Main tourist town Budvar is the buzziest: a beautiful medieval warren of narrow lanes lined with restaurants and shops that lead to an atmospheric old town. Come high season – between July and August – it becomes packed with the jet-set who want to spend the nights partying in its many bars, and the days scrambling for space on its numerous beaches. Any electro music fans there for July will also no doubt frequent Sea Dance Festival – widely considered one of Europe’s best beach festivals.
Tivat, the seaside home of the country’s international airport, now benefits from multi-million-dollar marina Porto Montenegro, often nicknamed the Monte Carlo of the Adriatic: an extravagant spot of super yachts, luxury apartments, nightclubs, heli-pads and the country’s first five-star hotel.
But it’s not just glitz that this largely untapped country has to offer. Head inland to get away from the crowds and you’ll be rewarded with an eco-adventurer’s wonderland, brimming with stunning natural landscapes and a whole host of outdoor activities. White water rafting on the river Tara, hiking, walking and cycling through the year-round mountain retreat of Kolasin, kayaking on the crystal clear water of Lake Skadar that straddles the Albanian border, and endless camping options. Snowfall permitting, you can even ski in the Black mountains on Durmitor National Park between January and March.
Whether it’s to go off the beaten track or to mix with the masses in Montenegro’s rapidly developing beach resorts, the country is embracing its new-found tourist industry and vastly developing as a result. Hinted by experts to be the next hit destination, there’s really no better time to go and see for yourself.