From those of you that follow my blog, you may remember that Sveti Stefan was one of the destinations on this list that I was dying to discover so naturally I jumped at the first opportunity and visited in early August.
As the pictures below reveal, the island is stunningly picturesque from the outside and naturally it is the star of countless pictures by tourist from all over the world. However having the opportunity to experience the island in its entirety and all of that the resort offers is the most impressive part. I have a weak spot for history and ancient architecture and this island has an abundance of both. And the Aman Group has done a superb job in restoring this 1800s fishing village into an exclusive haven that is enjoyed by the rich and famous.
Since you can read most of the details on Wikipedia I will keep this short and sweet.
Here are the key words that put this resort at the top of the list for me:
Old world stone construction, historic significance, cute churches, 3 private beaches with crystal clear blue water, infinity pool overlooking the Adriatic under a shade of pine trees, beautiful piazzas and verandas, contemporary modern guest suites, Mediterranean landscape (fig, cypress and pine trees), gourmet restaurants with unmatched views of Budva and the islands, impeccable service. What more can one ask for?
Given that I was going to Albania in August anyway, I said to myself why not set a few days aside and check Montenegro off my list.? Being that Montenegro is Albania’s northern neighbor, I had put off visiting it for so long and instead explored further away countries. In a way, I am glad that I visited Montenegro after having visited some 40+ countries because it gave me a deeper appreciation for its unparalleled beauty and amazing people.
So I flew into Tirana, Albania rented a car and off I went on my own to Montenegro. I had no plan or itinerary except the phone number of NinaPetkovic (a famous Montenegrin singer) who is best friends with the friend of my best friend (I know very complicated.)
Driving through the border was a breeze and it was kind of fun since I don’t usually get to cross borders in a car. 99% of the time I cross borders in air space; not as exciting.
The first thing I noticed when I crossed the border is that Montenegrin drivers are as crazy of drivers as Albanians so in a sense I felt home and I loved every minute of it. What can I say, rebellious driving and not obeying most traffic laws is in my blood and makes me feel alive because in order to survive and spare pedestrians at the same time you have to be alert at all times.
As I made my way towards Budva in the interior roads I was stunned by the wild beauty of the gargantuan mountains all around and never-ending. The perfectly paved, windy roads with unrivaled views were excellent for driving a Maserati or any other luxury car. Not so much in my Fiat Panda rental. But nevertheless I had a smile on my face listening to my favorite music and driving really fast through the sea of mountains.
When I arrived in Budva I was overwhelmed to see the beach wall to wall with people. There was not an inch in the sand that was left to walk.
Since that was not my scene I immediately took a boat to the island across from Budva named “Hawaii”. This was ironic because in a sense Hawaii was very serene and calm just like the real Hawaii is. And the water; much less infested by crowds.
Just before sunset I started driving towards Tivat & Porto Montenegro to meet Nina Petkovic, my gracious host. Surprisingly I was able to find Porto Montenegro by just following road signs, no Google maps nor directions needed.
Porto Montenegro impressed me immediately. It is a brand new luxury yacht marina complete with, residences, restaurants, boutiques and bars. Built just a couple of years ago by a Canadian businessman Peter Munk who owns 54% and a smaller percentage owned by members of the Rothschild family. Although the port is brand new, the architecture and buildings have been done very tastefully and it still retains its Mediterranean feel. Condos on this port start at $1.5m, and from what I head most of them are owned by Russians. The yachts that are docked here are just as impressive as the ones in St Tropez, Cannes and Monaco, in my opinion. In fact by the time the port is complete it will offer 650 berths and 150 of them reserved for super yachts.
After walking around, I naturally choose Al Posto Guisto which in Italian it means “At the right Place” to meet Nina. This perfectly situated restaurant/bar offered the best people watching while enjoying the sunset and sipping cocktails of freshly squeezed juices.
Thanks to technology (namely Facebook & Apple) we are able to spot each other immediately. Nina is beautiful, full of energy and her smile lights up the atmosphere even more. We connected right away and strangely felt like we had known each other for years. After we savor our Gorgonzola gnocchi and a few more fresh juice cocktails ,Nina has to run off to her performance since she is one of the most famous singers in Montenegro I find out. But I am left in the company of her friend Vukasin Brajic, a dear friend she had met during a reality show similar to American Idol and his beautiful PR agent.
In the days to follow Nina & Vukasin show me more of their beautiful country including the Bay of Kotor, more of their favorite beaches and of course the night life which they were the starts of.
Going to Montenegro was an unexpected adventure, which turned out to be one of the best trips I have ever had. The culture, the people, the sights were fascinating and they must be experienced. I would recommend all of my friends to put this country at the top of the list before it becomes too touristy like Croatia.