From the beginning our Montenegro leg didn’t get a fair start. We arrived late by bus, everyone was tired, hungry, it was starting to drizzle and we had to find a taxi to our Airbnb host. Quite a contrast to leaving Hvar that morning with an incredible amount of sunshine reflecting off the Adriatic into our apartment. Montenegro, however, definitely grew on us…very quickly.

The landscape around Kotor and the Bay of Kotor is stunning—deep blue sea surrounded by a jagged mountain backdrop. Kotor was designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and named top European destination by Lonely Planet in 2016. As the days passed, we learned why it was such a lovely place to visit.

Kotor isn’t as developed as places we’ve stayed in Croatia, however, its surrounding landscape made up for that.

Having a rental car was a definite bonus to explore outside of Kotor, as we got to see so much more of Montenegro than we would’ve if we stayed within the town boundaries.

One day we drove to Lovcèn National Park. Lovcèn is 1.5 hours from Kotor, climbing up to 5,738 ft from sea level to the park’s entrance. The centre piece was a further 460 steps climb up, either through carved stone or natural gravel path, to the Mausoleum of Njegos. The mausoleum, located in the clouds, has a viewing potential (when it’s clear) to see 80% of the country. We were able to get a good view of the surrounding landscape, however, had to cut the visit short as the wind started to pick up, and being this high in the sky, the cold came in fairly quickly. We headed back home to the warmth of Kotor.

Our final day in Kotor we ascended up the city’s fortress for a view of the entire Bay of Kotor. Initially we thought of skipping this destination, thinking our kids needed a break from our Lovcèn climb the previous day, but we’re so glad we didn’t miss it! Phenomenal view.

After the climb, we were newly inspired and drove to Lovcèn National Park to redo our hike—this time smartly dressed with more layers. As we ascended the clouds started rolling in and blocked the blue sky we had at the start of our day. We experienced something that was totally new to us when we arrived to the top of the mausoleum–we saw our very own shadows cast onto clouds! It was totally surreal. We tried taking pictures, but like the grandeur of Plitvice Lake, photos don’t reflect the true beauty. You just had to be there to fully appreciate the effect. It was a wonderful afternoon before heading back home to relax.

For our final day in Montenegro, we decided a day at the beach at Sveti Stefan was a perfect spot to finish our visit, as we had a long-haul flight to India the next day. Sveti Stefan is an island connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. Once a village, the stone villas have all been converted to an exclusive resort. One side of the beach is open to the public, the other side is open to guests of the resort – all bordered by the same gorgeous Adriatic Sea.

The weather forecast called for sun in the morning and rain in the afternoon, and having learned our lessons in Lovcèn, we brought our bathing suits and a towel ‘just in case’, but not expecting to swim.

The beach wasn’t very busy when we arrived, just a few swimmers and loungers taking advantage of the October sunshine. The beach, a typical pebble beach, was already warm from the morning sun. The kids started searching for treasures to add to their growing sea-glass collection while we lay in the sun. Very quickly we all agreed that it was time to swim. Our last swim in Adriatic Sea was perfect. The water was clear and deep and made you want to float forever. The warm rocks were like a little sauna that instantly warmed you up as soon as you lay on them. We stayed there longer than we thought and everyone loved every minute of our time at the beach.

Our last Montenegro morning had us leaving early to the Tivet airport for a 14-hour flight to Bangalore, India.

Montenegro was always on our list of countries to visit and everyone that’s been there always fell in love with it. Our 6-days in Montenegro had a great balance of mountain and sea. It’s a gorgeous country and we now see why people think this place is so special.

On a personal note, prior to arriving in Europe with our kids, we didn’t fully appreciate non-smoking in bars and restaurants that we have in Canada. Smelling smoke was not a problem outside, or even in public spaces, however, smelling smoke while enjoying a meal was something we could not get over. It was highlighted even more in Montenegro. We had difficulty finding a non-smoking spot to eat. In every restaurant, smoking was allowed. Whenever we asked for a non-smoking place, they got excited to share that yes, smoking was welcome in their restaurant! Even if we found a spot where people weren’t smoking, almost guaranteed someone would come in and start smoking right beside us. It’s amazing how lucky we are to have non-smoking establishments in Canada.

Side note: While in Montenegro, it was the first time we had an issue with our Airbnb accommodations. So far everything we booked has been perfect: clean, well located and as advertised. Our place in Montenegro, not so much. We booked the place for 6 days, but after two days of trying to make it work, we finally decided a change was needed. We contacted our host, explained our concerns, and in the morning she met us with a refund for the remainder of the stay. It was easy and relatively uneventful. We moved to a hotel in Budva for the remainder of our days in Montenegro.

Read about Chloë and Elliot’s time in Montenegro: