It wasn’t just the remarkable diversity of Montenegro that convinced me to visit or the fact that you can swim on the Adriatic coast in the morning and go snow skiing in the mountains in the afternoon. Or the fact that this Balkan country offers dramatic northern mountains, lush green canyons, medieval villages, fortified towns, wide, narrow beaches and likely Europe’s largest untouched pine forest formed by glaciers filled with bears, wolves, limestone lakes, and glaciers.
I was excited to also check out Porto Montenegro, an area quickly becoming the new Monaco with the largest superyachts and billionaire visitors, making it the most sought-after resorts for the world’s wealthiest individuals. With a stunning amount of new resort development slated for the next five years, Montenegro will quickly seal its place as the top luxury destination in Eastern Europe.
The former Yugoslavian republic is located between Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Albania on the eastern shore of the Adriatic. Podgorica is the country’s capital with an international airport; the other one is located in the resort town of Tivat. Montenegro (Black Mountain) got its name from the mountain forests that were so dense and thick that they looked black to outside observers.
The Porto Montenegro project started when Canadian mogul Peter Munk purchased the Arsenal shipyard, a former Yugoslav Army military base in the town of Tivat in 2007, with the purpose of building a superyacht marina that would rival all other destinations. With backing from LVMH Chairman, Bernard Arnault, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and Lord Jacob Rothschild, the Barrick Gold founder created the largest private-sector investment in the country, and before his death this year, he had already sold Porto Montenegro to the Investment Corporation of Dubai.
I made the Regent Porto Montenegro my base for my quick visit to the area. Located on the shore of the UNESCO protected Boka Bay, Porto Montenegro is more of a city in itself offering everything a spoiled visitor would want. Featuring an elegant nautical village, (their version of Rodeo Drive), the bustling community is filled with restaurants, bars, boutiques and even a new Veuve Clicquot champagne bar. My best word of advise if you are planning a visit is to fly into Tivat Airport (10 minutes away) rather than the exhaustive, winding drive from Podgorica Airport which reminded me of the perilous Amalfi Coast roads. Of course, you can always arrive like most visitors on their superyachts as you cruise the coastline.
Inspired by Venetian-Renaissance architecture, the nautical-themed Regent recently debuted its Aqua Wing this month, featuring 62 suites and guestrooms as well as a 10,000-square-foot pool complex comprising four pools as well as cabanas and a pool bar with live DJs. The Venezia Wing, the main building of the hotel that opened in 2014, offers a gym, infinity swimming pools, and the Regent Spa.
The Platinum rated Porto Montenegro Marina has 450 berths and can accommodate the largest mega yachts in the world up to 800 feet. The beautiful Porto Montenegro Yacht Club is really the place to be, where members can experience the newly refurbished 200-foot infinity pool including daybeds for up to 188 people, an Italian poolside restaurant, as well as a 20-seater lounge area and outdoor theater. Evenings are spent at the Italian-inspired De Gustibus seafood restaurant, with a rooftop bar and the yacht club's private Platinum Nightclub.
My time was limited, but I wanted to explore the area, so I took a private Riva boat from the marina to Kotor and Perast. In the Old Town of Kotor I enlisted the help of local expert Vanja Pavlovic, the charming and very handsome Vanja was the perfect choice to guide us through the Old Town and made exploring so much fun. He showed us around the well-preserved medieval town surrounded by stone walls, built like a maze to confuse invaders, its narrow streets, and squares filled with cafes and shops and include a charming combination of Baroque, Venetian and Austrian architecture. Vanja is also launching a living history museum in Kotor for visitors to get a hands-on experience on what it was like living in medieval times. How fun for families to learn the basics of sword fighting while wearing authentic body armor?
We enjoyed a delightful lunch on the water in neighboring Perast on Boka Bay, filled with 17th and 18th-century buildings, including sixteen Baroque palaces and seventeen Catholic churches. The best spot for dining is at the Conte Hotel and Restaurant, where your private boat will moor adjacent to a waterfront table overlooking the famed Our Lady of the Rocks. According to legend, the man-made islet was created rock by rock over centuries by local seamen after they found the icon of Madonna and Child on a rock in the sea.
The ultimate way to depart Montenegro is by helicopter to Dubrovnik for easy transfers onwards to the Mediterranean, and the coolest way to experience it is with Laura Protat with Discover Montenegro. Not only is she the most beautiful pilot I have ever seen, but she is also the best, having flown many celebrities and VIPs and is filled with great stories of the area. The route takes you along the coastline where you can see first hand the massive development in the area including neighboring Portonovi with a new One&Only Resort in the works and a 238 berth marina for yachts up to 394 feet. Additional resorts now open or launching soon include the popular Aman Sveti Stefan on its own private islet or along the Bay of Kotor with a planned Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons Hotel, Chedi Lustica on Boka Bay, Allure Palazzi and Iberostar.
Once in Dubrovnik, as you wait for your afternoon flight, make sure to visit the stunning Villa Orsula, which is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, for lunch on the large terrace with dramatic views of the walled Old Town. Built in 1939, this boutique five-star hotel was completely restored and features stone architecture inspired by Mediterranean tradition. The decor of the intimate villa's 11 rooms and 2 suites combines vintage style with modern minimalism. If you want to spend the evening, check into the Royal Suite with private balcony and spectacular views, or at their other property, the 104-year-old Hotel Excelsior, where the cast of Game of Thrones stayed during the filming the Kings Landing location in the Old Town.