What? You didn’t love Montenegro?

Have you ever been to a place that underwhelmed you? A place that everyone else loves, but you just didn’t feel the magic?

Montenegro is one of those places for me.

For years, I’ve read praises in large publications like The Telegraph and by other bloggers saying that it’s more beautiful than any other European country. Montenegro is spoken of as a hidden gem.

Some even call it a fairy tale land. And who would want to disagree with big-time writers and established publications with thousands or even millions of followers?

Not me.

But at the same time, I feel obligated to myself and this blog to speak my mind, and the truth of the matter is:

I didn’t like Montenegro very much. 

Sure, there are amazing sights around the country and the nature is super, super beautiful. But my issue wasn’t with the scenery. Before we dig into the details, I want to tell you what’s good about Montenegro. Just because I had a bad time there, doesn’t mean you will. 

Let’s start with the positives.

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The positive about Montenegro

The nature is breathtaking

No doubt, Montenegro has beautiful nature, and most of it is untouched. The fjords in Kotor Bay, the Tara River and canyon, and the mountainsides with pine trees in Durmitor National Park were particularly remarkable.

Kotor has a lot of history

Kotor has one of the best preserved medieval old towns in the Balkans, and it’s been a UNESCO site since 1979.

There are several Orthodox and Catholic monasteries and churches in the area, which makes it a major pilgrimage site.

What? You didn't love Montenegro?

It’s a great destination for a yoga retreat

I stayed at a lovely old Captain’s mansion in Kotor Bay that offered yoga retreats. Doing the sun salutation with the grandeur fjords as a backdrop was pretty unique.

There are many things to see around the country

Montenegro packs a big culture, outdoor, and underwater punch. 

The country may be small, but its choice of things to do in Montenegro is gigantic.

What? You didn't love Montenegro?
Black Lake in Durmitor National Park

But it still wasn’t for me

Although Montenegro has a lot to offer, it just wasn’t enough to outshine the bad parts.

First of all – and I won’t judge the whole country for this – I was really unlucky with a tour company that was responsible for all my day tours and transfer to the airport.

They turned out to be unreliable and handled things unprofessionally, which severely marred my stay and caused a lot of unnecessary worries. I was really annoyed that they hadn’t been upfront with me, because then I would have had time to find a better solution.

So, a bit of advice to those of you considering booking a day tour in Montenegro: Make sure to find a good, reliable company so your trip won’t get spoiled.

Many locals drive like crazy

Montenegro is a mountainous country with twisty roads and narrow stretches, often in dreadful conditions.

Guard rails aren’t always available, and some tunnels don’t have light even though they are sometimes several kilometres long. Trust me, this is not for sissies.

Now add to the fact that many local drivers are speeding and tend to get involved in dangerous overtaking with fatal results. I did not feel safe in traffic.

Too many aggressive people

I found the majority of the people to be more aggressive than what I have previously experienced.

The driving was aggressive, the attitude towards tourists and tourism was aggressive, and the behavior towards me as a woman was aggressive.

As I was walking in some parts of Kotor and Cetinje at night, I got the feeling that a fight could break out at any moment. 

Many of the men were loud, and I was catcalled and even groped by a taxi driver. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I felt unsafe as a solo female traveler, but this behavior was unpleasant and unappealing.

Montenegro tries to be something that it’s not

Montenegro is an expensive country compared to most of its neighbors.

I’m fine with paying extra for quality, but the quality didn’t match the price. In Croatia, which is probably the most expensive country in the Balkans, you get top-notch gourmet food, but too many places in Montenegro you get plain food for the same price. It’s simply overpriced in my opinion.

The country is selling out

I’ve mentioned this before, but some of Montenegro’s old towns have been demolished in order to build large hotels and tourist compounds.

Most of the locals I spoke to were sad about this development and feared that the government would do the same to Kotor.

I can’t respect a government that is literally selling out its national and cultural heritage in exchange for riches.

What? You didn't love Montenegro?
Kotor Old Town – hopefully it will stay intact

We can’t love them all. And that’s ok

I really like the Balkans, but when I return, it won’t be to Montenegro.

I would choose Croatia and Slovenia because those countries are not so rough around the edges. I’m not saying that any of them are perfect – no country is – but at least they have a lot more positives than negatives.

In the end, I realized that it’s okay not to love every single destination I visit.

There are endless beautiful destinations in the world, and it’s the contrasts that make traveling so interesting. Contrasts work for me!

What? You didn't love Montenegro?

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  1. And then, they were two :). I didn’t like Montenegro much either. I’ve only visited the coast though. I agree with you on many points. I particularly didn’t like the unbalance between old and new, local villages vs. new tourist resorts; unfinished skyscrapers, etc. Kotor is nice, as well as the bay, and a small village of Perast.

    1. I was beginning to think I was the only one 🙂 Thanks for the reassurance, Frank! I heard that Perast was beautiful, but I didn’t find the time to visit.

  2. Hey, you can’t love them all right?!

    I really appreciate the honesty about your experience. Plus, to post a negative review in an eloquent way is an art form, so good job Miriam!

    Sarah Lynn

    1. Sarah, you can’t imagine how much this means to hear! When it comes to writing, this is by far the hardest skill to master. I’m taking your words to heart <3

  3. First – that picture of the Black Lake? Absolutely stunning! Appreciate your honesty in this post. Locals are such a big part of what makes a place click for me or not — I can definitely understand the aggressive attitudes being a little bit of a turn-off, especially with men!

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback, Katie! I didn’t want to come off as entitled or super negative so I’m glad the post wasn’t percieved that way. I absolutely agree with you that locals play a huge part of the place I visit. It just felt like the testosterone level in Montenegro was too elevated. At least for my taste.

  4. It’s so good to read such an honest opinion! And we like that you highlight the good things, too – as there are always good things.

    We’ve met with similarly crazy drivers in Greece and we know what you mean. That feeling of unsafeness will be part of your experience whether you wan’t it or not.

    Our biggest disappointment was Los Angeles so far. We’ve always though of it as one of the 5 American cities which are must-sees. But when we eventually got there we simply found Los Angeles boring and it would be hard for us to highlight places which are worth a visit there – yeah, there’s Walk of Fame and the Hollywood Sign, but even those we didn’t find special.
    Even though the city itself hasn’t impressed us, we loved the beaches in and near LA! And the theme parks were also fun.

    1. Thanks, guys! Your feedback means the world to me.

      As a traveler, it’s almost taboo to talk negatively about a popular destination. I think it’s important to address the dark side of traveling, too – otherwise there’s no balance. I haven’t been to LA, but I could imagine that it isn’t unique like say San Fransisco. What’s important is that we still look and focus on the good stuff, which you guys are also doing.

    2. I’m in Montenegro now and I agree with everything you said. I’m Mexican/ American and I don’t want to offend anyone because it is a beautiful country but so far our experience has been quite negative. I’m traveling with my husband from the U.S. There are some beautiful places here for sure but something just isn’t clicking. Still, I’m keeping an open mind. Just a few more weeks to go.

      1. Hi Sofi, Hi Mariam! I am experiencing the same here in Montenegro. I have travelled Albania before, where everything was more wild, free and original, apart of the much cheaper prices, of course! This here seems to be so sophisticated. I am also annoyed about the tourist registration, that has to be done in every place you stay and in that case it´s not about the payment, just the lack of organization, that the tourist himself (in most of the cases) has to look out for the tourist office, wasting time during the deserved holidays. Well maybe in the future I ´ll give Montenegro another try checking out the interior of the country….

  5. You said it best, “We can’t love them all. And that’s okay.” We all have trips, hikes, and days that are lackluster. Sometimes they’re just bad.

    Though you didn’t care much for Montenegro, I really like that you still found some good stuff there and shared it with us, and it’s nice to get a review of a locale that isn’t a cookie cutter response. I appreciate your honesty.

    Here’s hoping the next adventure is a little more to your liking! Thanks for sharing with us!

    1. Truer words have never been spoken! Not every destination is what you expect it to be.

      To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether to write this post or not, but reading your comment made it all worth it. I appreciate it, Wade. Really.

  6. Yes, I had the exact same impression when I visited Cuba in March. It had been on my bucket list forever and I had heard nothing but amazing things about it but when I actually got there and travelled around it just didn’t wow me at all. Funnily enough a lot of other people I met there said the same thing. Whether it was just that my expectations were too high or that it was too busy with other tourists I don’t know.
    Coincidentally Montenegro is my next country to visit so I hope I love it just a little haha. Thanks for sharing your honest opinions though, always great to hear a different side of the story 🙂

    1. We can’t love them all and sometimes a place just doesn’t speak to us.

      I’m sure you’ll have a great time in Montenegro, though 🙂 Travel experiences are so individual and my experience with Montenegro was tainted by that unreliable tour company. If you spend time in Kotor you won’t be disappointed. It’s really beautiful, especially in the morning.

  7. As someone who’s just got back from Kotor and absolutely loved it, it’s such a shame that it didn’t tick your boxes but I also completely understand. I just didn’t get Barcelona… at all! But I hope to go back and try again, so I hope if you ever return to Montenegro you see some of the stuff I saw!

    “In the end, I realized that it’s okay not to love every single destination I visit” – Perfectly put!

    1. I do too, Katie! I’m always up for giving places another chance, and since the Balkans BY FAR is my favorite area in Europe, I am definitely going back to the region!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  8. I was in Montenegro just for 5 days (earlier I plan stay longer) but I absolutly agree with you… The drivers were terrible, the tunnels were TERRIBLE and we spend more time in the traffic than in the normal road. The people are so different to any other Balkanian people… Few things was nice and pretty but I know, that we don’t go there one more time.. I prefer Croatia… everything in this country is better (and the prices aren’t bigger). So… I don’t love Montenegro too;)

    1. We can’t love them all, right? Montenegro isn’t my favorite country, but I’m actually up for giving Kotor another chance – next time with adjusted expectations.

  9. ‘Montenegro tries to be something that it’s not.’ As a Montenegrin I can tell you that this is true and I’m very sad because of it. Especially during summer.

    On the other hand, the thing with roads is that mother nature really didn’t made Montenegro suitable place for the roads and that’s like that in whole country. So we must invest so much more money in order to build every possible road and I mean every. And when you make them, you can’t make highway, so that’s why there is a problem with traffic. But that’s only during summer, For recently war-torn, ex-communist and Ottoman influenced country building so much road on bad terrain and make all of it highway is impossible..

    You are also right about other stuff. Objective article, but you just scratched the surface and didn’t had luck. Next time (someday, if you change your mind), don’t come during summer.

    1. Thank you for pitching in, Rik. I’m always glad to hear from locals and especially on this article. I feel there is more to Montenegro than I saw the last time I was there and I am definitely up for coming back – maybe in the winter – and maybe see another side of the country. I do believe in second chances!

  10. Hi Miriam,
    your article was interesting beginning with a title and hasn’t lost an edge all the way through its end, even in replies on left comments. I’m glad you visited Montenegro. There isn’t much I can say to remedy your ill fated episodes. What I could actually do about is offering a second chance to fall in love with my country. That is usually contagious. Our clients are becoming friends, ambassadors of Montenegro in their neighborhoods. I address you as a professional, licensed guide and tour operator. As well I am Montenegrin who would like to read your impressions altered. Perhaps you will not love it for the same reasons, but might help you find additional ones to be placed on the opposite side of the balance. Talk to us about your preferences, duration of stay and budget. Receive customized proposal on our behalf, with no obligations on your side.
    Do not hesitate getting back in touch. First impressions are possible on Balkans every time!

    1. Hi Nenad,
      Thank you so much for your message and for showing me already a better side of Montenegro! I am definitely up for returning to Montenegro and experience the country with a better tour company. For sure.

  11. Miriam Thank you for your writing. I’m from Montenegro and unfortunately I have to say that your description of my country is tirue. Nature is beautiful but the society is terrible. We do our best to ruin the beauty of nature that God has given us the

    1. Hi Vladimir, I am so sad for your country. I truly am. It’s so beautiful, but unfortunately the state doesn’t seem to appreciate it. I hope for you and your country’s sake that it will change.

      All the best from Denmark

  12. I am really shocked by what I have read here today. I’ve been in Montenegro for 4 weeks now and I feel that what you’ve written is unjust.

    You seem to have spent all of your time in Kotor but you’re writing about Montenegro as a whole? Do you think it’s fair to make that judgement?

    The driving is far better here than in Italy, southern France or Hungary. I’ve been driving by myself with my three kids since day one and although they take some risks, I’ve never felt in danger. Did you drive or were you driven everywhere? If it is the latter then it seems unfair to judge all drivers by a driver you had.

    The balance between old and new is driven by external forces. The majority of money in MNE is coming from Russians and Serbians. Without this money MNE may not have recovered from its bloody past.

    Everybody I have met from Ulcinj to Perast has been lovely to me and my kids. Smiles are maybe not as forthcoming as in America but I do feel America is a very fake country. At least here people are real and when you get a smile you know it is genuine. We have stayed in 3 AirBNB accommodations from budget to mid-expensive and we’ve had a fab time. Albeit these have NOT been in tourist areas. We still have to go over to the mountains but I would be very surprised if it changed. We don’t speak very much of the language but everybody has been so grateful that we’ve tried.

    The worst thing I’ve found so far is the tourists. We deliberately came before tourist season and there is a big change between out of season and in season (which started in June). For example the cruise ships in Kotor are horrendous and the walk up to the castle is littered with rubbish because tourists are too lazy to use bins (and toilets it also appears).

    We eat out regularly and the cost is about €30-70 for lunch and dinner. We have fabulous vegetables, awesome salads and because we’re vegan most places have been happy to make us something special. A total contrast to many European countries lol.

    I feel as though you have judged MNE as a whole on a very small proportion of the country. It’s like judging England on Blackpool (shudder) or Italy on Pisa. I just feel that it is undeserving of such harsh criticism.

    1. Hi Emma,
      Thanks for weighing in.

      I’ve spent time in many parts of Montenegro (I did several road trips) and I’ve seen enough to get a good impression of the country as a whole. Granted, I have not spent 4 weeks there, but I don’t think that’s necessary to form an opinion. I’m glad you’ve had a great time there with your family, that’s really good to hear. Montenegro just wasn’t for me.

  13. Wow, what an interesting side to it! All I ever hear is positivity about Montenegro, to the point it’s actually #1 on my Europe wishlist right now. I want to visit for the beauty and nature though, but it’s interesting to read your take on the different parts of travelling there (I feel that people ONLY talk about how beautiful it is and now that I think about it, I’ve never got a feel for the culture or people in what I’ve read). I really, really hope it doesn’t ruin itself because clearly it doesn’t need to. It could be a great destination on all fronts.

    1. Hi Clazz,
      I’m sure you’ll have a great trip to Montenegro, and it really is as beautiful as everyone says. The mentality is just different from its neighbouring countries and it hasn’t quite caught up with tourism yet (how to deal with it, in particular). It would be a shame to see it ruined, but it’s not really headed in a positive direction.

  14. Miriam, thank you for being truthful and delivering a negative review gracefully. I have not been in Montenegro yet, but none of what you have mentioned sounds unrealistic or unreasonable to me given that a I grew up in post soviet country as well. We chose Montenegro because it did not require tourist visas for our Russian- American family, because of cheap travel and lodging (we are staying in the center of old town in Kotor), and the natural beauty. This is a good perspective to adjust our expectations and enjoy our travel.

    1. Thanks for your sweet comment, Lena! I’m sure you and your family will have a good time in Montenegro. I would never advice anyone not to visit because it truly is a stunning country with amazing nature and so many sights. It’s just a lot more rough around the edges than neighboring Croatia. I have a good friend who travels around Balkan and he frequently comes back to Montenegro (Kotor) and loves it.

      Have an amazing trip, and do check out Durmitor National Park and some of the monasteries. They’re so beautiful.

  15. I’m planning to visit Montenegro this coming September 2018, just need to know what is the travel agency who’s not giving you a good service to I can avoid booking there. It will be helpful for me coz I’m a solo traveler also.

    1. Hi May, you’re welcome to send me a private message: [email protected] and I’ll let you know the name of the tour operator. I’d rather not write it in public since it could hurt their business and I wouldn’t want that.

  16. Here. the same feeling , I am from that reagion have to go to visit my mom and I am baffed every time what’s unpleasant? My last trip I concluded was good visiting mom the weather and food. These societies hadn’t established yet civilization standards , sad it’s naturally beautiful but the interactions are poor, friends that want to travel ask me all the time how it is? Uhh my truth is different that travel magazines .

    1. I’m so sorry, Marinela. I hope for your country’s sake (and yours) that Montenegro will change for the better <3

      All the best from Denmark

  17. I am here now and like you totally underwhelmed, always wanted to come but for me never again. The biggest thing for me is the prices do not match the quality, our meal for two last night was 60 euros, in Greece for better quality it would be 30euros. Not a cocktail in site in Dibrota and the bay water is full of green mush and you have to walk a long way to find anything if you do not have a car. I did visit Croatia a few years ago and again I would not go back but both Montenegro and Croatia ate pretty to look at but for me that is it. If you want beauty and everything else Greece evertime for me.

  18. I have now been in Montenegro 5 days and I have to take back a lot what I said initially. Have now found some great cheaper places to eat, been to Perast what a stunning little place and Kotor. We have met a great taxi driver too.

  19. I don’t know about the rest, but the coastal parts, especially Budva, treat tourists more as pests than as guests.
    The hatred is palpable wherever you are located – the vibe is very much ‘give us your money you cheap scum’.- I guess the staff projecting how they feel about themselves.
    How they intend to live off of tourism while simultaneously hating the visitors is beyond my comprehension.

  20. I’ve been in Montenegro a year now, and while the nature is beautiful, the violent racism and general hostility to foreigners (even those who pay taxes here and contribute to the local economy beyond tourism) have put me off the former Yugoslavia forever. I pretty much agree with your assessment, so thanks for sharing. Regarding the driving – don’t forget that there’s a serious problem with drunk driving here. Many of the drivers you were seeing weren’t “driving like crazy”, they were “driving drunk” :-/

    As for the various comments about the food, the prices are often unreasonably high, but the bigger problem is inconsistency – a restaurant might have good food and fresh fish one day, and be terrible the next. Beware, or better, just go elsewhere (for me, Greece is a favourite).

    1. Didn’t know about the drunk driving; that’s awful! I hope you aren’t writing off the Balkans all together. Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia are amazing!

  21. Hello Miriam, thank you for your honest review. I have been in Montenegro as a solo female traveler for 2 1/2months staying on the Coast. I’m leaving soon. The coast is beautiful & the beaches relaxing, but I do agree… there is an underlying aggressiveness & complete lack of hospitality. Like you are being “tolerated” as a tourist. I have cancelled a reservation due to very rude behavior & watched a taxi driver throw a tantrum trying to get extra tip money. Fortunately, Airbnb is a better experience since hosts are reviewed & evaluated. As far as food goes, there is very little manufacturing here and most of their food is imported from Serbia. Specialty ingredients are very expensive, Much of the food is laced with gluten to stretch ingredients. Gluten can be in the milk, cheese, ice cream, butter which can be challenging if one is gluten-free. I’m in agreement, the quality is lacking for the price. Montenegro is not a fit for me either. I do miss Greece too, with it’s amazing fresh food & warm friendly inhabitants!

    1. Hi Paisley, thanks for pitching in.

      2,5 months is a long time – you must have really gotten it under your skin. I like your expression ‘it’s not a good fit’. It took me a while to realise that not all countries are for me, and that’s okay. We don’t have to love them all. Countries like Montenegro just make me appreciate the good ones more. Like Greece 🙂

  22. Hello Miriam,
    I am French, and I am right now in Becici next to Budva. Let me tell you how I found your article. Yesterday, I went to the beach, I installed my towel on the sand. I sat and somebody came and asked me to leave. 80% of the beaches are private. (maybe more). This is how I googled: “people who disliked Montenegro” and found your article. To me, Montenegro is incredibly overrated.
    Another thing, their waste management is a disaster. I asked “where should I drop off the garbage?”, and the owner of the property pointed a pile of trash bags in the street from the balcony where we were standing.
    I could have rented a car but I gave up. I don’t want to take the risk to damage the rented car. People park on both sides of the road, there is now not enough space. I have a parking space, but the underground car park is way too small.
    The internet connection does not work well.
    In one week I am gone.

    1. Hi Bernard, I’m sorry to hear that 🙁 My hair dresser is Montenegrin and she told me that most plots and luxury houses in Budva are bought by wealthy Russians. It’s so sad when a country is selling out. Next time, try Croatia. It’s much better.

  23. I am currently in Montenegro now and couldn’t agree with you more. I spent two nights in Kotor and now in Budva. I just came from Croatia and finding the people here are not as welcoming and friendly. Unfortunately, my personal experience has been tainted by aggressive and discriminatory behavior by taxi drivers who try to rip you off and restaurant servers who are rude. I wouldn’t skip Montenegro, but want to warn fellow travelers to be ready for this kind of culture here. It’s relatively safe and not welcoming to foreigners, esp if you are a person of color.

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