When I first rode my bike across the border from Croatia into Montenegro, I had little idea of what to expect. The small country on the Adriatic Coast is just 18 miles south of the Backroads' Trip Leader house in Močići, but as I descended towards the border city of Herceg Novi, something in the air changed.
As I cycled along the narrow waterfront roads, Montenegro's wild nature and honest humility began to pull me in. Compared to the polish and sparkle of Croatia's Dalmatian Coast, Montenegro's coastline is at times rugged, raw, exotic and, somehow, hopelessly mesmerizing. And where most of Western Europe feels well-traveled, Montenegro is a one-way ticket to Old Europe.
An independent country since 2006, it's still developing a cohesive identity, much as it has strived and struggled to do for centuries. It's beginning to be a place where old meets the uber new, and on Backroads' Croatia to Montenegro Multi-Adventure trip, we experience this change firsthand. We stay in one of the most luxurious hotels on the Mediterranean at the Regent Porto Montenegro in the modern town of Tivat. Then we venture out on a hike to see what Montenegro looked like centuries ago in traditional villages and mountain regions loaded with history.
The country has been shaped by centuries of control under different European powers, resulting in a tremendous mix of culture and architecture. The World Heritage town of Kotor is an exceptional example of how one empire left its mark. Lined with traditional cafes, Romanesque churches and medieval aristocratic mansions, the elegant tastes of the Italians and the Austrians under the Hapsburg Empire still gleam.
One of the best ways to experience the area is by getting out on the waters of the serpentine Bay of Kotor. With Backroads, we kayak past former Austro-Hungarian fortresses on our way to the charming town of Perast. Then we hop onto dry land in the middle of the bay to explore Our Lady of the Rocks, a church with a fascinating legend of protecting sailors since the 15th century. This is kayaking with a purpose: to gain a truly unique view of Montenegro!
Aside from the landscape's beauty, the people Montenegro truly shine as some of the most welcoming hosts I've encountered. They're sincerely kind with a keen sense of humor. And once they become a friend, they're one for life. On trip, we're joined by incredible local guides who embody the spirit of Montenegro and share its secrets with us. These friends are a huge part of why I'm so excited to return to this region as a Backroads leader.
On my last day in Montenegro, I watched the sun inching lower over the Bay of Kotor. The sky turned pastel, then electrically orange, pink and red. Once the sun disappeared below the horizon, the dark shapes of the surrounding peaks engulf me, and remind me of what Montenegro means: Black Mountain.
As I make preparations to return in April to lead our Croatia to Montenegro Multi-Adventure trip, I can't wait to share this culture and beauty with our guests. Until then, vidimo se! I'll see you at the border, ready to ride with you into the mystery and mystique of Montenegro.