THE STUNNING DAWNS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN
As traditional verse says, “the bright dawn of May lamplights over high Lovcen that proudly rises above the bride of the Adriatic”, Boka Kotor Bay. This is the image that best represents a small Balkan state with an unusual name – Montenegro or Montagna Negra, as Italian sources refer to it. This is where the name Montenegro is derived from and which is still used in all non-Slavic languages.
Montenegro is one of the smallest European countries and the first ecological state in the world. It is located on the Adriatic coast of the Balkan Peninsula, with an area just over 13,000 km2 and a population of 620,000. The Montenegrin coastline, which is 293.5 km in length, is one of the most beautiful shores of the Mediterranean region. The main industries are tourism, agriculture and the metal industry. After the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, Montenegro regained its independence from Serbia in 2006. Its strategic agenda became the development of elite tourism.
The beginning of the development of tourism in this part of the Adriatic coast was marked by the construction of the first hotel in Montenegro. This was the “Hotel Plaza” in Zelenika, which was built by Herceg Novi in 1902. In recent times, the Montenegrin touristic offering has been enriched by the opening of the first green hotel in the region. “Hotel Riviera” was awarded the “Green Certification”, which is a world organization that supports the development and preservation of the environment.
Popularly called the “Tear of Europe”, Canyon Tara is the longest and deepest canyon inEurope and the second biggest in the world after the Grand Canyon in the USA. The length of the canyon, which is under UNESCO protection, is 78km and it is 1,300 meters deep. It is a very popular attraction for many tourists who enjoy rafting on the Tara River.
Over the Tara River proudly stands the Djurdjevica Tara Bridge. At a height of 172 meters, the bridge was built in 1940 and its largest arch was the tallest in Europe at the time. The Djurdjevica Tara Bridge featured in the 1978 British action war film “Force 10 from Navarone”. Today it is a very popular destination for lovers of bungee jumping.
Canyon Tara to the north “hugs” another natural treasure, Mount Durmitor National Park, which is also protected by UNESCO. The mountain range, interspersed with lakes, is covered with dense pine forests and a wide range of endemic flora. At the bottom of the Durmitor mountain lies the Black Lake, which is again UNESCO listed, covers an area of 0.515 km2 and belongs to a group of glacial lakes. This whole area is located in the immediate vicinity of Zabljak ski center and which altogether represents a very attractive destination for winter tourism and recreation.
At the north of Montenegro lies one of the most beautiful nature reserves, Biograd National Park, which is one of the last three rainforests in Europe. The typical rainforest vegetation extends to 5,400 acres and many trees are over 500 years old. The numerous species of fauna, flora and animals that can be seen in the Biograd Park are very attractive for researchers, tourists and visitors.
Montenegro’s longest river, the Moraca, hides many secrets in its rapid mountain flow, but one of the jewels in its coast is Moraca Orthodox monastery which was built in the 13th century. Moraca River is 113 km long and at the end of its course lies the largest lake in the Balkans – Lake Skadar. It was declared a national park in 1983 and covers an area of 391 km2. Skadar Lake is the last home to pelicans in the whole of Europe.
Bojana river delta, which is one of the biggest attractions, connects the lake with the Adriatic Sea. The long sandy beaches are spread along the coastline in this part of Montenegro. They are also equipped with bungalows that are made of natural materials and there are stables for riding on the beach.
It is not just natural beauty that adorns this small Balkan country. Montenegro is also proud of its many spas. One of the oldest spa resorts in this part of Europe is located in Prcanj in the Bay of Kotor, which was declared a natural spa in 1920. On this part of the coast the atmosphere is richer in minerals and ions due to the evaporation of essential oils and sea water, which helps with respiratory system problems. Within the bay is also located Igalo Spa which was built in 1949 as a recreational and health center. The sea mud and sea water are used for healing, rehabilitation and the prevention of a number of diseases – rheumatism, heart conditions, certain lung diseases, nervous system problems and various forms of sports injuries. On the Adriatic coast there is a place called Ulcinj which is a “women’s beach”. It is known for its sources of sulfurous water, which help with women’s diseases and the treatment of infertility.
Lovcen peak with the height of 1,750 m boasts a famous mausoleum which is where Petar II Petrovic Njegos is buried, Montenegro’s greatest poet and ruler, whose poetry also included a song about Mount Lovcen. The mausoleum is another popular attraction for tourists as the peak of Lovcen also offers impeccable views of the Bay of Kotor. At the foot of the mountain lies the town of Cetinje, where is where Biljarda is situated, once the residence of Petar II Petrovic Njegos and named after his favorite game – billiards. Cetinje is also known for the first hotel and hospital built during the 1860s in this part of Europe as well as numerous consulates whose buildings were considered the most beautiful architectural works in the region. In the city there is Cetinje monastery which dates from 1485 and is dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
Commonly called the European Southern fjord or the bride of the Adriatic, Boka Kotor’s bay lies in the south of the Adriatic Sea. It stretches 28km from the shore of the open sea to the old town of Kotor. On the Gulf coast lie the medieval towns of Herceg Novi, Kotor, Risan, Tivat and Perast.
Boka Bay and Old city of Kotor
The old town of Kotor, which is also under the protection of UNESCO, dates from the 168th year of the prehistoric era. One of the most beautiful and oldest in Europe, the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon which is located at the entrance to the old city was built in the glory of St. Tryphon, the town’s patron and protector. At the present time the city attracts many tourists who, among other ways, arrive at this ancient town via the numerous cruises offered by the most famous cruise companies from around the world. In the middle of Boka’s bay lie the Perast islands, which like two eyes in the sea are a popular tourist attraction.
The orthodox monastery of Ostrog is one of a few in the world built on a cliff (of Mount Ostorska Gora). The monastery is named after its founder Metropolitan Vasilije, who is buried there and was proclaimed a Saint. This significant tourist attraction is among the most visited places in the Balkans.
The proof that Montenegro follows global standards is the town-hotel of the “Sveti Stefan” which in 2008 joined the chain of Aman Resorts, which includes some of the most exclusive hotels worldwide. It is located on a small island that is connected to the Adriatic coast in Montenegro. In the period from 1960 to 1980 Sveti Stefan was a major destination for the rich and famous. During that period, the resort’s guest list included names like Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Carlo Ponti, Orson Wells, England’s Princess Margaret, Kirk Douglas and Ingemar Stenmark.
Town-Hotel Sveti Stefan
Nearby is the center of elite tourism, the town of Budva which has high class hotels such as “Hotel Splendid Conference & Spa Resort” – exclusive 5 star accommodation that opened in 2006. The hotel is one of the most important investments on the Montenegrin coast because due to its offers and architecture it is considered to be one of the most modern hotels in the world. Among the guests at the hotel were Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Gerard Depardieu, The Rolling Stones and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
During the last two decades on the Montenegrin coast other elite hotels have been built such as Queen of Montenegro, Budva Avala Resort and Maestral Resort & Casino.
In addition to being a popular tourist destination, in recent years Montenegro has become one of the major investment areas in Europe. The best example is Porto Montenegro which certainly made the Gulf of Kotor more attractive. Marina, which opened in 2009, is an investment of one of the most successful Canadian marina designers in the world, Peter Munk. Porto Montenegro is the first comprehensive and most advanced marina on the entire Adriatic coast with 185 berths, 130 luxury apartments, a shopping center, a swimming pool and restaurants.
The bride of the Adriatic, Boka Bay, will soon be enriched by one of the most modern resorts on the Adriatic coast. Successful Azerbaijan company, Azmont International, invested in a luxury complex of 500 apartments and a large marina with 250 berths for mega yachts at the small village of Kumbor. The complex will use organic food which will be produced in the villages in the hinterland of the Bay of Kotor. One of the biggest investments, worth one billion euros, is provided by the Egyptian company AX. On the peninsula Lustica at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor this company envisages the construction of 7 hotels, 1,500 apartments, 170 connections at the marina for mega yachts and a golf course with 18 holes. The latest investment is the construction of the highway, which the Chinese company “Chi Chi International” is building from the coast of Montenegro. The highway will connect the main port of Bar with the north of the country and Serbia.
Although one of the smallest European countries, Montenegro is clearly distinguished by its natural beauty. So much to offer in such a small area, which is located only 2 or 3 hours away with flights available from any European city to the airports in Tivat, Podgorica and Dubrovnik makes this Balkan state quite unique in Europe. Even though there are “the May dawn lamplights” in other parts of the world it is not like in this part of the Mediterranean, which is certainly worth a visit to lose yourself in the unique natural beauty that proudly bears the name of Montenegro.
PHOTOS: ARCHIVE NATIONAL TOURIST ORGANIZATION OF MONTENEGRO