Last year me and my boyfriend started a new tradition where for special occasions, instead of gifts, we book a surprise long weekend away for one another.
Last January it was Damien’s first turn to plan the trip and I was pleasantly surprised at how well he managed to keep it all a secret. Despite my constant guessing he didn’t crack, I was desperate to know! The morning of the trip we headed to Stanstead airport early and checked in. I remember smugly thinking ‘It’s fine, I’ll know as soon as I read the board’, however as we arrived at the gate I looked up and saw only the word ‘Podgorica’… Where on Earth is that!?
So we boarded the plane and off we went. It’s a very weird feeling, flying with no idea where you’re going to land. Once we arrived I handed my passport over to border control and on it’s return found a stamp in it with the letters ‘ME’. Embarrassingly it took me a lot longer than it should have to think of a country that abbreviation may belong to, but eventually I managed to guess correctly. I was extremely surprised, I would not have guessed this one.
After 3 days in Podgorica (the countries capital), and one day in costal town Budva, we returned to London and it’s safe to say he made an excellent choice. Montenegro may not be on the top of most people’s lists when it comes to a winter holiday, but it definitely should be, and here’s why…
Throughout the winter months you can pick up both flights and accommodation in Montenegro for a bargain price. Say you wanted to go from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th of February 2017, return flights from London to Podgorica would cost just £38 return if you booked today. For this same 4 day period you could grab a 4* hotel in the city centre (inc. breakfast) for 2 people for as little as £100 total. Plus Montenegro is a relatively cheap country meaning you won’t spend too much whilst you’re out there, making it perfect for a post-Christmas long weekend away.
Exploring Without the Crowds
Montenegro is a beautiful country with plenty of amazing places to see and visit. The best thing about being there in the winter months is that you’ll avoid all of the crowds. We managed to explore the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, an Orthodox cathedral in Podgorica, without another tourist in sight.
Leading on from my previous point, for me avoiding the tourist crowds made my trip feel more authentically Montenegrin. I loved wandering around the old town, amongst the locals getting on with their day to day lives, popping into local shops and eating in little family run cafes. I believe this is the best way to truly experience another culture.
This must seem like a strange thing to say seeing as I’m talking about visiting in the winter, but the beaches on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast are a beautiful place to visit all year round. From Podgorica we got on a bus to Budva, which took around 1hr30 and cost under £5 each. Budva is a costal town known for it’s sandy beaches and nightlife. It is extremely popular with people from all over Montenegro and surrounding countries during the summer months, however coming in the winter means you get to see the town’s true beauty without the thousands of sun seekers and partygoers.
Stari Grad is the medieval old town located on the sea front. You have to enter through the large walls surrounding the city, and follow the narrow cobbled streets until you reach one of the many piazzas. On the southern tip you’ll find the citadel and it’s towers which overlook the whole of Budva. Outside of the old town there is also the marina and many local seafood restaurants to grab some lunch in.
During the colder months the sea front cafes set up tables and chairs on the beach. Grabbing a coffee and sitting on the beach staring out at the ocean was amazingly peaceful and perfect for an afternoon pit stop.
Take a look through the photo’s below…
The Photo Ops.
If you’re looking for some perfect Instagram pictures look no further…
If you’re a fan of meat you’ll love Montenegrin food!
Pod Volat is a popular locally run restaurant in Podgorica’s Old Town which serves traditional Montongrin food. The plate shown below is the ‘Pod Volat Special’ and only costs €24 for 2 people. It is a mountain of different meats such as steak, chicken, lamb, veal and sausages (I’m not actually sure if that’s correct – I have no idea what was in that pile!) stacked on top of a bed of chips and salad. The dish was much bigger than we ever expected and all of the cuts of meat were delicious. Even between the two of us we couldn’t finish the whole plate, however this is probably because we ordered a platter of homemade cheeses and bread as well. The restaurant is cosy and traditional, the waiting staff are lovely and the food is delicious and very reasonably priced. For the meat, cheeses, breads and a bottle of wine we paid just €40.
This restaurant is a definate must try when in Podgorica, and the great thing about going in the winter is that it’ll be much easier to get a table (however I’d still probably try to book in advance to avoid disappointment).
With an excellent climate for wine production, Montenegro is fast becoming a popular destination for wine travel. There are many beautiful family owned vineyards you can visit, and even some you can stay at such as the Milović Winery on the southern Adriatic coast close to Albanian border. However if you don’t fancy touring the country for wine, you can still enjoy local bottles at many of the bars and restaurants in larger towns such as Podgorica and Budva. Plus local wine is delicious and cheap to purchase in the country, and it will keep you feeling warm during the colder winter months!