Vividly green forests, breathtaking views of majestic mountains, the captivating Bay of Kotor, curvy roads, and pristine nature. Traveling through Montenegro with a van feels like finding a wild paradise!
Are you also itching for a Montenegro van trip but don’t know which route to take or what to expect? In this Montenegro road trip travelogue, I’ll share our 2-week trip around Montenegro with a van, which can come in handy while planning your own camper van trip to Montenegro (or use it as an inspiration to pursue your better half to visit Montenegro🤓). I promise you something – Montenegro is an awesome place for van travel!
IMPORTANT: this Montenegro van trip itinerary is written in a travelogue style. If you’re interested in the practical aspect of vanlife in Montenegro, including Montenegro van travel tips on road conditions, wild camping, etc., then hop to this article (I kind of didn’t want to have a 6000 words long blog post. Not that this one ended up much shorter anyway.)
Montenegro had been on my “bucket list” for quite some time, as a part of my family originates from there, and I first visited it “back in the days of Yugoslavia” when I hadn’t even turned one year old. Lol, I’ve just realized I’m OLD. And ever since I wrote a post about the most beautiful destinations to visit on a Balkan trip and stumbled upon a photo of Durmitor, I was slightly obsessed with the idea of visiting Montenegro with a van as soon as possible. And this year, we’ve finally made it!
Let me tell you right away that late April/early May might not be the most ideal time to visit Montenegro, as the sea isn’t warm enough for swimming (unless you’re from the UK or Ireland, then – kudos to you). And since the country has many mountains, some parts of Montenegro were still covered in snow during this period. As a result, we didn’t drive the famous P14 road, which, according to all descriptions, is AH-mazing and one of the highlights of visiting Montenegro with a van. Additionally, we had to skip mountain biking (😭😭), most of the treks, and rafting on the Tara River (because, on top of everything, I fell ill in between).
But despite all of these things that Ireallyshouldhaveforeseengiventhetimeoftheyear, traveling around Montenegro with our van was pretty amazing, and at least now we have a reason to come back again. And our furry children loved the “Montenegro vanlife” too. 😊
You certainly don’t have to follow this exact Montenegro van itinerary to the letter. You can spend more time in certain places, especially if you’re drawn to cities and historical sights, which we have been skipping more often lately – partly because of the dogs and also because parking our Loki The Van in the city (with tons of sports equipment in it) isn’t among our favorite things to do.
In fact, I’d recommend that you reverse our route, start with the mountains and sports activities (and spend more days in the Durmitor National Park than we did), and then finish your Montenegro van trip on the coast. For us, it was mainly a matter of chasing weather forecasts and temperatures, which is why we saved the mountainous part of Montenegro for the end.
Montenegro With a Van: a 2-Week* Travelogue Style Itinerary
*we planned to stay in Montenegro for two weeks but had to shorten our trip for two days due to weather conditions
Day 1: Herceg Novi
For those readers who don’t know us yet – we are based in Slovenia, and started our van trip to Montenegro from home, slept somewhere near Zadar in Croatia during the first night, and spent the second day exploring the famous city of Dubrovnik (Plzz tell me you already hear the »Game of Throne« theme music in the background). So we crossed the Croatian-Montenegrin border at the border crossing Karasovici (HR) – Debeli Brijeg (MNE) and headed towards our first destination, Herceg Novi. Herceg Novi is a charming little town nestled along the steep coastline with a lovely laid-back seaside vibe. In fact, it strongly reminded me of the coastal Croatian cities, except for one surprising detail—the prices were even slightly higher here (much to our surprise, that is).
The old part of town is relatively small but absolutely charming, and I think it’s safe to say that Montenegro was my love at first sight. As we settled down on the tiny cobblestone square and waited for a waiter to take our coffee order, we quickly understood all the Balkan jokes about the famous “Montenegrin laziness.” If you’re from Balkan, you will get it. But it really is just a joke, so no offense, please! After all, I’m 1/8 Montenegrin myself 😆. “Well, this Montenegro van trip is a vacation after all,” I said to myself and accepted at that moment that time would pass a bit slower from now on.
Our afternoon stroll along the coastline was chased away by the rain and our growling stomachs. We decided to step into a restaurant in the harbor, and it turned out to be a great choice as the food was yummy-yummy-yummy. I just LOVE fresh fried calamari!
However, on the third day of our trip (i.e., your first day of the Montenegro van trip), a cold finally defeated me. I managed a few “oohs” and “aahs” while enjoying the panoramic views along the road leading up to the Bay of Kotor, but that was pretty much it. We stopped at a campsite on the part of the bay opposite the town of Kotor, and even though it didn’t offer a bay view like the other two campsites, it was in much, much better condition. Well-maintained, with fluffy grassy pitches, clean facilities, a pet-friendly owner, and even a morning delivery of homemade bread. Oh my, what more would a poor sick soul (er, me) want? For 25 euros per night, this was a steal!
Driving distance: 20 km (Herceg Novi to Kotor Bay)
Sleeping: Autocamp Naluka
Day 2-3: The Bay of Kotor
Our »second day« of traveling through Montenegro with our van actually lasted for two days. In the morning, we drove towards Kotor, as we found a large parking lot for cars and campervans right by the beach, just a few minutes’ walk from the old town. I spent the day in bed while Bojan wandered around the town with our dogs, and at sunset, he climbed to the Church of Our Lady Remedy, a stunning viewpoint above Kotor, which is definitely a must-add to your Montenegro van itinerary when exploring this country.
But even if you’re not sick, I’d recommend you spend two days here since there are so many things to do in Kotor!
The next day, I felt much better and joined Bojan to explore Kotor and its surroundings. We spent the morning wandering around the old town that was – no surprise here – absolutely charming. How many times can I say charming without repeating myself? I hope 2727 times at least because that’s what Montenegro is. It’s so SO charming.
I do recommend keeping your pups safely on a leash because Kotor didn’t earn its reputation as the town of cats for no reason. They even have their own park and museum dedicated to stray cats, not to mention the countless cat-themed souvenirs in the shops around. Let’s just say that Nano and Nui had a great desensitization practice for a couple of hours straight! 😂
Another not-completely-unrelated thing I’d like to mention here is the prices – check them out before sitting down for a drink. If we hadn’t been careful, we might have paid somewhere between 15-18€ for a small beer in a – yes, I’m gonna say it – CHARMING street pub, which is honestly more expensive than any beer we had during our New Zealand road trip, in New England, or basically anywhere else in the world, we’ve been before 😃
As vanlife in Montenegro surely means lots of actual cooking in the van, stop at the market to the right of the main entrance to the old town, where you can stock up on delicious local veggies, fruits, cheeses, and, of course, rakija (national fruit brandy) in all sorts of flavors.
One of the popular activities in Kotor is renting a kayak or taking a boat trip. Unfortunately, unstable weather and winds at the end of April (and my being sick) meant that neither was an option for us. Although we found a pet-friendly boat owner who told us that he takes his five dogs on the boat all the time! If your pups are the adventurous sort, this might be a fun activity when you visit Kotor!
Anyways, we decided to take another scenic drive instead around the southern part of the bay, visited Plavi Horizonti beach in the Luštica Bay, and then looped back towards Kotor, making a detour to a hilltop and stopped at Fort Vrmac, one of the many abandoned fortresses from the Austro-Hungarian era. It was a pretty impressive building you could visit for free, but be prepared for the dark and eerie atmosphere inside those long corridors. »Spooky« was an understatement. By the way, you can also hike to that fortress from Kotor if you’re up for a more active vacation.
Next to the fortress, we also found a small farm with goats, mini horses and sheep, and a bunch of campervans scattered around. We didn’t ask, but apparently, the farm functions as a mini unofficial camping ground, and it’s actually a nice place to stay!
Driving distance: zero
Sleeping: Kotor parking lot (15€ per night during the off-season, otherwise 20€)
Day 4 – Zipline, Lovćen National Park, and back to Budva
We loved Kotor so much that it was hard for us to leave! But we were excited about driving on the famous serpentine road above Kotor, which is quite challenging for vehicles larger than a car. And our Loki, the 4×4 Sprinter, is definitely larger than a car.
The road itself isn’t problematic; it’s well-maintained. However, things can get a bit tricky when you encounter an oncoming vehicle (er – or worse, a campervan or bus). There are occasional widenings along the road to give way, but believe me when I say you should be comfortable reversing because sooner or later, there will come a situation where going reverse for a while is your only choice.
Right at the top of the serpentine road, there’s a short zipline that we absolutely didn’t want to miss, considering the breathtaking view of the Bay of Kotor. It was a short but sweet adrenaline-pumping experience (because the canyon beneath your feet is DEEP!).
Our next stop was Lovćen National Park, named after the idyllic village of Njeguši, located on a – can I say it again? – CHARMING plateau above Kotor. Since the season had just started (everyone kept saying, “We open tomorrow!” lol), we quickly walked through the village, sampled some yummy homemade rakija (you gotta try this when in Montenegro or the Balkans in general), and stopped at the almost only open restaurant that also hosted a busload of German tourists. Well, at least we weren’t lonely 😉 For lunch, we had a local platter and authentic, strong Turkish coffee. It was like drinking two Red Bulls at once, Bojan said.
Lovćen National Park is primarily known for the birth house of Njegoš (a Prince-Bishop of Montenegro who was also a poet and philosopher) and the mausoleum of the same person. The Njegoš Mausoleum is located on the top of Mount Lovćen, at an impressive altitude of 1657m above sea level, and with its stunning 360-degree views of Montenegro and beyond, is one of the most famous places to visit in Montenegro.
Unfortunately, we had to turn back at the entrance and walk the dogs back to the van (we didn’t know that the viewpoint was accessed THROUGH the mausoleum), so we earned some extra huffing and puffing, climbing up the stairs twice. But the views at the top were truly stunning!
In the afternoon, we planned to make a stop in the former capital city of Cetinje since the history geek (er – that would be me) wanted to visit the natural history and ethnographic museums, but in the end, we just drove through the town because I didn’t check the opening hours beforehand (the museums are only open for a few hours a day)—typical me.
After an hour’s drive (one of the advantages of Montenegro is its small size!), we descended back to the coast, to Budva, or as I called it, the Montenegrin Ibiza. Budva is probably the most famous town in Montenegro, and I am sure, a fantastic holiday destination for many, but for our taste, it was too overflown with huge hotel complexes and bars, and there was lots of hustle and bustle going around, as it probably should for a beach party town. Not our cup of tea, a pint of beer, but to each their own, right? However, an evening stroll along the beach and through Budva’s old town was a lovely ending to an already awesome day!
Driving distance: 95 km
Sleeping: wild camping near Sveti Stefan, a town south of Budva
Have I managed to get you excited about going to Montenegro with a van so far? Not yet? Let’s keep going!
Day 5 – Ulcinj
After enjoying our morning coffee with a view of Sveti Stefan, a tiny island near Budva that is entirely owned by a hotel complex (and you can’t access it unless you pay 800€+ for the accommodation, lol), we took to yet another super scenic road. We drove towards Ulcinj, the southernmost town in Montenegro known for its long sandy beaches and shallow waters, which are ideal for kiteboarding and windsurfing (another activity that wasn’t possible due to the timing of our visit, argh!).
As I heard, many people stop in Bar, which is a lovely seaside town between Budva and Ulcinj, but we decided to skip this one.
In Ulcinj, you can feel the influence of neighboring Albania for the first time, as mosques on every corner, slight chaos everywhere, and a bunch of children playing on the streets are not a typical view for the rest of the country. Ah, I became nostalgic for different cultures, and for a moment, we were almost tempted to continue our journey further south!
I was obsessed with the idea of olive oil tasting as it’s the best Montenegrin oil is supposed to come from this area, but after driving through olive groves and unsuccessfully trying to find an agriturismo (Google supposedly found them, but the reality was slightly different), I had to give up. We made a short stop at Valdanos Beach north of Ulcinj, and then settled in one of the campsites along the long sandy beach and spent the day doing ABSOLUTELY nothing. The beauty of van travel!
Driving distance: 75 km
Sleeping: Safari Beach Camping
This campsite was tidy and quite affordable, around 23€ per night, and it even had a washing machine, which I discovered after hand-washing a bag of clothes. Next to the campsite, there was a restaurant that had just opened on the day we were there, and since it wasn’t crowded, Nano and Nui were allowed to sleep under the table. Otherwise, Montenegro is not THE most dog-friendly country in the world; almost without exception, dogs are not allowed inside restaurants.
Day 6 – Skadar Lake
After leaving the coast, we headed towards Skadar Lake, once again choosing “the road less traveled.” The P16 road, a lesser-known alternative to the main road between Ulcinj and Podgorica, took us through the incredibly green countryside with forests and tiny villages and offered breathtaking views of Lake Skadar. Literally breathtaking because the narrow curves on the top of the steep hill with very few protective barriers and little to no space for encounters with other cars were quite challenging 😃 But it was definitely an excellent choice and well worth the extra driving time! After all, the charm of traveling by van lies in the journey itself, right?
In the afternoon, we arrived at Virpazar, the main starting point for boat trips or kayaking on Lake Skadar. I really wanted to go kayaking, but the chilly weather changed my mind – youwontbelieveitbutitstrue – once again. However, we booked a wine tasting in a tiny village near the lake instead. Among a handful of lovely old stone houses squeezed on the hillside is a family-owned winery Vinarija Garnet, where we were served delicious homemade goodies and even better wine. The beauty of being from Slovenia means that we can easily understand most of the Balkan languages, and chatting with locals when I travel is one of my favorite things to do, so this was a great opportunity for learning more about the region as the winemaker, and his wife were extra lovely!
We tried three different wines, my favorite being the rosé and Bojan’s favorite being red. But hey, you’ll have to see for yourself when you go on a van trip to Montenegro! If you stop at Virpazar when traveling around Montenegro with a van (which you probably will), you won’t regret going on a wine tasting here, that’s for sure 🙂
Driving distance: 80 km
Sleeping: After several unsuccessful attempts, we found a pleasant wild camping spot to spend the night near the bridge over Skadar Lake, where two motorhomes were already parked. Yup, we’re definitely not the only ones using Park4Night 😉
Day 7 – Rijeka Crnojevića, Lipa Cave, and Podgorica
After enjoying the beautiful morning views of Lake Skadar (Pavlova Strana viewpoint is truly spectacular!), we drove to Rijeka Crnojevića, another small but beautiful village located by the river with the same name. Here, you can rent a kayak or take a boat trip to the river’s mouth at Lake Skadar. However, we spent the morning walking along the river with our pups and enjoying coffee with a view.
On our way to the capital city of Montenegro, Podgorica, we noticed a sign for a karst cave near Cetinje, which turned out to be one of the largest in Montenegro. We made a mini detour on our way and stopped at this natural landmark.
We had high hopes that perhaps dogs were allowed in the Cave (lol to us) or that there would be some shade or trees in the parking area. Well, no luck for us! So keep that in mind if you’re traveling to Montenegro with a van and have a dog with you – no shade next to the Lipa cave. Since we were already there, Bojan visited the Cave (only guided tours are available at certain hours) while I waited in the van with our dogs – with windows open and the fan on because it was FINALLY a hot day.
We prefer to avoid cities when traveling with our campervan, but since Podgorica is not very big, we wanted to glimpse it at least. And Bojan found a brewery on the map, so it was pretty much decided.
Before visiting the PG Akademija Piva brewery, we made two short stops in the surroundings; Believe it or not, the city has its own “Niagara Falls” (wtf?🥴 were my thoughts too) and a Gushing Water Tree that “cries” after heavy rainfalls. Unfortunately, no water phenomenon was happening that day (where is the rain when you need it!), but the “Niagara” waterfalls are a nice location for coffee or lunch. If it’s not the weekend like in our case, that is, as the restaurant by the river was packed with locals.
Er – we actually didn’t choose the best day for visiting Podgorica at all because there was a marathon taking place in the city, which meant that half of the roads around the center were closed. Well, at least we got to know the streets of Podgorica (which is remarkably well-kept and surprisingly pleasant!) while searching for open roads and parking spots.
So, how was the beer in Podgorica? It was pretty good! The burger was so-so, the steak was good but not super impressive, but the desserts were delicious!
Driving distance: approx. 100 km
Sleeping: Somewhere near the remains of the Roman city on the northern outskirts of Podgorica. Gotta love Montenegro vanlife!
Day 8 – From Podgorica to Prokletije National Park (our highlight of traveling through Montenegro with a van!)
This day involved a bit more driving, partly because we missed an entrance to the A1 highway. Luckily, because otherwise, we would have missed the stunning canyon of the Morača River! Steep cliffs, with only enough space at the bottom for the river and the road, which goes through tunnels carved in rocks with no lights, made the drive quite a unique experience, according to Bojan.
If we’d be driving around Montenegro in summer, we’d take the M9 road between Mateševo and Andrijevica (another adrenaline-packed drive with lots of serpentines), but we had to go around. As we got closer to Gusinje village, an entry point to the national park, we noticed what looked like snow-capped peaks from a distance in the entire mountain range covered with snow. So much for our summer vacation 😛
Upon arrival, we quickly realized that we could ditch the idea of hiking there, and then since we aren’t avid mountaineers so we don’t have the necessary equipment and knowledge for winter hikes. Just for your info – you need at least crampons and an ice axe in the Montenegrin mountains at the end of April. There were people in the national park, but most were camping, walking in the valley, or bouldering. Only a handful of people we saw went to the mountains; unlike us, they had the right equipment.
A NOTE: If you manage to visit Prokletije when it’s warmer (without snow-capped peaks), the most beautiful hikes in the national park are Volušnica hike and Šuplja vrata (quite Instagram-worthy, I guess).
Regardless of that, the afternoon and evening in Grebaje Valley were one of the highlights of our trip through Montenegro with a van because the views were just something else! Yes, I took a zillion photos. Yes, Nui is on most of them. She’s cute AF and I can’t help myself.
Driving distance: approx. 200 km
Sleeping: in the national park; This was not “wild camping.” When you purchase a ticket at the entrance to the national park, they inform you that you can park and sleep wherever you want. Yay!
Day 9 – Prokletije National Park, Tara River Canyon, Žabljak
Prokletije National Park consists of two valleys, with Gusinje village being a starting point for both. The next day, we visited the second one, Ropojana Valley, where we went for a walk to the natural pool called Oko Skakavice (Grasshopper’s Eye), which is probably an awesome place for a refreshing dip in the summer. Nearby (about a 15-20 minute walk in one direction) is also a waterfall (Kusije waterfall), but we only found an empty stream. Boo-hoo. Better luck next time?
We wanted to hike to the Ropojansko Lake, but by now, you might already guess what happened again. Sure enough, the mild morning drizzle turned into a heavy downpour, so we left this wonderful and less crowded part of Montenegro slightly disappointed, determined to return in summer.
Good to know: The entrance ticket to the national park is valid for only one day (4 € per person), so the next day, if we wanted to hike to the lake, we would have had to buy a new one. However, a ranger in the next national park explained to us that for 15 € per person, you could purchase an annual pass for all the parks. Well, at least now YOU know! 😃
From Prokletije National Park to the start of the Tara River Canyon is about 2,5 hours of driving, and you can drive through the canyon itself in about half an hour if you don’t make stops at the viewpoints along the way and go for shorter hikes. Do make stops, duh.
The Tara River is primarily known for rafting (similar to the Soča River in Slovenia), and when you reach the end of the canyon, where the impressive arched Đurđevića Tara Bridge towers over the river, you can find plenty of cottages on both ends of the bridge offering this adrenaline experience. Surely one of the must-do things in Montenegro if you haven’t tried white water rafting before. There are also several ziplines above the Tara River, and the views are probably fantastic, judging by the screams of excitement we heard when we were there. 😉
We didn’t stay here for long and continued our journey up the winding road towards Žabljak. Once you reach the top, a vast plateau opens up, with meadows, forests, and scattered A-type houses. It’s like a fairytale!
In Žabljak, we found a nice restaurant serving Montenegrin food, which was packed despite the beginning of the season, probably because there weren’t many other restaurants open yet. Here you can try many traditional foods, so if you’re new to Balkan cuisine, I can totally recommend this place! Do it like we did – order a little bit of everything!
Driving distance: approx. 200 km
Sleeping: wild camping somewhere near Žabljak
Day 10 – Durmitor National Park
After a morning stop at the Devil’s Lake (rumor has it that the devil himself resides in it although there’s nothing devilish about this lake 😉), the lady at the Žabljak info point told us what we already suspected – that almost all hiking trails (and cycling routes) in Durmitor National Park were still closed due to excessive snow.
We had already given up on our dream to drive the scenic road P14 (between Žabljak and Plužine) when we decided to go to Montenegro in late spring, but we were hoping to hit a few MTB trails in Durmitor at least. However, upon seeing the snow-covered areas on the plateau (not to mention the snow a few hundred meters higher), it quickly became apparent that we’ll just have to come back during the summer months.
So, we hiked two out of three open trails in the Durmitor National Park – to the tiny Zmijinje Jezero (Snake Lake) and the loop trail around Črno Jezero (the Black Lake). It was partially muddy, partially snowy, and both times it started pouring halfway through the hike. Oh, fun times! 😃
Driving distance: 12 km
Sleeping: wild camping somewhere near Žabljak
Day 11 – Pliva Lake
Waking up to another rainy morning, we decided that Durmitor and sports activities would just have to wait for the »next time« when we visit Montenegro with a van. Not being able to drive the P14, we took a longer southern route to Plužine and Pliva Lake, the last destination on our Montenegro van itinerary.
Once again, we were treated to gorgeous views, although I must say that the Morača River Canyon (on the way from Podgorica to Prokletije) impressed me more than the Pliva Canyon. When it started raining again (who’d expect that, right??) during our coffee break in Plužine, we decided that instead of heading towards the direction of Bosnia (which would have been the route if we continued through that canyon), we would head back towards the Croatian coast.
So we returned where we came from (thumbs up for our planning abilities, lol) and left Montenegro to spend another two days at Makarska Riviera (the Croatian seaside near Brač Island) before returning home to Slovenia.
Despite not being able to do all the things we wanted, Montenegro quickly became one of my favorite countries in Europe, and I can’t wait to be back again! Perhaps once we’re doing a big Balkan road trip like this one 🙂
Want to know more about wild camping in Montenegro or Montenegro vanlife in general? Stay tuned, Montenegro vanlife tips are coming up next!
And you know the drill – save this for later, you might need it! 🙃