La Dolce Vita along the Budva Riviera
Montenegro’s stunning coastline might be small, but it’s one of the world’s most dramatic. Towering limestone mountains drop into the inky blue waters of the Adriatic ocean and clusters of pretty cream stone villas line the shores. These are the kind of rare expansive views that can only be properly appreciated from the water, on the deck of a superyacht of which there are increasing numbers thanks to the naturally deep waters, warm climate and the arrival of the smart marina at Porto Montenegro. Yet, it’s the untouched, pervading beauty of the Budva Riviera that holds the real charm for this charter destination, setting it apart from the flashy, exhaustive social whirlwind that is Monte Carlo or Cannes. There are plans for expansion, more marinas, hotels and complexes, but for the time being serenity rules.
Start your cruise at the beautiful town of Budva which bursts into life during the summer months with pop up bars, shops and alfresco restaurants. It’s the liveliest stop on this stretch of coastline – often referred to as the Adriatic’s leading party destination – with the likes of The Stones, Madonna and Lenny Kravitz having all played on the legendary Jaz Beach. The beaches are a main attraction; the cobbled shores of Mogren I and II are the best for swimming and easily accessible via a narrow coastal path that leads you past the bronze sculpture of a ballet dancer (the town’s symbol), performing a graceful arabesque whilst she gazes at the distant horizon. Stay at the five star Splendid Hotel, one of Montenegro’s first VIP residences, which has welcomed the likes of Madonna, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Mick Jagger as guests.
Everything about the hotel is supersized with a pool bar seating up 200 hundred and an expansive spa. The on-site casino is state of the art and a popular post party hang out. For those in search of something on a smaller scale, the Alexandar Montenegro Suites (or apartments in Rafailovici, just back from the sea side) are chic contemporary and equipped with the very best amenities. Handily, they’re also near to the phenomenal and unassuming (looks really can be deceiving) fish restaurant, Tri Ribara ( translated as the three fishermen). People travel across Montenegro for the family’s recipes and warm service.
From the seafront promenade of Budva, head to the small, jutting island of Sveti Nikola (known to locals as Hawaii for its lush tropical vegetation) for a more secluded experience. Whilst there’s little life on the island, the isolated coves are worth exploring from the deck of a boat and the sandy beaches provide the perfect setting for an indulgent picnic in the sunshine or even better at night, under the stars by candlelight.
However, for many people the highlight is the postcard pretty town, Sveti Stefan (6 miles to the east of Budva). The superb Aman hotel located on the tiny island or tombolo ( connected to the mainland by a sand spit) is the reason so many people venture to the region and was once reportedly a favorite haunt of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
The resort is split into a mini village of elegantly renovated 15th century stone buildings that now serve as luxurious suites and Villa Miločer, originally built as the summer residence of the Serbian royal family in the Thirties. The spa, as with all Aman resorts, is especially slick offering treatments using gentle handmade products made from locally-sourced wild herbs, olive oil and honey. There’s also private beaches exclusively for guest usage and five excellent dining options from the informal Italian Antipasta Bar to the luxe island restaurant that specializes in gourmet Adriatic seafood. Or else, if you’re looking for a more rustic culinary experience, Langust in the fishing village of Przno (close to Sveti Stefan) serves fresh seafood to locale clientele on a charming vine covered, sea front terrace.
Further afield, Porto Montenegro, the new resort responsible for bringing billionaires to the Balkans is worth a day trip or overnight stay. Whilst it might be less authentic than the more rustic seaside towns, the village’s appeal lies in its indulgence. The Lido Mar is the place to be (you have to be mariner guest, homeowner or VIP to even gain entry) with one of the world’s most photogenic infinity pools surrounded by soft sunloungers where the beautiful and the wealthy lie glistening in the sun whilst waiting staff circulate with cocktails and fruit skewers.
The roof top restaurant here, designed as a yacht presumably to make nautical guests feel at home, serves especially exquisite steak tartare, prepared theatrically by the table side. For lunch, ONE at the end of the jetty is relaxed and stylish with a menu of modern Adriatic cuisine and an impressive international wine list.
The best food though, as so often is the case, is found 30 minutes out of town in the seaside hamlet of Morinj, down an Asian inspired, bamboo-lined footpath: Catovica Mlini. The menu’s long and takes some perseverance, but the fish dishes are divine, in particular the impossibly tender octopus tentacles that come bathing in garlic oil and herbs. As night falls return to the marina to check into the waterfront Regent hotel, designed in the style of local Venetian architecture with chic, nautical interiors, two pools, a spa, bars and restaurants. Come day break there are the designer shops to explore, selling high end resort wear in case you’re in need of a spare swimsuit.
- Splendid Hotel
- Alexandar Montenegro Suites
- Tri Ribara
- Sveti Stefan Aman Hotel
- Restaurant One
- Catovica Mlini