The must-see destination to grasp the history of this unique country is Cetinje, the one-time royal capital of the original, even smaller Crna Gora (Black Mountain, or Montenegro) that refused to bow to the Ottoman Empire.
By the end of the seventeenth century, leadership of the plucky little state – sited not far inland from Budva – had come under the Petrovic-Njegos dynasty of prince-bishops, with a line of succession from uncle to nephew.
By the early twentieth century, with Montenegro expanding as a conventional monarchy, foreign embassies set up shop in Cetinje, leaving impressive buildings that add to the town’s capital-like character. The modern capital, Podgorica, is also within easy reach.
Another memorable destination is Ostrog, a secluded Serbian Orthodox monastery sited, impressively, against a sheer, nearly vertical cliff face in the north of the country near Niksic.
The monastery, the resting place of Saint Vasilije (Basil) of Ostrog, attracts a steady flow of pilgrims from Montenegro, the region and beyond.
Natural attractions also abound throughout the country. The mountainous interior boasts numerous cave networks, requiring varying skill levels to explore.
For the easiest access, however, the Blue Cave, on the coast, makes a short, pleasant excursion from Herceg Novi. To the south, the Ulcinj area offers long and undeveloped sand beaches, seen as promising sites for eco-tourism.
The historic port of Bar, with frequent ferry connections to Italy, includes an attractive old town for a pleasant stroll.
The Venetian influence, however, is strongest in Budva, Herceg Novi and UNESCO-protected Kotor. From there, Croatia’s walled city of Dubrovnik and Bosnia-Herzegovina’s fabulous Mostar are similarly close by.