You will be greeted at the airport by a member of the Riviera Travel team to help you check in for your flight to Dubrovnik or Tivat. Upon arrival, you will be escorted to the four-star Hotel Moskva. Settle in before rejoining the group this evening for a welcome reception with drinks and then a tasty dinner in Hotel Moskva’s restaurant: the perfect opportunity to meet your fellow travellers.
The ancient town of Budva, which forms the heart of the Budva Riviera, was founded by the Greeks and fortified during the Middle Ages. This morning we uncover the secrets of its atmospheric Old Town with our expert local guide. Blessed with a beautiful climate and stunning coastline, lively Budva attracts visitors of all ages with its captivating mix of sand and pebble beaches, sheltered coves, lush gardens and a dazzling marina lined with shiny yachts. Along the seafront promenade are bustling restaurants and cafés, loved by both visitors and locals, with menus offering fresh seafood, barbecued meats, pizza and pasta. In the afternoon we drive through Podgorica, the understated capital situated at the confluence of two rivers, overlooked by rugged mountains. For nearly half a century, it was known as Titograd after Yugoslavia’s leader during communist rule. The first wine was produced in the region more than 2,000 years ago and Montenegro is no exception. To discover this ancient tradition and sample some delicious local wines, we visit the mammoth Šipčanik wine cellar. It occupies a former underground military hangar, abandoned after NATO bombing in 1999, and now houses around 2 million litres of wine. Set directly below the vineyards where the grapes are grown, the cellar is the perfect setting for a tasting. Tonight, we enjoy dinner together in one of Budva’s charming restaurants.
This morning, we drive west to the breathtaking Boka Bay and the towns of Kotor and Perast. Only Montenegrin for the last century, the legacy of 400 years as part of the Republic of Venice is strongly felt here. From the winged lion, the symbol of San Marco and emblem of Venice above the city gates, to the archetypal Venetian-style buildings, there is a strong feeling of the ‘Serenissima’ in the air. Called to protect the city from the attacking Ottomans, the Venetians closed off the neck of the bay with chains to keep the invaders’ ships out. We make a stop on the twisting road down into Kotor to marvel at the awe-inspiring view of the city, set against the commanding backdrop of towering peaks surrounding Boka Bay. Guarded by medieval stone walls, the city is home to numerous churches including the 850-year-old Catholic cathedral with relics of the 3rd-century martyr, St Tryphon, set against the incredible terrain of the dramatic mountains, and the Orthodox Church of St Nikola with large and amazing paintings. The Veneto-speaking residents of old Kotor were skilled sailors and traded the local resources of salt and silver, incredibly coveted in medieval times, bringing prosperity to the city. Strolling around the narrow lanes with your local guide, spare a moment for the city’s feline residents: they saved the city, then named Cattaro, from the plague by catching the disease-transmitting mice, and became unofficial mascots of the city. You have a wide range of cafes and restaurants in Kotor to choose from at lunch time, before we continue to the captivating town of Perast. Flanked by rugged mountain scenery on one side and the placid waters of Boka Bay on the other, this lovely, small town is known for the two church islands just off the shore. We take a short boat ride to the man-made Our Lady of the Rocks island, shaped like a boat. Local legend states it was started by a wounded sailor, who was healed after finding the Virgin Mary’s image on a rock and dedicated himself to making a church in her honour. The island’s small Catholic church is resplendent with art, including many Baroque works by famous 17th-century local artist, Tripo Kokolja, and countless silver votive tablets from sailors grateful for salvation on the seas. Upstairs the tiny museum is crammed with treasures, including a masterpiece painted by Kokolja at only 14 years of age and a tapestry worked on for 25 years by a local woman waiting for her husband to return from sea. Amongst the gold and silver threads, she added her own hair and finally became blind from the years of dedicated work. After a truly memorable day, we return to the hotel for dinner together.
After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, we head to Cetinje, the former capital of Montenegro and royal seat of the ruling Petrović family. On our journey, we pass through rugged mountains covered with pine forests and dotted with idyllic, small holdings – take in the quintessential Montenegrin landscapes as eagles swoop overhead. Attractive Cetinje is home to fewer than 15,000 people now but is replete with signs of its prestigious past status as capital, with ornate former embassies and traditional-style public buildings. We visit King Nikola’s Museum, located off the charming main square with its al fresco café culture. This huge burgundy building gives little away from the outside of the fascinating artefacts within. Learn the incredible story of this tiny kingdom over the 58- year reign of its innovative rulers, Nikola and Milena, through a guided museum visit. From examples of the first Montenegrin currency, vibrantly hued national dress and captured Ottoman flags illustrating the long struggles with its erstwhile neighbour. The museum provides a glimpse into the compelling story of the proud Montenegrin people through the 19th and 20th century. Following our museum visit, we head to an authentic restaurant in the countryside for a tasting session of traditional Montenegrin favourites: smoked meats and cheeses with delicious ‘priganice’ – incredibly moreish doughnuts served with honey, which locals traditionally offer to house guests.
Today we visit Montenegro’s neighbour, Croatia, with a local expert to see the unique city that Byron dubbed, ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. As with Montenegro, Dubrovnik has a history with the Venetians although it later thrived as an independent city-state for 700 years and is markedly different to the rest of Croatia. The stunning baroque city we see today is the result of wealth built up through trading throughout the Mediterranean and with the Ottoman Empire. Nestled behind the excellently preserved city walls are countless narrow lanes with steep stairs just waiting to be explored. From its origins in the 7th century, the city has withstood earthquakes and war across the ages to emerge triumphant. Paved with marble, the main street gleams enticingly in the sunlight and takes you all the way through the Old Town, from the fortified Pile gate to the Ploče gate by the harbour. For lunch today you may wish to dine at one of Dubrovnik’s many top-quality restaurants. Why not take the opportunity to try some tasty Dalmatian-coast seafood or risotto?
Today you have a free day to explore Budva as you wish. Why not meander along the marina or explore the narrow cobbled lanes in the Old Town? Later we enjoy our final dinner at Hotel Moskva.
Stari Bar, or Old Bar, is a time capsule dating from 1878 when the town’s old quarter was abandoned following liberation from the Ottomans. The steep but pretty street leading up to Stari Bar is filled with small shops and quaint cafés with colourful shutters and flowers. There’s a wide variety of lunch options to choose from here, looking down over the new town to the Adriatic. Against the now-familiar Montenegrin backdrop of stunning mountains dotted with cypress and olive trees, peaceful Stari Bar, with its cobbled streets, is worth exploring on a short walking tour for those who wish. The largest lake in south-eastern Europe is our destination for the afternoon: Lake Skadar is home to half of Europe’s population of endangered Dalmatian pelicans, amongst over 280 bird species which call this vast, unspoilt wetland area home. Spanning both Montenegro and neighbouring Albania, and fed by six rivers, this natural paradise is fringed by tall reeds and contains huge expanses of waterlilies that call to mind the work of Monet. To fully enjoy the lake’s serene and dreamy ambience, we take a boat trip with birds flying alongside us and occasional fishermen dotting the banks. Surrounded by mountains and with just the sound of birds, it’s easy to imagine you have left the 21st century far behind. In the summer months, there is the possibility to take a dip in the pristine waters of the lake, or just sit back and unwind with some complimentary local cheese, priganice doughnuts and traditional brandy. Afterwards, we enjoy a farewell dinner as we look back over the memorable experiences of the past few days.
Transfer to either Dubrovnik or Tivat airport for your return flight.
Set in an ideal location in visitor-friendly Budva, just a 10-minute walk from the seafront and a pleasant 15-minute stroll past bustling cafes, restaurants and shops from the beautiful Old Town, this elegant hotel offers all the modern comforts you would expect from accommodation of this rating. The stylish property features a smart and cosy bar, outdoor seasonal swimming pool and small spa, as well as free Wi-Fi for guests.