There’s not even 100km as the crow flies from one end of Montenegro’s coast to the other, yet the tiny country still manages to snag some of the best scenery the Mediterranean has to offer. Here are our picks of Montenegro’s very best swimming spots, from the breathtaking Bay of Kotor right down to the Albanian border.
Beach Bar Pirates, Perast
We’re cheating a little in rating this as a beach, but once you’re floating in the water – with a Venetian fantasy on one side, the sky-blue-domed church of Gospa od Škrpjela Island on the other, and mountains all around – you’ll understand why we’ve included it. The Bay of Kotor is spectacular, with steely mountains plunging straight into crystal-clear waters. But despite appearances, the water quality in the innermost part of the bay can be questionable.
Perast, however, has the benefit of being positioned at the apex of the bay, with a clear path through the middle heads opening it up to the incoming tide. On top of that, it’s one of Montenegro’s prettiest towns, comprised almost entirely of Venetian-style palaces and churches. Swimming terraces are scattered all along the waterfront, but there’s only a tiny sliver of actual beach, right down the west end of town, adjacent to this popular bar. If you can’t find a spot on the pebbles, there are ladders leading directly into the water from the terrace of the bar itself.
Herceg Novi’s buzzy waterfront promenade has plenty of appeal, but for a proper swim with some space to spread out afterwards, you’re better off catching a water taxi out to Dobreč at the end of the Luštica Peninsula. The beach can only be reached by boat, which reduces the crowds somewhat – although it does still get busy. The water quality out here at the mouth of the Bay of Kotor is excellent, and there’s a good restaurant, too, so make a day of it.
Budva’s long but massively overdeveloped main beach, Slovenska Plaža, can be overwhelming in summer. When it all gets too much, take a 15-minute drive or a €5 boat ride to Ploče Beach, an isolated but extremely popular complex, complete with restaurants, swimming pools set into sunbathing terraces, and inflatable water slides for the kids. There’s even a bar with tables positioned in knee-deep water. It can get raucous, but there’s greenery all around, views along the coast and nary an ugly apartment block in sight.
Sveti Stefan Beach
You’ll pay a hefty price if you want to stay in the walled village of Sveti Stefan, but everyone can enjoy the views over the picturesque island resort from the beach. Just be careful which side of the causeway you throw your towel down on: the almost-always-deserted northern end of the beach belongs to the resort and charges a preposterous €100 day-use fee for non-guests. Around the next headland is arguably the most beautiful beach in Montenegro – Miločer or King’s Beach – but this too now belongs to the resort (day use €120). No matter – the pinkish pebbly sands at the southern end of Sveti Stefan are free. And the water gets deep quickly here, making it perfect for swimming.
Drobni Pijesak means ‘ground sand’, and this little cove has a 240m stretch of it, wedged in between green hills and aquamarine waters, and hidden in plain sight just beneath the coastal highway. There’s no town or village attached (it’s minutes north of Rijeka Reževići), just a sole beach bar and restaurant.
As an alternative to the rest of this list, lakeside Murići is our pick of Montenegro’s inland beaches. It’s set on the southwestern shore of Lake Skadar, beneath the dramatic Rumija Mountain range. A steep road leads down to the village and the clear waters at the lake’s edge. Clouds of tiny fish dart through the underwater vegetation and follow your feet as you splash about.
The once-blissful coastal resort of Petrovac is swiftly descending into Budva-like overdevelopment, but this little beach, around the headland from the main town beach, still retains plenty of charm. The backdrop is a classic Mediterranean scene comprised of cypress trees and oleander bushes, and there’s a restaurant and water slide down the far end.
Ladies’ Beach, Ulcinj
The coast heading southeast from the sandy, perpetually crowded arc of Mala Plaža in the centre of Ulcinj is dotted with pretty little rocky coves, each with an accompanying beach bar. While the others compete to deafen their clientele with duelling sound systems, Ladies’ Beach is unique in that it’s both quiet and a strictly women-only space. The high sulphur content of the water is supposed to boost fertility, but women mainly come here to chill out together, away from the gaze of men. For the more religiously inclined women of this majority Muslim town, it’s a carefree place to disrobe.
This impressive 12km-long expanse of sand, southeast of Ulcinj, is Montenegro’s longest beach; the name actually translates as ‘Big Beach’. The water’s too shallow for satisfying swimming, but it’s great for toddlers to splash about in and perfect for kitesurfers. In summer, Belgrade scenesters descend on a set of cobbled-together beach bars down the southern end of the beach, each of which has a kitesurfing school attached. After an afternoon on the sands, head to one of the excellent fish restaurants jutting out over the Bojana River.
We’ve saved the best for last. This 3km sandy beach continues just across the Bojana River from where Velika Plaža leaves off and continues to the Albanian border. Unlike at Velika Plaža, the water’s deep enough for swimming. Ada Bojana is actually a 520-hectare island sitting within two branches of the river and joined to the mainland by a bridge. During the Yugoslav era it became one of the country’s most famous naturist resorts. While most of the island is still set aside for the clothing-averse, there’s a section of beach and a couple of Robinson Crusoe–style restaurants at the northern end for those of more modest inclinations.
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