Despite being an extremely popular destination among sunseekers, tourism in the Mediterranean has always been concentrated in its Westernmost part, where Spain, France, Italy and the like are located.
While the powerhouse trio tends to see the most crowds over summer, other destinations in the lesser-explored East are largely ignored by newcomers, especially those lying outside the European Union, often perceived as less-developed or maybe not worth the detour.
As it turns out, Europe’s most promising summer destination is neither the Amalfi Coast nor Côte d’Azur, but a small Mediterranean country very few Americans visit, and that could soon outpace your favorite beach getaway in terms of tourism recovery:
Montenegro Is The Next Trendy Mediterranean Hotspot
Nestled between Albania and Croatia and sharing other land borders with fellow Balkan states Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro is a tiny European nation boasting stunning nature and a dramatic coastline.
At only 5,332 square miles, its topography is quite rugged, with mountains comprising more than two-thirds of the territory. Featuring numerous hiking spots – for the delight of travelers – deep valleys, and inland basins, it is perhaps Europe’s most underrated natural world destination.
Dubbed the Montenegrin ‘Dolomites’, in reference to Northern Italy’s famous jagged peaks, the Durmitor National Park is a popular nature spot and UNESCO-protected site. A part of the Dinaric Alps, it features a whopping 18 glacial lakes scattered around the scenic Jezerska Površ plateau.
Tourism revolves around the small town of Žabljak, the gateway to Durmitor, and the area is highly sought-after in summer for mountaineering and its recreation scene.
The country’s number one tourist attraction, however, is the magnificent Bay of Kotor, a winding arm of the Adriatic Sea and the southernmost tip of the historical Dalmatian coast.
The Breathtaking Beauty Of Kotor
The Bay has seen human activity since Antiquity, and it is dotted with well-kept ancient towns, each of them so incredibly picturesque it’s hard to pick a favorite. A strong contender is Kotor, the largest and busiest of the Dalmatian settlements.
A busy cruise port, Kotor is where tourism in the Bay is centered, drawing in millions of visitors every year, who cram into its labyrinth-like, walled Old Town to admire the Romanesque churches, charming cobbled streets, and imposing hilltop fortress overlooking the Mediterranean inlet.
Other attractions in Kotor Bay are the traditional Dalmatian villages of Risan, Tivat, and Perat, known for their medieval heritage.
Perast is a popular day trip from Kotor Town due to its quaint harbor and proximity to Our Lady of the Rocks, an islet housing a historic church, and its adjacent museum.
“Croatia On A Budget”
Moving further away from Kotor, as they travel down the dreamy Adriatic route, visitors will find a rapidly-developing resort scene, particularly around the coastal town of Budva, where international luxury brands like the Meliá will be opening new grand properties soon.
Distinguished by its wealth of amenities and affordability, Montenegro’s resort strip is on track to become Europe’s go-to summer getaway, with overnight rates at all-inclusive, five-star listings like the landmark Azul Beach Resort starting at just USD$138 per night.
Google lists a further 31 luxury properties worthy of consideration, renowned for their elegance, unique take on wellness, and haute Mediterranean cuisine.
Unlike other Med hubs, where luxury trends have pushed out budget travelers, middle-income earners and backpackers are still welcome in Montenegro.
Whether it’s comfortable youth hostels and guesthouses, or affordable yet well-equipped AirBnBs, they will still be able to bask in the Montenegrin sun without taking a huge financial hit.
With summer knocking on our doors and temperatures rising fast, it’s hardly a surprise vacationers are already flocking to Southern Europe in record numbers.
Sometimes described as ‘Croatia on a budget‘, Montenegro is becoming increasingly known as a result of its attractive prices, great weather, crystal-clear waters, and inestimable cultural wealth.
Montenegro Is Open Restriction-Free
In addition to its impressive tourist offer and competitivity, Montenegro is open for tourism restriction-free, like the rest of Europe. This means foreigners are welcome irrespective of vaccination status and without the need to undergo testing prior to entry.
There are no direct flights between the United States and Canada and the Mediterranean nation, but low-cost offers are plentiful, departing from numerous European transit hubs, including a selection of German, Eastern European, and British airports.
Most seasonal routes serve Tivat, the main airport on the Montenegrin coast, and Podgorica, Montenegro’s inland capital. Tivat is the best airport to fly into if you’re hitting the Montenegro coast.
The city of Dubrovnik, in Croatia, only 92.3km from Kotor, also hosts seasonal flights from Newark beginning July through September. From there, Kotor-bound visitors can take a cross-border bus or private shuttle to reach the Montenegrin Bay.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com