The distance from one end of Montenegro’s coast to the other is not even 100km (62 miles) as the crow flies, yet this tiny country still manages to snag some of the best scenery the Mediterranean has to offer. Tucked between historic, fortified towns are small, sparkling coves, divided by rocky headlands and lapped by remarkably clear Adriatic waters.
Beaches stretch from the breathtaking Bay of Kotor right down to the Albanian border. Here’s our pick of Montenegro’s very best spots for swimming, sunbathing and diving into the crystal waters of the Adriatic.
Immerse yourself in the best experiences the world has to offer with our email newsletter delivered weekly into your inbox. Perast has just a sliver of beach, but the views of the Bay of Kotor are spectacular © irakite / Shutterstock
1. Pirates Bar beach, Perast
We’re cheating a little in classing this slither of pebbles as a beach, but once you’re floating in the water, with a Venetian fantasy of a town on one side and the sky-blue-domed church of Gospa od Škrpjela Island on the other, you’ll understand why we’ve included it. The setting on the Bay of Kotor is spectacular, with steely mountains plunging straight into crystal-clear waters, but the water quality in the innermost part of the bay can be variable.
Luckily, Perast is positioned at the apex of the bay, with a clear path through the middle heads opening it up to the clean waters of 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 at the west end of town, adjacent to the popular Pirate’s 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.
Planning tip: While you’re in Perast, it’s worth taking a boat over to Gospa od Škrpjela Island, which was artificially created in 1452 around a rock where an image of the Madonna was found. In summer, boats line up on the Perast waterfront to ferry people across to the island.
2. Dobreč beach, Luštica Peninsula
Herceg Novi’s buzzy waterfront promenade has plenty of appeal, but for a proper swim with some space to spread out afterward, you’re better off catching a water taxi out to Dobreč at the end of the Luštica Peninsula. This fine 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.
Ploče Beach near Budva has great views and crystal-clear waters © Piotr Kowalski / Shutterstock
3. Ploče Beach, Budva
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 west along the shore 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, fine views along the coast and nary an apartment block in sight.
Planning tip: Boats depart for Ploče Beach from the waterfront in Budva regularly in the summer season; if you come by car, there’s plenty of free parking near the beach.
The island village of Sveti Stefan sits at the end of a gorgeous beach © Sloneg / Getty Images
4. Sveti Stefan Beach, near Budva
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 Aman Sveti Stefan resort and charges an outrageous €100 day-use fee for non-guests.
Around the next headland is arguably the most beautiful beach in Montenegro – stunning Miločer or King’s Beach – but this too belongs to the resort (with a day-use fee of €120). However, 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.
Planning tip: If you want to visit the atmospheric village of Sveti Stefan but can’t stretch to a night at the Aman resort, 40-minute tours of the island leave from the kiosk near the causeway, with a maximum of 10 people per tour.
The turquoise waters of the Adriatic at Drobni Pijesak near Rijeka Reževići © Nikolais / Shutterstock
5. Drobni Pijesak beach, Rijeka Reževići
Drobni Pijesak means ‘ground sand’ and this little cove has a 240m (787ft) stretch of the stuff, wedged in between green hills and aquamarine waters. The beach is hidden in plain sight just beneath the coastal highway, minutes north of Rijeka Reževići. There’s no town or village attached, just a sole beach bar and restaurant, adding to the laid-back mood.
Quiet Murići beach is located on the shore of blissfully pretty Lake Skadar © znm / Getty Images
6. Murići, Lake Skadar
As an alternative to the Adriatic beaches, lakeside Murići is our pick of Montenegro’s inland beaches. It’s set on the southwestern shore of Lake Skadar, beneath the dramatic ridge of the Rumija mountain range. A steep road leads down to the village providing access to the clear waters at the lake’s edge. It’s a scenic spot for a paddle and clouds of tiny fish dart through the underwater vegetation and follow your feet as you splash about.
The charming Lučice Beach in Petrovac is set against a green backdrop © Artist2015 / Shutterstock
7. Lučice beach, Petrovac
The once-blissful coastal resort of Petrovac is swiftly descending into Budva-like levels of 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.
Planning tip: To reach Lučice Beach, wander south from the busy town beach at Petrovac. Continue over the leafy headland for another 30 minutes to reach appealing Buljarica Beach, another relatively undeveloped stretch of loveliness.
8. Ladies’ Beach, Ulcinj
Heading southeast from the sandy, perpetually crowded arc of sand at Mala Plaža in the center of Ulcinj, you’ll find a string of pretty little rocky coves, each with an accompanying beach bar. While some of these bars compete to deafen their clientele with dueling sound systems, Ladies’ Beach is unique in that it’s both quiet and a strictly women-only space. The high sulfur content of the water is supposed to boost fertility, but women mainly come here to chill out away from the gaze of men. For the more religiously inclined women of this majority Muslim town, it’s a carefree place to relax.
A peaceful morning on the sand at Velika Plaža in Ulcinj © Krzysztof Szaro / Shutterstock
9. Velika Plaža, near Ulcinj
An impressive 12km-long expanse of sand just southeast of Ulcinj, Velika Plaža is Montenegro’s longest beach (the name actually translates as “Big Beach”). While the setting is lovely, the water is 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 at the southern end of the beach, each of which has an attached kitesurfing school. After an afternoon on the sands, head to one of the excellent fish restaurants jutting out over the Bojana River.
Planning tip: If you want to go kitesurfing at Velika Plaža, contact the D’Olcinium Kitesurf Club, a long-established group offering kitesurfing lessons and rentals for experienced kitesurfers.
Sunrise over the sandy beach at Ada Bojana © coka / Shutterstock
10. Ada Bojana, near Velika Plaža
We’ve saved the best for last. This 3km (1.9-mile) strip of sandy beach continues just across the Bojana River from where Velika Plaža leaves off and continues to the Albanian border. And unlike at Velika Plaža, the water’s deep enough for proper swimming.
Ada Bojana is actually a 520-hectare island sitting between 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, a tradition that continues to this day.
Planning tip: While most of the island is set aside for the clothing-averse, there’s a section of beach and a couple of Robinson Crusoe-style restaurants at the northern end that are open to those with more modest inclinations.