Montenegro has become an increasingly popular tourist destination over recent years. Following its independence from Serbia in 2006, Montenegro quickly built up a reputation as a quieter French Riviera-style resort with stunning beaches, mountains and rivers. Last year, easyJet launched flights from London Gatwick to Tivat, meaning visitors could avoid the three-hour drive from Dubrovnik across the border in Croatia. I arrive at Tivat airport, then take a short ten-minute taxi ride into Porto Montenegro, located within the beautiful Unesco-protected Bay of Kotor.
The Hotel Regent Porto Montenegro (RegentHotels.com), where I'm staying, is a five-star hotel designed by Tino Zervudachi and built in the Venetian style. A ground-floor caf, restaurant and bar are on hand for wining and dining, and there are indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a spa and fitness centre, and a tranquil water garden.
My suite has views over the marina, which is built on the site of former communist leader Josip Broz Tito's naval base. Today, it can berth up to 450 superyachts and is home to restaurants, bars and international designer fashion outlets including Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford and Fendi. A short walk along the marina front takes you to the Porto Montenegro Yacht Club (PMYC), which has a 64-metre infinity pool overlooking the bay. If you want a lazy day basking in the sun, this is the place to be.
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At the club's restaurant, which serves pastas and salads made with locally sourced fish, I settle down to a light lunch of oysters accompanied by the locally brewed beer Nikicko Tamno.
Day passes to the PMYC are available see PMYC.PortoMontenegro.com).
Perfect for wine-lovers
Another attraction from Montenegro's Cold War history is the Cemovo Field vineyard, set around a disused airforce base on the outskirts of Podgorica, the country's capital. Owned by the Plantae wine company (Plantaze.com/en), the vineyard spans more than 2,600 hectares and produces more than 17 million bottles of wine a year. Row upon row of vibrant green and red vines (11.5 million to be exact) are all that can be seen from a three-storey tower situated in the middle of the vineyard.
The most intriguing part of the estate is the Sipcanik wine cellar, housed at the northern end of the vineyard. In 2007, a spiral tunnel 356m long that was hewn through a limestone mountain during the Cold War was converted to store the wine in gigantic wooden barrels together containing more than two million litres of ageing wine, kept at a constant temperature of between 17 and 19C.
Wine tasting, with local breads and cheeses, can be arranged during the visit. The wines range from a very palatable Crnogorski Sauvignon (€3) up to their top-of-the-range Vranac Reserve at €30 a bottle.
A trip to Perast
Back at the hotel I hire a small speedboat (with skipper) to take a trip around the bay to the small town of Perast. After an almost James Bond-like spin around the bay, my skipper docks the boat at the waterside open-air restaurant, Conte. Two steps on to dry land and I am sat at my table where I order a sea-food platter of sea bass, squid, prawns and oysters. From my table I can see the two small islets in the bay, St George and Our Lady of the Rocks, an island which, according to legend, was made over the centuries by local seamen throwing rocks into the sea, keeping an ancient oath to do so after finding an icon of Madonna and Child on the rock. To this day, every year on the sunset of 22 July locals take to their boats and throw rocks into the sea.
If you're looking for a relaxing retreat in a quiet underdeveloped location, Porto Montenegro is hard to beat.
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