In a word . . . Montenegro

It escaped completely the appalling wars of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s

 

It may seem odd on the first weekend of August to recommend a holiday destination, but there is method in my timing. The country I commend is best enjoyed in autumn or spring, if you’re Irish.

Outside of Ireland, in May or June particularly, I used think the most beautiful place on earth was the Greek island of Santorini which I visited many years ago on one of the best holidays I’ve had. I spent it island-hopping in the Aegean.

Seeing Santorini, I thought “that’s it. Nothing can beat this!”

Seeds of doubt were sown in 1999. I was in Macedonia reporting on a flood of refugees coming into that country from Kosovo.

Scopje, the Macedonian capital, was awash with foreign correspondents, who move across this earth like a swarm, chasing trouble. They are a world unto themselves. Quite a few of them said to me that if ever I got the chance I should go to Montenegro. They were unanimous.

It was “breathtaking”, “so beautiful,” “out of this world.”

Recently, I got that chance to visit this small, wondrous, Adriatic country south of Croatia and Bosnia, north of Albania. It is stunning, spectacular, and – I predict – the up-and-coming holiday destination for discerning tourists.

Montenegro has it all, culture, history, physical beauty, sea, mountains, Lake Skadar, and all at much-lower-than-usual Mediterranean prices.

In 2015, I went on a press trip with Croatia Tours to the Holy Land. It was a terrific experience with a great gang of people. Last May they were taking a group of mainly travel agents to Montenegro and asked whether I would like to go along too. Would I what?

We flew to Dubrovnik and took a bus to lovely Budva in Montenegro which was our base as we travelled to wondrous Kotor and a splendid Skadar lake. An old culture made up of Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Catholics, it is a young country, only becoming an independent Republic in 2006. And it escaped completely the appalling wars of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

It has a well developed and growing tourist industry, attracting many visitors from Russia and Eastern Europe. You should try it sometime. In spring or autumn if, like me, you don’t like it hot. Summer if you do.

Montenegro, meaning “black mountain”, from Venetian Italian (Tuscan monte nero)

inaword@irishtimes.com

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