Montenegro might seem like a beach lover's paradise - it has the blue water of the Adriatic, dramatic coves, lots of sun, bountiful seafood and throngs of young people. But, to tell the truth, it can be a little difficult finding a good spot to lie down by the shore. Most of the coast is too rocky and cliffy, a lot of the best beaches are overdeveloped and over-packed. To find a perfect idyl takes some time and patience.
We traveled much of the short seashore, but obviously didn't make it to every stretch of sand - here, though, are our favorite Montenegrin beaches.
Unfortunately, the parking situation is a nightmare and we were deterred by both the other drivers and the extremely hazardous turnoff.
For a few days, we bought our milk and yogurt in Petrovac, at a grocery store full of sunburned families in flip flops. It's a family resort, with a promenade full of strollers and more sunblock than tanning lotion. Petrovac also has one of the most scenic town beaches, with rocky isles just beyond the bay and high-sided bluffs set on either side. The sand is reddish and fine, there are lots of appetizing cafes the water is clear.
A very foreign concept to most Americans is the idea of renting a beach umbrella and loungers - but it's the default way for European sun seekers to set up camp by the shore. At home, we either bring an umbrella or go without shade, and tend to lie on towels. Here in Montenegro it's possible to lie by yourself, but it's seen as somehow cheating. Most people pay the few euros for shelter and comfort.
The only problem is that there's no real "beach." People lie and swim from the concrete platforms, in a way that reminded us of nearby Croatia. Tanning on concrete feels like a more extreme form of intake, as though the sun is hardened as it strikes and ricochets from the plane. Where there's no sand or pebbly wash, this is what one has to make do with.
Murici, on Lake Skadar, felt like a refuge. Fishermen docked their boats there and the pace was as slow as the days were long. The light faded gradually from the sky in the evening, leaving us feeling drained and peacefully silent. Sleeping here is limited to camping or bungalows, the resorts of the coast feel like a different concept of "waterside."
We loved the beach, though it's gravel (to be truthful) and the water is shallow for a very long ways. It's a sliver of hospitable shore in a landscape dominated by cliff and rock, algae and weeds. The freshwater swims we took felt luxurious after so much Mediterranean salt.
Here, the water is very shallow for a long way, but the powdery, white sand and calm ripples make it worth the effort spent wading. Because the beach is so sheltered and the water is so easygoing, it's a popular place for families with young children. There are picnic tables in the woods around, and a shady, open-air restaurant tucked into the fig trees behind. Przno is the kind of tropical beach that would be loved anywhere, from the Caribbean to the South Pacific - the shallow, aquamarine water and soft sand feel familiar in a postcard way, the view is of gentle lines, the umbrellas are (at least) well spaced.
With white pebbles and a verdant frame, Drobni Pijesak is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful on the coast, but there is very limited parking nearby the water, so most have to walk a precipitous path down from the main road. It's a trek steep and long enough - about twenty minutes - to keep away the crowds, and there's a nice little cafe tucked into one corner.
The water here is full of boulders that hide schools of minnows, quick bream and mullet. There are hundreds of sea urchins, too, and an altogether wild feel that makes this little cove feel exciting. It's the world of shipwrecks and skinned knees, of a secret pocket of Adriatic life. The water is wavy and redolent of salt, there are rarely more than twenty people.
We ate silky cuttlefish risotto one night and a melange of grilled squid, octopus and carrot during another sunset. The tables are painted wood, set out under the stars. There are paintings hung on trees. The sun's last blazes are especially vibrant here. The clientele is always excited - it feels magical to have found this place, this beach. It's so isolated and thrilling, a piece of the Adriatic where the breeze and the bobbing boats inspire energy instead of sloth.