Most of us love familiarity and often stick to booking vacations to places where we feel comfortable. Sadly, this leads to some countries being overlooked. Thankfully, the pandemic years have helped open people’s eyes to those unsung places they wish to go to now that the world has reopened. Montenegro is one of them, and Luxurious Magazine’s Sabi Phagura ventured to former Yugoslavia to discover this little-known gem.
I’m all for familiarity from time to time, but nothing excites me more than embarking on a new adventure. Montenegro previously popped up on my radar, but I couldn’t find time to fit it in. That is until Regent Porto Montenegro invited me as a guest to discover the hotel and some of the country’s various attractions.
A mere three-hour flight from London, Tivat airport is three miles away from this chic waterside hotel overlooking the marina at Porto Montenegro on the edge of the Bay of Kotor (Boka). It’s best described as an enchanting fiord enveloped by imposing rugged mountains. The southernmost fjord in Europe, Boka Bay boasts UNESCO protection and has an esteemed inclusion in the Association of the 28 Most Beautiful Bays in the World.
Once a Yugoslav naval base, it’s now a nod to local seafaring with a 460-berth super-yacht marina. The merging of land and sea stretches over a kilometre of west-facing waterfront with plentiful designer shops, cafés and restaurants elegantly mirroring the sparkling waters.
Regent Porto Montenegro
Rising five stories high, complete with a terracotta roof, Regent Porto Montenegro takes a central position on the waterfront. Keeping in line with the shipping industry as well as its ancient Venetian ties, its interiors give the feeling you’re on board a luxury ship.
From the lobby to the lifts, guests can marvel at original intricate drawings from the former shipyard. I missed the floor in the lift a few times while busying myself looking at them.
The 175 rooms and suites are housed in three hotel wings: Venezia, Aqua and Baia. The trio are inspired by the mesmerising views of Kotor Bay and the sea and have been meticulously decorated by interior designer Tino Zervudachi (of Milinaric, Henry & Zervudachi), whose former clients include Mick Jagger.
The rooms in the Aqua and Baia wings are contemporary and modern with the Italian Riviera in mind, while the Venezia rooms and suites, one of which I stayed in, are classic in taste, making use of a calming palette of nautical blues and earthy shades of beige against a dark wood flooring and solid furnishings. There are subtle yacht themes dotted around, too, such as a linen canopy above the bed denoting a sail.
I particularly enjoyed the shipping-style hatch connecting the bedroom with the bathroom should I wish to open the space or communicate. The large freestanding tub and a separate walk-in shower are perfect to freshen up when needed while enjoying coffee from the Nespresso Machine and complimentary mineral water.
Food and drink
The sea is ever present at the hotel, and it is the same at Murano, its main indoor-outdoor restaurant, which serves breakfast (fabulous pastries), lunch and dinner. The menu centres around fresh seafood and uses the best seasonal produce to create regional Adriatic cuisine.
Tucking into a tuna steak peppered with organic herbs and accompanied by salad, surrounded by glittering chandeliers and Murano-glass artworks, gave me the sense that I had arrived at a truly upmarket but understated chic jaunt.
The outdoorsy lifestyle is further encapsulated by the Onyx Bar & Garden by Beluga. Based next to the lobby beside the sea, it’s the place to head to for a pre-dinner aperitif or a cheeky nightcap.
The pool deck has plenty of sun loungers to get horizontal in, but if it’s total relaxation you’re after, guests can head to the hotel’s signature Regent Spa.
Offering an array of treatments, the therapists have a holistic approach to rejuvenation, combining ancient traditions with fresh, organic ingredients. Facilities include three treatment rooms, a sauna, a steam room, a Hamman and experience shower, a fitness studio and a nail salon.
The Bay of Kotor
While you could while away your entire time at this Venetian Palazzo-style hotel, you don’t want to miss out on the abundance of things to see and do in the Boka. We began our exploration with a boat trip to the Lady of the Rocks islet, a visit which the locals believe brings good luck.
The artificial island is a real Adriatic gem, and its existence stretches back to 1452 when a sailor stranded on a rock is said to have discovered an icon of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Filled with an epiphany, he vowed to build a church on the spot.
Old town Kotor is right by the main harbour, where we hopped off the boat to explore it on foot. The town is enveloped by the historic city walls stretching 4 km. While you don’t require much time to walk the cobbled streets of the town, you really won’t want to rush your visit, for every winding alleyway and street will transport you into a historical time capsule spanning from ancient Rome to WW2.
You’ll be dazzled by the Square of Arms, the magnificent 1166-built Cathedral of St. Tryphon that has survived several earthquakes, the serene Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, and the impressive 12th-century Church of St. Luke. With museums and galleries to explore and captivate your senses, cafes, bars, and restaurants provide a welcome break to unwind.
If you’re up for an athletic challenge, you can climb 1,426 steps to reach the Fortress of St. John, situated 260m above sea level. You can catch your breath at the summit and witness the stunning panoramic view of the Bay of Kotor.
Kotor Cable Car
However, there is another way of capturing the above-said views – as long as you’re not uncomfortable with heights. In just 11 minutes, the Kotor-Lovćen Cable Car will take you up 1,316 metres above sea level to nature’s wonderland.
And the Boka isn’t the only awe-inspiring site you will see. Just a bit further up, reached by foot, two wheels or car, visitors can be immersed in 6,220 hectares of the Lovćen National Park.
One of five national parks in Montenegro, Lovćen (this imposing ‘black mountain’ gave the country its name) is a hiking and biking mecca. Sitting on the eponymous mountain, it’s regarded by the country folk as a ‘sacred altar’. The reason? Njeguši village, nestled in the heart of Mount Lovćen, gave birth to some of the most prominent figures in Montenegrin history.
The most renowned of them is Petar II Petrović Njegoš, the bishop and philosopher. Njegoš’s mausoleum is dedicated to a poet who chose it as his final resting place. A true masterpiece of architecture, it’s the tallest mausoleum in the world, standing at 1,660 meters above sea level. To reach it, I had to ascend 461 steps, which is a paltry number compared to the steps to get to the Fortress of St. John. I head to the top with steam.
Towns and villages
The upper station of the cable car is located a mere 18 km away from Cetinje, the captivating Old Royal Capital of Montenegro. It’s truly well worth a visit – especially if you enjoy dabbling in a bit of royal history. The growth of Cetinje is intertwined with the arrival of the Petrović Njegoš dynasty.
If you want to stretch your legs, you can take a hike to a hamlet by the name of Gornji Stoliv. Located by the straits of Verige and Prčanj, it’s based some 250 m above sea level.
Not feeling fit? Opt for a jeep tour safari with GoBaloo, but remember it’s not for the faint-hearted. Hairpin bends and steep inclines had us lolling about in the seats. But the journey is rewarded with wonderful sights of the centuries-old chestnut plantations and camellias (trademarks of the hamlet) before reaching the parish church of St. Elijah, dominating the village.
When you see even a fraction of the beauty of Boka, you may regret not heading to Montenegro sooner. But I can assure you it’s not too late, and a visit will be deeply engraved in the folds of your mind for years to come.
Regent Porto Montenegro – Where and How?
You can make a booking at Regent Porto Montenegro with Carrier, which offers seven nights from £2,780 per person based on two adults sharing a Premium Venezia Suite.
Price includes breakfast, return Club Europe flights with British Airways from London Gatwick, and private transfers—price based on departure 01 June 2024.
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