Montenegro in a day: the inlands

Ever tried to see a whole country in a single day trip? Of all the countries hugging the Mediterranean sea, Montenegro is the smallest. The tiny Balkan country, that by beautiful paradox is home to some of the tallest people, stretches only about 200 kilometers in both dimensions. Surely one should be able to visits all highlights in one day? As I planned most of my holiday in Montenegro along the Adriatic coast, I had little time to spare for Montenegro’s inland. To make the best of my time I sought for a local guide that could show me as much of Montenegro’s adventurous side as was possible in one day. I found one in Niko, the first tour guide of Montenegro Eco Adventures. And what a day it was.

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Podgorica the capital of Montenegro: is it worth the visit?

Even though Podgorica is the capital of Montenegro, it does not top many peoples’ itinerary for a visit to the little Balkan state. If you start browsing online on what things to do in Podgorica it doesn’t take long before the blog posts describing it as ‘the dullest shithole I’ve ever been’ start to dominate your search history. As it is geographically situated quite ideal for a stop over between Albania and Kotor, I decided to visit anyways and make my own judgement.

What to do in Podgorica

Discover Podgorica by foot

Podgorica has one highlight that towers fiercely over all others and justifies visiting the little Montenegrin capital on its own. Obviously the first thing you have to do when you set foot in Podgorica is arrange for seeing this awesome highlight as soon as possible. Sadly the next thing to do is arranging transportation for your way out. Stay one night and then move on. You don’t need more time to see it all.

I am not exaggerating when I state that all highlights in town can be visited by foot within 3 hours. Unfortunately these ‘highlights’ are not that special. I could start a whole epistle in lyrical prosaics on how shitty these sights are but that wouldn’t serve any other purpose than showing off my writing skills as they aren’t that shitty. Just not overly exciting. Except for the one awesome highlight I mentioned. One you MUST see, so you really got no other choice than to linger for about 24 hours in Podgorica. Here is how you should spend those 24 hours.

Old town

So the first thing you do after checking into your accommodation is booking a taxi to visit the Sipcanik wine cellars of the Plantazane Winery – possibly the most interesting wine cellars I have ever visited (and I have been to Bordeaux). When you’ve got this fixed you can head out on foot to go explore historical Podgorica.

Walk past the Clock Tower straight towards the Ribnica Bridge which is the prettiest part of the historical centre. Podgorica suffered over 70 bombings which destroyed most old buildings but the ruins around the bridge are nice enough to justify spending a little time.

Bring your swimsuit as there is a nice little pebble beach here where you can take a dip in the Moraca river – yes its quite clean. There is also a nice beach bar built up against the fort, pumping out mellow deep house tunes. I can totally imagine this being a cool hangout spot for locals. When I was there – mid September – it was virtually deserted.

If you do a little more research leafing through travel guides and blog posts you’ll discover the other highlights in town are the Millennium Bridge, Petrovic Palace, Vladimir Vysotsky Monument, Moscow Bridge and several lookout points. All not really worth the detour.

Worth visiting are the Goricom Park with the little St. George Church in front of it. The small church is really picturesque and the park is a great way to escape the summer heat. If you have small kids you’ll love the park as it has a big adventure climbing park laid out around a big cafe. This means mum and dad can take shifts playing with the kids and kicking back on the terrace with a pint of local lager.


Visit the Sipcanik wine cellars

When I booked a winery tour at the Sipcanik wine cellars of the Plantaze Winery I was expecting a normal wine tasting tour in a cool cave-like cellar. The reality is much better. The Sipcanik wine cellars are actually an old secret military underground aircraft hangar which had been lost for decades and has recently be rediscovered. In 2007 the Plantaze Winery invested heavily in turning this historical treasure into their new wine-cellars and the results are awesome.

Even if you don’t like wine, when do you ever have the chance to visit a secret military airbase built into a cave to avoid detection? Not just any hangar, the cellars fit over a dozen airplanes. To top that, the wine-tasting tour as well as the wines themselves are excellent. Montenegro might not have the reputation as as wine-country, but Plantaze is working hard to change that. The wines on the tasting go with tasty food-pairings. When in Podgorica this visit really is a must.

Because the cellars aren’t in town, and you want to be able to have a few wines at the place the only way to visit is by taking a taxi. Ask your hotel to book one for you to avoid getting ripped off. Have an maps-app open on your cellphone to track the route to make your driver aware that you know the way. Scamming taxi-drivers are a problem in the whole of the Balkans. Anything between €4-6 for a single ride is reasonable.

Where to eat and sleep

Eating

Podgorica got a few good places to grab a bite. If you’re looking for good local dishes Pod Volat in Old Town is a good option. The place I personally liked best was La Lanterna situated in Novi Grad (new town) which has a nice ambiance both inside as well as outside. In downtown Podogorica there are three streets that are littered with little restaurants and bars, perfect for a couple of drinks – albeit at slightly elevated prices compared to elsewhere in town. Try the bars at Njegoseva, Slobode and Balsica street.

Some people recommend particular bars (for example Bar Berlin is often mentioned on blogs) but I didn’t find certain particular bars stand out more than their competitors. Just head over there and see which crowd suits you best.

Sleeping

Ramada Podgorica 

Booking rating: 8.6 | Privates from EUR 79

On my visit I stayed at the Ramada Hotel one of a few luxury hotels in Podgorica. They have lavishly large rooms and a tasty buffet breakfast served on a balcony with a great view overlooking town. Our room even had a private terrace! The Ramada is conveniently located within walking distance from both the train station and bus terminal and also about a 20 minute walk from Old Town. Their general manager makes an effort in employing local people and helping them with their personal goals as well as their professional. 

 


Practical Information

When 

The best time to visit Podgorica is in spring, when the days start to get longer and the weather is warm and sunny. From June to August temperatures soar up to 40 degrees Celsius making a visit less than pleasant. September and early October are ideal times as well but the chance of rainy days increases dramatically towards the end of October.

Budget

Because Podgorica receives little tourism prices aren’t elevated above the local standard as much as in other European capitals. For a Balkan country however, Montenegro is not cheap.

Daily Budget45 EUR (50 USD)
Local bakeryEUR 1 (1.10 USD)
Meal in a restaurantEUR 10-15 ( 12-17 USD)
DormEUR 12 (13 USD)
Double in a 3-star hotelEUR 40 (45 USD)

In & Out

Airport

Montenegro has two airports, Tivat Airport and Podgorica Airport. The latter is located 11 kilometers South of town and is the quickest way in. There are no busses so the best way to get to the city centre is by taxi which will costs you between € 8-12.

Railway station

Montenegro is connected to the European railway system and can be visited by train from Belgrade or Bar. Podgorica also has a line going to Niksic, the second largest city in Montenegro. The railway station is located next to the main bus terminal and close to the Podogorica mall – about 2 kilometers from the city centre.

Bus terminal

The best way getting in and out of Podgorica is by bus. There are connections to Albania, other Balkan capitals and also to the historical seaside towns of Kotor, Budva and Tivat. As the timetables regularly change and busses don’t necessarily run on time its best to book your tickets directly at the station and inquire for the fares and times as well.


The best hotels in Luang Prabang

Looking for the best hotels in Luang Prabang, Laos? Easily one of the most important parts of planning a trip to a city is booking the right accommodation. For me a good hotel means it is close to the destination’s highlights, within walking distance from nice places to eat and have a drink and is both comfortable as well as authentic. Adding to that, all hotels listed are environmentally conscious without the stay revolving around this topic.  The perfect places to stay in Luang Prabang for green travel without compromising on adventure or comfort. True to the No Road Back travel style. 

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Skiing for beginners: going skiing for the first time

Skiing for beginners can be tough. If your parents never took you skiing as a kid, going skiing for the first time in your adult years can be quite daunting. It sure was for me. Your friends tell you scary stories on how they broke their leg on a particular icy black run and in the same breath exclaim that you’ll be fine. Yeah sure. When you spot the snow-capped peaks on your approach to the mountains you’re thrilled. But as soon as you see the slopes up close in all their steepness and massiveness the sweat starts to break out. 5 year olds whizz past as you’re desperately trying to perform the best ‘Pizza, French fries, Pizza, French fries’ to not die on your first attempt off the baby slopes.

I had an incredible hard time skiing for the first time and in a couple of months I’ll be going on my second trip. Hopefully this time it will be going a bit better. There were a few things I wish somebody told me before hand that could have made my experience a whole lot better. Going skiing for the first time? You might want to read this one.

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Theth to Valbona: hiking in the Albanian Alps

When I convinced my girlfriend to join me on hiking from Theth to Valbona in the Albanian Alps and she agreed, I was pumped. Firstly because this hike is part of the iconic Peaks of the Balkan trail, a 192 kilometer long trail known for its rugged terrain, wild nature and epic scenery. Secondly because up until now, I have always gone trekking or mountain biking on my own or with friends, never with Lisan. If this one would deliver the same thrill to Lisan as I usually get from a good trek, it could mean we could go trekking together more often.

Luckily for me, the Albanian Alps did not disappoint. Because the trek is not overly tough, very easy to navigate and the scenery beautiful, it is perfect for travelers of any type. So you better include it into your trip to Albania! No need to book a guide, you can tackle this one independently. Let me tell you how.

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The Best Hotels in Albania that are green

It doesn’t matter what your travel destination is, finding the right spot to stay can make or break your trip. For an off-the-beaten travel destination like the Balkans it is even harder to find the best spots to stay. Let alone finding a place that takes good care of its environment. But if you are looking for the best hotels in Albania to rest your head, you’re in luck. I listed the top 5 green hotels in Albania that take care of the environment, without compromising on comfort or hospitality.

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Saranda Albania: is the ‘capital of the Albanian Riviera’ worth the visit?

Under explored and underrated: The Albanian Coast should be on every beach lovers’ bucket list. Saranda Albania is fondly called ‘the capital of the Albanian Riviera’ but what can be said about many countries around the world is equally true for the Albanian Riviera: the capital is not the prettiest city in the area. I picked the spot to relax a couple of days in the middle of an action-packed itinerary. Saranda is perfect for that, but the Albanian coast has way better places to glue yourself to your beach bed and not leave until the sunset cocktails start calling for your presence at the bar. 

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Berat, Albania: the city of a thousand windows

Judging esthetics Berat is probably the prettiest town in Albania. A wild history with extended occupational periods by both the Turks and the Romans has created a beautiful blend of ancient architectural styles. The river meandering through town and the rocky hills as a backdrop doesn’t hurt Berat’s looks either.

Berat is a perfect example of a place forgotten by time with over 400 of its residents still living within centuries old castle walls. But the modern times are slowly starting to catch up. And with tourism in Albania rising this UNESCO heritage sight is getting increasing attention. Let’s hope it will resist the seductive calls of developers money and stay the beautiful town it is today.

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The best hostels in Thailand: the coolest spots ranked

Finding the best hostels in Thailand can be quite overwhelming. With the country continuing to boom as a backpacker destination the offer is almost limited less. Luckily for you I visited the country over 5 times, and I am here to help. This read lists the best hostels in Thailand that fulfill all the No Road Back criteria.

All of these hostels are very social without being raunchy party hostels. All of them have good common rooms or big leafy backyards. Their locations are excellent, the beds are comfortable, they have comfortable boutique double rooms as well as dorms and the hostels are run in an environmentally conscious way without compromising on adventure or comfort. Whether you are looking for a hostel in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Ayutthaya or one of the Thai islands, we got you covered.

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