They call Montenegro the “Jewel of the Adriatic” but, at the same time, the country is still widely considered an “undiscovered” destination in Europe. I suppose this makes it an even more attractive travel destination, at least for me, to discover its largely unspoilt landscape and rich history. The trip certainly did not disappoint and I learned plenty about this fascinating country. Want to learn more? I’ve put together 15 fun facts about Montenegro that cover all you need to know about the country!
15 Fun Facts About Montenegro
- Montenegro literally means “Black Mountain”
- The Bay of Kotor is Europe’s southernmost Fjord
- The whole region of Kotor is UNESCO-protected
- It is the perfect balance of mountains and the sea
- Montenegro is more popular as a day-trip destination
- The country’s main income is from tourism
- People drop rocks & stones to build the island for Our Lady of the Rocks
- The James Bond Movie “Casino Royale” is based in Montenegro
- Montenegro uses Euros but is not part of the EU (yet)
- Novak Djokovic hired out the whole Sveti Stefan for his wedding
- You can walk to St. Nicholas Island from Budva
- One of the world’s oldest olive trees is in Montenegro
- The southern coastal towns in Montenegro were pirate lairs
- Islam is the second-largest religion in Montenegro
- It is where east meets west and a melting pot of cultures
Montenegro literally means “Black Mountain”
The name Montenegro derives from Venetian and directly translates as “Black Mountain”. It is inspired by Mount Lovcen, a rocky mountain near Kotor that’s covered with dense forest. Today, visiting Mount Lovcen National Park is a popular activity to do in Montenegro.
The Bay of Kotor is Europe’s southernmost Fjord
The word “fjord” is most typically associated with Norwegian fjords but it is not exclusive to Norway. In Montenegro, you can find Europe’s southernmost fjord at the Bay of Kotor and it is also one of the deepest natural harbour on the continent. Its 30km-long fjord is dominated by steep looming mountains that can be as tall as over 1200 meters high, forming the most spectacular and impressive view in the country.
The whole region of Kotor is UNESCO-protected
It is not just the old town, but the whole region of Kotor is listed & protected as a UNESCO World Heritage. The official term is the Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor, which encompasses Kotor Old Town, the fortifications of Kotor, and the inner Bay of Kotor. UNESCO played a huge part in restoring the town after the devastating earthquake in 1979 and to maintain its cultural & historical integrity today.
It is the perfect balance of mountains and the sea
The common knowledge is that Montenegro is a perfect seaside and beach holiday destination with some of the most crystal clear waters in the Mediterranean. At the same time, 80% of Montenegro is made up of mountains, with an average altitude of 2000 meters and are characterised as the roughest and most rugged mountain terrains in Europe. Basically, everywhere you go in Montenegro, you’ll see mountains. Though that being said, be ready for some steep and hilly walks everywhere. If you want to switch up from beach activities, you can find plenty of hiking trails, as well as excursions for exploring the mountain ranges & rafting in the river canyons.
Montenegro is more popular as a day-trip destination
One can say Montenegro is generally considered relatively under the radar as a tourist destination but it also has no shortage of visitors. This is all thanks to Croatia, whose booming tourism has brought it many visitors to Montenegro as well. Since it’s only a few-hour drive from Dubrovnik to Kotor, Montenegro makes the perfect day trip destination. Typically, day trip tours will begin from Dubrovnik and take you to see the iconic Bay of Kotor, explore Kotor Old Town, and also make a brief visit to the picturesque town of Perast and to see the famous Our Lady of the Rocks. Don’t want to follow tours? You can also get cheap bus rides that take you from Dubrovnik to Kotor and you can navigate from there.
The country’s main income is from tourism
Mostly, Montenegro has managed to piggyback off its commercial success to grow its own. Tourism accounts for the majority of its GDP and the country continues to work towards its goal of becoming an elite European tourist destination. As for the demographics of tourists, most come from neighbouring countries such as Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Kosovo. There is also a significant amount of visitors from Russia as it’s visa-free for them.
People drop rocks & stones to build the island for Our Lady of the Rocks
Here is a fun fact about the most famous church, Our Lady of the Rocks, in Montenegro. The story goes like this: a fisherman discovered an icon of the Virgin Mary on a rock three times in a row so he took it as a sign to build a church at the very location. If you step inside the church, you can squeeze behind the alter where there’s a little hole for you to reach and touch said rock.
The island we see today is created by bulwarks of rocks and by sinking old and seized ships loaded with rocks. Over the years, people sailing past would drop more rocks and stones into the sea to further expand the island. This is a tradition that’s still alive today!
The James Bond Movie “Casino Royale” is based in Montenegro
Don’t we all love a James Bond movie? In Casino Royale (2006), you might have already noticed that part of the story is based in Montenegro. The casino and Hotel Splendide are meant to be in Montenegro in the story. But sorry to disappoint, the movie was NOT filmed in the country! Instead, it was filmed in the Czech Republic.
Montenegro uses Euros but is not part of the EU (yet)
The currency used in Montenegro is Euros even though they are not currently part of the European Union. Previously, Montenegro used Yugoslav dinar before switching to Deutsche Mark in 2000, which subsequently became Euros in 2002. Such a move was to ensure monetary stability and prevent hyperinflation. However, it was done so without agreement with the European Central Bank and Euros are only a de facto currency. Nonetheless, Montenegro has been working towards joining the EU by 2025.
Novak Djokovic hired out the whole Sveti Stefan for his wedding
The picturesque islet of Sveti Stefan is known to be a celebrity destination. It has hosted numerous superstar celebrities including Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt, David & Victoria Beckham, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Margaret, and many more. The list includes 7-time Wimbledon champion, Novak Djokovic, who actually hired out the entire islet for his wedding party!
You can walk to St. Nicholas Island from Budva
No, there isn’t a bridge built to walk from Budva to the famous St. Nicholas Island and it’s not always obvious to how one could walk from the mainland to the island. The answer lies when the tide is low and it will reveal an isthmus that leads you to the island. Obviously, there are other means to reach the island other than walking during low tides. More commonly, there are frequent boats that would operate to and from Budva and St. Nicholas Island.
One of the world’s oldest olive trees is in Montenegro
Located a little bit outside of the main city of Bar, but not too far out from the old town, stands one of the oldest olive trees in the world. The Old Olive Tree, a.k.a “Stara Maslina”, is said to be over 2000 years old and is one of the five oldest olive trees in existence. It is certainly impressive how the tree has survived through the changing climate, natural disasters etc. through the years, as well as surviving a lightning strike that has burnt one side of the tree. The tree is widely seen as a symbol of peace and, throughout history, it is a place for feuding families to come together to make peace. To see the tree, it will cost €1 for entry to the park. Today, the tree no longer bears fruit but is still a popular sight in the area.
The southern coastal towns in Montenegro were pirate lairs
More specifically, Ulcinj was notorious for being a base for pirates. Bar is also known to be inhabited by pirates but to a lesser extent. Back in the 14th century, the Venetians and Ottomans would take up the Adriatic route for maritime trades, which attracted pirates to prey on these trading ships and naval fleets. There were some pretty big pirate names from Ulcinj and they were even considered some of the most dangerous pirates in the Mediterranean. Apart from attacking ships and robbing villas, these pirates are like to capture people and sell them as slaves. A lot of the time, they were black slaves captured from nearby African countries. The location where the slave trade took place is now named the Slave Square in Ulcinj Old Town. Many pirate stories from Ulcinj have inspired numerous movies today.
Islam is the second-largest religion in Montenegro
Montenegro doesn’t have an official religion Montenegro but is generally more known to be populated with Eastern Orthodox Christianity. However, you may be surprised that there is a significant percentage of Muslims there as well and the number actually makes up to the sixth-highest proportion of Muslims in Europe!
The Muslim population is predominantly made up of Albanians residing in the country and there are several Muslim-majority cities & municipalities as well. For instance, Ulcinj, the city we stayed in, actually has an 80% Muslim population and all meats come from the same halal supplier in the region. There are many mosques around there and you get to hear the beautiful adhan during prayer times. Neighbouring Bar is also known to have a high proportion of Muslim population, as well as some other lesser known non-coastal cities such as Tuzi, Bijelo Polje, Petnjica, Rožaje, Gusinje and Plav.
It is where east meets west and a melting pot of cultures
Last but not least among our list of Montenegro fun facts is its diverse culture. Montenegro is so fascinating because it’s a blend of everything. From north to south, there’s a stark contrast and offers something completely different. The northern coast is enriched with Venetian history and influence, whereas the southern coast takes more of an Eastern touch influenced by the Ottomans. As mentioned above, the country embraces different religions and is one of the rare places where you can hear both the church bell ring and the adhan from the mosque. This is also reflected in its cuisine, which you can read more it here.