Ever since the Roman Empire split in two 1600 years ago, this land has sat on the borderline between east and west – and it’s all the more interesting for its turbulent past. The richness of its cultural history can be seen in the mosaic floors of Roman villas, flamboyantly painted Orthodox monasteries, ornate Catholic churches, the elegant minarets of mosques, and the sturdy fortresses built by the numerous powers that have fought over these lands. Then there’s the legacy of 50 years as a communist state, independent of both the Eastern Block and the West. For those with even a passing interest in European history, it’s a fascinating place.
There’s not a lot of it – barely 100km from tip to toe – but Montenegro’s coast is quite extraordinary. Mountains jut sharply from crystal-clear waters in such a way that the word ‘looming’ is unavoidable. As if that wasn’t picturesque enough, ancient walled towns cling to the rocks and dip their feet in the water like they’re the ones on holiday. In summer the whole scene is bathed in the scent of wild herbs, conifers and Mediterranean blossoms. The word ‘magical’ is similarly impossible to avoid.