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Montenegro, almost the size of Connecticut, is a country nestled between Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Albania on the Adriatic Sea. Kotor, Montenegro, located on the beautiful blue coastline, which offers the perfect transition between the ancient medieval towns scattered along it. But don’t think Montenegro is all water! A little further inland is the adventurer’s dream. The Tara River Canyon in Durmitor National Park is one of the deepest canyons in the world at 1300 meters. The Grand Canyon is only 200 meters deeper! The Tara River Canyon offers the adrenaline-fueled traveler opportunities for rafting, with nearby climbing options and incredible views from the top of Mt Ćurevac. And this is just one selection of the many adventurous opportunities in Montenegro.
Montenegro is regularly listed as a top destination by both print and online magazines, such as National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times, and Yahoo Travel. Once you see the black mountains (Montenegro literally translates to “black mountains”), the crystal blue waters, and the enchanting towns, you will understand why Montenegro is a sort of hidden gem.
Our Arrival & the Plan
Our cruise ship arrived in Kotor, Montenegro at ***9 am?***. So far, it was already way better than the day we had getting to the ship in Venice. (You can read about that here .) We had to anchor offshore because of the limited space at the dock, but the tender boat was a quick 5-10 minute ferry ride. Due to the narrow waterway with mountains on either side, getting to the port in Kotor is reminiscent of navigating through a fjord. I’ve actually never navigated a fjord, but I’ve seen pictures. I also have the imagination of a child, so I feel like I can reminisce.
A few months before our trip, we signed up for the Blue Cave Speed Boating Adventure through our cruise ship: Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas. The Blue Cave speed boating trip just narrowly won out over-riding a 4×4 in Lovcen National Park. It was a difficult choice, but the Blue Cave won because it was a little cheaper and more laid back. That, and I really wanted to come back from my cruise with a tan, which seemed more likely on a boat than a 4-wheeler. (In the end, it didn’t really matter. I can’t tan.)
The excursion description in our cruise catalog boasted a 45-minute speed boating adventure to Blue Cave, a premier destination for any Kotor visitors. At Blue Cave, we had around 30 minutes to swim before the boat took us to a little inlet, where it dumped us off for a few hours before returning us to the ship! It sounded amazing.
The Blue Cave Speed Boating Adventure
What was advertised as a 45-minute speed boating adventure was more of a 45-minute speed boat taxi ride. It was beautiful, but it was windy, and it was looong. The boat finally started slowing down near what appeared to be a solid rock face jutting straight up into the sky from the depths of the sapphire blue waters. As we approached, we could make out a small opening in the rock at sea level. Surely it was too small of a hole for our speedboat (with almost 20 people) to fit under. Nope!
As we got closer, the opening appeared to grow larger. We stopped just inside the opening of the cave to marvel at the perfectly clear water below us and the enormous cave opening above us. It was much cooler in here, out of the sun. People started jumping into the cave water with screams of (what I thought was) delight. The floor beneath us was probably more than 20 feet deep, but it appeared to be just waist-high. My boyfriend jumped in and swam around the boat. He jumped back into the boat, and, as I handed him his towel, my arm brushed the ice-cold skin of his arm.
“How cold is it?” I asked.
His reply, as he jumped back in? “It’s not that bad!”
I felt the icy waters hit me as his body hit the water. It was freezing. Those weren’t cries of delight; they were screams of chilled agony. I stood on the edge, petrified of the cold water, but knowing that if I didn’t jump in I would hate myself forever. My boyfriend, treading water around six feet away from me at the back of the boat, counted down with me. “Three… Two… One!”
I jumped in. The initial chill took my breath away. Opening my eyes as I swam back up to the surface, I could see the sun brightly shining in from the mouth of the cave to my left, and the roof of the cave through the perfectly clear water just above me. I emerged from the water with a slight taste of gas in my mouth from the boats who all come stall here, completely unable to breathe. My lungs had seized up from the cold and I was hyperventilating. I immediately swam back to the boat, trying not to take on more water. I climbed out as my boyfriend swam over. “Babe, babe! Are you okay?!”
Once I was back on the boat, as my breathing returned to semi-normal, I smiled back at him. “It’s too cold!” I sputtered. “But I did it!”
The ride back to shore was a wet and cold one, but also a proud one. I knew I would hate the water, but I did it anyway.
The boat dropped us off at a nearby inlet, saying they would be back in 2.5 hours to pick us up and ferry us back to our boat. There was a little beach with rent-able chairs and umbrellas with several restaurants behind it. As we walked off the speed boat toward the beach, we noticed a little sign with an arrow pointing up and to the right that said “Wine Cellar”.
There were several restaurants to choose from at Žanjice Beach, but, when in Montenegro, eat Cuban food, amirite?! Instead of choosing one of the several Montenegrin options, we opted for a little taste of Cuba at Cuba Libre instead. My boyfriend says it’s the best octopus he’s ever eaten. The mussels I ordered were just-okay. I prefer a white wine sauce, but these came with a tomato based broth instead. It wasn’t bad, just not my preference. We did, however, go local with our beer choice, Toburg, which was quite nice.
Once we finished, Boyfriend wanted to go get some sun on the beach. I wanted to check out the winery, and, most importantly, not sit in the sun. We compromised by doing my thing. I told him he was welcome to go lay out while I walked up to the winery, but FOMO set in and he decided to eagerly tag along up to this winery.
As we walked into the winery area, I had a shot of panic, as I realized I was severely under-dressed. This was a pretty nice establishment, and I was wearing a black bikini, visible under my very sheer cover-up. Almost the entire restaurant was in the open air- no walls to hide the amazing ocean views. That made me feel a little better, somehow.
The server came up to us, “Can I help you?”
“Um yes. We just wanted to get a glass of wine?” I tentatively responded.
We followed her down some stairs, closer to the water, where she dropped us off at some lovely cushioned lounge chairs and a sofa overlooking the sea. With the few sun beds and the well-placed umbrellas and hammock, this place looked like a movie. Like, this is how I imagine celebrities spend the entirety of their vacations. I lounged on the sofa under the shade of the giant umbrella covering half, and my boyfriend sat in the sun in the chair next to me. It was also out-of-the-way, so the fancier guests couldn’t see us. All-around perfection.
We only had 45 minutes before the boat came to pick us up, so we didn’t have a lot of dally-ing time. We also didn’t want to nearly double our daily budget amount by purchasing a bottle of wine, which is the only way you could get wine at this place. Instead, we ordered a 20 euro pitcher of Bahama breezer and killed the whole thing off in the next 20 minutes (by the time it arrived to our table) before we had to run back down the hill to our ferry-boat. We hit our daily budget exactly, and made it down to the boat just in time.
We met a couple from Ireland on the trip back and became fast friends. We ran into them several more times throughout the course of the trip, exchanging information at the end with promises of a free place to stay if one couple decided to vacation in the area of the other. It was like the end of camp, but way better.
The speed boat dropped us off in port just 45 minutes before departure time. Instead of running through Kotor in our still-damp clothes and lack of money, we decided to board the cruise ship ahead of the rush. We had just enough time to shower before dinner.
Kotor was incredible. I definitely want to return to Montenegro one day, though, to experience what adventures inland Montenegro has to offer.