Quickly becoming the next big location that the super-rich are talking about, Montenegro is right at the top of Original Travel's must visit destinations for 2015 with new hotels cropping up left, right and centre. At long last the beautiful country of Montenegro (which has been rather outshone by neighbouring Croatia for the last few years) has given us a reason to get over there and visit. The spectacular landscape really is a breath of fresh air. With close to no clutter from developments, which perhaps surrounding countries are guilty of, you are privy to unspoilt views of the "black mountains" that rise and fall between what is essentially a country of national parks, jaw-dropping lakes that go on as far as the eye can see and stretches of calm sea.
Keep Calm and Drive on
Greeted by a friendly Hertz employee by the name of Pete at Dubrovnik airport, I was told that I shouldn't look so afraid by the fact that my Sat Nav was having a tantrum and it was going to be an easy drive from the airport: turn left and just keep on going. Those being his only directions, I obeyed and turned left. In the space of just an hour and fifteen minutes, not only had I crossed countries from Croatia to Montenegro, I'd managed to navigate through some beautiful towns on my way, crossed the bay on a small car ferry and arrived at my hotel unscathed, which is beyond impressive considering previous navigational disasters of mine.
Monks, Nuns and Kayaks
The following morning, it was an early start to make our way over to Virpazar to begin our full day of kayaking. The eye-wateringly early drive was made somewhat more bearable by the wonderful views of the sun rising over the mountains; word of caution, remember sunglasses if you want to see where you are going. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the lovely super-duo of Ben and Emma Heywood who own Undiscovered Montenegro, which specialises in hiking and kayaking. They kindly agreed to host me for the day, so off we went out for a full day of kayaking on Lake Skadar. After an excellent demonstration of kayak best practice on land (entirely necessary for me), we were off on a guided circular trip around the lake's unique island monasteries and freshwater beaches at Murici, beginning at the monks' island and ending on the nuns' island. The difference between the two? One hosted a very orderly series of washing lines and the other… didn't. No prizes for guessing which belonged to whom.
A wonderful day, made better by the thrilling tales told so beguilingly by our guide, Ben, and also the chance to meet and chat with the charming nuns, who were very quick to refresh our glasses with their homemade pomegranate juice. For those seeking a taste of adventure but perhaps aren't looking for a week's worth of sore limbs, there are different levels of kayaking, from a gentle paddle to a more challenging endeavour, so absolutely something for all. And if it isn't monasteries that float you kayak (sorry), then take a guided paddle from the picturesque village of Karuč to Rijeka Crnojevića, via the stunning serpentine channels of Pavlova Strana, one of Montenegro's most famous vistas.
And to Finish - Unadulterated Luxury
After a long day kayaking, a strenuous exercise for those who possibly need to spend some more time utilising shoulder muscles they didn't know existed, what better way to end the evening than at the Aman Sveti Stefan hotel, set on its own island just off the bay of Sveti Stefan? What used to be a 14th century fishing village has been successfully converted into a palace of a hotel that has lovingly maintained many features of its authentic, historical past. It also provides a very pleasant, hospitable experience courtesy of the Aman brand for those looking for a taste of luxury and some of the most impressive sunsets you will ever see. Be warned though, staying for just two nights here will undoubtedly spoil you for life; not sleeping in Egyptian cotton sheets will become completely unimaginable, as will living without a fabulous turn down service complete with Montenegrin spices on the pillow (unopened of course). Oh well, totally worth it.