With demand for culture-infused sunny vacations continuing to grow, numerous countries in Southern Europe are reporting a rapid increase in arrival figures, with record levels of tourism seen across the entire Mediterranean basin.
From Spain’s Costa del Sol to Greece’s Easternmost Aegean islands, travelers are flocking to sandy beaches for some of that slow-paced lifestyle and subtropical atmosphere, but one destination in particular is unexpectedly outshining all others this year.
A tiny, lesser-known Southeastern European country is now poised to become Europe’s next big tourist hotspot, and it won’t be long until it becomes the ‘new St Tropez‘:
Europe’s Youngest Country
Montenegro is a small Balkan state sandwiched between Croatia and Albania, with 183 miles of Adriatic coastline. It is not only a new tourist destination but an incredibly young country at that.
If Kosovo’s independence is not to be taken into account due to ongoing disputes, Montenegro is the youngest country in Europe.
While the territory that makes up the modern-day country has been inhabited by several millennia, and it has no shortage of ancient landmarks to claim for itself, the Republic of Montenegro is a recent concept that only came to fruition in 2006.
Before that year, the country was in a state union with neighboring Serbia, and even earlier, it was a constituent republic of Yugoslavia, a communist federation, also led by Serbia, that existed in Southeast Europe for most of the 20th century, also including Croatia, Slovenia, and others.
In a way, Montenegro’s attachment to Serbia infamously held back its development, particularly during the socialist years and following the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia, which left both of its last-standing countries ostracized in an increasingly-Westernized continent.
Since the fragile, dysfunctional union was dismantled, however, Montenegro flourished as a more open, fast-developing country.
As the then-Prime Minister Svetozar Marović declared, Montenegro was to become one of the world’s ‘most elite’ destinations, ‘better than St Tropez’, and it certainly has made great strides towards that.
The Jewel Of The Adriatic
As part of the wider, cross-border historical territory known as Dalmatia, which it also partly shares with Croatia, Montenegro is characterized by its rugged beauty.
Made up of an Adriatic coastline dotted with centuries-old villages, a mountainous inland with majestic jagged peaks – hence the country’s name – and typical Mediterranean vegetation, it has all the qualities and attributes that make all of its far more popular counterparts great.
It has Croatia’s Dalmatian stone and ocher-colored coastal towns, the water’s turquoise shades are as bright as Greece’s, and the Montenegrin cuisine, as any other Mediterranean diet, is as delectable as Italy’s or Spain’s.
The former Prime Minister wasn’t wrong when he underlined Montenegro’s potential to become a major Mediterranean player, as billions have been spent on critical tourist infrastructure over the years since it gained independence.
Affordable Luxury Seaside Resorts Against A Medieval Setting
Touring Montenegro, visitors will find modernized marinas, a surprisingly developed wellness and hospitality scene, with an excellent portfolio of spa hotels and luxury seaside resorts to pick from, and well-kept Adriatic beaches lined by bars and beach clubs.
Though the country’s main goal is to convert itself into the next St Tropez – the French town that is one of Europe’s luxury tourism capitals – it is still relatively affordable by any Mediterranean standard.
According to BudgetYourTrip, a one-week vacation in Montenegro will cost around $786 for one person, including accommodation and daily expenses. The average hotel price in Montenegro for a couple is $92, while the median cost of meals per day is $39.
In St Tropez or the wider French Riviera, a one-week stay will set you back by roughly $1,111, or around 325 bucks more than up-and-coming Montenegro.
It may not seem like much, but when vacation costs are added up, including transportation to and from St Tropez and tourist attractions – in Montenegro, they can be a lot cheaper – you will soon realize why vacationers are opting for the lesser-known Adriatic gem.
Montenegro is definitely not as cheap as Albania, which should definitely be your go-to destination for a budget holiday, but the most important thing is it will not break the bank.
An overnight stay at the Hotel Budva, in one of the trendiest coastal locations in Montenegro, costs $136 this fall, and even the more luxurious Avala Resort & Villas, with its landmark infinity pool found at the tip of a stone pier stretching out into the sea, costs only $186.
Come For The Affordable Luxury, Stay For The Culture
When it comes to culture, the UNESCO-listed Bay of Kotor is a favorite among visitors, home to the city of Kotor itself, a medieval walled settlement listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and several smaller settlements dating back to the Roman period.
Some of the prettiest settlements on the Bay include Perast, a quaint cobbled village; our Lady of the Rocks, a small islet in the middle of the Bay housing a Catholic church and museum; and the upscale Tivat, which combines both medieval aesthetics and an upscale luxury resort scene.
The Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, is also deserving of a nod, though it is often bypassed by tourists altogether, seeing it does not straddle the coast. A small Balkan city home to only 185,000 or so residents, it is filled with modernist structures and wide, tree-lined boulevards.
Visit Montenegro Before It Swings West Fully
Montenegro is speeding fast towards full European integration, and it may not be another decade until it is fully accepted as a member of the European Union, which it has not yet, even though the euro is in circulation inside the country.
Exactly like its sister-nation Croatia, it emerged out of the Yugoslavia era a much more prosperous state, and its recent advancements on the tourism front are laudable.
It truly won’t be long until it becomes indeed the next St Tropez, and hopefully a full EU member, but for now, you still have a chance to explore this mysterious Adriatic country before everyone else finds out about it.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com