Montenegro is in many ways a land of extremes. It has both coast and mountains, seems small, yet big. But mostly it is extreme in the difference between rich and poor, between the Montenegrins and the rich expats and tourists who are settling in Tivat and on the Adriatic Coast.
On the one side Montenegrins are living with very few means and the buses have not been updated since they left the French bus service in the 1960s. On the other side, there are large amounts of luxury yachts in the marina of Kotor, Tivat and Budva. This is where the elite likes to keep court.
The Budva Riviera offers a hotpot mix of low budget hotels for the average Russian and Ukrainian and high-end resorts where a spot on the beach costs 100€ for the day, and any use without payment will mean immediate police prosecution.
The closer to Sveti Stefan the more upscale it becomes and the closer to Slovenska Obala and Budva the more low cost.
In 2008 Montenegro leased out the picturesque islet and historical resort Sveti Stefan to the international group Aman Resorts for a 30 years period. Thus, access to this number one photographed spot in Montenegro has been limited to the few who have money enough to pay for one of the 58 guest rooms. The rest of us have to stay on land photographing the islet from afar.
Many would argue that it is sad that the rich can close off access to such a cultural pearl and claim it a great failure that the government of Montenegro issued the contract. Principally, I agree. I am not much for exclusive resorts and jet-setter attitudes especially when it limits the open access of the public to historical and beautiful places around the world.
However, I am also one to quickly get frustrated with other tourists and I know that the real beauty of this place is its setting , which is best enjoyed from the coast. If Sveti Stefan was open to the public, the beautiful islet and the road leading up to its gates would be full with tourists and souvenir shops and probably far from as beautifully restored.
So after taking my shots of this iconic sight I’ve decided to return in 2038 if I am able to and with the hopes that the Montenegrin government wont lease the islet out for another 30 years.
The coastal road to Stari Grad
After a bit of food and two spots on the much cheaper public beach we walked along the first stretch of the coastline from Sveti Stefan towards Budva. It is a gorgeous – but in parts overcrowded – first half of the coastline with Przno as the absolute high. Here we took another swimming break and again at Kamenovo where we lounged for a bit.
But after Kamenovo comes a tunnel and past that and some beautiful rocks, which seem to have been thrown into the sea by giants, we came to the least attractive but very lively Rafailovići where all the average people on low-budget charter enjoyed the sun.
Here the hotels are a disaster and the beach becomes very dirty along with the sea. But it was enjoyable to see the many people having fun as the last sunshine of the day warmed us.
I’d like to say that we walked all the way to Stari Grad but at some point we got far too exhausted from the day and uncertain of how to walk any further, so for the last stretch we caught a taxi.
Budva – Stari Grad
The evening we spent in the magical Stari Grad which seems so cute and intimate in comparison to the larger fortified old towns of Dubrovnik and Kotor.
But unlike in Dubrovnik and Kotor, Budva Stari Grad is also very much alive in the evening and all the way to 1 o’clock at night bars and discos are open for the young tourist hoards. I had to try sleeping to the noise of several ultra famous 2017 hits beating away at the next door bar. This was the only minus to our wonderful hotel, but one I fortunately knew had an expiration time. All I could do was wait until the magical hour of 1 o’clock.
I am happy that I got to see Budva and I look forward to returning in 2038 when the Montenegrin government hopefully ends the leasing out of Sveti Stefan.