Last week I (Natalie) was lucky enough to be whisked away on a trip to Lustica Bay, Montenegro – the 47th country I’ve visited and somewhere I’ve had my eye on for years. This little charmer had so much more in store for me than I ever thought possible. I had always wanted to visit Montenegro but it had never been a ‘I will die if I don’t go there‘ situation because there hasn’t been that much coverage out there to pull me in, however, this trip opened my eyes to what an incredible country it is and why this has to change.
I predict this little gem of a country will go steaming up people’s bucket lists over the next couple of years. It holds crazily beautiful scenery, delicious sea food and crystal clear blue water. I feel so lucky to have been able to see it at the beginning of its long-lasting prime and this will not be the one and only time I go for sure.
In this post when I reference ‘we’ or ‘our’ I am talking about the two incredible women I met on this trip, Sabrina Chakici and Bonnie Rakhit, who are insanely hard working and super, duper dedicated to their travel passions. Girls, it was awesome to meet you, spend time with you and nearly choke to death taking multiple underwater pictures in Kotor Bay with you.
While in Montenegro we were lucky enough to be hosted at The Chedi in Lustica Bay, one of only a handful of five star hotels in the country. This little, boutique hotel was the absolute dream while we were in Montenegro, offering absolutely everything we needed and even a few things we didn’t know we needed.
The Chedi Hotel is based in a new development called Lustica Bay, which I’ll tell you a little more about later… Although there isn’t a million and one things to do right now on your doorstep there soon will be! However, this is not a problem. No sir-ee, because you’re just round the corner from Tivat and Kotor, both pretty, charming little towns located on the beautiful Bay of Kotor where there is an abundance of things to do.
The Bay of Kotor was my favourite place on the whole trip because it’s absolutely stunning! The bay itself is massive and we spent a whole day floating around on a boat. The bay is surrounded by beautiful rocky mountains and some of the locals boast it is the only other natural fjord outside Norway… we’ll see what the Norwegians have to say about that. But, I kid you not, it is stunning and while we were there, having a little dip in the ocean a dolphin popped by – a DOLPHIN people! A real life, wild DOLPHIN! Just swimming in the water next to the boat, just like that! Move over the Caribbean we’ve got wild dolphins a two-hour flight away from England!
Although, I do have to admit I didn’t actually see the dolphin – the people on the boat did and didn’t want to scare us as we were in the sea. It might have been a good plan in retrospect, I think if I had known it would have been me scaring the dolphin.
Apart from a dolphin which I didn’t even see, the bay has lots of little towns and villages nestled into the mountain side, including as Tivat and Kotor – which makes it aesthetically top notch. There is also a church on a man-made island in the middle of the bay with an interesting history…
Snuggled up? So, the church is called the Church of our Lady of the Rocks, which came from a tradition Montenegrin sailors created many moons ago. Back in the day, when sailing was a very dangerous business, the sailors which returned from sea – alive – would throw a rock into the same place to say thank you for the safe journey, a place where it is told the icon of the Madonna and Child was found. Over many, many, many years these rock began to create a little island and even now in July there is a local festival where people go into the bay at night and throw rocks to keep the tradition alive.
Apart from the bay, Montenegro is also home to so crazy natural beauty and wildlife. The day I left, due to bridesmaid duties, the girls were heading to Skadar Lake National Park for another boat journey along the lake, bird spotting as it is said to have nearly 300 different species of birds. They said it was amazing and after watching their stories and seeing their pictures, I believe them.
I’m not gutted I missed out on it you are.
The Chedi Lustica Bay has only been open just over a year, with some pretty important people staying there although they wouldn’t say who but word on the street is he has a pretty good left foot and a spicy wife…
Being so new, the hotel is fresh. The whole place is designed with a Mediterranean feel giving you a seamless transition from indoor to outdoor, located right on the marina. What more could you possible want…? Oh yea, a Spa, tick, an infinity pool, tick, two delicious restaurants, tick, incredibly helpful and friendly staff, tick, oh and also a great guy behind the bar serving tasty but lethal cocktails… big tick!
It is full of all the modern amenities you would expect from a five star hotel, from a lighting panel to an in-room I pad. I’m going be to totally honest and say I had my first shower in the dark because I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights in the bathroom. To most people I’m sure it would have been a doddle but me and technology don’t really go hand in hand. It would have been a simple call to reception to find out how to turn the lights on but my pride got the better of me and there I was, showing in the dark belting the words out to ‘Old Town Road.’
Moving on, the rooms are beautiful and I was lucky enough to be on the second floor in the main building, with a beautiful view over the marina… from the bath. I mean a bubble bath, champs and a sunset view over the marina – do you really need anything else? You don’t even need lights in that situation.
The Chedi has be built in a beautifully sustainable way. They wanted to make sure the hotel melted into its surroundings and continue to showcase the traditional Montenegrin style.
Every piece of rock which was dug out in the excavation was reused in some way. Plus, all the labour was sourced from local towns and villages first, as well as all the materials used to build and decorate the hotel being sourced locally.
It is located on Lustica Marina, home to some crazy beautiful boats and yachts. If we’re honest we’re not really boat people so I’m not sure what kind of specific boats they were but, they were the kind of boats you dream about owning and would talk about if you were having the ‘if I won the lottery’ chat… Who doesn’t love that game – really!?
Due to the location the entire vibe around the hotel is chilled and serene. In our entire stay I don’t think I heard one raised voice, any loud music or even the rev of an engine. It was like being in a mellow-magic paradise. While we were there the hotel was running near capacity but there was never any indication of that. I think I only bumped into another guest in the hallway once or twice. I did have to wait about 45 seconds for my omelette one morning because there was someone else at the station but I suppose I’ll survive…
The Chedi is a beautiful creation and somewhere I would more than happily spend my time again.
The Spa, the Spa, the Spa… a place of dreams. While I was being hosted by The Chedi they offered us a complimentary Balinese Massage and it was amazing. The best Balinese Massage out of Bali if you ask me.
The Spa is located on the bottom floor of the building. It has calming music – which to be honest all spas play – but, still successfully makes you feel like you’re as light as a feather floating down the hallway or falling into the biggest pillow you’ve ever seen.
The setting of the spa is beautiful and while we were there we felt like the only people in the world (again – you might see a theme running here…). There is nothing worse than turning up to a spa and having to fight for a lounger by the pool – it is in fact the most unrelaxing thing ever. But no, not at The Chedi. Here you can have your own lounger, a lounger for your dressing gown and even one for your ginger and honey welcome drink. Not even the ‘s’ in stressful.
The spa is complete with a pretty cool glass pool, it is an Instagram dream really.
Now we’re big on food, you know that and while I was staying in Montenegro I had some of the most amazing food ever. The fresh fish and the vegetarian options were incredible, constantly packed with flavour and served with innovative accompaniments such as beetroot foam… who would have thought!?
The Spot – This is where we had our first taste of Montenegrin food, right inside The Chedi itself over looking the marina. The sun was shining down on our faces, the surroundings were beautiful and I had the biggest ball of Burrata I have ever seen, complete with tomato sauce, tomato relish, integral bread crumbs and acheto balsamic gel.
Mala Barka Restaurant – On our first night we were taken to this little dream location in Tivat to try out some authentic, home cooked Montenegrin style food – it didn’t disappoint. This was where we had some of the best fish on the whole trip, especially the truffle infused raw tuna to start. Wow! This is also where we had our first, second and third sip of Montenegrin wine… that didn’t disappoint either.
Galion Restaurant – Galion Restaurant was the restaurant with the beetroot foam I mentioned earlier, not only does it have beetroot foam but also an incredible night time view over the bay. I spent my last dinner in Montenegro here and I couldn’t have chosen a better place myself. It has a trendy, sophisticated vibe with a detailed menu and adventurous dishes and you were surrounded by twinkling lights bouncing off the water from Kotor Old Town.
I started off with a fish pate, followed by the cheesiest carbonara I have ever tasted, completed by a chunky slice of New York cheese cake which I didn’t need but easily polished off. Well worth a visit for a ‘special’ evening.
Ticks on all fronts really.
Stari Mlini Restaurant – So, I saved what I thought was the best till last. After our day floating around Kotor Bay we were taken to the most charming little restaurant, a 300-year old family run mill farm hidden in the trees on the waters edge. It was the most perfect date setting, had the most romantic vibe and all the tables were nestled away in their own little corner of the garden.
Not only was the setting to die for – or to get engaged in – but the food was incredible and the wine flowed easily. We had an array of different fish, baked aubergine milanese and all the fresh crunchy salads you could ask for. If you eat anywhere around the bay of Kotor make it be here and if possible arrive by boat, its just another level of charm.
The Lustica Bay Development
As I mentioned earlier Lustica Bay and The Chedi are pretty new to the map. The Chedi is only just over a year old, with most of the infrastructure you see around the marina not being much older. There was absolutely nothing there six years ago, it was just where the rock met the sea.
Lustica Bay is a billion Euro plus venture by the Orascom Development Group, who aim to build an entirely new town which, in the next ten years, will become a modern metropolis for over two thousand residents. The Chedi is the first of seven hotels to be built, including a five star plus hotel and an 18-hole golf course, boasting views over two different bays. The town itself will eventually house a school, hospital and fire station – holding all the necessary amenities needed in every day life.
This is a crazy big development and it could change the Montenegrin tourism industry big time. I feel privileged to have been able to see the development so early on and I can’t wait to see how the bay changes.
Although there is still so much to come from the development it’s a dream even now because it is still so fresh, so undiscovered and unassuming. I had the most charming weekend exploring this region of Montenegro and I am already dying to go back to see more… and maybe head back to Lustica Bay for a little more pampering.
Overall, it’s time to put Montenegro on your map.