Last month, Croatia became the 28th country to join the European Union. This is great news for Croatians, who should start receiving economic and health care benefits soon. But the announcement didn’t excite tourists, who viewed the Adriatic country as an under-the-radar gem. Already popular Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Vis are likely to see a big increase in visitors. Plus hotel development to accommodate them.
So where will the gem seekers head next? Montenegro is a good bet. The former Yugoslavian country is located just south of Croatia. Its northern coast is already an easy day trip from Dubrovnik. The first craving in Montenegro: Dobrota.
From the Adriatic Sea, go deep into the Bay of Kotor. Surrounded by mountains, the bay is Europe’s southernmost fjord. The area has a strong naval tradition. Hundreds of ships once docked here. At the end of the bay, you’ll find the city of Kotor and its Venetian fortifications. And just four kilometers away, the wealthy suburb of Dobrota offers gorgeous views, delicious food, and renovated medieval buildings.
One of those 18th century Baroque palaces is now Palazzo Radomiri. The interior has exposed stone walls, wooden beams, and traditional furniture. Ten rooms–such as Armellino, Speranza, and Fortunata–were named after boats of the wealthy former owners. Strengthen your core by doing yoga on the terrace while looking out at the water in the morning. The mountains can barely be seen through the dense fog. Small boats dot the bay. Drink coffee on the balcony after your shower. The fog is lifting. Now you won’t notice the intricate Italian architecture with the view of Mount Vrmas in front of you.
Walk–or rollerblade–along the bay toward Kotor. Explore the well-preserved defensive walls. Hike to Krstac, passing a small waterfall and lots of mountain goats, before finding an amazing view of the fort and the bay. And visit the Cathedral of St. Tryphon and St. Nicholas Church. Return to Palazzo Radomiri for a quick swim–in either the pool or the bay–before dinner. Eat at nearby Forza Mare, a romantic restaurant with a gazebo on the water. Olives, figs, and goat cheese. Prosciutto from Njeguši. Smoked sea bass. And Vranac wine.
But save your after-dinner drink for Palazzo Radomiri’s outdoor lounge. Sip a glass of rakija–plum grappa. Except for waves gently hitting deck below, the bay is calm and quiet. For now. At least until this little gem is discovered.