Sveti Stefan, Montenegro: Jewel of the Budva Riviera
In a country known for its beauty of lush green mountains and the blue Adriatic Sea, one of the most hypnotic images of Montenegro is the island of Sveti Stefan.
I look down from the Hotel Adrovic perched up high on the mountain and see the rocky island of Sveti Stefan standing out with its red roofs shining in the bright sunlight.
It is connected to the mainland by a narrow road built upon two sandy gravel beaches, the Sveti Stefan and the naturist beach Crvena Glavica, both filled with sunbathers enjoying the sun and warm temperatures.
Beachside parking costs 12 EUR. Beach chairs line both beaches and two with an umbrella cost about 16 EUR. On the island, I watch as scores of workmen labor feverishly around the clock to complete the remodeling.
In disrepair since the breakup of Yugoslavia during the 1990s, Sveti Stefan has been a continuing work in progress. The island was subsequently closed and extensive renovations began through the Government of Montenegro’s privatization program.
In 2007 Aman Resorts was selected for the project. Originally planned to re-open in 2008 the world-wide recession slowed the finish date of the project. During the initial grand opening July-August 2010, select accommodations were available. Renovations were completed as the island officially reopened in September 2010.
In the 15th century the island was a fishermen's village. In the 1950s the last residents of the village were evicted, and Sveti Stefan was transformed into a luxury resort town. The streets, walls, roofs and façades of the buildings were, for the most part, preserved, while the interior of the building were transformed to offer the most modern luxury hotel comfort.
During the 1970s Sveti Stefan was famous for visits from the world’s most famous celebrities -- including Marilyn Monroe, Kirk Douglas, Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti -- but it fell into decline during the breakup of the former Yugoslav federation during the 1990s.
As part of the Budva Riviera the area is known for more than 15 beaches. About one kilometer from Sveti Stefan is the Drobni Pijesak Beach. Farther south before reaching Petrovac Na Moru is Perazica beach, followed by the Petrovac Na Moru Beach and 500 meters beyond is Lucice Beach.
Lucice still remains unspoiled despite a large number of visitors. It has the shape of a small bay, and it's 220 meters long and lined by cypress and pine trees. The beach and the sea bottom are sandy and the water is very shallow. Two kilometers further is Buljarica Beach.
Petrovac Na Moru
Petrovac Na Moru is located on the south end of the Budva Riviera, only a few kilometers south of Sveti Stefan. It is a small town on the Adriatic Sea with 1000 inhabitants. Its reddish pebble beach is about 600 meters long and very popular.
Offshore are two rocky islands Sveti Nedelja (St. Sunday) and Katic. The former has a pretty little chapel Sveta Nedjelja, which was built by shipwrecked sailors in gratitude to the kindness of the people of the town. The islands are frequented by deep-sea divers.
This charming and picturesque resort is set in the beautiful Petrovac Bay and is hidden among olive groves and pine trees opposite an impressive mountain range that towers in the distance.
This old fishing village has evolved over the years into a lovely resort, managing to retain its original character and charm, making it attractive for families and couples.
The beach is partially filled and toplessness reigns. The Adriatic or “Jadran,” as the locals call it, is clear but too cold for me to go swimming. Although it is a warm 80 degrees and sunny with an offshore breeze, there are few swimmers.
Beach chairs line the beach and two with an umbrella cost 8 Euros for the day. On the opposite end of the beach lies a stone building with a Partisan memorial on top which is accessible by the stone stairs that the wind up to the top. The memorial lists the names of fallen comrades from the area who died during the Second World War.
Birds are searching for food in the granular sand that is mixed with small pebbles. I find walking barefoot on this mixture to be hard on the feet unless one is acclimated to it.
A few small boats ply along the edge of the beach where two scenic tour boats head toward Budva. Two bikini clad teenage girls warily approach the water and slowly entering it, begin splashing themselves to accustom their bodies to the water’s coolness.
The beach is a protected natural reservation and is rimmed with a promenade that winds along it. It is lined with old stone buildings from a bygone age and contains shops (kenobas) restaurants, pizzerias, cafe bars, and souvenir shops that cater to the tourists.
An art gallery and an internet cafe are also among the trees and scented flower gardens. Seafood is very popular as well as risotto (rice) and cevapcici (spicy meatballs), an old Balkan dish served with onions and bread. There is also the old standby pizza and tasty ice cream (gelato). Prices are moderate.
The locals tell me that the economy is down and that there are fewer tourists than in previous years. I feel relaxed as I walk along the promenade with the sun gently shining down on my back. I can see that the crowds are smaller compared to our last visit in 2007.
Offshore about 500-1000 feet, small boats are moored near the islands. I hear Serbian music wailing in the background telling of past exploits of Dusan the Mighty, Stefan Uros, one of the kings of Serbia. Behind me the road winds halfway up the mountainside toward the highway leading north to Sveti Stefan and south towards Bar.
Serbian is the language of Montenegro and many people speak German and English as they are taught in grade school. Driving is easy as all road signs are in the Roman alphabet.
Most American airlines offer numerous flights from the United States to London, Frankfurt, Paris and Munich Europe with connections to Montenegro. Roundtrip fares average $1000 -$1500. There are two International Airports in Montenegro, Golubovci Airport in the capital, Podgorica, and one in the town of Tivat. These airports have connections with many airlines in Europe.
Where to stay
The following hotel information is also available on the Internet. Visit the site for Montenegro at www.visit-montenegro.com for further information.
The Djuric Hotel
Nika Andusa Bb
Phone 382 86 462 306, 462 304. About 40 Euro
Restaurant, bar, 24-Hour front desk, garden, terrace, non-smoking rooms, family rooms, safety deposit box, air-conditioning, sauna, outdoor swimming pool, free public parking is possible on site.
Sobes are private homes that rent out their extra rooms by the day and usually include breakfast. They can generally be found at the local tourist office and on signs on the highways. Negotiation is the key to success. Don’t hesitate to ask to view the room and talk with the owners about price etc.
Many times we have been able to obtain facilities for washing clothes by paying a little extra or by providing a little gift. Sobes are a very nice way to meet new people and make new lasting friends. On our return visits we have stayed with those same families on more than one occasion when we are in the area again.
Read Larry Zalatel's story: Postlingberg in Linz, Austria: A Journey to Fairyland
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