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A Relaxing Beach Vacation in Ulcinj, Montenegro

View of Ulcinj, Montenegro
When I decided to start my trip to the Balkans with a ten day vacation from the blog, I began searching for an ideal beach town in Montenegro where I could do nothing but relax. At the time, I admittedly knew very little about Montenegro and as I did some research, I found it quite difficult to determine which of the many towns along its coast would make for the perfect destination.

After considering Herceg Novi, Budva, Petrovac, Bar and Sutomore, I finally chose the one location that I had trouble finding any information about at all. So, I booked an apartment in the town of Ulcinj, located just 40kms from the border with Albania, in a region of the country that seemed to receive far fewer visitors than the towns farther to the north.

Then, upon arrival in Montenegro last week, and with no real knowledge of what to expect, I hopped on a bus from the capital city of Podgorica and just hoped for the best.

And oh how lucky was I!

Not only was Ulcinj exactly what I was looking for – small, picturesque, laid-back, full of beaches – it turned out to be far better than anything I could have ever expected.

The Town Of Ulcinj

It’s a small town for sure, with one wide avenue of supermarkets, simple shops, restaurants and a market that suddenly turns into a small road as it curves toward the coast and straight through a narrow valley that leads down to the main beach and the historical fortified Stari Grad (Old City).

You can enter the gates of the tiny Old City via a short climb, either by road or steps, allowing you to explore it’s cobblestone streets and medieval buildings while taking in the view provided by it’s interesting location atop a piece of land that juts out from the coast into the Adriatic Sea.

Old City, Ulcinj, Montenegro

Back down below the Old City, the main tourist strip behind the beach has the normal collection of pizzerias, shops selling towels and swimsuits and dozens of ice cream stands. But at the same time, the scale of this tourist strip was so small in comparison to what you might expect when you think of a tourist town that it was able to maintain it’s relaxed, local atmosphere. This was not an overwhelming tourist scene at all and was instead, quite pleasant to walk around.

Apart from these areas, the rest of town was situated on the sides and tops of several large hills that dotted the coastline, which not only made for some impressive scenery, but acted as the most ideal location for many of the residential neighborhoods. In fact, the apartment I rented was located at the top of one of these hills, something that allowed me to enjoy this evening view every day…

View from apartment in Ulcinj, Montenegro

The Beaches of Ulcinj

The main beach was simple and incredibly overcrowded. The view of the Old City from the sand was wonderful, but the water was quite dirty, as was the beach itself, littered with empty Coca-Cola bottles and bags of junk food carelessly tossed away by beach-goers. I’m actually not too sure I’d ever been on such a crowded, dirty beach before and after one afternoon squeezed in between so many other people and trying not step on garbage, I decided to try a different beach the next day.

Beach in Ulcinj, Montenegro

The 13km stretch of beach known as Veliko Plaza is about a 10-minute drive outside of the center of Ulcinj and this is where you will find private beach clubs, all of which have names such as “Copacabana” and “Miami Beach” and charge about 6 Euros for two beach chairs and an umbrella. I chose Miami Beach and with a restaurant and bathroom facilities on the premises, as well as a dozen staff members constantly cleaning the beach, this was a major improvement from the day before. And even though this beach probably had the same number of people as the main beach in town, it was so well-organized that it didn’t feel nearly as crowded.

I ended up at Miami Beach two days in a row, and while I was prepared to return to Miami Beach for a third day, I had noticed another small beach near the Old City during a short walk I took one evening. This beach was hidden at the bottom of a hill and despite being a rocky beach without any sand at all, it seemed so appealing simply because there were so few people there and the water was so clean and clear.

Sure enough, Liman Beach turned out to be my favorite of them all and had I found it on my first day in Ulcinj, I probably would have gone here every single day. Tiny, with cheap umbrellas for rent, such beautiful water (which also seemed much warmer than the water at every other beach), a convenient snack/drink bar and excellent views of the Old City, this was my kind of beach.

Liman Beach, Ulcinj, Montenegro

And during the two days I spent on Liman Beach, swimming around and laying in the sun, I finally reached that point of relaxation that I had hoped this vacation would bring me.

The People of Ulcinj

The local population of 11,000 residents, of which 70% are Albanians, are quite laid-back and friendly, just as one would expect from those who live in a beach community. And despite having a mix of religions, ranging from the majority Muslims to Orthodox to Catholic to the three Buddhists who live in town, everyone lived in harmony according to the locals I spoke with.

In addition, crime is apparently non-existent here and it’s one of those destinations where you could ask anyone in the street for assistance and basically be guaranteed of a helpful, generous response.

As for the other tourists in town, they were made up mostly of Bosnians, Serbians and Kosovans, as Ulcinj is clearly a tourist destination for those from other Balkan countries. And while English is spoken by most of the people working in the tourism industry, I almost never heard it being used considering that the overwhelming majority of tourists here could communicate in either Albanian or Montenegrin, the two languages most widely used in Ulcinj.

And that was perfectly fine with me. All I wanted was to find a place where I could quiet my mind, get a tan, eat some good food and talk to some nice people.

That’s what I did in Ulcinj and I loved it. And in case you can’t tell from the simplicity of this post, I am currently about as relaxed as I have ever been at any time during the past three years, which is exactly why, the next time I decide to find a quiet beach community to spend a month or so living in, Ulcinj will definitely be on my final list of options.


Does Ulcinj sound like your kind of place? Are there any other quiet, non-traditional vacation destinations you’ve discovered or want to visit?

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29 Responses to A Relaxing Beach Vacation in Ulcinj, Montenegro

  1. Dave says:

    Hi Earl, great article, very insightful. I’m planning a week in Montenegro next month, and having read this I think we’ll spend most of it in Ulcinj. Keep on Truckin!

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  5. Hi Earl,

    I’m really keen to explore this little corner of Europe. Did you have a car to get around? I’m thinking of a road trip around Europe. I have heard that the roads in Albania are terrible. How are they in Montenegro?

    What’s the food like in region? I went to Croatia and Bosnia a number of years ago. I was vegetarian at the time so mostly survived on pizza and after a week I was over it! Thankfully, I’m not a vegetarian anymore. Any great dishes in Montenegro?

    Bethaney

    • Earl says:

      Hey Bethaney – No car, just taking buses which is quite easy here. As for the roads in Albania, they are definitely not nearly as bad as people say. I’ve seen a few areas with potholes but nothing too terrible at all and I’ve met quite a few people driving around Albania without any problems. The roads in Montenegro are perfectly fine.

      As for food, it’s a lot of pizza, pasta and grilled meat over here, with plenty of fish along the Montenegrin coast. Not too much of a variety and I didn’t find any standout dishes in Montenegro unfortunately. The food in Albania on the other hand has been excellent!

  6. Andrea says:

    I went to Ulcinj a couple of years ago and while I didn’t spend much time at the beach I do remember the very friendly local Albanians.

  7. matt says:

    You have a great eye for photography!

  8. Waegook Tom says:

    Ulcinj sounds amazing although based on the photos I must say that pebbles do not a beach make. Nothing gets me into a rage more than a beach that ends up being more rock than sand.

    Other than that, this sounds like exactly my kind of place! The view from your room looks spectacular, loving it!

    • Earl says:

      Hey Tom – I used to agree about the rocks but I must admit, it was quite nice to finish a long day at the beach and not be covered in sand!

  9. Simon P says:

    Sounds wicked! I love the eastern Adriatic; I love relaxing on the beach even more!

  10. Surminga says:

    That lookalike a lovely little community, here in the uk we’ve not seen any sun in weeks

  11. Amanda says:

    Hey Early – I’m a longtime reader, but just catching up now since I, too, am in the Balkans! Will you be making it to Novi Sad? For me at least, it is the perfect combination of a beautiful beach (on the Danube) and a bustling city center. Hope you make it here!

    • Earl says:

      Hey Amanda – Looks like I won’t be making it to Novi Sad on this trip….but since I’ll be based out of Romania for the foreseeable future, I’m sure that I’ll have an opportunity to get there soon enough! Enjoy the rest of your trip and maybe run into you somewhere :)

  12. Wong Kae Chee says:

    hey Earl, beautiful and simple places. Wow! I want to be there. Now that you let the secret out, loads of people will descend on your favourite beach. I am glad you found the perfect place to relax.

  13. Tim Martin says:

    Great pics Earl. Beaches are the best place for vacations as you want relaxation in your vacations and no better place is there than sea beach. My personal favorite beaches are Las Vegas beaches. Amazing place to visit.

  14. Alina Ciabai says:

    So you never went to the Black Sea in Romania, to see really overcrowded and dirty. No special views there though, so is not really worth it.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Alina – I plan to visit Romania’s coast when I get back in August so I guess I’ll be able to compare the two then :)

  15. That looks like a great combo of city and beach!

  16. Steve C says:

    Hi Earl, Back to your roots I see (being a traveler, not a professional Blogger). lol I too, love those kind of places. It may be different now, as everything is, but we stumbled upon a place similar to Ulcinj. We found Chania, Crete, Greece to be a perfect place to spend a couple weeks in a rented apartment, with a kitchen! We had been on our trip for over a year at that point and knew that every few months when we’d get close to burning out, we’d stop in one place for a rest.
    I just so happened that it was Easter when we were there and the whole town was a buzz. We placed ourselves in the balcony inside the main church and watched as the priests lit a candle behind the lectern, then in turn lit candles of the parishioners. The candles were lit one by one by everyone inside the church to each other. We then turned around and watched outside through a window over the plaza below. The candles continued to be lit, spreading through the front doors to the people in the plaza out front of the church. Everyone was singing. There were hundreds of people, Greeks, not tourists. Everything was dark except for the the candles. It was one of the most moving experiences of group participation that we had ever seen, one of those moments that you can’t believe just happened, totally unplanned and “authentic”!

  17. J J Kosmac says:

    Earl, I love the eastern Adriatic. As an American with Croatian ancestry, this area has always been of interest to me. I’ve been to
    Piran and to the Istrian peninsulaof Croatia but I’m looking for a cheaper place…this looks like it would fit my taste and wallet…
    Was the apartment and the food cheap? Good food? Easy to communicate with the locals!?

  18. Barbara says:

    Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! Wandering Earl, this post has made me so happy!! I too have visited Ulcinj, Montenegro! It was one of the most beautiful places on earth. The sandy beaches, the maze of stairs at the citadel, the fishermen nets and so much more.

    Your post has given me a big smile on my face. Looking forward to reading more of your adventures!

    • Earl says:

      Hey Barbara – It was a great little town and it had everything one could need for a perfect beach vacation!

  19. Looks like your vacation is going great!

  20. Looks like a fun little town!

  21. Ryan Taxis says:

    So very nice! The pix are fantastic, and it’s nice to see that someone roaming around down there. I consider your trip a primer for our 3-month stay at the end of the summer, in the country that no one ever seems to know exists. This post has me geeked – minus the crowds haha.

    • Earl says:

      Hey Ryan – Montenegro is just one of those countries that is impossible not to enjoy so I’m certain you’ll love it!

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