MONTENEGRO isn’t the first place you might think of when planning a family holiday. It’s well off the beaten track and many people don’t even know where it is on the map.

Yet, all this is about to change. Both Vogue and Lonely Planet have highlighted this Baltic country, with its spectacular landscapes, as a top new European place to visit.

Now the travel operator TUI has named Montenegro as a key destination for 2018 and will launch its first direct, summer flights from the UK in May.

Montenegro is about five times smaller than Ireland. Once part of communist Yugoslavia, it only became an independent state in 2006. But this tiny, young nation more than deserves its sudden recognition.

Like its neighbour Croatia, already a star of the travel world, it boasts entrancing mountainous scenery, a complex history and medieval towns to explore - but the newcomer is seen as being more affordable, offering great value on both food and accommodation.

After years of playing it safe as parents, sticking to Britain, France and Spain because they aren’t too far away, this feels liberating to me and my husband, Mark. Our children, Max, 13, and Eve, 5, are equally enthused.

And all that separates us from our unusual destination is a short flight, lasting less than three hours.

We’re staying in Becici, a family-friendly spot on the Adriatic coast. As we transfer there by taxi, Montenegro already has us enthralled.

The sight of towering peaks plunging fiercely down into the bright blue sea is almost impossibly beautiful.

Instead, we quickly settle into a morning routine of clamouring down the 97 stone steps that lead directly from our hotel, The Queen Of Montenegro, to the 2km Blue-Flagged beach that stretches the length of the town.

Becici is pretty touristy for Montenegro.

There are paddleboards and kayaks to hire, stalls selling inflatable flamingos on the promenade, booths offering pizza and hamburgers.

But the pebbly-sandy beach (the pebbles get larger the closer you get to the waves, so flip-flops are a must) boasts the clearest, sparkling waters that are always blissfully warm in summer, even at 7am.

Przno is the perfect spot for a sunset swim. Its tiny bay offers the stunning backdrop of a small craggy islet, complete with a ruined watchtower that may once - long ago - have protected the locals from pirates.

This becomes our go-to place for sunset swims, alongside other families, drawn in by the enclosed red sands and welcoming surrounding cafes.

Sveti Stefan is Montenegro’s most famous sight. Connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, this scenic, fortified island holds a huddle of 15th century stone buildings.

We can’t pass the guarded entrance - it is is now part of the luxury Aman resort and staying there costs around E800 a night.

But frankly, it doesn’t matter. We snap countless photographs before catching the bus back to reality.

Travelling 4km in the other direction from Becici, we reach Budva - at first sight an ordinary touristy town, with modern buildings on its outskirts.

Then we step through the thick walls of the Stari Grad - which means old town - and find ourselves wandering along an irresistible maze of narrow, marbled streets, past cannons and churches clustered round the main square.

This is an ancient place, founded in the 4th century BC as a Greek trading post.

The Venetians, who ruled it for nearly 400 years from 1420, first fortified it against other invaders, by erecting its walls.

And yet all is not entirely as it seems - the stones have not all stood fast throughout that time. For after an earthquake struck Budva in 1979, many of the buildings were doggedly restored to their original form.

By evening, we know this fascinating area will be throbbing with visitors, clustering into the restaurants, bars and boutiques. But when we visit in the mid-afternoon heat, it is almost deserted; thankfully, the winding alleys give shade.

Montenegro, with its constant surprises that you just stumble upon without any effort, and blend of touristy fun and intriguing history and culture, offers the perfect family holiday.

The biggest surprise is that it’s taken us so long to discover this beautiful Baltic destination.


From May 3, 2018, TUI ( will offer direct flights to Podgorica airport in Montenegro from Manchester. Accommodation can be booked in resorts including Becici, Budva, Ulcinj and Petrovac.

A seven-night holiday staying at the 4T Avala Resort & Villa in Budva on a half board basis costs from £579 per person. Price is based on two adults sharing and includes flights departing from London Gatwick airport on May 16, 2018 and transfers.