Kotor to Bar: Montenegro Week 2

Crowded beaches, scary coastal highways, beach camping, bureks and humidity


After a relaxing week in Kotor, we have cycled under 70 km over 3 days following the coastline of Montenegro from Budva to Bar. Unlike Croatia, we have slowed down our pace and keen to avoid finishing our time here too quickly. This chapter is about the journey rather than the end goal. And we are hoping to make most of what this beautiful Balkan country with its narrow coastline along the Adriatic and rugged mountains has to offer. This blog post will cover our cycling experiences along the coast and rest days in Bar exploring the lovely southern seaport town.

Sight of our first coast in Montenegro 🇲🇪

We left Kotor on Saturday morning with fresh legs and excitement to check out the coast. We stocked up on food in supermarket and cycled to the popular coastal town of Budva. It was a 25 km ride with steady uphill and downhill for the first half. We then joined the major highway (M1) which was our only route option along the coast. Unless of course we were prepared to climb up the mountains and break our elevation records ⛰ It was a scary experience with reckless overtaking from both sides and fast moving heavy traffic in 80 speed limit zone. We stopped for lunch and then took a quieter final 5 km route into Budva. The drivers were already friendlier, slowed down and tooted at us. At one point, while I was taking a break from climbing on a lay-by, a car pulled up to check up on me. When I explained, he turned his music up assuring it would help re-energise. It was a tune in an unfamiliar language but upbeat for sure 😅

Moody clouds near Budva ☁️ ⛅️ 🌧
Rainbow 🌈 ❤️

Upon arriving in Budva, I waited with our bikes and gear at the waterfront while Guy went scouting for a camping spot. This would be our first wild camping in Montenegro and it didn’t look promising with crowded resorts. The tourism season had kicked in and the local tourist reliant businesses were making up their losses from last year. I got lots of glances from tourists walking past and one stopped for a chat. He was a friendly fellow Brit (Russian origin) who wanted to take a photo of my bike set-up for his friend. He shared how unusual it was to spot a cycle tourist in a region otherwise dominated by Russian tourists on a beach holiday. We certainly were different in several ways including not willing to fork out 20 Euros for a sun-bed 😵 Guy returned after a disappointing search and we cycled on to the next beach in Zavala to camp instead. Here we swam in the rain, cooked and camped just off a walking track. It was a popular spot for local walkers and fishermen but we felt comfortable about it. And a beautiful rainbow marked the end of my unique birthday in the Balkans 🌈

First camping in Montenegro 🏕 🇲🇪
Waterfront cruise before hectic highway 🛣

The following morning we packed up early and started riding before 9 am. Once again, it was a stressful ride along the busy M1. Unlike Croatia, trucks do operate on Sundays which wasn’t ideal for us poor cyclists clinging on the edge of the busy roads. We met another cycle touring couple from Germany who also complained about the traffic. But unlike us, they took some steep mountain routes to avoid where possible. By this point, I was contemplating it as an option too ⛰ After the first 12 km, we were recommended an alternative mountain bike route by our cycling app (Mapy.cz) for the remaining 8 km. We took our chances and were truly rewarded for it. It was an empty old disused road which led to a local beach, an abandoned resort and interesting tunnels into the wee town of Petrovac. As we found out the hard way, supermarkets in Montenegro are all closed on Sundays. So we had to be creative with our meal plans and bought fresh produce from the local market. And treated ourselves to bakery lunch which we enjoyed by the waterfront.

Friendly local market in Petrovac 🍅 🥒
Car boot sale of strawberries 😍🍓

Apart from tour guides offering boat cruises, we were approached by a young Russian couple who wanted to take photos of our bikes. It was their first holiday since COVID and were thrilled to meet us and take numerous selfies. Little does Ano and Ahoj realise their celebrity status in the Balkans (maybe Russian VK even!). We then filled up our drink bottles at a pizzeria where they also appreciated our travel style to explore this beautiful country. The clouds indicated that rain was imminent which made us return to the local beach we spotted earlier. On our short ride back, we again met some encouraging waves and a young lady stopped to chat with me. She is a keen cyclist, been contemplating cycle touring and felt encouraged to see a female cycle tourist. She had lots of questions including where we slept and what did we do when it rained. All valid questions and I hope she pedals on soon to find out the answers first hand 🔜 We spent rest of our Sunday afternoon chilling by the beach, people watching and enjoying a swim.

Riding through well lit tunnel near Petrovac

After a relaxing afternoon, we returned to the abandoned resort with hope to shelter from the rain and camp the night. We chose a room upstairs and cooked dinner at our lavish open plan kitchen along corridor. It was too hard to sneak in our bikes. So we left them locked up outside based on the chilled reaction of locals from previous day. Unfortunately, a grumpy man spotted us and Guy got called downstairs for a “chat”. The language barrier and the hostile attitude meant he didn’t approve of our camping. His friend kept trying to calm him down and assuring it was ok all along. Had I realised the context, I would have joined Guy and tried to mitigate where possible with my usual impromptu sign language. They left the site leaving us unsure of our decision and so we packed up to move out of the building too. It was past 9 pm and we had to find a new camping spot quickly. We went with the gravel next to the beach instead and decided to pack up early before the walkers arrived. It was a windy night but Olive kept us safe and held against the gusts well. I didn’t sleep well due to the noisy winds and waves but we had a couple of nights indoors in Bar to look forward to.

Cooking dinner inside abandoned resort
Olive outside abandoned resort ⛺️
Scenic calm brekkie spot near Petrovac

We nearly beat the morning walkers by packing up before 7 am. We then cycled to a tucked away beach and enjoyed our breakfast. The friendly man from night before saw us on our ride to town and waved. It meant that the grumpy man was an exception again. Given that cycle touring is unusual in Montenegro, it potentially opens up to extreme reactions from locals who are unsure of what we are all about 😫 I definitely prefer the big toothless grins and thumps ups 👍 But this negative experience will remind us not to be complacent again. Certainly leaving the bikes and beach gear in sight isn’t smart 👎 We filled up our bottles and started riding early to beat the heat. But once again, a scary ride on M1 with impatient trucks and cars overtaking recklessly wasn’t ideal. At one point, we had a dual carriageway and that felt safe enough until it reversed. In this section, we also encountered the Sozina tunnel at Haj Nehaj where we slowly crawled on the narrow pavement to stay alive. We were hoping for the traffic to die out after the turn off for Podgorica but a paid toll ahead meant not.

Entering Bar… smile of relief 🚲
Bar, Montenegro 🇲🇪

We took an early lunch break at Sutomore and enjoyed bakery treats again. We then cycled our remaining way to Bar and checked into our apartment by 2 pm. It was only an 18 km riding day but the stress, heat and humidity took its toll on us. I had a long cold shower and an even longer nap after 😴 We had a simple home cooked pasta meal, researched into alternate route options and slept like a log. We extended our time in Bar to pause and revisit our plans. We realised that this country had lots more to offer and we didn’t want to leave with scary memories from riding on the M1. So we spent most of Tuesday indoors resting up and looking into options which involved more climb and less traffic. And as part of the weight saving strategy, I broke my spare toothbrush handle and ditched my woolly socks. Guy felt wiped out and for a change had my kind of rest day (lying on couch rather than going for a hike or ride!). We enjoyed an evening stroll to the local beach and walk along the promenade enjoying the local vibe and sundown.

Local life in Bar (evening stroll) #1
Local life in Bar (fishing) #2

Our final day in Bar was spent with Amy, a fellow traveler I met during the sunset bbq in Kotor. She had kindly invited us to stay in her apartment in Bar and we took her up for our final night. It meant an extra day to enjoy the coastal town with another foodie before heading inland. This day was all about chat, food and beer 🍺 A drink at a local pub, Mexican lunch and homemade Italian dinner felt a treat. And Amy spoiled us with a delicious eggs benedict brekkie before setting us off on the road 🍳 Spending time with Amy was a reminder of how valuable local insights from friends (old and new) can be. Once again we remain grateful for these connections and opportunities that this unique journey brings with all its highs and lows.

Beer and cards with Amy 🃏🍻

By end of our time in Bar on Thursday, we felt optimistic about the rewards of heading to the mountains. After being spoilt for coast in Croatia, it was only fair to give Crna Gora a chance to showcase what it does best (the hint is in the name!). It would hopefully mean cooler weather, quieter roads, wild friends, taste of local culture in the wee villages and lush landscape. Bonus would be the leg muscles, why not🦵So we decided to head north following a national biking trail called the Stories by the Water. It is a local initiative by fellow cycling enthusiasts and supported by the regional tourism team. Our goal would be to head towards the royal old capital of Cetinje and then decide where next based on how we get on. It will certainly be a good test of our fitness levels after 2.5 months of cycle touring. After all climbing from sea level to over 2000 metres in heat with touring gear isn’t for the faint hearted. Wish us luck and watch the space to see if we make it to the heart of Montenegrin culture and heritage the royal way 😱 👑 Sea to summit? Ano 👍

Riding into Bar (a rare traffic free photo!)


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