When we say Montenegro, what springs to mind? Perhaps it’s dramatic peaks, medieval towns, and the fjord-like Bay of Kotor. Well-versed wanderers might mention Our Lady of the Rocks, a magnificent church constructed on an artificial island. What if we told you that this lesser-frequented Balkan country is home to a ritzy resort area with a fortified village turned five-star hotel, beloved Japanese restaurant, and photogenic beaches?
On the strength of its first impression, Sveti Stefan grabs hold and doesn’t let go. It’s absolutely striking. A fairytale cluster of 15th-century stone structures rise from the Adriatic Sea and turquoise tides lapse sandy shores. There’s also Milocher Park, a landscaped wonderland with fragrant pines, olive trees, and idyllic viewpoints.
Shockingly, not that many U.S. travelers know, let alone visit, Sveti Stefan — which makes it even more appealing. Because everyone loves being the person to “discover” a dazzling new destination and share tales of its wonder with friends back in the States.
Nothing screams luxury quite like staying on a private island. Set on a small islet and connected to the mainland by a narrow path, Aman Sveti Stefan epitomizes exclusivity. Tons of people stand on the hilltop and snap pictures of this posh resort hideaway, but few actually get to experience it in real life. That’s because Aman Sveti Stefan isn’t the sort of hotel you just swing by to fuel your lavish vacation fantasies. It’s the type of place you can’t enter (aka get past the security guards) without a room key — unless, of course, you score a coveted lunch or dinner reservation. The price to spend the night? Rates start around $850. Folks who can afford it get to enjoy the 1,600-square-foot spa, adults-only cliff pool, and exclusive access to a swath of pristine pink coastline.
Opposite the island, you’ll find beautiful Sveti Stefan Beach. Part of the crescent-shaped stretch is reserved for Aman guests, the other section welcomes tourists with deep pockets. Chairs and umbrellas cost upwards of $20.
Nobu Montenegro reinforces Sveti Stefan’s swish status. Open seasonally, like almost everything else in the area, the umpteenth successful venture of renowned Japanese chef and restaurateur Nobuyuki Matsuhisa lures platinum-card-wielding patrons with top-notch sushi, signature fusion plates, and a hip atmosphere. While polishing off your second order of rock shrimp tempura, don’t be surprised if some A-lister discreetly sits down at the next table. In the mood for calamari and octopus salad? Drago Restaurant and Femelja Kentera are both lovely options to satisfy your taste for local cuisine.
It’s not only envy-inducing accommodations, upscale eateries, and celebrity spotting. (Though, if we’re being totally honest, that’s the primary drawcard for most folks.) For a dose of history, admire the Church of St. Stephen or trek to Monastery Praskvica.
Sveti Stefan has geography on its side, too. It’s situated 40 minutes from Tivat Airport and less than four miles southeast of Budva, Montenegro’s unofficial party capital. That means travelers can hit up the lively nightclubs and bars before returning to the luxuriant quietude of Sveti Stefan.