Set sail for the Balkans’ an­swer to Monte Carlo

CHRIS SLATER rides the crest of a wave on Mon­tene­gro’s Adri­atic coast

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

WALK­ING out of the front doors of the Re­gent ho­tel, you could be for­given for thinking you were in Monte Carlo.

Whop­ping great su­per yachts are lined up next to some of their smaller cousins, fly­ing an ar­ray of dif­fer­ent flags as deck hands keep them gleam­ing in the spring sun­shine, whilst their own­ers wan­der up and down the prom­e­nade ad­mir­ing the pic­ture per­fect views.

But we are some dis­tance away from the south of France. The clear blue wa­ter in front of me is in fact the Bay of Ko­tor on Mon­tene­gro’s Adri­atic coast.

Specif­i­cally Porto Mon­tene­gro, the Balkans’ an­swer to the op­u­lence of Monaco.

How­ever this is not just a place for the rich and fa­mous, as I was about to find out first hand.

For­merly part of Yu­goslavia, Mon­tene­gro, whose pop­u­la­tion is just over 600,000, de­clared in­de­pen­dence from neigh­bour­ing Ser­bia in 2006.

And with a long stretch of beau­ti­ful coast­line, along with its neigh­bour it is rid­ing the crest of a tourism wave. The cap­i­tal Po­drog­ica is around a two-hour drive away in­land.

The near­est main air­port hub is Dubrovnik in neigh­bour­ing Croa­tia, around an hour-and-a -half away and in­volv­ing a short hop on the ferry to cross the bay.

But for Man­cu­ni­ans it couldn’t be eas­ier, with Easy­jet now fly­ing di­rect to Ti­vat air­port, just three miles away. The fa­cil­i­ties may be prim­i­tive but their de­sire to en­cour­age more trav­ellers to come here means pas­sage is su­per-quick and within 20 min­utes of step­ping off the plane I was hop­ping out of a cab and into the Re­gent Ho­tel’s stun­ning lobby.

How­ever, to merely call the Re­gent Porto Mon­tengero a ho­tel is to do it a se­vere dis­ser­vice. It is the beat­ing heart of this new des­ti­na­tion, in fact it wouldn’t be an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say it has ev­ery­thing.

We’ve all heard the one about Manch­ester hav­ing ev­ery­thing other than a beach, but this ho­tel even has that. In fact it has one of its own. For those spend­ing a min­i­mum of three nights here, the ho­tel will take guests on a pri­vate boat trip to the se­cluded Do­brec Beach on the other side of the bay known as Boka.

De­part­ing just a few steps out of the ho­tel, the boat trav­els through what is the south­ern­most fjord in Europe to the reach the beach. There is no dan­ger of over­crowd­ing here and the beach has a small restau­rant serv­ing fresh grilled seafood. It is the per­fect place to un­wind and truly take in the stun­ning sur­round­ings.

In fact you can­not truly ap­pre­ci­ate the beauty of the area with­out see­ing it from the sea - and if, like me, you had never given sail­ing a go, this is the time to do it.

The ho­tel has a part­ner­ship with the neigh­bour­ing Porto Mon­tene­gro Yacht Club (PMYC) who can of­fer tu­ition to sailors of all abil­i­ties. Stop­ping for a packed lunch af­ter zig-zag­ging our way through the sur­pris­ingly windy bay was one of the most en­joy­able af­ter­noons I have had in a long time. There is also a bonus when you get back as close to the PMYC is a fan­tas­tic lido pool with some of the best views of the en­tire bay.

Ob­vi­ously, af­ter a long day do­ing your best to look like an ex­pe­ri­enced sea­farer but in­stead look­ing like a pound shop Ben Ainslie, what you need is to wind down with a good meal. The ho­tel guests have full ac­cess to the ex­cel­lent spa fa­cil­i­ties and break­fast each morn­ing, which is served on the sunny ter­race over­look­ing the bustling su­per yacht haven.

Evening meals are served in the in­side din­ing room or in the quaint Ital­ian Gar­den.

For day­time snacks there is a patis­serie and del­i­catessen known as Gourmet Cor­ner.

There is also an ar­ray of high-end restau­rants, as well as more than 20 bou­tique shops in the devel­op­ment around the ho­tel which blends seam­lessly into its mar­itime sur­round­ings.

And de­spite the em­pha­sis here be­ing on lux­ury, the cost of liv­ing in the coun­try at large is so low that it means even slap-up meals and de­signer clothes aren’t go­ing to break the bank.

The only po­ten­tial down­side to this devel­op­ment, which is ad­mit­tedly still grow­ing, is that it can feel a lit­tle man­u­fac­tured, and at times a lit­tle suf­fo­cat­ing.

Bump­ing into my sail­ing in­struc­tor in a bar two days run­ning was a lovely sur­prise, but high­lights it per­fectly.

How­ever you needn’t limit your­self to the con­fines of the ma­rina.

Porto was strate­gi­cally placed in the mid­dle of a coast­line steeped in his­tory and is sur­rounded by towns which ooze Balkans’ char­ac­ter.

The per­fect ex­am­ple is Ko­tor which lends its name to the Bay on which Porto sits. It is around a half hour drive from the ho­tel or you can, like me, take a boat trip.

This has the added bonus of tak­ing in some in­cred­i­ble views in­clud­ing Our Lady of the Rocks, the tiny islet in the mid­dle of the bay con­tain­ing the church of the same name.

Walk­ing around Ko­tor’s nar­row, wind­ing cob­bled streets with their lovely cafés and shops sell­ing lo­cal gifts means you will leave hav­ing had a real taste of Mon­tene­gro.

Or half an hour down the coast in the op­po­site di­rec­tion is the town of Budva.

Built by the Vene­tians, it is famed for its sandy beaches and nightlife as well as the char­ac­ter of its own old town.

So there are plenty of places in which to ‘es­cape’ - if you need to es­cape the af­ford­able lx­ury of Porto at all, that is.

Yachts in the har­bour give the Bay of Ko­tor a look of Monte Carlo

Top and above, the Re­gent Porto Mon­tene­gro Ho­tel

Chris Slater sail­ing in the Bay of Ko­tor

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