Steeped in European charm and dramatic topography: discriminating travellers who regularly flock to Capri, St. Tropez, and Ibiza have turned their attention to the glimmering coastlines of Montenegro and Croatia, where tranquillity and decadence abound.
Begin your adventure by surrendering to disbelief at Aman Sveti Stefan, just south of the hopping café-culture town of Budva, and a 30-minute drive from Tivat Airport. Connected to the coast by a narrow stretch of land, this devastatingly charming, self-contained island hideaway is open from early May to mid-October. In this historic 15th-century former fishing village with secret courtyards, winding cobblestone pathways, and views of the majestic Montenegrin Mountains, it’s easy to lose yourself amidst the wonderment. Flanked by azure waters, olive trees, white shutters, and red-tiled–roofed stone cottages, the 80-acre private property (including the adjacent freestanding Villa Miločer, a former queen’s retreat across the bay on the mainland) is entirely fairytale-esque.
With no shortage of memorable activities, lounge by one of the resort’s three skilfully staffed pebble beaches or succumb to an afternoon of serenity at the freestanding Aman Spa, where an indoor pool and unparalleled views of the Adriatic await. Sipping a cup of herbal tea on the reflecting pool–studded veranda while gazing out at Queen’s Beach and the adjacent bay is a moment you’ll remember for years to come.
Venturing out isn’t easy given the otherworldliness of Sveti Stefan, but embarking on a moderate-level hike just above the property is worthwhile for the mesmerizing views it offers of this island Shangri-La. Exploring further out at the fortified city of Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also essential. Less than an hour drive via an Aman-arranged private car service and guide, this history-rich architectural marvel dates back to the ancient Roman era. Given this is a small town and desirable port, try planning your visit on a day free of cruise ships.
Travel through the 16th-century, Renaissance–Baroque-style main gates trickling into Boka Bay and arrive at the Plaza of the Arms, home to the clock tower, and follow it with a stroll past Saint Tryphon Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in Europe. Get lost amidst the ancient spiralling paths and charming plazas bustling with lively boutiques and cafés. Even though the shopping doesn’t rival tonier St. Tropez and Capri, there is plenty of charm and locally made handmade treasures—including scarves, jewellery, olive oil, and ceramics—to strike your fancy.
While Kotor offers restaurants galore, the romantic ambience at Stari Mlini is not to be missed. Offering wild, fresh-caught seafood direct from the Adriatic Sea and a robust selection of indigenous wines, the setting and cuisine of this 18th-century flour mill adds to the allure of the enchanting region. In between sips of Montenegro’s coveted prizewinning wine, Vranac (which translates to “black horse”), make sure to wander the quaint footbridges with the soothing sounds of the water wheel in the background.
The splendour of this coastal haven spills into neighbouring Croatia, where the cultural indulgences continue. About a two-and-a-half hour drive from Kotor is Dubrovnik, the star attraction and yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Local experiential travel curators Calvados Club arrange for luxury transport from Montenegro, along with highly elevated private tours of this 16th-century medieval walled city (which also serves as the location for King’s Landing in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones).
The pedestrian-only “Pearl of the Adriatic,” once the epicentre of merchant and naval fleets, brims with Baroque churches and noble palaces. Bordered by glistening waters studded with sailing vessels—one of the most popular forms of recreation and transportation—the vibrant, terracotta skyline of the Old Town casts quite a spell. Fortunately, travellers can easily soak in the views of this historical wonder from a dramatic, sea-facing terrace guestroom at Villa Dubrovnik.
Carved into a jagged cliff and peppered with floor-to-ceiling windows and beguiling cypress trees, this five-star contemporary escape is the epitome of relaxed sophistication. Relish sundowners under the clouds of white umbrellas at the private beach situated on multi-level white platforms, where plunging into the sea is the most blissful of afternoons, after hours of sightseeing.
Both local residents and guests flock to Giardino—the property’s alfresco bistro—and the Prosciutto & Wine rooftop bar for elegant fare of freshly caught delicacies and the passion-inducing pink sunset. Unobstructed views of Lokrum Island directly across the sea are an additional perk. To take in its 15th-century monastery, a prime photo op with the Game of Thrones Iron Throne, and wild peacocks roaming the botanical gardens, reach this refuge James Bond–style via speedboat—the ultimate Adriatic accessory.
Make the most of your maritime excursion with a cruise over to Bowa, a beach restaurant paradise situated on a quiet enclave of Šipan Island. Opt for the black risotto and smoked tuna while tucked beneath the expansive covered cabanas (reservations recommended) overlooking the crystal waters of the protected bay. This is memory-making at its best.
Photographed by Scott Clark.