Last updated on October 30, 2023 by Wandering our World
If you’re seeking a vacation destination with charming towns, spectacular scenery, and rich cultural experiences, the Balkan nations, like Croatia and Montenegro, are some of the best places to visit. In fact, these two neighboring nations are some of the prettiest in the entire region, but if you only have time to see one, which should you choose?
Well, it’s far from an easy decision. Both of these wonderful countries have such a lot to offer, with fascinating histories to uncover, gorgeous towns and cities to explore, and some truly one-of-a-kind activities to enjoy. They’re also hugely appealing to nature lovers, with picturesque, pristine expanses of mountains, beaches, forests, and more.
But, despite their similarities, there are some big differences between Montenegro and Croatia. And, by delving into those differences, you should find it a little easier to pick the ideal destination for you. And that’s what this guide is here to help with. Below, we’ll take an honest, deep dive into Montenegro vs Croatia to help you choose between them.
We’ll take a look at the two nations’ climate conditions, natural sights, big cities, best attractions, nightlife scenes, dining opportunities, and more! By the end, you’ll hopefully have a much more thorough understanding of what they each have to offer. So, with any further ado, let’s get started!
- A Quick Overview Of Croatia vs Montenegro
- Which Has The Best Weather?
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Best For Towns And Cities?
- Which Is Best For Nature And Outdoors?
- Which Is Best For Nightlife?
- Which Is Best For Shopping?
- Which Is Best For Food?
- Which Is Best For Families?
- Which Is Best For Couples?
- Which Is Best For Backpackers?
- Which Is Cheapest?
- Croatia vs Montenegro: Which Is Better?
A Quick Overview Of Croatia vs Montenegro
Croatia: A Quick Overview
Croatia is a country situated on the boundary between Central and Southeast Europe. It has a long stretch of coastline looking out across the Adriatic Sea, with borders adjoining Hungary, Slovenia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia extends across 21,851 square miles and has a total population of just under four million people.
The landscapes of Croatia are notably diverse, with the mighty Dinaric Alps to the south, hundreds of little islands and islets dotted along the shore, hilly northern sections, dense forests, subterranean caves, and colorful lakes. In short, this nation is a haven for nature lovers, with many scenic, pristine spaces and vast national parks to explore.
Croatia also has a rich past, going all the way back to the 6th century, when the South Slavic people known as the Croats settled in this part of the world. The country became a kingdom in the 10th century, later entering into somewhat tumultuous unions with the likes of Hungary, Slovenia, and Serbia, before declaring independence in 1991.
Nowadays, Croatia is a well-developed country with an impressive economy and a strong tourism scene which makes up around 20% of the nation’s entire GDP. Travelers from around the world are drawn to Croatia, especially its coastline – with medieval cities, over 100 Blue Flag beaches, and some of the cleanest swimming water in the world, it’s a true seaside haven.
Montenegro: A Quick Overview
Montenegro is a country in the Balkan region of Southeast Europe. It has borders with Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, and Croatia. Extending across 5,333 square miles, Montenegro is significantly smaller than Croatia and has a much lower population, totaling just over 600,000 people.
The name of this country translates to “Black Mountain“, and it’s not hard to see why. Vast swathes of the nation are made up of towering mountain peaks, often covered with dense forests and foliage, giving them a distinctive dark hue. Some of the most rugged terrain in Europe can be found here, but Montenegro also hosts scenic lakes and lush forests galore.
Montenegro is quite a recent addition to the European map. Its land was once divided across three different principalities, named Duklja, Travunia, and Rascia. It was also part of the Venetian Republic, Venetian Albania, and Yugoslavia for many years, while also being in a federation with Serbia until 2006, when it finally declared independence.
Despite being one of the newest recognized countries on the planet, Montenegro is developing rapidly, with a growing economy and burgeoning tourism scene. It still sees far fewer tourists than Croatia, but is gradually emerging as one of Europe’s overlooked treasures, thanks to its striking mountainous landscapes and beautiful ancient towns, like Budva and Kotor.
Which Has The Best Weather?
Weather is always a key factor to consider when picking between two different vacation destinations. But, as neighboring nations, Croatia and Montenegro have relatively similar climate conditions. They both enjoy Mediterranean climates along their coastal areas, with sunny summers and quite mild winters.
As the larger nation, Croatia has slightly more diversity in its weather. Inland areas, like the capital city of Zagreb, can get a little cooler than the coastal resorts, but conditions are generally quite pleasant across the country for most of the year. In Montenegro’s mountainous regions, meanwhile, the weather is a little more extreme, with higher chances of frost and snow in winter.
Overall, both countries offer mostly fine and desirable weather, though you may have to wear an extra layer or two when exploring the high peaks of Montenegro.
Which Is Best For Activities?
Croatia and Montenegro offer quite similar activities, with lots of pretty walled cities and coastal towns to explore, coupled with vast natural areas for hiking and more. However, each country also has its own unique landmarks and one-of-a-kind attractions to enjoy. In this section, we’ll explore the best activities in each nation.
Croatia: The Activities
Most visitors to Croatia will spend much of their time exploring its long Adriatic coast, stopping off at the many coastal towns and resorts along the way. Dubrovnik, for example, is one of the country’s must-see cities, famed for its ancient medieval walls and structures – this city is so well-preserved, it has been used as a filming location for fantasy shows like Game of Thrones.
In addition to Dubrovnik, Croatia’s coast is littered with other charming coastal cities, like Zadar, with its ancient Roman and Venetian Old Town, or Split – this is the second-biggest city in the whole of Croatia, boasting beautiful beaches and stunning landmarks, like the Diocletian’s Palace and Saint Dominus Cathedral.
As well as diving into the towns and cities, you can also enjoy Croatia’s numerous scenic beaches, or take boat tours to its many islands. Swimming, sunbathing, and even snorkeling are popular activities in this part of the world, especially due to Croatia’s famously clear waters and underwater ruins.
Of course, the coast may be a big highlight of any trip to Croatia, but it’s not the only place to see. The inland areas also have much to offer, like the capital of Zagreb, filled with museums and cultural attractions, or rural Slavonia, where you can visit wineries and see a slower pace of Croatian life.
Montenegro: The Activities
Despite being a smaller and much more sparsely-populated country compared to Croatia, Montenegro still has much to offer. Many visitors will be drawn to the often-photographed Bay of Kotor – by far one of the most scenic spots in all of Europe, this place boasts imposing mountains, colorful medieval towns, and deep blue waters.
Just like in Croatia, there are many waterfront cities to explore. Kotor itself is a true treasure, with one of the best-preserved Old Towns in the nation – if you’re feeling brave, try the tricky mountain trek up to the 9th century San Giovanni Fortress. Budva is also remarkably scenic, with a great mix of historic sites and modern amenities, combined with miles of soft sands.
Montenegro also has some breathtaking spots that almost seem to defy the laws of logic, like the “Our Lady of the Rocks” 15th century church, which is perched in the middle of a man-made lake, or Sveti Stefan, an entire walled resort, connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of sand.
For nature lovers, Montenegro continues to impress. It’s home of Lake Scadar, the biggest in all of Europe, and a seemingly endless array of mountains, especially in key locations like Mount Lovcen National Park, perfect for hikes, climbs, and treks. Even the simple act of walking around Montenegro’s quiet villages is a delight, with wild fig, pomegranate, and persimmon trees to keep you from getting hungry as you roam about.
Overall, as the bigger country, Croatia has more towns and cities to uncover. It’s also best for beaches and coastal fun. However, in spite of its small size, Montenegro packs in a whole lot of fun and beauty. It’s got some of the most charming old towns in Europe, along with countless acres of untouched wilderness to explore.
Which Is Best For Towns And Cities?
If urban exploration is what you crave, Montenegro and Croatia have more than enough to keep you entertained. In Croatia, for example, you can check out the bustling capital of Zagreb, which is by far one of the best places to learn about Croatian history, culture, and lifestyles, while also enjoying top-tier shopping and dining.
Then, there are the many coastal towns and cities, like Dubrovnik, nicknamed “Peal of the Adriatic” for its distinctive beauty, and Hvar, with 13th century medieval walls and gorgeous Gothic palaces. Split, Rovinj, and Zadar are just a few more examples of Croatia’s many waterfront cities, with Roman ruins, old churches, cozy craft stores, and fantastic restaurants.
Over in Montenegro, it’s quite a similar story. If you want to see the nation’s capital, you’ll have to head inland – Podgorica is famed for its ancient landmarks, like the Orthodox Temple of Christ’s Resurrection and Clock Tower, along with its more modern constructions, like the Millennium Bridge. It’s a great place to shop, too, while also having a few super museums.
After that, most of the country’s prettiest towns and cities are situated by the water. And many of them are just as scenic as those in Croatia. Budva, Kotor, Ulcinj, Perast, Herceg Novi – the list goes on and on! All of these towns are charming and inspiring in their own ways, with quiet streets, cute shops, red-roofed buildings, and views to take your breath away.
Overall, it’s almost impossible to call a winner in this category, as both countries have such distinctly beautiful towns and cities. The biggest difference is that Montenegro’s cities tend to be much quieter. So, if you prefer to avoid noisy tourist crowds, Montenegro might be the better destination. Or, if you like your cities to feel lively, Croatia could be the right fit for you.
Which Is Best For Nature And Outdoors?
For nature lovers, Montenegro is a dream come true. It’s regarded as a true hiker’s paradise, thanks to its vast mountainous regions and many coastal paths. Often, you can walk from town to town or village to village in Montenegro quite easily and safely, and there are so many super places to hike, like the extraordinary Zabljak and River Cijevna Waterfalls.
Not to be outdone, Croatia also has much to offer for the average outdoor adventurer. Krka National Park and the Plitvice Lakes, for example, often rank among the most scenic natural spots in Europe, with the lakes, in particular, sure to amaze with their rich spectrum of colors and family-friendly hiking paths. Croatia also has a much longer coast, with dozens of beaches.
Overall, the best option for you will depend on what kind of nature activities you’re hoping to enjoy. For beaches and water-based fun, Croatia is king. For hiking and mountain climbs, Montenegro is the place to be. As mentioned earlier, Montenegro also tends to be much quieter, which can help visitors feel more relaxed and in touch with nature.
Which Is Best For Nightlife?
There’s clearly lots to do during the daytime in both Croatia and Montenegro, but how about at night? Well, Croatia has quite a lively nightlife scene, with some of its coastal cities and resorts, like Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Split simply filled with vibrant venues to spend your evenings, like cocktail spots, Bohemian dance clubs, and waterfront beach bars.
Plus, since Croatia tends to attract pretty big crowds, its big cities always have got a lively feel, even after the sun has set. There are always places to grab a drink, meet friendly locals, mingle with your fellow travelers, dance the night away, and enjoy some excellent live entertainment, too.
In contrast, Montenegro’s nightlife scene is slightly more subdued. This is a much quieter country on the whole. With that said, there are still more than enough places to spend your evenings, with student-friendly clubs in Podgorica, elegant waterfront lounges in Tivat, and a brilliant bar and club scene in Budva.
Overall, Croatia’s scene is bigger and more dynamic for now, but Montenegrin nightlife is getting better all the time.
Which Is Best For Shopping?
Shopaholics can have a terrific time in Croatia, especially if they’re looking for clothes, accessories, and luxury goods. Some of the big cities here, like Zagreb and Dubrovnik, have a lot of fancy boutiques and ateliers, while Split and other coastal towns are filled with charming craft stores and souvenir shops.
Over in Montenegro, you can also find a good mix of shopping experiences. Looking for glamorous European fashion and fragrances? Head to exclusive shopping plazas like Porto Montenegro in Tivat. Seeking traditional art, crafts, and gifts? Check out the Old Town streets of Kotor and Budva.
Both countries are lots of fun for shopping. Croatia is a little better for clothes and luxury goods, but Montenegro is more fun for quirky finds, antiques, and gifts, with lower prices across the board.
Which Is Best For Food?
You’re sure to eat well in Croatia, and the country’s long coastline gives it easy access to top quality seafood. Many coastal restaurants and bars here serve delicious fish dishes, but you can also find meaty stews and Italian-style delights further inland. Croatian wine is also quite fabulous, ranked as some of the best in the Balkans.
Montenegrin cuisine is also a joy to discover, combining influences from both the Mediterranean and Balkan regions. Dishes here tend to be made with very fresh, local ingredients, like traditional cheeses, fish, lamb, and veggies. Many dishes are rich, flavorful, and filling, and there’s surprising diversity to be found in the restaurants of Budva, Podgorica, and Tivat.
Overall, it’s once again a clash that’s almost too close to call. Both countries make similarly tasty food, with Croatia being better for fish and seafood dishes, and Montenegro perhaps having the edge for rich stews and hearty, cheesy meals.
Which Is Best For Families?
Families will love Croatia. It’s got lots of beaches, perfect for those long, lazy afternoons where parents can sunbathe and sit back with a good book while the kids run around and play. Children of all ages are also sure to be amazed by some of the medieval, fairy-tale-like towns along the Dalmatian Coast, as well as the colorful Plitvice Lakes and ancient ruins.
Montenegro is also a fine family vacation destination. There are some thrilling family-friendly landmarks to visit, like Lipa Cave and the Bay of Kotor. Plus, as this country is quite compact, it’s easy to get around, and since it’s so quiet and peaceful, families can almost easily discover their own favorite little spots and secret treasures.
Overall, both countries work equally well for families, and the right one will depend on what kinds of activities your family likes the most. More active families who enjoy hiking and exploration may prefer Montenegro, while those seeking relaxation by the seaside should opt for Croatia instead.
Which Is Best For Couples?
For couples, Montenegro is quite possibly one of the most charming destinations in the whole of Europe. It’s still got that peaceful, under-the-radar ambiance, without much noise or overly touristic areas, making it perfect for couples who want to enjoy romantic evenings and sunset promenades, without having to wait in long lines or wade through crowds of tourists.
Croatia, too, is a very romantic destination, and certainly one to consider if you’re planning a honeymoon or anniversary trip. Couples can slip into a state of blissful relaxation on Croatia’s beautiful beaches, or lose themselves wandering the labyrinthine alleys of cities like Split, Hvar, and Dubrovnik.
Overall, the best country for you will depend on what you and your partner like the most. Want peace and quiet, far from the hustle and bustle of busier destinations? Pick Montenegro. Prefer livelier cities and gorgeous beaches? Consider Croatia instead.
Which Is Best For Backpackers?
Backpackers and budget-conscious adventurers can also quite easily fall in love with either Croatia or Montenegro. In fact, both countries lend themselves well to backpacking, since they both have lots of lovely, interesting cities that you can easily hop between and explore from day to day, making it easy to plan out a thrilling, fun-filled itinerary.
Montenegro has the benefit of being more compact, which makes it a little easier and cheaper to get around. Speaking of cheap, prices in general are also quite a lot lower in Montenegro for most things, like food and accommodation. Plus, this country has more of an off-the-beaten-path feel compared to Croatia, perfect for those who like to eschew the typical tourist traps.
Croatia is busier and more touristic. That means it can be a little easier to find English speakers and mingle with fellow travelers from around the world, which may be appealing to the average backpacker. It’s also got quite an efficient public transport system, ideal for traveling between the various towns and cities, as well as a deeper nightlife scene for those who like to party.
Overall, both cities are once again quite competitive in this category, and there’s really no wrong or right option. If you’re on a tight budget, pick Montenegro. If you want more places to visit and things to do, opt for Croatia.
Which Is Cheaper?
Budget is always a big factor on the minds of many travelers when choosing between two different destinations. So, which country is cheapest? Well, as you might expect with its less touristic nature, Montenegro is by far the more affordable option of the two.
Prices might rise in the years ahead as more and more people discover just how breathtaking Montenegro can be. But, for now, it’s a very cheap place to visit, with surprisingly low prices for accommodation, restaurant meals, and touristic activities, too. In contrast, as the more well-known touristic hotspot, Croatia is quite pricey, especially in Dubrovnik and Split.
Where to Stay According to your Budget
Budget: Hotel Dubrovnik Palace, nestled between the Adriatic Sea and pine forest, offers breathtaking views and serene atmosphere. With its private beach, exquisite dining options, and luxurious spa facilities, the hotel provides an oasis of comfort and relaxation. The modern architecture, combined with traditional Croatian elements, creates a unique and elegant ambiance that captivates every visitor.
Luxury: Grand Hotel Brioni Pula, A Radisson Collection Hotel, is a stunning amalgamation of luxury and culture, perched on the Adriatic coast. It boasts breathtaking sea views, exquisite dining experiences, and top-notch spa facilities. The hotel seamlessly combines contemporary design with rich cultural heritage, offering guests an unparalleled experience of elegance, comfort, and Croatian hospitality.
Budget: Hotel Gradska Cetinje, nestled in the heart of Montenegro, is a charming retreat. Surrounded by historic architecture, the hotel’s classic elegance and beautiful garden create a serene atmosphere. Guests can explore the rich culture of Cetinje and relax in comfort, enjoying the picturesque scenery and warm hospitality.
Luxury: Boutique Hotel La Roche is a hidden gem in a tranquil setting, exuding charm and sophistication. The boutique hotel features elegant decor, lush gardens, and panoramic views. With impeccable service, it offers a serene retreat for guests to savor fine dining and unwind in an atmosphere of understated luxury and natural beauty.
Croatia vs Montenegro: Which Is Better?
So, which country comes out on top? The well-established touristic hotspot of Croatia, or the up-and-coming mountainous marvel of Montenegro? Well, as this guide has repeatedly shown, it’s very tough to say which country is best, as they both have so many advantages and share many things in common.
However, when it really comes down to it, Montenegro may just have a slight edge. It’s the cheaper of the two countries in most areas, and it’s got wonderful natural spaces and charming old towns to more than rival the best that Croatia has to offer. It’s almost like a smaller, more affordable, and quieter version of Croatia in many ways.
At the same time, even though Montenegro might just about take the win for most backpackers, couples, and even family travelers, Croatia is still a fabulous place to see. It’s got more dynamic cities, perfect for those who prefer lively vibes, as well as better nightlife and superior beaches if you’re planning to spend lots of time by the sea.