Montenegro has just had the sort of publicity Max Clifford would give his Granny’s eye teeth for. Billionaire Nat Rothschild eschewed the usual suspects (Skibo Castle, South of France, Marrakesh) and held his 40th-birthday party (three fun-filled days, 400 of his closest friends and one million of the Queen’s pounds) in this pristine corner of the former Yugoslavia, so small Wales only fits into it the once. The column inches this generated for the event and, therefore, the venue has reinforced the tiny tourist-dependent state’s image as the up and coming holiday destination for discriminating A-listers. So what’s all the fuss about?
After a painstaking and agonisingly protracted restoration, one of the world’s leading luxury hoteliers has brought one of Europe’s most iconic postcard images (the fairytale 15th-century island village rising out of a sparkling Adriatic) back to its brilliant best. Sveti Stefan is one of those things: a travel legend that actually lives up to its billing. The hotch potch of old stone buildings tumbling down twisting alleyways is utterly beautiful and ultimately romantic even more so now that its humble fisherman’s homes have been turned into five-star palaces. It ticks the old buzz word: location as well as the brand new one: authenticity. Aman has employed its usual restraint so the cottages remain simple: a vase of fresh rosemary will probably be the only adornment, lighting is based on the old fisherman’s lamps, wives used to hand in the window to will their husbands’ safe passage. Aman Sveti Stefan is where the AAA-list guests for Rothschild party stayed. It is head, shoulders- and knees and toes above anything else in the country and one of the hottest hotels in the Med right now.
This new £500m destination marina is where Rothschild held his main celebration, a disco at the Lido Mar. It’s a very cool beach club, with a stunning 65-metre infinity pool that seems to flow right into the bay beyond. The marina (in which Rothschild is an investor along with Oleg Deripaska) hopes to rival Cannes and Monte Carlo and has berthing for hundreds of super-yachts worth up to £130m as well as waterfront properties, owned by the likes of Eddie Jordan and Novak Djokovik. There’s also a small band of boutique designer stores such as Heidi Klein and a couple of restaurants. Porto Montenegro has a truly spectacular setting, with craggy limestone mountains crashing into the Bay of Kotor. However, the marina staff bandy around the expression new frontier a lot. Translated that means it’s still only half built. Right now, there’s not a right lot there. It is definitely worth a day’s sunbathing at the lido, which is very sexy, but two days might be stretching the X factor.
3. The natural beauty: Montenegro is gorgeous
A combination of mountains and sparkling sea is always a winner, especially when they’re fringed by pink pebble beaches. There are lovely medieval towns such as Kotor, which has its own mini version of the Great Wall of China, and the old capital Cetinje which barely registers we’re now in the 21st century. Mount Bjelasica is one of only three remaining virgin forests in Europe and Tara River Canyon, making it the second deepest in the world to the Grand Canyon. There is fantastic seafood and hours of entertainment attempting to pronounce Montengrin place names. A word of advice, it is much easier to say Pljevlja after a few glasses of the local rocket fuel.
Source: Susan d’Arcy