Luštica Bay, Montenegro
If Montenegro were a rom-com, the sparks would fly when land meets the sea. A few years back, on a Balkan road trip, I remember nearly smashing my face against the car window, mouth agape as I rounded into Montenegro's Bay of Kotor, an insane fjord-like geographical marvel where a semi-circle of rocky mountains encroach on a pristine turquoise body of water. Little crooked stone villages from medieval times dot the perimeter, like they do in fairytales. After the sun went down, we flagged down a neighbor in his small boat, and he took my husband, daughter (a toddler at the time), and me on a little moonlit tour of the bay, then dropped us off at waterside restaurant where we ate and drank like royalty — and spent a whopping $30 on the bill.
That is the totally accessible, down-home version of Montenegro. There's also a Monte Carlo-like version of Montenegro, filled with fancy casinos and yacht-filled marinas congregating in Budva and Tivat. Some new developments, like The Chedi Luštica Bay, are trying to meet somewhere in the middle, delivering five-star service and amenities while preserving the charm of village living in this little gem of a country on the Adriatic Sea. The appeal of Montenegro is that it is very cozy and Old-World European, without the full-blown trendiness and accompanying crowds of next door neighbor, Croatia. (It's very easy to drive from one to the other: Lustica Bay is about 50 miles south of Dubrovnik.)
What you will find here is 270 days of sunshine, clear water, dense shrubs, olive groves, and uninterrupted coastline. The country is about the size of Connecticut, so it's easy to explore in a series of day trips. On the waterfront of Luštica Bay, The Chedi is a modern resort development that reflects the old fishing village style. The developers used local materials — stone, clay, wood — as well as green construction methods and energy-saving technologies, like slashing consumption of electricity, water, gas, and using various planning methods to reduce carbon emissions and driving and noise pollution.
When it comes time to traveling far and wide again, under-touristed gems that are taking care of their land and resources will be at the top of our list.
At a Glance
The Vibe: A shiny new version of an old country village. The interior spaces are soaring and sunlit and make the most of the interplay of blues from the sea and sky.
Standout Detail: Primetime views and a slick perch from which to effortlessly take them in.
This Place Is Perfect For: Avid boaters, couples, families, and groups looking for a new seaside adventure outside the usual Italian/Greek/Croatian beach vacation who will make the most of the waterfront.
Rooms: 111 rooms, 60 of which are condos. Lots of light, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Contemporary stylings. Heated floors in the bathroom, Aqua di Parma toiletries. Water-view rooms have balconies (which you should absolutely request), and some rooms have kitchenettes.
On Site: Easy destination for work and play. Access to a private beach on the Adriatic Sea. Outdoor infinity pool, serious spa and menu of treatments, conference room, business center.
Food + Drink: Two restaurants: One serves Mediterranean food on the marina; the other serves Asian-inspired snacks alfresco. The Rok beach bar has cocktails and light bites, and the Lobby Bar offers afternoon tea. Though service is not what you'll find in more well-worn tourist spots, the staff is eager to please.
What to Do Nearby
You'd be a fool not to spend as much time as possible on or in the water. Located in the marina, yachting and seafaring adventures await. Boka Bay is beautiful, and there are many small, charming fishing villages you can reach by boat for exploration. Must travel by land or sea to the gorgeous Bay of Kotor. A car or private boat is a good idea, as the country has five beautiful national parks, dramatic gorges, enormous lakes, and chill little fishing villages ready to be explored.