Herceg Novi is a coastal town in Montenegro located at the entrance to the Boka Kotorska and at the foot of Mount Orjen. It has around 17,000 inhabitants, and is the administrative center of the Herceg-Novi municipality. Although it is one of the youngest settlements on the Adriatic, it had a very turbulent history, and every one of the numerous conquerors had left a mark on the city’s face, making it one of the most picturesque towns on the Montenegrin coast.
Tourism in Herceg Novi
Herceg-Novi is a major Montenegrin tourist destination. It is well known spa and health center, with nearby Igalo being abundant in healing sea mud called “igaljsko blato” (Igalo mud) and mineral water springs called “igaljske slatine” (Igalo water springs). Most famous tourist atractions in Herceg Novi are castle Forte Mare built by Serbian and Bosnian king Tvrtko I in 1382, Clock tower built by Austrians in 19th century, Kanli tower built by Turks,Serbian church St.Archangel Michael which is in the central Belavista Square. As the rest of Boka Kotorska bay, the city has no long sandy beaches. It has numerous small cobble beaches, or concrete platforms. Therefore, the city itself is not a major destination for sunbathing, but there are many attractive beaches reachable by boat. One-day boat trips are organised to Luštica peninsula, which lies opposite to the town. It has many popular excursion sites, such as Žanjic, Mirište or Rose , all having beautiful and very popular beaches. Herceg-Novi is very popular among those in pursuit of nightlife. This resort, loved by artists for its unique atmosphere and peace during the winter, wakes up in the summer, as numerous bars and clubs become open. Herceg-Novi accounted for one third of overnight stays in Montenegro before Yugoslav wars, but situation has changed since in favor of Budva, Kotor and other resorts in northern part of the coast. The biggest problem of tourism in Herceg-Novi is constant shortage of tap water, which is imported from Croatia. Inability of city to pay for the water from Konavle results in frequent cut-offs of water and dry taps, especially during the peak of the summer season.
“Our dear Boka, Adriatic’s bride. Droped with the sky like with silk blue, Prettier than any Nereid are you, Upon you beauty you should yourself pride.”
Culture of Herceg Novi
“JUK Herceg-Fest” Center for cultural events, was established on February 24 , 1992 . Two years later the cultural center and “Orijen”, movie distribution and production company, joined and have played crucial role in enhancing the cultural life in the city. Among many annual festivities are the celebration of mimosa, local theatrical events, and film and music fest. The Herceg Novi City Archive In 1956 Archive returned to Herceg Novi after being temporarily relocated to Zadar , Croatia. The Archive was relocated to Zadar by Italians during the Second World War . The original Archive building, built in 1885 , suffered severe damage by the earthquake in 1979. Shortly after the building was renovated. Today, the Archive is 700 m² in size. The Archive features modern equipment and library open to the public. The oldest document in the Archive originated in 1685 . The library contains approximately 30,000 volumes and 1,000 periodicals. Historical Museum The museum was established in 1949 and officially opened in 1953. The museum building, a gift to the city from the former mayor, Mirko Komnenovic (1870-1941), and his wife Olga, is at least 150 years old. City library The library contains at least 30,000 volumes. Among the contributors to this collection are Dušan Petkovic (5,000 books), Veljka Radojevic (1,500), Doklestic, Daljev, Lucic, Subotic and others.
“Here under the azure dome of the sky everything blossoms and ripens in the sunshine”
Climate of Herceg Novi
The area of the Boka Kotorska is characterized by a Mediterranean climate with dry and warm summers and mild winters. Herceg-Novi has a specific microclimate, which is a result of southern exposition, proximity to the sea, limestone substratum and mountainous hinterland which prevents the breakthrough of cold air masses. Herceg-Novi has approximately 200 sunny days per anum. In July and August there are approximately 10.7 sunny hours per day. Average annual temperature is 16.2 C (similar to Mediterranean and Atlantic cities of Naples and Lisbon).
History of Herceg Novi
Herceg Novi was founded (on a former small fishing village existing since Roman Empire times) as a fortress in 1382 by Bosnian King Stjepan Tvrtko I and was called Sveti Stefan or Castelnuovo.
After the death of Tvrtko, Duke Sandalj Hranić of the Herzegovinian Kosačas acquired Castelnuovo. During his reign, Herceg Novi picked up trading salt. When Hranić died, his nephew, Herzog Stjepan Vukčić Kosača, inherited Castelnuovo. Under Stjepan, Castelnuovo expanded and thus became a city, renaming it to Herceg Novi. The Turks conquered Herceg Novi in 1482, and ruled for 200 years, until 1687. However, there was a short pause between 1538 and 1539 when it was overtaken by the Spaniards after the Siege of Castelnuovo.
Venice gained control of the city and organised it into one administrative unit called Albania Veneta, along with the Boka Kotorska (then called “Bocche di Cattaro”) and present-day coastal Montenegro. On 24 August 1798, Herceg Novi was annexed by Austria but was then ceded to Russia as per the Treaty of Pressburg on 26 December 1805. The Russians officially occupied Herceg Novi between 28 February 1806 and 12 August 1807. On 7 July 1807, Herceg Novi was ceded to France as per the Treaty of Tilsit. Official French rule over Herceg Novi began on 12 August 1807, when the Russians left the city. The city was part of Dalmatia until 14 October 1809, when it was annexed to the newly-created Illyrian Provinces. Herceg Novi, as well as the rest of the Boka Kotorska, was overtaken by Montenegrin forces in 1813. It was under control of a temporary government based in Dobrota between 11 September 1813 and 10 June 1814, which was supported by Montenegro. The appearance of Austro-Hungarian forces in 1814 caused the Prince-Bishop of Montenegro to turn over the territory to Austrian administration on June 11. After Herceg Novi was retaken, as well as the rest of the bay, it became part of the Dalmatian crownland. The bay was under Austro-Hungarian control until 1918. The Kingdom of Montenegro attempted to retake the Boka Kotorska during World War I, it was bombarded from Lovćen, but by 1916 Austria-Hungary defeated Montenegro. On 7 November 1918, the Serbian Army entered the bay and were greeted by the people as liberators. The bay later became a part of the self-proclaimed State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, although expressed for a direct union with Serbia rather. Within a month, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed, renamed to Yugoslavia in 1929.
The bay was a municipality of Dalmatia until it was, like all historic entities, abolished in 1922. It was incorporated into the Zeta Oblast, from 1929 Zeta Banate. Herceg Novi was annexed by the Italians during World War II in 1941. It became a part of the province of Cattaro. Herceg Novi was later retaken by Yugoslav Partisan forces on 10 September 1943. Herceg Novi was later officially annexed to Yugoslavia as part of the People’s Republic of Montenegro.
During the last few years Herceg Novi has become a very popular destination for tourists from the neighboring Serbia, and, to a lesser extent from Russia. In spite of this tourist boom, the city has managed to some extent to keep the traditional slow Montenegrin lifestyle. The locals are very welcoming and you are never annoyed by street vendors.
A sizeable Bosnian (Serb) refugee population flooded into Herceg Novi during the war years. Many of the camps are still around although they have been turned into more permanent (and quite nice) settlements. You can still see them on the bus as you leave the city. Also if you go for a wander up into the hills you will come into whole new areas of construction resulting from the recent property boom.
The Financial Times in 2007 listed Montenegro as one of world’s 10 top property hotspots and foreign buyers have been snapping up properties on the coast.
The Montenegrins’, Serbs’ and Croats’ languages are all mutually intelligible and derived from Serbo-Croat. The dialect and the vocabulary of the local people are heavily influenced by Italian. Locals usually speak and understand Italian, Russian and English.
Bus is the only form of public transport in/out of Herceg Novi, and the bus station (located in the centre of town) is busy the day long with buses heading (mostly) down the Adriatic coast. There is a regular bus service to Herceg Novi (and further to other Montenegrin cities) from main bus station in Dubrovnik, which runs several times a day. It costs about 9 Euro and takes about one hour. There are also quite regular buses to Kotor, Budva, Bar and Podgorica.
If Herceg Novi is your main destination, a pleasant alternative to bus travel is hiring a Croat cab from Dubrovnik airport (Cilipi) for about €50; this trip takes about 40 minutes, including border crossings.
There is no rail or ferry access into the town.
The old town is located at seaside going uphill. The best way to get around in the old town and surroundings is by foot.
The best way to get around is to use Setaliste Pet Danica road. Setaliste Pet Danica is the pedestrianised seafront promenade that runs between the towns of Herceg Novi and Igalo.
According to the guidebooks it is about 6km in length. However, the central part of the promenade, between the harbour at Herceg Novi and the beach at Igalo, is perhaps 3 to 4km in length. You are able to walk this part of the promenade in 30-40 minutes.
The stretch of promenade between the harbor at Herceg Novi and Igalo is lined with cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. The stretch of promenade to the east of the harbor is less densely developed but still contains a good selection of restaurants (many with outdoor seating areas overlooking the sea) and accommodation.
There are a few beaches that can be accessed from the promenade. There are a few small pebbly beaches and a few areas that are marked as “beaches” but are in fact concrete sunbathing areas where you can access the sea.
At regular intervals along the length of Setaliste Pet Danica you will find steep flights of steps that lead up into the main areas of Herceg Novi and Topla.
Setaliste Pet Danica makes for a pleasant seaside stroll between Herceg Novi and Igalo and also offers a good selection of restaurants and bathing areas.
- Old town — The Herceg Novi old town is amazing. It is on a fairly steep hill that leads all the way down to the sea. Wandering through the small stairways to the various plazas and fortresses is a many hour adventure. There are both Orthodox and Catholic churches that are well worth visiting. Free.
- Kanli Kula — (Old Town). The Kanli Kula fortress dominating the old town doubles as an open-air theatre and is worth visiting mainly for the splendid views of the town and the Boka Kotorska bay (entrance fee as of August 2012: 1 euro)
- Spanjalo — The Spanjola fortress located higher up the mountain (170 meters above see level) dates back to 16th century. Take a small street going upwards across from the Kanli Kula fortress. Entrance is free and you can freely climb (and fall from) the walls.
- Savina Monastery — The Savina monastery, approximately 2 km east from the city center has three beautiful Orthodox churches and (yet again) splendid views of the bay.
- Swimming — The city has some great pebble and many concrete beaches, although most of them are quite crowded during high season. There is a path that leads along the beach part of the city for about 3 miles. Follow it until you find a place that is suitable for you. Many small privately owned beaches have loungers, small boats, and other gear for hire.
- Mud therapy — At the western end of the promenade is a small spa town of Igalo, renowned across Europe for healing properties of its muddy, mildly radioactive sand. A health and hospital centre complex offers mud therapy combined with other treatments, but you can do it yourself by following the locals and wading through the sand. Apply the muddy sand all over your body, or on affected parts, and combine with gentle exercise and sunbathing for best effects. This is believed to be beneficial for rheumatic complaints, skin disorders, and gynecological problems.
- Hiking — Going from the bus station up towards the hills you can find some wonderful ancient stone paths that lead up to some very rural communities. The paths are not marked and not very visible but if you wander along any road for a mile or so and keep an eye on the vegetation you should find one. Either way take a 3 or 4 mile walk up into the hills (whether you find the paths or not).
- Mountaineering — Get in touch with Herceg Novi based mountaineering society “Subra” if you are serious about mountain sports in some of the most beautiful and unspoiled mountains in Europe: Check out their website. This website also provides basic maps of some hiking routes in vicinity of Herceg Novi, and information about local mountain huts.
Italian-made clothes in Old Town and Igalo boutiques are reasonably priced up-to-minute fashions. Not great for local arts and crafts, which are available in Kotor and Budva. Go to local market just off the main square in the Old Town on Saturday morning to buy fresh fruit (sweet and cheap), olive oil, sheep and goats cheese, dried figs, locally made wine; note that this market sells seasonal and locally produced goods, so what you find depends on the time of your visit.
Go to small eateries around the promenade for fresh local food, grilled seafood and meat dishes, and international cuisine. Count approximately 10-12 euro for the main dish in a typical restaurant (grilled high-quality fish is more expensive). Almost all cafes serve pizza which is usually well-made. Follow the locals; Montenegrin’s are usually more picky than foreign tourists when it comes to eating out.
The Petica in the centre of the Old Town is a great place to sit, drink an espresso, or have some fairly priced pasta/pizza. 4-7E. The service is very friendly and the food is delicious.
The Tre Lipe restaurant is conveniently located next to the Sea Fort (Forte Mare), 20 meters from the beach. You eat in an open-air terrace under three old lindens, and the service is quick and friendly.
Herceg Novi is hot in summer, and it usually stays warm late into the evenings, so cold drinks are best sellers. Iced coffee is served in tall glasses with dolops of ice cream and “slag” (fatty whipped cream) and qualifies as a full meal. Local beer made in Niksic is good; also try “spritzer” which is a refreshing mix of chilled white wine and carbonated mineral water.
You should also try out famous Montenegrin wines, “Vranac”, “Pro Corde”, “Krstac”, “Cabernet”, “Chardonnay” and “Nikšićko” beer. Montenegrin brandy, called “rakija” is good choice to “warm up” before going out in the evening, especially grape brandy “Montenegrin loza”, “Prvijenac” or “Kruna”.
Montenegro is generally a safe country, and this region is no exception to that. Still, be aware of beggars and pickpockets especially in the old town.
Accommodation is plentiful, look for signs that say ‘soba.’ You should be able to get a room for 10 EUR per person during the summer months.
Half-day or full-day boat excursions along the Kotor bay or to a specific destination (Kotor, Perast, Ostrog monastery) leave from different points on the beach. These sights and places below can all be reached in an hour by car transportation.
- Budva — the Montenegrin touristic metropolis on the Adriatic Sea is located some 20km south of the Boka Kotorska.
- Cetinje — the historical capital of Montenegro is located just under Mt Lovćen, the mountain overlooking the Boka Kotorska.
- Dubrovnik — the hub of Croatian tourism can be reached from Herceg Novi in less than 40 minutes north of the Boka Kotorska.
- Lovcen national park — Mount Lovćen rises from the borders of the Adriatic basin closing the long ang twisting bays of Boka Kotorska and making the hinterland to the coastal town of Kotor. The mountain has two imposing peaks, Štirovnik (1,749 m) and Jezerski vrh (1,657 m). The mountain slopes are rocky, with numerous fissures, pits and deep depressions giving its scenery a specific look. Standing on the border between two completely different natural wholes, the sea and the mainland, Lovćen is under the influence of both climates.
- Risan — visit the site of Roman ruins and some fairly well-preserved mosaic floors that had been in a Roman house during 2nd century A.D.
- Perast— a well preserved village, built entirely in barroque style, a UNESCO World Natural and Historical Heritage Site. From Perast there is a boat ride to the man-made islet of Our Lady of the Rocks (Gospa od Škrpjela). Upon returning home safely, seamen dropped rocks and old boats filled with rocks in this place and gradually created the islet as the foundation for the church.
- Njegos Mausoleum — The mausoleum of Petar Petrovic Njegos built of limestone and granite can be found on top of Mount Lovcen. It was Njegos’s last wish, the greatest ruler of the Montenegrins who was a bishop and a poet at the same time to be buried there.
- Prcanj — small family-friendly place with great view of the Bay of Kotor.
- Tivat— a small town, quickly emerging into a major touristic, business and transport centre. Located in the vicinity of the Tivat International Airport, in summer 2014 it became home of a luxury yacht marina called Porto Montenegro.
- Mamula — Guarding the entrance to the bay, is this prison island built by Austro-Hungarian general Lazar Mamula in mid 19th century. During the World War II, the fort was used as a prison by the Italians.
- The island of Gospa od Skrpjela — (Our Lady of the Rock). The Island Gospa od Skrpjela is one of two gorgeous islands in Kotor Bay, which are situated in the bay across from Perast (in the Kotor municipality). The other island, which also should be visited, is the Island Sveti Djordje (St. George). That island is also called “the island of the dead captains”, because according to a legend one French soldier, by shooting from cannon towards Perast, hit a house of his beloved girl and killed her. That legend was a motive for the master piece “The Island of the Dead” by the Switzerland painter Beklin. The Island Gospa od Skrpjela is an artificial island, made by seaman from Perast and Kotor, who on their big sail boats brought in large boulders. According to stories, fisherman from Perast, after a shipwreck near the island, found an icon of the Holy Mother of God with the Christ on a sea rock, so they vowed to build a church on the island. They built the church in 1630. As the island had to be maintained, seaman continued to bring in stones, so that tradition is alive even today. It is called Fasinada from Perast (July 22).
- Plava Spilja — A blue grotto in the bay. It is 5.7 nautical miles away from Herceg Novi. During the summer season, you can take private boats from Herceg Novi to Plava Spilja.
- Mount Orjen — Mount Orjen at 1,894 meters is the highest mountain on the Adriatic coastline and dominates the entrance to the Boka Kotorska and it’s surrounding.