Ulcinj is a coastal town and municipality in Montenegro. The town of Ulcinj has a population of 10,828 (2003 census), and it is the center of the Ulcinj municipality. This southernmost municipality of Montenegro has a population of 20,290.
History of Ulcinj
The wider area of Ulcinj has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. Illyrian tombs (tumuli), found in the village of Zogaj, in the vicinity of Ulcinj, date back to the Bronze Age. The town is believed to be founded in the 5th century BC colonists from Colchis. The Colchian colonization is mentioned in the 3rd century BC, in a poem by Apollonius of Rhodos. Illyrians lived in the region at the time, and under Greek influence built immense so-called Cyclopean Walls. In 163 BC, the Romans capture Colchinium from the Illyrian tribe of Olciniatas and renamed the town Olcinium (aka Ulcinium) after the tribe. Under Roman rule, the town receives the status of Opida Civium Romanoruma (Town with Special Privileges), only to be granted Municipium (Independent Town) status.
When the Roman Empire was split in two, Olcinium became a part of the Eastern Roman Empire (later known as the Byzantine Empire). Before the medieval period, Ulcinj was known as one of the pirate capitals of the Adriatic Sea. This is also seen during the later period of Illyrian Kingdom. Inhabitants of Ulcinj were known at the time of Christ, especially from 20 BC to around 300 AD, to be very confrontational to those who were foreigners to their land; they were especially meticulous about border disputes as well. In 1183, Rascian Grand Duke Stefan Nemanja conquered Olcinium and the town prospered as one of the most significant coastal towns. Ulcinj remained in Nemanjic hands till the death of Emperor Dusan’s death in late-1355. In 1356, Lord Balsa I, the founder of the Zetan Balsic dynasty, was granted parts of former Dioclean territory, including Ulcinj, by Emperor Dusan’s son and successor, Emperor Uros VI, and broke away from the Serbian Empire, only to establish an independent lordship called Zeta. Under Balsic control, Ulcinj served as a popular resort, as well as a mint. The Republic of Venice captured Ulcinj from Balsa III of the Zetan Balsic dynasty in 1423.
“Never in my life have I stayed in a place lit by so many stars as Ulcinj”
Venice controlled Dulcigno (as it was called in the Venetian language) until 1571 and incorporated the city in the Albania Veneta. Under Venetian control, many Christian Albanians took refuge in Ulcinj from Muslim Turks. In medieval time, a shipwreck of a Saracen ship on the shores of Ulcinj with stranded African slaves; locals saved the surviving Africans and made them an integral part of the population of the town. The Republic of Venice captured Ulcinj from Balsa III of the Zetan Balsic dynasty in 1423. Venice controlled Dulcigno (as it was called in the Venetian language) until 1571 and incorporated the city in the Albania Veneta. Under Venetian control, many Christian Albanians took refuge in Ulcinj from Muslim Turks. In 1571, the Ottoman Turks conquered Dulcigno from the Venetians. In 1867, Ulcinj became a kaza of the Iskodra sanjak of Rumeli eyalet. Ulcinj finally gained its independence from the Turks on 11 January 1878 by the decision of the Berlin Congress (see Treaty of Berlin (1878), only to be fully integrated into Montenegro nearly three years later, on 30 November 1880.
Tourism of Ulcinj
Ulcinj is a popular tourist destination in summer. In January 2010, the New York Times named ranked the south coast region of Montenegro, featuring Veliki Plaza, Ada Bojana, and the Hotel Mediteran, as one of “The Top 31 Places to Go in 2010”. The summer time in particular, is a popular time for visitors to Ulcinj. Although still undiscovered by many travelers from larger countries, repeat tourists and an increasing amount of first time visitors make Ulcinj a hot spot for vacationers between the months of May and September. It is most famous for its sandy beaches, which are considered the most beautiful in Montenegro. The most valuable resource of the Ulcinj riviera is Velika Plaza (Albanian: Plazha e Madhe, English: Large Beach), which is a 12 km (7.5 mi) long stretch of sandy beach and the longest beach on the Montenegrin coast. There is a small pebble beach called Ladies Beach which folk tradition holds to have qualities conducive to fertility.
Ulcinj is the southern most major town along the Montenegrin coast before reaching the border with Albania. Well over a majority of the population of Ulcinj is ethnic Albanian. Together with the town of Tuzi it is one of the two major population centers of Albanians in Montenegro. Due to the town’s nice location on the coast it is a major tourist destination of much of the Albanian population of Kosovo.
70 % of the population in the Ulcinj municipality is from Albanian decent, so logical the majority speak Albanian and Serbo-Croatian. Albanians are beeing known for emigrants from who many of them have returned from countries such as Germany, France, Greece (especially those in the south of Albania) and Italy so you’ll find a lot of people who speak the respective languages.
- There are frequent buses from Podgorica that cost €6, a 2 hour ride.
- From Bar you can either take a normal bus or catch a ‘combi’ minibus that runs up and down the coast of Montenegro. The ride from Bar takes about half an hour.
- From Kosovo there are three buses per day (6am, 7pm, 9pm). The first two go via Podgorica, with the last going via Shkodra, Albania. The bus via Shkodra takes approx 6-7 hours. However, during the tourist season there are many extra buses leaving from the major cities, the price should be around €15. Rarely can these be booked advance on-line, but a stroll round a major city centre will immediately show what is on offer (e.g. try the Bill Clinton Boulevard in Pristina).
- From Albania there are ‘combi’ minibuses that come from Durres in Albania to Ulcinj, although they most likely are not official bus operations, so you’ll have to do some asking around.
- There are also daily departures from Shkodra in Albania to Ulcinj (6 am, 12:30 pm). These are, in theory, well connected with Albanian ‘furgons’ from Tirana and Durres. It takes 1 hour to Shkoder by “private” cab.
Ulcinj is a small city, you will have no problem getting around by foot, but keep in mind that some parts are very hilly. The hilly roads can become quite slippery when wet and many of the smaller streets have no sidewalks. If you’re walking on such a street, keep to the dry areas and step aside when you hear an approaching vehicle to let them pass. Many people drive fast even with pedestrians on the road.
There are many stairs that lead down the hills that can be used to avoid long winding roads, but you’ll have to look for the entrances, or use Google Maps Satellite imaging to guess where the stairs are; they’re not marked and they often look like they lead into someone’s home.
The bus station is a good 40 minute walk from the old town of Ulcinj by the coast.
Central Bus Station
- Public Bus Station Ulcinj
Autobuska Stanica Ulcinj. The transportation hub to South-East Europe. Connects the south of Montenegro with Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia Hezegovina and all main cities of Montenegro. There are daily routes from Ulcinj city center to Dubrovnik, Pristina, Tirana, Skodra, Podgorica, Budva, Kotor, Herceg Novi, Tivat, Bar, Petrovac, Rozaje and Sveti Stefan. Information Tel: +382 (0) 30 413 225
- Car Rental and Airpot Transfers to Ulcinj
MCR – Rent a Car Offering Rental Cars and Airport Shuttle Transfers to and from Ulcinj . Tel: +382 (0) 67 515 477
Sixt- Rent a Car Offering Rental Cars and Airport Shuttle Transfers to and from Ulcinj . Rent a car Montenegro Tel: +382 (0) 67 645 206
Near the beach stalls sell kebab and hamburgers. There is lots of bakeries where to get some cheap food: bureks, pizzas…
Cheap supermarkets around the city.
Note that the fish restaurants calculate the price per 1 kg of raw fish. Example: One raw fish is about 500-600 grams, but when cleaned and cooked, it’s around 200 grams. You get charged for 500-600 grams.
- Restaurant Grand (Fish and Steak Restaurant Ulcinj), Gj. K. Skenderbeu Ulcinj Montenegro (Main Street in Ulcinj), ++382 (0) 69 478 625, . 12:00 – 01:00. The Restaurant Grand offers a wide range of Mediterranean, Albanian and Montenegrin Cousine and is well known for its fresh Lobster. 5 – 20 Euro.
There are lots of new restaurants in Stari grad (old town) that serve a wide range of food. Many of the restaurants have fantastic views of the ocean right from your table with very reasonable prices (5-20 Euro).
If you see “scallop” on the menu anywhere, keep in mind that it’s most likely NOT not seafood but meat (veal).
Stray cats are plentiful in Ulcinj and they love to hang around tables waiting for scraps, especially at places popular with tourists. Do not feed them. Restaurant QUEEN is one of the new restaurants leading in food quality. Fish is 12 euro for 500 grams, any type of fish is fresh from the sea being the cleanest restaurant in ulcinj.
Accommodation are plentiful in Ulcinj, ranging from resort hotels to private accommodations. The resort hotels in Ulcinj are each in the process of renovation and reconstruction, as most have been recently privatized from former government agencies. Lodging costs range from full-service rooms at 50 EUR per person (or more) down to the many unlicensed/unregulated private accommodations costing in the range of 10-25 EUR.
- Hostel Ulcinj-Montenegro – Kodre bb,Ulcinj, tel: +382 (0) 69 920 – 190 , +382 68 544 146 firstname.lastname@example.org. Situated 100 m from main Bus Station in Ulcinj.
- Ulcinj Accommodation and Hotel Directory
- Hostel Breshka Rooms – The only dormitory hostel for backpackers in Ulcinj. Only 8 EUR per person and next to the bus station. tel: +38269480083 +38269532012
- Hostel Pirate – Nikole Djakonovica, tel: +382 68 212 552. well located in a quiet place at 800 mts from the bus station, dorms for 6, 5, 4 people, and double rooms. Good for backpackers and solo travelers.
There is an old castle overlooking the sea. Stari grad (old town) is worth a visit. Much of the old town was destroyed in a large earthquake in 1979 but wealthy investors have recently been buying up the properties and restoring them. There are now only a handful of destroyed buildings remaining in old town and many nice restaurants, hotels, and even a museum fill the area.
When you get to old town, walk along the wall facing the ocean and look through all the small holes in the wall that face out to the ocean. Also, stand in the archways and look down at the ocean crashing against the rocks below.
The old town museum appears to only be open when it’s busy; the sign said it’s open after May 1st, but it was closed when we visited May 28th despite the sign’s hours saying it should be open.
Ulcinj is a splendid central location for exploring Montenegro’s South Coast region (from Bar to Skader Lake to Ada Bojana) and parts of Albania. The Ulcinj South Coast region boasts some of the most interesting adventure, historic and eco tours, and vacation beach stays in all of the Adriatic.
There are good beach spots in the area, including some rocky ones in the southern part of town. The longest sandy beach in Montenegro, Velika Plaza, is located near by. At the Southern end of this 14km-long beach there is Ada Bojana, a triangular island with very nice beaches, formed where the Bojana river meets the Adriatic Sea. The long beach and the island are favourite spots for kitesurfers and windsurfers and it has a large a nudist beach for those so inclined. There are minibuses that take you from the market on Skenderbeu Ave in Ulcinj to Velika Plaza and even to Ada Bojana (if there are at least 3 people going there).
- Go for a walk after sunset when the main street fills with people promenading and taking some fresh air. It is said that some of the most beautiful girls in the Balkans can be found promenading.
- For the more adventuresome you can take the ‘combi’ towards the Albanian border (but not crossing it) getting off on the first road heading towards Lake Skadar near the town of Brajse. There is a small bus from Brajse that runs along this small road towards the mountains which if it’s running you can take for 0.50 EUR, otherwise you’ll have to walk or hitch hike. Once you get to the peak of the mountain range you’ll be standing almost exactly on the Albanian and Montenegrin border. You’ll be able to look out over one of the most magnificent lakes in Europe as well as get a good view of the Adriatic coast, Albania and Montenegro. Continue hitchhiking up the lake, you’ll get to see some of the most rural untouched villages in the Balkans. The southern half of the lake shore is populated by ethnic Albanians while the northern half all the way up to the town of Virpazar is populated by Montenegrins. There is very little travel between the two communities so there are almost no buses that run the course of the highway meaning you’ll either have to walk or hitchhike. The people driving the road though few and far between seemed more than willing to take hitchhikers. If you camp (which is a good idea) there are some camp sites about half way between Virpazar and Arbnez.
There is also a beach that holds the name Mala Plaža (Albanian: Plazha Vogel, English: Small Beach) which is much smaller in size, but is located in the centre of town and very popular with visitors. “The Korzo”, as it is called by locals, is a promenade which separates a street lined with coffee shops from Mala Plaža.
At night during the summer months, the Korzo is pedestrianised and families and young people gather.
It is said that some of the most beautiful girls in South Eastern Europe, visiting Ulcinj as tourists, can be found walking about the Korzo on a nightly basis. There are many more less known smaller beaches that serve as a get-away to many people looking to catch their breath. Ulcinj’s old town is a very well preserved castle-looking community that is left over from medieval times. The old town sits atop a mountain overlooking the shore and is a tourist attraction on its own. Ada Bojana (Albanian: Buna) is popular among foreign tourists from Western Europe for its peace and unique atmosphere. A large naturist campsite is located in Ada Bojana. Šaško lake and Ulcinj’s salt pond are popular among birdwatchers, because Ulcinj and its surroundings are major resting points for over 200 bird species on their migration paths. There are numerous cafes, discos, and bars that dot the city that are usually filled to capacity throughout the summer. The majority of tourists in Ulcinj are Albanians, Germans, Italians, and Eastern Europeans. A large number of Americans who are either of Albanian descent or were born in or near the city of Ulcinj often make the city a prime summer time destination.
- Budva — the Montenegrin touristic metropolis on the Adriatic Sea is located some 20km south of the Boka Kotorska.
- Kotor — an ancient fortified town located deep down the Boka Kotorska bay, UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Cetinje — the historical capital of Montenegro is located just under Mt Lovćen, the mountain overlooking 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.
- 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.
- Rumija — As a Dinaric natural barrier, Rumija separate Adriatic Sea from the Skadarsko Jezero lake. With the height of 1594 m, it drops steep towards the Adriatic coastline and somewhat less steeply towards the southern part of the lake.
- Boka Kotorska — Often referred as “Europe’s most southern fjord” the beauty of Bay was confirmed by signing the bay on the list of World’s natural and cultural heritage of Unesco, and accepting the Bay in the Club of the most beautiful world bays.
- 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.
- Skadarsko Jezero — Skadarsko Jezero is the largest freshwater lake in the Balkans, two thirds of which is in Montenegro and the remainder in Albania. It is surrounded by dramatic karst mountains and hosts a thrilling array of wildlife with more than 260 species of birds, traditional fishing villages, islet monasteries and pristine beaches.It has been a protected National Park since 1983 and was added, in 1996, to the World’s List of Wetlands of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention.
- Shkodra — city and municipality in northwestern Albania and the seat of the county with the same name. It is one of the oldest and most historic places in Albania, as well as an important cultural and economic centre.
- Ada Bojana — Many people consider Ada Bojana to be a natural reservation of national park type. This is a river isle, at the very end of Great Beach, at the spot where the river Bojana gets separated from the beach. The isle is a triangle, with the Bojana River from two sides and the Adriatic Sea from the third one.