First few days: Kolasin: 1450

Location

Most people don’t seem to know where Montenegro is, or confuse it with Moldova, Monaco or other countries starting with an “m”. Indeed Montenegro is a relatively new country, gaining independence from Serbia for the first time since World War I. Bordering Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania; it is located in the Balkans and looks across the Mediterranean to the east coast of Italy.

LON>PODGORICA flight map

The flight is relatively painless, except for the price and flying with RyanAir and takes just over two hours which conveniently leaves enough time for us to watch a movie on our tablet. The airport itself is small but clean and seems quite new. A man with an Alamo sign greeted us and took us to our car in the car park. It turns out that Alamo don’ have an office or desk in the building, but the system works relatively well.

Arriving in Kolasin

The roads in Montenegro are generally only one lane, which is not an issue as there are very few cars on them and the signage is very easy to follow, that we didn’t need to make use of any satellite navigation. The route itself to Kolasin is amazing, and we immediately knew we ewre going to love being in Montenegro, one lane winding up the steep gorge with a sheer drop on one side and a steep cliff on the other. The weather was leaving a little to be desired, but this added to the experience, as we plunged in and out of tunnels carved out of the rock with no lights or concrete covering where water poured down in waterfalls onto the road below.

We arrived just as it got dark and pulled up to Chalet Kolasin. This is an absolutely lovely building, which seems to be relatively newly built, the owner is a lovely man who met us at the front of the building and showed us to our chalet style room, gave us some recommendations for restaurants and told us how to get around.

Skiing in Kolasin: 1450

The drive to the ski-area is very straightforward and you follow one road the whole way meeting very few other drivers on the way. The conditions on the first day were not that good, it was snowing and icy and there had been little cleared off to the sides but as the days went on the road was very clear and easily passable, though the car park was quite muddy and icy so I am glad I had a 4WD.

The system to hire equipment and buy ski passes was a little confusing, we approached two desks each time being told it was the wrong one, but not saying which was the correct one, but eventually we got ourselves sorted. This is the only negative about the ski-area, the equipment is in very bad condition. My boots had no insoles and the skis were very damaged on the surfaces with a large amount of material having been scraped away, but the whole affair was cheap coming in at around EUR150 or £130.

The ski-area itself is a little limited. They claim to have 7 lifts, but in reality there are only 3 proper lifts other than the ones used to learn to ski. One of these lifts was closed the whole time we were there and one was extremely slow and uncomfortable, this really only left one viable lift. Therefore we just pottered up and down a few times, choosing slightly different routes each time, trying out by the end of the week every different run at least once. Three days skiing at this resort is absolutely plenty, until the new lift opens next year.

Eating in Kolasin

Food at the resort for lunch was more expensive than the surrounding area, but we managed to each burger and chips or pork and potatoes with a few drinks each for less than £25 a day.

Food options in the town of Kolasin were fairly limited and seemed to be predominantly focused on traditional Montenegrin food of potatoes, cream and cheese in a big dish – Kačamak. Also no restaurant ever had more than one table of service in addition to ourselves, which was unusual.

The restaurant “Konoba” on the main square of Kolasin is decorated in a very quaint and charming way, and the food was ok but we wouldn’t recommend the wine. On the completely other end of the wine and food scale was the main recommendation from our hotellier – Vodenica. It was only around the corner from our hotel in an Old mill house with beautiful old fashioned decor and a pleasant atmosphere. As always the portions were huge but extremely tasty and the wine was also delicious. This was all perfect for us as we celebrated 6 months of being married.

 

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All these meals added up to around £250, which wasn’t too bad. And we ate breakfast in our hotel room, so the supermarket bills were only around EUR35.

 Relaxation

Not as common in Europe as it is in the USA is a post ski jacuzzi dip and relaxation, so we hunted out and found that the four seasons hotel allows external persons to come and use the spa for EUR10. It was just around the corner and Jenny even additionally had a massage for an additional EUR 25.

Also there is Nordic skiing available in Kolasin:1450 and snowmobile hire too, though we did not try any of this ourselves.


Costs so far

Carried forward: £1520Ski hire and passes: £130
Lunch at the ski-resort: £75
Dinner X2: £250
Spa experience: £40
Supermarket supplies:£30

Running Total: £2045

December Blog 002: Booking the Trip

Flights

As we all know, RyanAir is an airline that offers no-frills flights mainly around continental Europe and the UK and their slogan says “Low Fares Made Simple“, therefore we assumed booking flights on RyanAir to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro would rightly fit into that mantra.

Our flights cost 350 pounds! Each! Though at least that is return with one packed hold bag.

In any case, with gritted teeth we paid the flight price, knowing that the accommodation and food would be dirt cheap. Well, it’s Eastern Europe right? Right!

Accommodation in Montenegro is pretty cheap but seems to be split into two camps. On the one hand you have the high-end international hotels that everyone knows and loves or hates. Whilst on the other hand all the other accommodation seems to be rooms in apartment buildings. After having spent a hefty chunk of our budget on the flights we opted for the latter.

We had decided from the blogs we had read (see our previous blog post) and the WikiTravel pages that we would spend a few days skiing, a short stop in the Capital city and then the remainder of our 10 days on the coast visiting Budva, Kotor and Tivat.

Accommodation

We managed to book all 10 nights of accommodation through Booking.com for an average nightly price of around 30 Euros! All in central locations, with parking and cooking facilities!

Unfortunately three weeks before we were due to leave we received an email from our accommodation in Kolasin saying they had had a flood and so they couldn’t guarantee our stay so we should cancel. At the time we were a bit annoyed and we knew the other accommodation in Kolasin was quite a lot more expensive. It turned out to be the such a great outcome because we booked into one of our favourite places we have ever stayed “Chalet Kolasin”.

Car Hire

Car-hire was easy, as always we booked through economycarrentals which has the most old fashioned website I have seen in a long time but always the cheapest prices. Selecting a 4WD with chains for the snowy roads and adding the second driver, we took the first and cheapest choice and ended up with a Dacia Duster from Alamo. It was much cleaner than the below photo when we originally collected it.

Next post we will have a look at what there is to do in Montenegro.

Costs so far

Flights: £720 (£360 x2)

Accommodation: ~ £500  (~£250 before the flood incident)

Car Hire: £300

TOTAL: £1520

December Blog 001: Planning the trip

Having got married in June 2017, we wanted to enjoy our first married Christmas together away on Holiday. We looked at a number of different locations from Greece to the Philippines, Denver to Barbados and Florida to Costa Rica.

We even booked flights to Manila and hastily canceled them, unsure of wanting to go all that way for 10 days. Thinking that we might want to go skiing we both started searching for cheap destinations that we could do some skiing and also enjoy some other activities. Rob happened across this story which noted the skiing in Kolasin was passable and Jenny stumbled upon a blog which suggested Montenegro as a great Winter destination to get away from the crowds. For us, the combination sounded perfect.

Planning a trip skiing in Montenegro isn’t as straightforward as planning one to Tignes, Vail or Saalbach-Hinterglemm, but it is definitely a lot cheaper. To start with, its initially not even clear where the ski resort is; the town shows up on Google maps but to find the resort itself one must deduce that the resort is called “Kolasin 1450” and was another 20-40 minutes drive up the valley.

The website for the “resort” itself has very little information on it, some of the information on the Montenegrin pages is in English and some of the information on the English pages is in Montenegrin. However we eventually deduced that they do ski, pole and boot hire in the same building as the ski pass purchase and the total cost for two for three days would be barely over 150 pounds.

This all seemed like a match, so we booked our flights and our accommodation and looked forward to Christmas. More on that in the next post.