The small country in the former Yugoslavia, where Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and other stars have vacationed, recently welcomed Europe’s first One&Only hotel in the resort area of Portonovi.
Decades after the wars that ravaged the former Yugoslavia, the Balkan country of Montenegro is now a top tourist destination, which some have called the “Monte Carlo of the Adriatic.” It’s there you’ll find luxe getaway resorts like the Regent Porto Montenegro in Tivat, Nikki Beach Hotel & Beach Club in Radovići, the One&Only Portonovi, and the Aman Sveti Stefan (currently closed over a beach access dispute), as well as homes for sale or rent. The country increasingly draws Americans and Europeans in the summer months because of its proximity to Croatia, Greece, and Italy.
Offering some of the world’s best scenic escapes, the country is no stranger to Hollywood stars. Icons like Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren vacationed there in the 1970s. Modern-day stars including Maluma, Madonna, the Beckhams, and Naomi Campbell have all journeyed there more recently, while back in 2010, then-couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie visited the country in 2010. Pitt — who took Jolie to see such bayside towns as Perast and Kotor, where he filmed the 1988 film The Dark Side of the Sun — at one point had to get out of his car to ask paparazzi to respect his holiday. Among the sights near Perast is a picturesque small man-made island that’s home to a Catholic church, Our Lady of the Rocks.
In the southwest part of the country also lies the beautiful resort area of Portonovi, located in fjord-like setting. With a feel that’s part Lake Como, part Monte Carlo, Portonovi, part of the town of Herceg Novi, is flanked by mountains and the area is filled with luxury boutiques, high-end restaurants (some of them Michelin starred), the luxury One & Only Portonovi resort, and eye-catching real estate. Mega-yachts can often be seen anchored in the adjacent Bay of Kotor. Portonovi can be reached via Podgorica and Tivat airports in Montenegro, with two-hour and 45-minute car rides, respectively, and Dubrovnik airport in Croatia, a 40-minute drive.
Not unlike such famed and sun-kissed destinations as Cannes and the Italian Riviera, the area offers quaint villages, coastal churches and local shopping. But what sets it apart is that it remains quaint and authentic in what it offers. Residents also have an inviting directness about them.
“Montenegro, and especially the Bay is a melting pot here where different occupations and civilization have left their mark from the Illyrians to the Romans, the Ottomans, and the Venetians, you name it. West and east influence is very much present and it’s amazing to see how all different cultures and religions are living together despite of their differences,” says Liset Rios Rodriguez de Kuhar, cofounder of Kotor Private Tours.
Where to Stay in Portonovi
The first One&Only resort in Europe, the One&Only Portonovi resort — opened in 2021 — offers standard rooms, suites, villas, a private beach, a Henri Chenot-branded medical spa with multi-day wellness programs, as well as several dining options. The warm color palette throughout the hotel, overlooking mountains, sea, pools, and greenery, creates a luxurious environment. (oneandonlyresorts.com, rooms from $1,600 a night.)
Where to Eat in Portonovi
Portonovi’s Romeo & Juliet restaurant offers Italian gastronomic flair and a romantic ambience, with black-and-white tiled flooring and inviting green velvet chairs. Standout entrées include the lamb specialty, garlic bread appetizer and the crème brûlée, which is torched right in front of diners.
Lunch at La Veranda at the One&Only offers a different feel and view of the of the resort with outdoor dining. The lush open space garden with tropical foliage overlooking the Romanesque exterior of the hotel makes guests feel that they are somewhere exotic. With an open kitchen, grilled meats from fish and duck line the Montenegrin-inspired menu.
What To Do In Portonovi
Kotor Private Tours guides groups around the old town of Herceg Novi, which was founded in 1382 by Duke Herceg Stepan. Sights include the Kanlikula Fortress and the Clock Tower built by Sultan Mahmoud in 1667 when the city was under Ottoman rule. It was the main city gate and a reminder to Muslims for the call to prayer. Tour stops also include St. Michael Archangel Church and St. Jerome Church. Tour rates start at $53 per hour.
Real Estate in Montenegro
With a 300-kilometer coastline and more and more vacation homes popping up, the area offers many options for people looking to buy property in the country. Government tax rates, a citizenship by investment program, and an effort to attract businesses to the Adriatic coastline add to the attraction. “As a country, Montenegro has many tax benefits. There is no wealth tax, while income tax is only at 9 percent, which is very attractive, especially compared to other markets such as Portugal, Spain, and France. Property transfer tax, inheritance and estate tax are also set at a highly competitive 3 percent, while rental income tax is set at 9 percent. Tax regimes in Montenegro are among the most competitive in Europe, with a rate of 9 percent being applied to company profits, capital gains and personal income. VAT is set at 21 percent and refundable on rental properties set up in a local company,” says de Kuhar.
The Portonovi Resort area includes 218 luxury residences for sale in a phase one offering $563,000 up to $15.8 million, with 105 units available for rent at a starting price of $325 per night during the high season. Apartments range from 430-square-foot studios to three- and four-bedroom villas that clock in at 6,450 square feet, with some residences overlooking the Portonovi Marina and others offering private infinity pools. There are 10 One&Only private homes, created by the One&Only hotelier.
“Along with its gorgeous location and infrastructure Portonovi resort offers a higher level of luxury in the area. 15 years ago, Montenegro and its breathtaking natural beauty was a well-kept secret. Now that the secret is out it is just smart to invest in a place like Portonovi either for a summer residence or for a business investment,” states de Kuhar, the Hollywood reporter wrote.