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TVL Sea, sun and fun

Life's a beach in Montenegro

TRAVEL EDITOR'S NOTE: Jovana Babovic is a recent graduate of Smith College who lives in Rochester. She is a native of the former Yugoslavia and recently visited Montenegro.

By Jovana Babovic

A perfect day can mean different things to different people, but waking up to a glistening sun every morning is probably considered choice for any beach vacation. Pair the perfect weather with gorgeous water and nature, then add in a bustling night life, and the scene is set for a perfect Balkan vacation.

Budva is located on the coast of Montenegro, a state of the former Yugoslavia. Local folklore says that when God was shaking the earth, his bag of rocks accidentally ripped when he was molding Montenegro and thus the state came to be covered in mountain peaks. And, really, there is no flat land in view throughout the small Slavic state. Instead, Montenegro is famed for its rich natural beauty found in rocky hillsides and the glamorous coastline.

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The Budva Riviera has been a popular vacation destination for the last 50 years. It is home to a variety of beaches.

Nearly all beaches, however, are individually unique and "must-sees" for first-time visitors. In Budva, Trsteno is endlessly shallow and always unbelievably clean; Mogren is a small beach hidden behind Stari Grad (Old Town) where trendy Belgrade youth gather; and Becici stretches for several miles to the neighboring town and looks over to the Italian coast on clear days.

Those just arriving at the beach are easily identified by the degree of their tan (or sunburn), while the seasoned beach bunnies flaunt the fruits of their labor with pride. The Mediterranean sun is said to be the healthiest in the world, and this can be evidenced by everyone's perfect skin and also by the ripe, luscious fruits and vegetables produced locally and sold at open air markets every morning.

Montenegro is rich in a natural coastal beauty comprised of flourishing perennial forests and tropical plants. Scenic walks and drives are plentiful throughout the area, giving interchangeable views of the mountain backdrop and the outstretching horizon. Some coveted spots are reached only by romantic woodland paths that suddenly open to breathtaking stone ledges overlooking crashing waves, or deserted beaches hidden by looping roads and tunnels.

When the sun sets, the Budva Riviera offers a completely different platter of activities. In town, most of the action takes place in outdoor cafes, bars and clubs. Budva is notorious for its strip, a mile-long boardwalk parallel to the Slovenska Plaza, lined with countless food stands and kitsch vendors (flashy jewelry, Serbian memorabilia, henna tattoos), as well as the stunning ruins of Stari Grad. The ancient remains have been meticulously restored since the ancient days of Turkish battles as well as a more recent earthquake. Now, they house boutiques and art galleries within its narrow, stone-paved streets.

In the wee hours of the night, the town floods with well-toned men and women emerging in their most glamorous alter egos. Open-air disco clubs, such as the Trocadero, host popular Serbian groups and singers, as well as regular DJs providing pulsating, almost deafening, local music everyone seems to know by heart. Several times during the summer, Budva also hosts music and theater festivals that draw an ever-greater number of tourists.

The Budva Riviera is, in essence, the perfect dichotomy of relaxation and high-paced exclusivity.

For an ambitious first-time visitor to the Montenegro coast, several other towns within a close driving distance of Budva are equally attractive by way of their natural beauty, historical sights and organized events:

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Herceg Novi is close to the Croatian border and is a nightlife hot spot, featuring many electronic music clubs and festivals

Petrovac is a quaint town that conceals several heavenly promenades and deserted beaches.

Kotor is most known for its enclosed Stari Grad and the accompanying fortress ruins that extend far into the mountains and are excellent for a half-day hiking excursion.

Ulcinj is a town on the Albanian border that has infinite black sand and shallow beaches.

Sveti Stefan, an island joined to the mainland, houses an exclusive hotel designed in stone and exquisite dining at the house restaurant.

Bar, mostly an industrial city, is known for its international marina.

Perast is a small town near Kotor visited for two monasteries built on separate islands in the sea and the accompanying nautical relics.

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