Ulcinj is another coastal town I like to visit in spring, autumn and even winter. Its old town, sandy beaches and diverse cultural monuments and natural treasures in the surroundings make it an interesting weekend destination. Of course, if the crowds don’t bother you and you love a sun-sea-sand vacation or you are a fervent kite surfer, you can spend a lovely summer vacation here, in particular on the “Velika Plaža” beach.
There are several things you should not miss in and around Ulcinj. I have made a selection of five totally different spots, but, of course, there is much more to see in the most southern part of the Montenegrin Coast. Just make a choice!
- THE OLD TOWN
The Old Town of Ulcinj with its 2,500 years old citadel-fortress (“Kalaja”) is an important cultural-historical monument (see: ULCINJ OFF-SEASON). Exploring the narrow cobbled streets and charming squares, you will find a small museum with a church from 1510 that was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans in 1693. Unfortunately, the museum is closed off-season, but you can still see the Slave Square, surrounded by arches. Slave Square? Yes, Ulcinj was a significant slave market in the 17th century. The slaves – most of them coming from Italy and Dalmatia – were captured by Ulcinj pirates. They were not held for work, but to get ransom from their family or friends.
The view from the Old Town is wonderful: you can see “Mala Plaža” – the small sandy beach that is overcrowded like an anthill in the summer months, the circular marina and the pine forests on the other side of the bay – and of course, the blue Adriatic Sea all around.
- THE ULCINJ SALINAS
The Ulcinj “Solana”, built in 1934, was once one of the largest salinas in the Mediterrean, with a surface of almost 1,500 hectares (see: THE ULCINJ SALINAS: A PARADISE FOR FLAMINGOS). More than 250 species of migratory birds (of about 500 registered in Europe), including Eurasian spoonbills, Dalmatian pelicans, various birds of prey and – believe it or not – flamingos, can be found here.
The Center for Protection and Research of birds in Montenegro (CZIP) is making huge efforts to protect and promote this unique bird reserve. Bird populations are monitored, watching towers were constructed, groups are guided on bird watching tours…
The salinas are about a 15-minute drive out of town, although just showing up without warning is not recommended; you will probably be turned away at the gate. Contact the Ulcinj Tourism Information Center or CZIP and they will make arrangements for you.
- ŠAŠKO LAKE AND THE OLD TOWN OF SVAČ
The ancient city of Svač is situated on a stone hill above the transparent and calm Šasko Lake, a paradise for fishermen, bird watchers and nature lovers. It is situated at a distance of around 20 km from Ulcinj, near the village of Vladimir.
The first fortifications of Svač date from the 6th century AD and consisted of two parts: the fortress Svač on the top of the hill and the suburbs that were located on both sides of the hill. Svač was located on an important trade route (Ulcinj – Shkodra). Unfortunately, its turbulent history ended in 1571, when it was conquered and completely destroyed by the Ottomans. After this, the town was abandoned forever. Nowadays, you can only see the ruins of the fortress and the walls of a big church, although Svač was once called the “City of Churches”. It is hard to believe the legend that there were once 365 churches, one for each day…
Obviously, no archeological investigations are carried out at the moment and I believe that the remaining walls will soon crumble down… What a pity to neglect an archeological site with such a long and rich history!
- THE OLIVE GROVES OF VALDANOS
Just north of Ulcinj you can find the famous olive groves of Valdanos with 18,000 olive trees, which are on the average 800 years old. This area was put under special protection of the state and the trees are now cultivated very intensively. Several olive mills in town produce excellent olive oil and it is really worthwhile to buy a bottle, although the extra virgin oil is quite expensive.
Unfortunately, the Cove of Valdanos, once a popular military resort, now abandoned and dilapidated, has been closed for the public for years. Several bids for redevelopment failed and it is still unclear what will happen with the beautiful bay with its crescent-shaped beach.
- ADA BOJANA
This island is located on the southernmost tip of Montenegro, with only the Bojana river separating it from Albanian territory (see: ADA BOJANA OFF-SEASON). Ada Bojana was a famous nudist settlement in the seventies and eighties of the last century, but due to the Balkan wars, it was abandoned. Privatization of the completely dilapidated settlement failed. Nowadays, a part of it has been refurbished and reconstructed and in the summer, it is a nudist and kite surfer paradise.
Spring and autumn are the right periods for a visit and a long stroll along the wide sandy beach. Ada is linked to the mainland by a narrow bridge, from which you can see numerous wooden cottages along the Bojana river, some of them with traditional fishing nets hanging above the water. The island is a magnificent place to get back to nature, to feel the wind blowing through your hair and hear the waves hitting the shore. You will see only a few people with the same wish: relaxing after a busy work week… And finally you can have a good lunch in one of the boat restaurants along the river … the fish is always fresh!
There are many other interesting things to see and to do in Ulcinj: Porto Milena with its old fishermen’s cottages, the Ladies’ Beach, the rectangular Clock Tower from 1754, and the Mosque of Namazgjahu, built in the beginning of the 18th century…
Come and discover Ulcinj for yourself!