Sveti Stefan, Montenegro: Jewel of the Budva Riviera

Larry Zaletel takes us on a tour of picturesque Sveti Stefan. This tiny island was once a fishing village and has now transformed into a luxury resort.  Zaletel explains this progression while sharing his own travel experience and travel tips.

Sveti Stefan at sunrise. Photo by Larry Zaletel.

In a country known for its beauty of lush green mountains and the blue Adriatic Sea, one of the most hypnotic images of Montenegro is the island of Sveti Stefan. I look down from the Hotel Adrovic perched up high on the mountain and see the rocky island of Sveti Stefan standing out with its red roofs shining in the bright sunlight.

It is connected to the mainland by a narrow road built upon two sandy gravel beaches, the Sveti Stefan and the naturist beach Crvena Glavica, both filled with sunbathers enjoying the sun and warm temperatures.

Beachside parking costs 12 EUR. Beach chairs line both beaches and two with an umbrella cost about 16 EUR.  On the island, I watch as scores of workmen labor feverishly around the clock to complete the remodeling.

In disrepair since the breakup of Yugoslavia during the 1990s, Sveti Stefan has been a continuing work in progress. The island was subsequently closed and extensive renovations began through the Government of Montenegro’s privatization program.

In 2007 Aman Resorts was selected for the project. Originally planned to re-open in 2008 the world-wide recession slowed the finish date of the project. During the initial grand opening July-August 2010, select accommodations were available. Renovations were completed as the island officially reopened in September 2010.

In the 15th century the island was a fishermen’s village. In the 1950s the last residents of the village were evicted, and Sveti Stefan was transformed into a luxury resort town. The streets, walls, roofs and façades of the buildings were, for the most part, preserved, while the interior of the building were transformed to offer the most modern luxury hotel comfort.

During the 1970s Sveti Stefan was famous for visits from the world’s most famous celebrities — including Marilyn Monroe, Kirk Douglas, Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti — but it fell into decline during the breakup of the former Yugoslav federation during the 1990s.

As part of the Budva Riviera the area is known for more than 15 beaches. About one kilometer from Sveti Stefan is the Drobni Pijesak Beach. Farther south before reaching Petrovac Na Moru is Perazica beach, followed by the Petrovac Na Moru Beach and 500 meters beyond is Lucice Beach.

Lucice still remains unspoiled despite a large number of visitors. It has the shape of a small bay, and it’s 220 meters long and lined by cypress and pine trees. The beach and the sea bottom are sandy and the water is very shallow. Two kilometers further is Buljarica Beach.

Sveti Stefan, Montenegro: Jewel of the Budva Riviera