The Adriatic coast of Montenegro, squeezed between Croatia and Albania, is causing quite a stir. The World Travel and Tourism Council named the country as one of the fastest-growing holiday destinations.
Top hotels like Banyan Tree and Four Seasons are eyeing up sites as Russian and European tourists arrive in numbers.
The country has a classy pedigree. Fifty years ago celebrities Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren added five-star glamour by holidaying on Sveti Stefan, a small island of stone houses now reborn as an Aman resort.
The 1990s Balkan conflict ended the party but today newly independent Montenegro is back as an affordable rival to more established Mediterranean hotspots. Most overseas property buyers focus on the calm waters of Kotor Bay, southern Europe’s only fjord and a place of mesmerising beauty.
Unique beauty that is affordable
In the Unesco World Heritage village of Perast, Venetian stone villas sit beside the rocky coast while on the water, rickety fishing boats bob beside some seriously swanky yachts.
A property boom between 2003 and 2006 saw prices double before falling back 30 per cent. Expect to pay €600,000 to €1 million (£519,000 to £856,250) for a stone waterfront villa among the palms and pine trees in Perast, or from €150,000 (£128,430) for a well-located one- or two-bedroom apartment around Kotor Bay.
Savills (020 7016 3740, www.savills.co.uk/abroad) has a fully renovated three-bedroom terraced house in Perast with orange trees in the garden for €390,000 (£333,930) and a two-bedroom apartment in a stone house nearby with good outside space for €250,000 (£214,000). Both properties have views across Kotor Bay.
“British buyers like the history and charm of Perast and Kotor,” says Aleksandar Kovacevic of Savills Montenegro. “Newer apartments in low-rise modern blocks around the bay offer less character but more space for your money.”
Kotor Bay is nirvana for yacht owners and Porto Montenegro aims to attract them from their more traditional haunts of Antibes or Monaco. This ambitious project is based around a former military shipyard in Tivat. It is driven by Canadian businessman Peter Munk and investors including Russian Oleg Deripaska and Nat Rothschild.
An incentive for the yachting community
Porto Montenegro hopes to take the substantial benefits of the area - an existing sheltered deep-water port in the middle of Europe 10 minutes from Tivat’s international airport and duty-free fuel - and add a Four Seasons Hotel, high-end residences, shops, restaurants and facilities that will entice owners of the world’s super yachts to make it their home port.
“Berthing a yacht here will be between one-fifth to one-tenth of the price in the South of France,” says Oliver Corlette, MD of Porto Montenegro. “We want to make this an international community based around a world-class marina and build the best in the Mediterranean.”
With a global shortage of berths and with marina developments trading at a 25 to 30 per cent premium, Porto Montenegro property is an interesting project for owners of all sizes of yachts though it requires considerable vision to imagine the completed site.
Off-plan property on sale now includes studios to four-bedroom penthouses priced from £158,400 to £1.2 million. Owners can rent a berth at a 75 per cent discount for three years. Contact Knight Frank, Porto Montenegro (020 7629 8171, www.knightfrank.co.uk/international).
‘Our lifestyle is healthy and outdoors’
Ed Milbank, 36, began investing in Montenegro in 2005 before its independence from Serbia, certain of the potential of such a beautiful country. Now with his wife Natalie, 31, he lives in one of his own developments overlooking Perast on Kotor Bay.
“Kotor Bay is scenic with clear, calm waters, historic towns and dramatic hillsides, not unlike Lake Como only less congested,” he says. “Our lifestyle is healthy and outdoors. We have a boat to play around the bay and enjoy picnics on beaches and islands. Inland, we ski or walk in Kolasin and go white-water rafting and kayaking on Lake Skadar.”
Ed’s company MPF (www.mpfinvestments.com) has completed several projects around Kotor Bay and is commencing work on 12 stone villas in the fishing village of Prcanj. The couple are expecting a baby in November and see their future in Montenegro but come home regularly to their apartment in South Kensington to see friends or investors.
“Travelling is easy with direct flights from Tivat airport 10 minutes from our house,” says Ed. “Significant investment is already upgrading Montenegro. It is an impressive and unspoilt country with several Unesco Heritage sites untouched by mass development.”
* Savills Montenegro (020 7016 3740, www.savills.co.uk/abroad)
* Knight Frank, Porto Montenegro (020 7629 8171, www.knightfrank.co.uk/international).
* Buying costs in Montenegro average about 3.5 per cent.
* A great draw is that the official currency is the euro.
* BA flies regularly to Dubrovnik from Gatwick and Montenegro Airlines flies to Tivat (both about two hours). Tivat is a 40-minute drive from Dubrovnik and 20 minutes from its own airport.