Sveti Stefan (St. Stevens) is the most unique hotel I’ve ever seen. It’s actually more of a resort, built on an island just a few hundred meters from the beach. This man-made island is even more impressive because of it’s size. Sveti Stefan was Originally built by traders and fishermen in the 15th Century. They lived and worked there until the 1950’s when a hotel took over the property and created one of the most unique luxury resorts in the world. Sofia Loren used to lounge by pool and Richard Burton drank in the bar. They were among a long list of celebrities, including Doris Day, Bobby Fischer, Kirk Douglas, Sylvester Stallone and Italian film producer Carlo Ponti that put this small town, in a distant country, on the map. Today such stars as Claudia Schiffer are known for visiting Sveti Stefan.
Our experience there was not so glamorous. We pulled up in our bus and were lead into a small lodge type building for the package lunch that was included with the tour. That was a meal for the ages. It consisted of boiled meat and potatos, overcooked vegetables and cake that was for some reason not sweet at all. Hands down it was the worst meal I’ve ever had. But it was worth it for the great stories and laughs we had about it later. Montenegro is not a wealthy country. They are just coming out of decades of Socialist stagnation. They’ll get better at all aspects as time moves on, including food. Until this happens, I highly recommend packing energy bars.
After “lunch” we ventured along the beach and crossed the short bridge to Sveti Stefan. The beaches are sandy and busy with sunbathers and swimmers. The water seemed to be clear and as clean as we had seen since arriving in Dalmacia. We entered the resort through castle styled doors and and made our way up steep, quiet walkways that snaked through small rock bungalows. This is not a typical hotel or resort. The old fishing houses have been turned into luxury bungalows that are nested close together in what appears to be no planned configuration. It’s instantly relaxing on the island, peaceful and beautiful. Eventually we made it to the top of the island and got access to views of the Montenegrin coastline and the Adriatic below. There is a magnificent pool built on the edge of the island with full views below.
Getting back down proved to be a trick because it’s a bit like a maze in there. We eventually made it down the bottom in time to spend some time exploring the beach area. Shortly after we were back on the bus and off to Budva.
Passing along the coast amid dated and unkept local beach hotels that still displayed their 1960’s style hipness, our Croatian tour guide went into a a litany of jokes about Montenegrin’s and their less than stellar reputation for hard work. It was an interesting display of the animosity that is still lingering from the war.