A look at the small seaside town of Ulcinj on the coast of Montenegro
Ulcinj is a bit of a strange place. It is a small seaside town much like any small seaside town found around the world. It has a beach with parasols, fish and chips, a beautiful blue sea, and Albanians. Lots and lots of Albanians.
Ulcinj is a bit of a strange place because it is neither one town nor the other. Most of the Albanians (both in Montenegro and Albania) consider it to be Albanian. In fact, most Montenegrins consider it to be Albanian too, which makes it more than a little confusing when visiting the place, yet it is Montenegrin. For now, anyway.
At least 70% of the population living in Ulcinj are Albanian or of Albanian decent. I even met a few Macedonians, but I didn’t meet a single Montenegrin.
Even though that may seem surprising, there is a reason.
Montenegro has been leasing the land from Albania (much like the UK did with Hong Kong) for the past 100 years. Well, 102 years to be exact, a fact that angers most Albanians because Montenegro was supposed to give up the land at the end of the 100 year lease in 2012.
For now, it remains Montenegrin, but most people in the area, including Montenegrins, have no doubt that it will change hands in the near future.
Anyway, one of the main reasons so many people are attracted to Ulcinj is the beaches, considered the best in Montenegro. Ulcinj is a nice place to spend a day or two, and it is sufficiently different to Tivat, Budva or Bar (all small seaside towns along the coast of Montenegro) to make it worth the visit.
One of the things that strikes you about Ulcinj is it’s obviously for the affluent Albanians, the ones who can afford to come over the border (where it is more expensive than Albania). Also, a lot of Albanians from Kosovo, Switzerland and even the USA who fled their country during the war make it their prime destination for their holidays.
It is quite built up, and most hotels charge between €10-20 (I really struggled to find a cheap room).
At night Ulcinj really comes to life, and all the bars along the seafront were packed, everyone enjoying cheap beer and coffee.
Unfortunately, Zeus, the new nightclub, was still under construction while I was there, but I can imagine it will be a cracking night out.
During the day there is an old fortress that overlooks the bay. The museum only costs €1 to enter and the majority of the time you’ll have it to yourself.
Like most towns along the coast of Montenegro, there is an Old Town with cobbled stones and small side streets. This is where you’ll find the most expensive restaurants with the best views of the sea and Ulcinj.
Down by the waterfront, the Sailor’s Mosque is an important landmark in Ulcinj and up until recently the mosque served as a lighthouse for sailors.
Ulcinj may be a bit of a strange place, a bit of a no man’s land, neither truly belonging to one country over the other, but it is still well worth visiting when travelling around Montenegro and the Balkans.