Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro – Hotel Review
It was once the overlooked side of Europe, disregarded in favour of Paris, Rome, and the jewels of the Mediterranean.
But discerning travellers are increasingly looking east for luxury European escapes, and Aman’s Sveti Stefan makes an excellent case for doing so. It is a destination in and of itself – one for the bucket list, that is so incredibly unique, it seems like something out of a fairytale. And in a way, with its rich and complex history dating back to the 1400s, it is.
Sveti Stefan has undergone many adaptations over the years. It was originally a fisherman’s village, built to protect the region from pirate invasion in the 15th century. In the 1950s, it was propelled into the international spotlight after being developed into a high-end resort that hosted Hollywood luminaries including Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Tourism collapsed in the nineties (along with the former Yugoslavia), and shortly after Montenegro gained independence, Aman took over the property and transformed it into one of the most exceptional luxury resorts in the world.
Where is it?
Sveti Stefan is located on a fortified islet off the coast of Montenegro, southwest of the capital, Podgorica. It’s entirely off limits to anyone that isn’t actually staying at the hotel, so absolute privacy is assured. The 80-acre property is divided into two locations: the main island and Villa Miločer across the bay, which is a former royal retreat based above Kings Beach – one of the resort’s three beaches stretching along the Adriatic.
The most efficient way to get to Sveti Stefan is via Tivat airport, which is a 40-minute drive away and has direct flights from multiple European cities. You can also fly into Podgorica airport, which is an hour drive away, and Dubrovnik airport across the border in Croatia, which is about a three-hour drive (depending on how quickly the immigration checks are moving). The drive from Croatia is quite scenic and relatively straightforward (although, signage is limited, so a GPS is necessary), so hiring a car is a good option if you’re spending time in the area.
Historic charm fused with the sophisticated, minimalist aesthetic that has come to define Aman’s properties. The rustic character of the village has been preserved and enhanced with complementary accents, including steel lanterns, ivy-covered stone, fresh white doors and shutters and quaint cobbled lanes lined with colourful flowers.
Everything has been designed to showcase the original features in an elegant and authentic way. The tones used throughout each of the 50 suites are a neutral mix of white and warm gray, and the furnishings are modern, but not overtly so.
The star facility is the standalone Aman Spa, which overlooks Queens Beach. It has four double treatment rooms, each with a dressing room and a private bathroom, and a finishing salon that specializes in manicures, pedicures, and hair treatments. All of the products used are chemical-free.
There are three different pink-pebble beaches, spanning two kilometres that are each manned by friendly staff members serving food, drinks, sunscreen, and water equipment, including goggles and paddle boards.
Food & Drink:
There are three main dining areas: Aman’s Signature restaurant, Piazza, and Villa Miločer restaurant. There’s also a bar located at the adult-only pool on the main island that offers a light menu and refreshments.
Guests are guaranteed an ocean view at the Signature restaurant. It is located on an open terrace area, where every table has a view across the glistening Adriatic. The menu is built around traditional Montenegrin and international cuisine and it is sensational. The level of quality and presentation is hard to beat – and the wine list and cocktails are equally spectacular.
Piazza is generally where guests go for breakfast (but it’s also open for lunch and dinner) and it comprises a taverna, enoteca, and an antipasti bar.
Across the bay at Villa Miločer, a mix of classic and contemporary dishes are served on a gorgeous loggia terrace above Kings Beach.
Definitely opt to stay on the island – it is the best way to experience Sveti Stefan. The accommodation is a mix of restored 15th century cottages, suites, and village rooms. There are really no unflattering angles here, but if you have the choice, opt for a cottage or a suite overlooking the ocean.
Villa Miločer is a good option if you’re travelling with a larger group. There are six elegant suites based in the main building and an additional two located in a separate building nearby.
The resort offers various excursions, but gives you few reasons to leave voluntarily. If you are in the mood for exploration, it’s a short drive (or sail) to the ancient town of Budva and the UNESCO-protected Bay of Kotor.
You can also venture out to Virpazar and sample the local wine, Vranac Barrique, which is produced from a grape that has been grown in the region for centuries. Around the same area is Skadar Lake – the largest along the Balkan Peninsula and one of Montenegro’s four national parks. It is home to 280 species of birdlife, some of which are endangered.
These are excellent day trips to take if you’re spending a decent amount of time in the area, but if you’re only there for a few days, I would recommend staying within the confines of the property.
When to go:
During the summer months. Ideally any time between May and September, when all you want to do is swim in the ocean and lounge in the sun.
Couples – it’s the perfect spot for honeymooners.
Source: Evening Standard