Perast Montenegro

Once upon a time there was a tiny village called Perast, home to families who made their lives from the sea.

Fishing, marine exploration, shipping – life revolved around the water. As is always the case in fairy tales like this, life was tough. One day, two seamen found an icon in the sea, one of the Madonna and Child. To mark their discovery, they promised to build an island where the icon was found. Upon each successful journey to sea, the sailors would throw one rock over the icon. Over time, an island grew out of the sea.

Perast Montenegro

Today, Our Lady of the Rocks, a small islet in Perast, Montenegro, home to an even smaller church, remains steeped in legend.

The tale of the two sailors, some 500 years old, may or may not be true (they buried the icon at sea after all), but to this day, every July 22nd, the people of Perast throw rocks in the sea, and the island continues to expand.

As our guide from Adventure Montenegro explained, this small island has more than its fair share of stories, including my favorite about the woman and her hair.

A woman’s husband was lost at sea, but no one knew if he was dead or alive. As she waited for him, for twenty-five years, she embroidered. She used her hair within the thread, and over time, as her hair changed from brown to white, the thread changed shades. No one knows if her husband returned, but her lovely piece of embroidery, and its lore, remains.

Perast Montenegro
Perast Montenegro

When we first saw the itinerary of our morning tour, Drew and I groaned. These long term travels have turned us into lazy morning people and the idea of a tour at 8:30am, before we’re usually vertical, was cringe-inducing. But we decided to play along, telling ourselves that the early start would warrant a take away cappuccino, a treat on any day.

The timing was impeccable. Adventure Montenegro, professionals they are, knew exactly what was going to happen in Perast.

As we sped down the road to the boat launch for the island, other cruisers and tourists were just having breakfast. As we stood nearly alone in Our Lady of the Rocks Church, those travelers were bumper to bumper on the two-lane road. As we were speeding away from the island, bulging boats heavy with new visitors made their way over. And as we drove away, the Perast parking lots were mobbed with tour buses, tour groups and more brightly colored flags and loudspeakers than I care to mention.

Take this tip from the pros, and arrive in Perast before 10am if you want any chance at visiting this lovely town in relative peace and quiet.

Perast Montenegro

Perast Montenegro

Perast Montenegro

The best part of small group tours is the immediate intimacy. Our small group of six travelers, plus our local guide, spent three hours in total exploring the village of Perast, and the legendary island, which was plenty of time to trade life stories.

Our guide, Andrea, grew up nearby. As a kid, she and her friends would swim out to the island, and the monastery island next door. They weren’t technically supposed to swim to the monastery but, of course, that made it all the more tempting. On the day we arrived, Perast was busy with day trippers, and no rowdy swimming kids were in sight.

That said, if I was growing up on the coast, with those islands within swimming distance, you better believe I’d be out there after the crowds left for the day.

Perast Montenegro

Perast Montenegro

I’ll close this tale of Perast and its island with one of my favorite traditions here.

It is common practice for sailors to give gifts to the church after successful voyages. In the past, they would give gifts of silver plates, with hammered art inlays. Others were more, um, creative with their donations. There are entire rooms in the church littered with pottery, lanterns, even a stray umbrella that a sailor saw fit to give. The most recent high value donation is a piece of art, from a frequently visiting cruise ship captain.

It just goes to show that some tales may be tall, but the sea is full of superstitions and traditions which continue to this day.

Perast Montenegro

Perast Montenegro

Perast Montenegro

Perast Montenegro

Our excursion with Adventure Montenegro was provided free of charge. This company has a ton of amazing shore excursions and day trips, for a variety of budgets and time commitments. As always, you’ll get our honest opinions here, even if we have to wake up early for the experience!

perastpin-min

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  • October 10, 2016

    I think this is even more beautiful than Kotor, which I didn’t think possible! We spent a day sailing through the fjords there when on a tall ship along the Adriatic and Mediterranean, and I’d venture to say that section of Europe might just be my favorite (other than my beloved Scotland, that is!).
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted…Returning to Romania 11 Years LaterMy Profile

    • October 11, 2016
      Julie

      I’ve been following along your trip – it sounds amazing (and I’ve been researching using the same company in the future for a family trip as well). I feel like you really can’t go wrong in Montenegro, right? It’s so beautiful1

  • October 11, 2016

    That looks incredibly beautiful! And all the time I wonder, why haven’t I been to Montenegro yet!
    Dominique recently posted…Jeju Island – A Handful of Natural SightsMy Profile

  • October 16, 2016

    I love such legends surrounding places we visit. Imagine building of an island by just throwing rocks for years!!! The practice of giving gifts too sounds so good. Lovely post which began like a fairy tale! 🙂
    Indrani recently posted…Faces of India – 287 Rajasthani MusicianMy Profile

    • October 19, 2016
      Julie

      I love that people continue to give to the church, even today. Some of the objects are brand new, and that painting, the one recently donated, is like this crazy modern abstract art. Tradition is alive and well in Perast!

  • October 16, 2016

    Wow! This place looks so amazing. So want to do this when I hit up Montenegro soo n 🙂

  • October 16, 2016

    What a stunningly beautiful place. I love the folklore story too!

  • October 16, 2016

    Seems Perast is a hidden gem! I haven’t been to Montenegro yet, but I have made some trips to Balkans in the past weeks and I must say that this region is really appealing.

    • October 19, 2016
      Julie

      Montenegro is THE place on this trip that I think we’d like to send people above everywhere else. It is just a beautiful as it looks, and is just a little bit more hidden than Croatia or the Italian coast. Love it!

  • October 16, 2016

    WOW, what a beautiful part of the world. Your photos are just stunning. I need to put Perast on my list!
    Carmen’s Luxury Travel recently posted…Loews Regency New York – Upper East Side Luxury HotelMy Profile

  • October 16, 2016

    I’d like to see that piece of embroidery. 25 years in the making is a long time. While I’m with you on the early mornings, it sounds like in this case it was justified. Sounds like a great place to see.
    Wandering Carol recently posted…Things to do in Karlovy Vary, Czech RepublicMy Profile

  • October 17, 2016

    I haven’t heard of Perast but it certainly sounds wonderful. I like the idea of starting out early – I’m not a fan of crowds so getting up a bit early would definitely be well worth it.
    Sue Reddel recently posted…Making The World A Little Sweeter on Sweetest DayMy Profile

    • October 19, 2016
      Julie

      Despite the efforts, we’re never disappointed when we get up early to see a place. Maybe we should do it more often!

  • October 17, 2016

    How nice that you were able to explore the church before the cruise ship tourists took over! I’d love to visit Montenegro again, as I spent so little time in the country. When I do, I’ll definitely consider stopping in Perast!

    • October 19, 2016
      Julie

      haha – yes, it’s been a delicate dance during Balkan shoulder season to give the cruise ships a wide berth, so to speak!

  • October 18, 2016

    What a great post with amazing photos. By reading and seeing your photos, I could imagine myself there, Thanks