Aman Sveti Stefan: Montenegro’s Jewel in the Crown

By Paul Joseph

With its long coastline dotted with well-preserved historical towns, picturesque bays and endless pebbled beaches, Montenegro’s popularity goes back many years, predating the fall of the Soviet Union and its Communist rule over Eastern Europe.

In the last few years, the redevelopment of Porto Montengro into a world class yacht marina has brought with it a new cachet that is helping attract a fresh wave of luxury traveller to this beautiful part of the Adriatic coast.

A 30 minute drive south of the marina, past the popular tourist town of Budva, is an exclusive resort that also attracts a well-heeled international clientele. Since its creation in 1988, Aman Resorts has gained a reputation for delivering flawless luxury in tasteful, elegant surroundings across the world, with each location boasting its own distinct architectural style and flavour.

Five years ago, Sveti Stefan opened its doors as the latest Aman offering. Originally the site of a luxury hotel that attracted such illustrious names as Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren, it fell into disrepair during the 1980s until it was purchased by Aman and transformed into the stunning resort that greeted on our visit in June this year.

Spread over an islet that is connected to the coast by a narrow strip of land, the resort is made up of 50 individual accommodations, including cottages, villas and suites, and offers a range of facilities including a spa, a library, a Cigar Room, several dining options and a shaded outdoor cliff swimming pool.

Eight additional rooms can be found in the nearby Villa Miločer, a stone villa estate that is run by Sveti Stefan and also includes an excellent restaurant. Once the summer residence of Montenegro’s Queen Marija Karadordevic, the building resonates with the regal grandeur of old Europe.

Back on the islet itself, the maze-like layout of the resort can present navigational difficulties for newcomers – but in truth getting lost is no hardship here. Everywhere you turn is pristine and pleasing on the eye, from the narrow stone lanes lined with olive trees, herbs and shrubs, to the white stone cottage facades, to the sublime views out to sea flanked by dramatic mountains that provide a backdrop to the entire region.

And then there are the staff. If you do happen to lose your bearings at Sveti Stefan, you will soon enough encounter one of the resort’s meticulous team, clad in crisp white fabrics, who will point you in the right direction with unfailing courtesy and patience.

Indeed, it is the standard of service at Sveti Stefan that perhaps outshines everything else – some statement given the overall quality of the resort. It is certainly rare to experience such a consistently high level of guest attention, and credit must go to whichever hospitality school was responsible for producing these masters of manners.

Away from the main islet resort are several other amenities run by Sveti Stefan, including three restaurants and a Beach Cafe, each overlooking a separate private pebbled beach curved around scenic bays. The stand-out dining venue is Queen’s Chair, perched atop a rocky precipice and offering sunset views that would make the most nervous of marriage proposals a foregone conclusion.

But the variety of choice at Sveti Stefan does not end there. Guests wishing to stretch their legs can indulge in a range of activities including cycling, bird watching, sailing, diving, big game fishing and private wines tasting. Moreover, the resort also arranges personalised guided excursions to scenic and cultural attractions along the coast, as well as inland to some of the region’s finest national parks and other places of interest.

And there's more: the next phase of construction, scheduled to be completed by next season, will include a state of the art spa with gymnasium, indoor and outdoor pools and a swimming pontoon to the sea.

Such unblemished attention to detail seems almost to be part of the DNA at Sveti Stefan. It represents a high water mark for the luxury lifestyle that many try to imitate, but only a few succeed.

By Paul Joseph