Ulcinj is the southernmost city at Montenegrin coast and one of the oldest cities on the Adriatic coast.
This is town of the tumultuous past and glorious tradition is placed above the rocks, like the ship which sails into sea. Nobody could conquer it from the sea although the sea waves plash it from the three sides.
Ulcinj – antique Olcinium or medieval Dulcinium had been attacked by many conquerors who, during their departure, left behind them traces of their civilization. A city whose walls are «woven» from the Illyric-Cyclop stones, after each invasion became rich in a spiritual and cultural way, not losing anything from its originality and unique quality.
Its history dates back to at least 25 centuries, during which different civilizations are changed, enriching the city with a valuable cultural and historical heritage.
In the fifth century B.C. it is supposed that Greek collonists from Colihida lived here and named it Colhinium. In the second century B.C. their settlements were conquered by Romans. There is only few historical data in written form about the antique Olcinium, it was mentioned by famous Roman historians such as Titus Livius and Plinius the Senior.
Under the rule of the Romans Olcinium got the status of a town (oppidum civium Romanorum), which means that it was inhabited by Italic settlers who had all the Roman citizens’ rights.
After that the town became a part of Byzanty. The Ulcinj episcopacy had been mentioned for the first time in the document of the pope Zacharias in 743, and as an archepyscopacy in 1089. The oldest church in Ulcinj, in the southern part of the Old Town, dates back to the beginning of the IX century (813-820).
The main buildings in the town were those built according to the permission of local bishops. They characterized the urban landscape.
In the pope documents of (1076, 1089, 1102 and 1149) the town was mentioned under different names Ulcini, Dulcinium, Licini, Dulcignum. The Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porfirogenet connected Ulcinj to Durres both in an administrative and strategic sense and he named it castello.
After the fall under the Nemanjic dynasty (1183), Ulcinj began to experience an economic rise, it became one of the most significant coastal trade centres of the Serbian state.
From 1360 to 1421 it was ruled by the powerful family of Balsic. It is from this period that the magnificent Tower of Balsic in the Old Town was built, to which the Ottomans added the third level.
The following 150 years Ulcinj was part of the Venetian Republic. Venetians left in the town its traces especially on the fortification and urban culture. Most important were the city walls, the bastions and revellins, by which the old towers had been substituted.
In the vast and articulated Venetian defence system, Ulcinj is the outpost south most important of all the Fortress cities of Southern Dalmatia in strong opposition with «Ottoman Albania». From Ulcinj it is possible to dominate the passage in the Adriatic as it controls the entire area from the Dalmatian coast to the Puglia coast in Italy. Then it had the task of defending the farthest south of the domains of the Serenissima.
The Ottomans conquered Ulcinj in 1571, short before the battle at Lepanto, and they ruled with it until 1878-1880.
During the Ottoman rule a part of the population who lived along the coast was engaged in piracy so Ulcinj was the «capital» of the pirates of the Adriatic Sea.
This «craft» especially flourished as 400 pirates – Arabians from Malta, Tunisia and Algeria populated Ulcinj. They used to attack merchant ships belonging to Dalmatian towns, Venetian Republic and other maritime states as they passed along the coasts. The sea robbers raged along from Cavtat to Peloponesus until the beginning of the 19th century.
Also during the period of Turkish reign Ulcinj was one of the biggest «market» of the wrecked people in this part of the world.
Pirates brought black boys from Africa to be servants to rich families whose few descendants still live in the Ulcinj today. Their surnames they are generally got according by families in which they served and lived.
According to the tradition famous Spanish writer Miguel de Servantes spent whole five years in a slavery in this town. He was inspired by the girl – local resident for which he thought to be the prototype of the beloved woman of the legendary Don Quixote. Thus in his novel the girl got a name Dulcinea by the name of the town from that time.
Balsic’s Tower in the Old Town was the place where Sabbatai Zevi (1626-1676), famous leader of the Jewish uprising, reformer and interpreter of Talmud, spent the last years of his life in this town.
Since it was one of the bigger towns, Ulcinj was almost two centuries (XVIII and XIX century) among the biggest maritime centres on the Mediterrannean, with over 300 small and big ships.
With its powerful fleet and fearless pirates who acted as the semi-regular forces of the empire, it represented the main support of the Ottoman empire on the Adriatic Sea.
Throughout the XX century Ulcinj had a strong turning point. At this time the Salt factory – Solana and the hotels were built, which made Ulcinj to an economic and tourist centre in the state.
Ulcinj is a unique mix of many styles and cultures, reflected in city walls, fortifications, street network of markets and squares, in urban buildings, many of which are used for their intended purpose to this day.
Unlike other parts of Montenegro, Ulcinj has an Oriental flavor – the long-standing Ottoman presence in the area as well as the large Muslim population in the town.
The Old Town is divided into a southern part suitable for the defence of the city and the Adriatic where the mighty walls and equipment of guns and gunpowder allowed to protect the area, and one in the northern part, towards the hinterland, which would act as more political-administrative, religious customs functions.
To get to the old city, sometimes it is called Kalaja, it is possible through two entrances – the lower or the south-east which is on the coast, or the upper (north-western).
You can enter via a short climb, either by road or steps, allowing you to explore it’s cobblestone streets and medieval buildings while taking in the view provided by it’s interesting location atop a piece of land that juts out from the coast into the Adriatic Sea.
The upper town – Cittadella which is constructed on the highest plateau of the rocky peninsulla is spread all over the southern part.
Here, in front of the church you can find a small square, once the Slave Square.
It is surrounded by arches, due to the fact that since the middle of the XVII century Ulcinj had become a significant slave market. These slaves used to be captured by Ulcinj pirates. Most of the slaves in Ulcinj came from Italy and Dalmatia.
The Ulcinj pirates mostly robbed rich villas along the coast of Apulia and Sicily, and then they would capture the owners and sell them as slaves. The people of Ulcinj kept the slaves as convicts and did not use them for any kind of work, but to get the ransom from their relatives, friends, or countrymen of the captured people.
Across the gallery there is The Ethnological Museum. It is considered to have served as a custom house in the Venetian period. On the ground floor of this building, there were two arched entrances to the north-west, and one more similar entrance to the south-east, but under Ottoman Empire rule, these entrances were built up and converted into windows. During that period, the building changed its purpose so that the upper floor served as Megteb, the school for the study of the Islamic religion.
Furthermore toward the South, accross the other there are two splendid buildings: Castle of Balsic and Venezia Palace.
The Castle of Balsic is connected to the last representatives of the Balsic dynasty, a rich family from the Skadar area, who had made Ulcinj into their residence by the end of the XIV and beginning of the XV century. On the upper, highest level there is the citadel-fortress with the powerful tower, dominating not only the old town, but the whole surrounding. Later the Ottomans built the third floor of the Balsic Tower as well as the spherical dome in the ground floor. This magnificent edifice has a view to the sea from three sides.
Venezia Palace was used as the residence of the Venetian administrator for Ulcinj. Due to its beauty and the fact that it is very convenient all the following rulers used this building as their court too.
Both these exclusive edifices The Tower of the Balsic and Venezia Palace are now used for comfortably accommodating guests and visitors coming to Ulcinj.
The Saint Nicholas Orthodox church is located in the western part of the old town. During the age of the Turkish empire, the church had been reconstructed into the mosque but in the year 1890 it again became the church as a memory dedicated to the strugglers who perished in the war during the year 1878.
Pasha’s Mosque was built under the walls of the Old Town in 1719. It was built of the donations of the local citizens as well as of the robbed money taken from Venetian ships, which had been caught into a storm opposite of Ulcinj in August 1718. It was devoted to the legendary Ottoman admiral, the conquerer of Ulcinj, Ali-Pasha Kilich (Uludz Alija).
In the norhern part there are two churches. One of them like the one in the Old Town bearing the name of Saint Nicholas. The church was dedicated to the termination of the Turkish administration and heroes who have died in 1878 during the liberation of Ulcinj. This church is surrounded by a hundred-year-old olive trees and has got beautiful and valuable frescoes.
Below the Old Town, there is main tourist promenade behind the beach has collection of pizzerias, shops, ice cream stands…
At Pristan which offers magnificent view to the Old Town, especially by night, there is Mala plaza (Small Beach), famous beach in the center of Ulcinj. It is located between the peninsula Ratislav and the ancient remnants of the castle.
From the promenade by the sea there is a street that leads towards the center of town. There are plenty of shops, boutiques, jewelers, restaurants, bakeries…
Apart from these areas, the rest of town is situated on the sides and tops of several large hills that dotted the coastline.
Liberty Monument is located on a hill above a Small Beach. This monument commemorates the fallen fighters and civilian victims from the city and surrounding region who perished in during the National Liberation War (WWII). In addition, this spomenik is also a tribute to the war efforts of the Yugoslavian Air Force.
Ulcinj is the only town in Montenegro, surrounded by the fertile plain on which the high quality fruit and vegetables are cultivated.
The market which is situated in the main town street makes Ulcinj different from other coastal towns. Here, especially on Tuesday and Friday which are main days for the purchase on the local market, you can buy local products, fresh milk, cheese, eggs, fruits and vegetables, olives and olive oil while the passionate smokers can find the tobacco from Ostros which is the best product of the kind in Montenegro.
Domestic products are prevailing at the Ulcinj market which is illustrated in the best way by a «show» of national costumes from the periphery of Ulcinj which are worn by the majority of women who sell their products.
Nature has been very generous towards this part of the Adriatic coast, by creating a colourful mosaic of magnificent contrasts in a unique way. As if nature had long ago examined the variety of wishes and demands of modern people to keep in touch with its unspoiled existence, so it awarded this area with: the dark-blue clean sea, the green-eyed river Bojana and the island Ada on its delta, the rich lake Shas, the long-living olive grove, the beautiful Valdanos bay, the healing springs, the pine wood with its enchanting smell and the well known sandy beaches.
Near Ulcinj you can see remnants of the Old town of Svac – medieval centre of the reign of Zeta in which, according to the legend, there were as much churches as days in the year!
There is also the exotic Sasko Lake which is called by the ornithologists «Mini Skadar Lake». It is rich with the fish and water birds as well as Stoj – the unique hunting event along the Adriatic coast.
Valdanos is a peaceful bay, a bay of beauty and love with a beach which is 376 m long, and which was declared to be A Nature’s Monument.
The olive grove in Valdanos is the biggest living monument. There are about 18 thousand olive trees, which are on average 800 years old, and put under special protection of the state. Many trees are older than two thousand years.
The river Bojana arises from Lake Skadar. It is 44 km long, and by its water amount brought into the sea it is the third river on the Mediterranean (after the river Nile and Po in Italy). It is a natural habitat for various plants and animals.
Throughout the Montenegro coast, the beaches are littered with stone and pebbles, covering most of the shoreline and also scattered amongst the sands of the softer beaches. But Ulcinj is home to only soft sand.
Beginning from Small Beach and stretching eastwards there is the Pine Wood, a beautiful walking area inside the urban part of the town.
It does not only decorate this area, but the Pine Wood has also got an extraordinary curing and recreational function.
In this breathtaking area there is also the «Ladies’ Beach» with its sulphur springs, which are a real elixir for barren women.
You will certainly be charmed by Great Beach the miles-long sandy beach which joins the crystal clean sea that range mostly from shallows to high waves.
The soft sand and milky white water is perfect for a relaxing summer holiday. Both the beach and the sea bottom are covered by fine sand.
Due to its extraordinary factors, the clean and clear sea, the curing sandy beaches, the sulfur mineral water, the curing mud, the sea salt and its stem alkalis, the mild stimulative coastal climate, Ulcinj is a natural spa with perfect qualities, well known all over the world.
The sand on the beaches is actually providing these long healing effects since it is so clean, so fine and it contains no impurities like soil, mud, organic materials or others due to the fact that Ulcinj is surrounded by an unpolluted environment, with no industry at all.
From the chemical composition the Ulcinj sand has about 30 mineral ingredients which are biologically very active. It is slightly radioactive which makes it suitable for medical use, especially when it comes to diseases with organs used for movement as well as spine problems, rheumatism, discopathy, sciatica and all the consquences if these organs get hurt.
Ada Bojana is famous tourist jewel in Montenegro.
The Nudist settlement on Ada with its specific atmosphere is smartly hidden from the curious looks and it is encircled by the beautiful river Bojana from two sides and the third side borders with the cleanest sea water.
Ada Bojana is most beautiful at dusk – during sunset there is an amazing colour game which merges the sea, the sand and the sky into a unique image.
Besides the nudist the Long Beach also attracts those ones who prefer to unite their personalities with untouched nature, every day expecting the most beautiful sunset.
The Adriatic sea is main attractions here, and there are numerous opportunities for swimming, boating and fishing, with picturesque seaside destinations both in the city and up and down the coast.
Of course, the seafood here is marvelous and there are more than enough opportunities to sample the local food and wine.
In short, it’s a destination where you can enjoy your own unique vacation, no matter what you’re looking for.