updated 5/2/2008 12:26:11 PM ET 2008-05-02T16:26:11

Book by: ASAP
Travel by: Various through 2008

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The deal
Now that Croatia's popularity has sent prices skyrocketing, in-the-know travelers are heading next door to Europe's newest country: tiny but beautiful Montenegro. With its medieval cities on the Adriatic coast, pristine mountain villages, splendid scenery, great food, and ancient monasteries, Montenegro offers a wide spectrum of experiences and infinitely more reasonable than those of its fashionable Adriatic neighbor. Plus: We've even nabbed an Exclusive Offer just for Sherman's Top 25 subscribers!

Montenegro's coastal hotels
The best hotels are found along the coast, in the ancient town of Budva (Montenegro's answer to Croatia’s Dubrovnik, which is just 60 miles down the coast); the Roman town of Petrovac, about 10 miles from Budva; and the fishing village of Sveti Stefan, across from the exclusive island of the same name. We've rounded up five favorites in all categories, from luxury to budget.

Hotel Astoria
The top choice for lodging in Budva, this recently renovated boutique hotel occupies a medieval townhouse at the heart of the old town, with chic features like minimalist decor and stellar vistas of the sea and the old town walls. The rooms are stylish and well-equipped and the on-site restaurant serves local and international specialties. Nightly rates for a double room start at €150 ($234) per person during spring and late fall, including breakfast. 

Hotel Splendid Conference & Spa Resort
Another excellent choice, this one on gorgeous Becici beach right outside Budva, this spa resort boasts a newly opened Splendid Spa and fitness club, guestrooms with private balconies, a swimming pool, restaurant, and on-site bar. Nightly mid-season rates (April 4–June 19 & September 22–October 31) start at €117 ($182) per person, with breakfast. Plus, Sherman's Top 25 subscribers receive an exclusive 10 percent discount on room rates and the VIP treatment on arrival (fruit basket and wine included).

Hotel Montenegro
A bargain choice in Budva, this beachfront hotel is owned by the same group as the Hotel Splendid, and also offers balconied rooms and the requisite bars, restaurants, swimming pools. Mid-season rates start at €74 ($115).

Hotel W Grand
An attractive option a stone’s throw from the beach in Petrovac, this fine hotel offers 50 modern rooms with terrace and several with kitchenettes. Facilities include a spa and a restaurant. B&B rates here start at €27 ($42) per person for stays through April 30; it’s just €30 ($46) through June 20. Dinner can be added for just €6 ($10) extra.

Vila Drago
Across from the exclusive island of Sveti Stefan (which is currently being converted into an ultra-luxurious hotel by Aman Resorts) is the small fishing village of the same name. Here you can stay at Vila Drago, a cozy family-run property with two suites and six doubles, each with a private terrace. Doubles overlooking a garden start at €34 ($53) in June; sea-facing rooms can be booked from €44 ($68).

Escorted vacation-packages to Montenegro
If you’d rather book a package to Montenegro, we recommend one of two escorted trips we found onGeneral Tours. Their land-only foray to Montenegro starts at $1,849 (for late-fall departures; $2,049 for summer) with the following inclusions: deluxe lodging for three nights; buffet breakfast daily; private driver & guide; and a variety of sightseeing tours. Highlights include the seaside towns of Herceg Novi and Budva; the spectacular Lake Biograd; Moraca canyon with its 13th-century monastery; the Kotor fjord; the tiny town of Perast; and a boat ride to visit the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks, the “Sistine Chapel” of Montenegro. Another option is the eight-day small-group (20-guest maximum) escorted tour of Montenegro’s main destinations from $2,449 (spring and fall trips), with first-class lodging, 17 meals, sightseeing and all on-tour transportation.

The dollars
The nightly rates at all the hotels listed above are per person, based on double occupancy. We’ve listed mid-season prices, for spring and fall stays, as these will save you a chunk of change over summer sojourns during two off-peak seasons with perfectly pleasant weather. At Hotel Astoria, for example, the rate goes up to €170 ($265) for peak-season stays. Summer rates at Hotel Splendid Conference & Spa Resort, Hotel Montenegro and Hotel W Grand are higher by €20 ($31) each night. At Vila Drago, doubles go up from €34 ($53) in June to €56 ($87) in July and August — the price difference of €22 ($34) may not seem like much but it does add up after a few nights. The General Tours packages exclude airfare but do cover a great wealth of land inclusions and save you the trouble of planning the trip in a country that’s still largely unexplored.

The catch
The Adriatic Sea can be too chilly for swimming in spring and fall.

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