The small islet of Sveti Stefan, a UNESCO Heritage site, can be found around 5km south of Budva in Montenegro. With its cobbled streets, red tiled roofs and pink sand beaches, this little island is one of Montenegro’s gems.
The island was originally a small fishing village which was fortified in the 15th Century in order to protect itself following an attack by the Turks. Following victory against the Turks, and using the war trophies gained in the battle, they turned the island into a fortress. Within the fortress a house was built for each of its 12 families, along with the Church of St Stefan, the island’s protector.
By the 19th century a village was established on the island, with around 100 houses, 400 inhabitants, and a further three churches. However by the mid 1950’s, due to changes in the economy and the political climate, only around 20 villagers remained in Sveti Stefan.
Therefore under the Tito regime the islanders were moved to the mainland, and between 1954 and 1957 the island was transformed into an exclusive hotel resort for the rich and famous. This transformation made this unique ‘hotel island resort’ one of the most luxurious in the Adriatic. It was made even more special by the fact that from the outside the island’s houses remained almost untouched, so the village feeling remained within the resort.
From the time it was built until the 1980s the island was a must-visit destination for the world’s elite. It’s popularity peeked in the 1970’s when it was seen by many as the most elite holiday resort in the world. Over its lifetime many famous guests such as Marilyn Monroe, Orson Welles, and Elizabeth Taylor have graced the cobble streets of Sveti Stefan.
Following the breakup of Yugoslavia the popularity of the resort went into decline. That was until the Government of Montenegro decided that the island’s glamour and appeal should be recreated. The best bid for the islands’ rejuvination came from Aman resorts in 2007. By 2009 the resort of Aman Sveti Stefan was established. This elite resort boasts private beaches, 3 swimming pools, suites, terraces and a spa, whilst maintaining the aesthetics of the island’s original features. Starting from around £650 per room per night the island is again attracting the rich and famous to this most exclusive resort. In 2010 Andrea Bocelli gave a concert within the resort, and more recently in 2014 tennis champion Novak Djokavic was married on Sveti Stefan.
Unfortunately you cannot tour the island unless you are a hotel or restaurant guest, but even from a distance you can still see that Sveti Stefan really is one of the most uniquely beautiful ‘islands’ in the Adriatic.