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Sveti Stefan (Saint Stephen) is a unique hotel-village located on the Budvanska Riviera in Montenegro, one of the most attractive parts of the Adriatic coast.
The village occupies a rocky outcrop which is connected to the mainland by a narrow cape with sandy beaches on either side. The 'island' of Sveti Stefan itself is a UNESCO heritage site in its entirety, which explains why the hotel has come in over-budget and overdue as the Aman group had to overcome meticulous planning regulations. They should be delighted they made the effort because the hotel is well worth the wait. After a history that has seen the island evolve from a fortress in the 15th century to a fishing village and finally a 'luxury' hotel during the communist era, true authentic luxury has arrived at last in the form of Europe's first Aman.
The accommodation is divided into Village Rooms, Cottages, Deluxe Cottages, Grand Suites, Seaview Terrace Cottages, the Adriatic Suite and the Sveti Stefan Suite, which has its own private swimming pool. The views differ from room to room - whether of the sea, rooftops or quaint courtyards and piazzas, they are all stunning. In designing the interiors, priority was given to preserving the original walls, bespoke furniture was built and much of the detail, from door latches and windows, was based on what would have been on the island originally.
The dining options at Sveti Stefan are located primarily around the Piazza, an open-air square at the heart of the island. There is a taverna, an enoteca, a pasticceria, an antipasti bar and even a cigar room with a fine selection of Cuban cigars, rare cognacs and whiskeys. Ideal for al fresco tapas and drinks, the Enoteca has a sea-facing terrace while the Taverna serves simple European and American breakfasts, and Mediterranean dishes for lunch and dinner. Away from the vibrant Piazza is the Cliff Pool Bar, the Terrace and Pool Bars, and the Aman Restaurant, which serves authentic Montenegrin and international cuisine. On the mainland are yet more options - the Queen's Chair offers breathtaking views of the Bay of Budva, Olive Tree is a beachside brasserie with wood-fired grills and a rotisserie, and finally the Beach Café offers al fresco dining throughout the day under cypress trees and a century-old olive grove.
The 21,000 sq ft Spa Wellness Centre is set back from Queen's Beach in cedar and pine woods and overlooking the sea. The spa has relaxation rooms and terraces, Pilates and yoga studios, saunas, cold plunge pools, treatment rooms and steam showers. For guests too unable to leave the hotel proper, there are also treatment rooms (in charming stone cottages) on the island itself.
We can recommend day trips to hidden coves that are only accessible by boat, as well as the beaches on the nearly two miles of coastline that surrounds Sveti Stefan. It certainly pays to be an Aman guest when it comes to beaches - the famed Queens Beach is reserved exclusively for Aman guests, and they also have free access to Sveti Stefan beach and Milocer beach. As non-Aman dwellers may struggle to find the fee, they are usually pretty quiet. We also recommend a day trip to the beautiful walled town of Kotor, or go on a recce of Montenegro's criminally under-visited interior.
Why we love it
Lanterns hang in the bedroom windows in memory of a tradition dating back to a time when the island was a fishing village, and wives would do the same to guide their fishermen husbands home at night.
Kate L, Original Traveller