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For decades, the siren song of the French Riviera has lured well-heeled travelers to destinations like Cannes, Monaco and St. Tropez. Yet the iconic beaches and nightclubs once reserved for the rarefied few now regularly appear on Instagram feeds the world over. In our social media–saturated culture, these see-and-be-seen cities have started to lose their luster. Today’s glitterati seek a new kind of sparkle. Not from the flash of a camera, but from a Mediterranean sun shining down on crystalline waters — specifically those of Montenegro’s Boka Bay.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site has everything a modern-day magnate could want: unbeatable views, appreciating real estate values and plentiful places to park a megayacht. As if the region’s turquoise waters, dramatic emerald mountains and quaint terracotta-roofed towns weren’t enticing enough, new projects from deep-pocketed developers are bringing every indulgence of classic Riviera hedonism to Montenegro shores. Yet even with these new properties, like the Venetian-inspired One&Only resort and the 450-berth superyacht marina at Porto Montenegro, this tiny Balkan nation maintains an under-the-radar quality that makes it uber seductive to the ultra rich.

Photography provided by Porto Montenegro

Montenegro carries much of the same charms of the Mediterranean’s more well-known millionaire playgrounds. There are tree-lined old European towns with open-air cafes for leisurely afternoons, familiar locally grown staples like seafood, olive oil and wine on every menu, even an outpost of the iconic St. Tropez club Nikki Beach. With glittering casinos, designer fashion outposts, and forthcoming five-star resorts from Rosewood and Ritz-Carlton, Montenegro has all the upper crust cachet and none of the passé.

It’s this uniquely intoxicating combination of pleasure and privacy that has many wanting to stay full-time. That’s now possible with Montenegro’s Citizen by Investment program. Launched in 2019, it provides passports in exchange for sizable financial contributions (think $500,000 or more) to help bolster the country’s growth. 

Newly minted passports in hand, 1 percenters are quickly snapping up equity in the form of high-end homes at premier developments like Dukley Gardens and Luštica Bay. Of course, if a penthouse is too cramped for the family, why not buy an actual palace? The Palazzo Tripkovic recently came up for sale. Set high above the waterfront, the breathtaking Baroque residence clocks in at nearly 12,000 square feet and boasts bay views as well as mooring for a megayacht.

Photography provided by Porto Montenegro

Even as investor interest in the region grows, sustainability remains a priority, with large swathes of the country preserved as natural parks and protected areas. Plus new structures are designed in keeping with the longstanding medieval village aesthetic to preserve an integrity of place.

All that unspoiled nature doesn’t just bring peace of mind, it also creates an ideal environment for growing high-quality ingredients. The superior plates coming out of award-winning kitchens along the bay are a testament to Montenegro’s abundant local agriculture — yet another element attracting affluent patrons to the area. 

Montenegro is famously one of few countries without a single McDonald’s within its borders. Instead, refined establishments offer simple yet elegantly prepared dishes — pasta, fish, fruits de mer — that draw strong influence from the country’s Venetian past. Waterfront spot Verige65 is known for its seafood, and Sabia, One&Only’s onsite Italian eatery, has Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli at the helm.

Photography provided by iStock/Maksim Mazur

If you’re looking to venture farther afield for a day trip, the islet of Sveti Stefan — now a five-star Aman property — is a prime place to enjoy an alfresco meal and access to private beaches. Once the summer residence of a Serbian queen, the isle has become a hot spot for vacationing celebrities, including tennis star Novak Djokovic and the Beckham family (Brooklyn was recently rumored to be planning his wedding there). 

Of course, the image-conscious elite can’t go just anywhere when it’s time to detox after all this indulgence, which is why Montenegro is now home to the world-famous Chenot Espace spa. Blending centuries-old Chinese medicine with modern technology, this new-age holistic wellness center features almost any offering one could want, from ancient remedies like acupuncture and massage to high-tech treatments like intravenous nutrient therapy and neuro-acoustic deep relaxation sessions.

While it may be too soon to say the sun is setting on more classic Riviera destinations, there’s no doubt that Montenegro is poised to steal the spotlight. All boast a sparkling sea embellished with luxe hospitality, and the comparison quickly becomes a who-wore-it-best competition between the up-and-coming ingenue and the more seasoned starlets. Though both beautiful, only one can claim to be truly au courant. 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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