|Villa Milocer at Aman Sveti Stefan opened in late-December 2008|
Three years after gaining independence and a starring role in the James Bond flick Casino Royale, Montenegro is poised to become a new luxury hot spot. The government of Montenegro, which declared its independence from Serbia in 2006, has made luxury travel a priority. The blitz to glitz being has been especially evident in Sveti Stefan, an island in the Adriatic Sea that's linked to the country's shore by an isthmus. The 15th century fishing village turned 1950s glam resort attracted the attention of Hong Kong-based Amanresorts two years ago.
Amanresorts has gained a reputation for building upscale hotels that offer spotless service in far-flung locations. The company opened its flagship property in Phuket, Thailand, in 1988. Since then, the company has expanded to Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Bhutan and, most recently, in Sveti Stefan. The island was a fixture on the jet-set circuit long before St.-Tropez, France, or Italy's Capri. In the 1950s, movie stars Sophia Lauren, Kirk Douglas and Marilyn Monroe frolicked in the island's quarry-style pool, swimming holes and beaches. It later became a getaway for posh members of the Communist elite before falling into disrepair after the fall of Yugoslavia. Amanresorts started leasing property on the island in 2007. The company renovated the Villa Milocer, which had previously served as a summer home for European royalty, and opened the Aman Sveti Stefan on Dec. 15. The resort offers 47 guest rooms, and plans to add eight more rooms this summer. In the meantime, guests can check into Villa Milocer's eight beachfront suites. The company spared no expense in the renovation, refurbishing the resort's iron balconies and adding spa-style bathrooms. The rooms retain their aristocratic European flair with leather furnishings, lavish wardrobes and sleek fireplaces.
Villa Milocer's formal restaurant, the Dining Room, has seven tables with views of Milocer beach. The more casual Loggia and Living Room provide late-night snacks and a lounge. The company plans for another restaurant that will serve traditional Montenegrin cuisine of fish and meat staples as well as tapas. Eventually, Sveti Stefan will be home to Amanresorts' first-ever pizzeria. Visitors get to Sveti Stefan by traveling on an isthmus levee, intersecting a long white sand beach of Speedo-wearing locals and the occasional fisherman. Rooms will be scattered around the island offering sea views from almost every guest suite. The closest airports to Sveti Stefan are serviced by private jets and Montenegro Airlines. Budget carriers such as SkyEurope and EasyJet can bring vacationers as close as Dubrovnik, which is 2.5 hours away. But it's also the prettiest way to get there, along a recently upgraded coastal road. Amanresorts picks up guests from local airports in chauffeured cars. Private butlers are available to unpack their bags so they can hit the beach right away.