Eoin Sharkey review 22 Oct 2023
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
- Bike ride to Podgorica and getting the train back.
- Visiting the nunnery on Lake Skodar
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Embrace the Balkan spirit.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
It did somewhat, but could have done more.
A lot of the activities are run from the Villa on an independent basis, when local traders could maybe be on-boarded as partners. A case in point for me was
the kayak trip. This involved loading a load of kayaks onto jeeps and driving about 15-20K down some dusty roads. There to offload and transport them to
lake. Most of the Kayak trip tbh could have been anywhere, but the visit to the nunnery on a small island was a highlight. At the end, we had to reverse the
transport of the kayaks.
There seemed to be a lot of locals offering kayak trips in the village (not sure if they also involved road transfer of course) -- why not just engage one of
them, and avoid both the carbon footprint of the jeep AND the time to transport and transfer everything AND support a local enterprise?
Likewise, the train service (on the iconic Belgrade - Bar railway) seems to be a bit of a surprise to the team at the villa - but in fact is a very useful mode of
transport both for the coast (Bar, Sutomare) and the city (Podgorica, or even I was tempted to get the sleeper to Belgrade). Why not print off timetable and
provide link to the (perfectly usable) Montenegrin railways planner page, and encourage visitors to walk/cycle to the various stations and halts.
The bicycle provision at present is frankly a bit varied, in terms of quality of bike and present levels of roadworthiness. That is a shame, since, in my opinion,
this part of Montenegro is actually very well suited for leisure cycling - the roads are super-quiet, other road-users are friendly, the inclines are rarely steep
and the scenery is fantastic.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
I would rate it 5* for the sheer bravery of the concept and the beauty of the location, and 3* for the execution of the concept.
The quality of accommodation is around about modern UK youth hostel standard, maybe a little higher, but not much (free local wine and OK beer at €1 a
bottle on an honesty system were a nice touch sadly lacking from YHA tbf). We were lucky that all the people on the trip with us all seemed to have 'youth
hostel' mentality, ie. don't mind using shared kitchen and all rub along together with some good chats, fun and mutual support.
The accommodation is a bit far from the small village to make a comfortable walk/cycle, so it feels peaceful but also somewhat isolating, e.g. trip to the shop
inevitably seemed to be a ride in a jeep; didn't really feel like staying too late in the village as otherwise longish walk home in the dark etc.
In the week we were there, having been given the impression of a level of choice/input on the activities for the week, it turned out to be very much a 'take it
or leave it'. Activities were biased towards a mix of 'extreme hiking' and 'wild swimming' - neither of those appeal to me, so I did some biking instead. The
bikes there were "okay", though could do with some tlc. The biking itself was fantastic, so it seems a missed opportunity not to encourage people to do stuff
they enjoy rather than just expect everyone to fall in with a set plan.
Overall, I've given a 4* rating
Read the operator's response here:
Hi Eoin! We’re delighted that you enjoyed our holiday and we are always happy to receive feedback from our guests.
All our activities support local enterprises - our groups eat lunches with local people, we regularly visit local winemakers and the island monasteries kayak trip you speak of is a highlight for many precisely because no-one else offers it (local firms offer only kayak rental from Virpazar and no guided trips at all). Did you know, for instance, that our company founders donated two community water filters to the monasteries, having built up a relationship with the nuns over a ten year period? And we also sponsor annual clean-ups at the National Park along with other environmental initiatives like pelican conservation.
We’re glad to hear you enjoyed using our complimentary mountain bikes during your stay. It’s true that our activity holiday currently features more walking, wild-swimming and kayaking than cycling, but that’s the nature of a lake-based group holiday - we run a programme that ticks as many boxes for as many of our guests as possible. We wouldn’t describe any of the hikes as extreme (these are hill and forest trails we’ve used for years with mixed groups from age 7 to 70-something), but we suppose it depends on what you’re used to! Either way, you’ll be pleased to hear that we’re hoping to add some guided mountain biking trips to the portfolio for 2024 - watch this space!
At Villa Miela we set out to provide a ‘home from home’ which comes with yoga deck, helpful hosts and beautiful pool. Our management team and volunteers are all very much aware of the train connections and recommend them every week - and we definitely agree, the route from Belgrade to Bar is one of the most spectacular rail journeys in Europe. More guests to arrive this way please!