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Age: 16+
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7 day Painting & Wild Swimming Retreat in Montenegro

“PERFECT! The best of all my art workshops, and I’ve attended a few. The other guests were delightful and our artist/tutor was friendly, talented, fun AND an inspiring teacher. Finally the in-house team who welcomed us warmly, took care of our every need and request eagerly and efficiently, was superlative!”
Judith Dawson, September 2023

SOLD OUT FOR 2024 – 2025 dates now bookable!

Departure dates: 18th May 2025, 7th and 21st September 2025

This week-long painting holiday led by British artist Karen Pearson will bring you inspiration and art in abundance from your base at stunning Lake Skadar in Montenegro!

Your accommodation for the week is in a beautifully restored villa farmhouse in the secluded hill village of Zabes, by Virpazar, gateway to the lake and National Park. Here you will find landscapes and subjects galore on your doorstep as well as at the glorious Adriatic coast nearby. Mountains climb from the lush green valley in never-ending shades of grey, birds flit from the wooded hillside, while an ancient fortress and the lake also come into view.

Villa Miela acts as the group’s base for painting with its large outdoor studio and owner-hosts Ben & Emma on hand to cater to the group’s needs. Daily art classes will take place here and also out on visits to some amazing locations in the National Park and the nearby Adriatic Sea. For example, we visit Budva, an ancient walled Venetian port city rich with architecture and history.

Our itinerary also includes the chance to swim wild in waterfalls, the sea and the lake, the largest spread of freshwater in southern Europe at roughly 400 square km in size.

This is a small group holiday for a maximum of ten people with all breakfasts and dinners included. It means you’ll get lots of personal attention from Karen as well as time to relax and enjoy your wondrous surroundings.

Use the tabs above to see a detailed itinerary for this holiday and our gallery of photos. Places are strictly limited so get in touch asap to reserve your spot!


Karen is a painter and sculptor, and has been teaching drawing and painting skills for 20 years, with a full distinction in HND Fine Art from Pound Farm School of Painting & Drawing under Ken Ray.

Although she paint in inks, acrylics, oils, pastels and mixed media, her main discipline is watercolour, as this is the more portable option when we head out and about into Montenegro’s wild beauty!

Karen exhibits and sell her work regularly at solo and collaborative shows and it is held in modest collections both in the UK and abroad.

Day 1
Arrival at Lake Skadar. Welcome and check-in to your accommodation – either Villa Miela or Badanj Village House – in the hill village of Zabes, Virpazar. Group welcome drinks and dinner at Villa Miela at 18.00.

Day 2
Our first painting lesson and sketching at Lake Skadar. Our first painting class is held after breakfast on Villa Miela’s deck, after which we will take a short walk to a nearby panoramic lake view for sketching. Gaze out over carpets of water lilies buzzing with birds, the luminous lake and its backdrop of mountains still wearing their caps of winter snow. Group dinner at Badanj Village House at 18.30. 

Day 3
To the northern shores. We depart at 10am to drive 50 minutes and reach a truly mesmerising location in the National Park – Pavlova Strana. One of Montenegro’s most famous vistas, this is where the majestic Crnojevic river curls perfectly towards the twin peaks of Vranjina. Lunch follows at a nearby restaurant, then on the drive back, we visit idyllic, mossy waterfalls  (short hike of 30 minutes down and then back up hill). Group dinner at Villa Miela at 19.00.

Day 4
Water lilies & monasteries. Our painting lesson begins at 10am at Villa Miela. In the afternoon, we will take a private cruise on Lake Skadar to experience its incredible natural beauty close-up. Our destination is the 15th century Kom monastery, still inhabited by monks today and with surviving frescoes and architecture. There will also be plenty of chances to swim wild in the lake for those who wish! Group dinner at Villa Miela at 18.30.

Day 5
Historic Budva and the Adriatic Sea. A later start today. At 1pm, we take a half hour ‘approach to drawing’ lesson at Villa Miela before heading off to visit the ancient walled stone city of Budva for sketching and then dinner. According to legend, Budva was first an Illyrian city dating back to the 5th century BC. A long-standing centre of arts and culture, Budva became Roman, then Venetian, from which period its current attractive form dates. Dinner is at nearby Sveti Stefan at a restaurant situated above one of Montenegro’s most picturesque and famous stretches of coastline.

Day 6
Medieval Godinje village. Our painting lesson this morning is at Villa Miela, after which we visit the nearby medieval hill village of Godinje for sketching and wine tasting. This hidden gem of ancient architecture is where the 14th century King Balsic, ruler of the Southern Slavs, placed his summer palace. Godinje breathes history with its fortified stone houses and warren of connected vaulted cellars, now largely abandoned except for a working winery which we will have the chance to visit to taste Montenegro’s native grape, Vranac. Dinner is at Badanj Village House at 18.30.

Day 7
Free day – a chance to do your own thing, relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings of the village, paint a little more or explore more of Montenegro (a group visit to Kotor can be arranged on request). The group will reconvene for a convivial last dinner at Villa Miela with drinks and an exhibition of our works.

Day 8
Depart – check-out is at 10am.

Prices: £ 1,050 per person in a shared double or twin room / £1,195 per person for solo occupancy of a double or twin room

Price includes: daily painting lessons, 7 nights’ catered accommodation at Villa Miela or Badanj Village House, all breakfasts, all dinners, 5 excursions including one restaurant lunch and a wine-tasting, soft drinks, teas & coffees at Villa Miela, sketch books and paper.

Not included: flights, transfers, travel insurance, paint brushes, paints (these are available to buy), or alcohol except at the welcome dinner.

VILLA MIELA and BADANJ VILLAGE HOUSE

A beautifully renovated farmhouse with modern facilities, large terrace and 70 square foot outdoor deck, Villa Miela is the ideal base for guests on our Lake Skadar painting holidays. With panoramic views, a gorgeous plunge pool and a prime location offering easy access to the lake’s southern and northern shores as well as Virpazar, it’s the perfect place to stay. Make new friends as you share the beautifully renovated stone living spaces, gorgeous outdoor terrace, outdoor painting/chill deck, swimming pool and orchard gardens.

At a glance

Sleeps 8 with 2 double rooms, 1 twin and one bunk room, each with private bathroom

Swimming pool

Covered outdoor deck / art studio

Modern kitchen with all amenities

Free WIFI

Open-plan living room with TV, DVD player and library of books and films

Large terrace with gas barbecue, loungers, hammocks, boules court, swimming pool; incredible views over lake, valley and mountains

Extensive grounds with natural orchard and wild tortoises

Two minute drive or 20 minute walk from the lake shore, 30 minutes from the Adriatic coast

Free use of mountain bikes

Exposed stone details and wooden ceilings and floors add to the charm, with locally produced, handmade bedspreads and bathroom soaps also handmade from olive oil. Stunning views are offered up by each bedroom and the open-plan living area.

The modern kitchen comes equipped with washing-machine and dishwasher.

Staying at Villa Miela is recommended by top travel media such as the Lonely Planet and Bradt Guides to Montenegro, the Guardian and Daily Telegraph newspapers and National Geographic Traveller magazine.

Some guests in the group will be hosted at our neighbouring guesthouse, Badanj Village House, just 500m up the road from Villa Miela, and owned by legendary local raconteur and friend, Nenad Petranović. This beautifully restored farmhouse has all the usual comforts as well as an unexpected dash of style! Those guests staying here are of course also welcome to use Villa Miela’s facilities.

View of Virpazar