Driving along the road that winds around the fjord-like Bay of Kotor as we approached the bay’s namesake, I watched the scenery with eyes glued to the windows. Never have I seen such natural beauty, here the rocky mountain cliffs descend rapidly into a pool of calm blue water that forms a river snaking through the mountains. Though not technically fjords because they weren’t created by glacial movement, this bay could fool anyone into thinking they were in Norway. I’m filled with regret that I didn’t opt for the boat ride from Dubrovnik to Kotor, having chosen instead the bus ride. But the scenery is good no matter how you approach it. And it’s the perfect introduction to Montenegro, a small country that you probably know little about but which will charm you and impress you throughout your stay. I’m so glad that I included the tiny nation of Montenegro in my travel itinerary, and I think you’ll love it too. Here’s everything you need to know for visiting Kotor and some photos to tickle your wanderlust senses. Here’s your Kotor Visitor Guide:
Kotor Visitor Guide
When To Go
You can tack a trip to Montenegro onto your itinerary when you’re visiting any of its neighboring countries, like Croatia. The busy tourist season is in the summer, but it’s nowhere near as busy as nearby Dubrovnik. Because it’s a small town, you want to avoid the off-season since many businesses shut down for a few months. Summer is a great time to go but so too is the shoulder season in May and September.
How To Get There
As I mentioned above, you can get there by bus or by boat from Dubrovnik and you’ll enjoy a scenic entry into town. Many companies even offer a daytrip excursion to Kotor from Dubrovnik, which is a good option if you’re tight on time. You can fly directly to Tivat airport, which is the closest to Kotor, or to the capital city of Podgorica, if you’re doing a bigger trip around Montenegro.
What To See
The first thing you’ll want to set your sights on is the beautiful and historic old town, a walled medieval city with cobblestoned streets and buildings packed in tightly together and laundry lines stretched across alleys. The town has a much more lived-in feel than others on the Adriatic coast, giving it a sense of authenticity like you’re really seeing how Montenegrins have always lived and still do today. There are 14 churches and 9 palaces in this small town, so definitely take your time to explore those to your heart’s content. The Katedrala Svetog Tripuna is a roman catholic cathedral that is the most prominent and is worth a tour since it was built in 1166 and has a lot of history to it. The maritime museum is popular and a good way to learn about the roots of this seaside town. You can take a boat ride out to the pair of tiny islands in the bay, one of which is manmade and houses a church. And even though it’s a lot of effort to climb it, the walk up to Kotor Fortress on top of the mountain is totally worth it because the views are breathtaking. This medieval wall has over 1000 steps and even though I’m in shape I felt exhausted climbing it. It takes about 2 hours to go up and back down.
Where To Stay
You definitely want to stay within the walled city, just because that’s where everything you’ll want to see is and because outside of it is less interesting to tourists. The tourism market hasn’t taken off entirely so don’t expect to have a ton of high end options, but there are a bunch of nice places to stay that are housed in charming old historic buildings.
Where To Eat
The café culture is very strong here, and in every little square you’ll find restaurants galore with alfresco seating lined up. You’re not only welcomed, but encouraged, to sit for a drink and just take your time enjoying the passing of foot traffic. The seafood all around town is really good and you can’t go wrong with any of the outdoor dining options.
Need To Know
You’ll find that most people speak English here even though Montenegrin is the native language. Montenegro doesn’t have its own currency so they just use the Euro even though they’re not in the EU. There are a few ATMs in town and although some places accept credit cards, cash is the much preferred method of payment. And Kotor is one of the safest places I’ve visited, I felt really comfortable there. It’s small and welcoming town, eager to share the beauty and culture of their underrated country with any traveler who wants to see what it’s all about. I hope you’ll go see for yourself how great it is!
As you know, I always like to read books that complement my travel destinations, and I found this one to be a really useful and entertaining tool for understanding the history and culture of this small country. It’s written by an American professor who lived in Montenegro for a Fulbright Scholarship placement and he recounts his experiences assimilating into the culture and society. Get a copy of “The Full Monte: A Fulbright Scholar’s Humorous and Heart-Warming Experience in Montenegro” here.
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