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Medieval fortress walls. Tiny cobbled-stoned alleys. Venetian architecture. Heart-stopping views. Romance and adventure. What’s not to love about Kotor?

Never heard of Kotor? **Gasp!!**

Well, then by all means, allow me to introduce you to this adorable town!

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Where is Kotor?

Found nestled at the end of the Bay of Kotor, from which the town is named, is a ‘bay’ or ‘fjord’ as it is commonly called, which opens into the Adriatic Sea. However, it’s actually a ria – a submerged river canyon which has been settled since 229 BC. Kotor is a coastal town in Montenegro with a mere population of 961 people in the Old Town and just over 13,000 people in the surrounding area.

Why Should You Visit?

First of all, it’s one of the most jaw-dropping destinations in the world! At least in my book! In recent years, Kotor has seen an increase in tourism as cruise ships have docked here to allow travelers to explore its beautiful Old Town and the fortress perched just above it.

Whether you’re looking to relax, walk through history or explore the town and manage a rather steep hike, Kotor is perfect for every traveler looking to be introduced to Montenegro. Either way, this is one place you definitely need to hit up!

Montenegro in general has one of the fastest growing tourism markets in the world at the moment, and when driving through the beautiful country side and along its coastline, it’s easy to see why. Sky reaching, rugged mountains stretching for miles along its coastline with countless historical settlements lining the waters edge, the Bay of Kotor is a hot spot that desperately needs to be seen.

How to get to Kotor

As previously mentioned, many large cruise ships make a stop in Kotor as part of their Mediterranean itineraries. This might be fine and dandy for those looking to just simply be introduced to the country by spending a few hours in the town before moving on to the next location.

However, driving through Montenegro certainly has its own perks. Having driven from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Montenegro, we were introduced to the rugged terrain and sprawling country side before being greeted to the coastline shortly after going through border control at Granični Prijelaz Vraćenovići.

If you decide to drive, you’ll arrive from the northern end of the Bay of Kotor, driving along the shoreline of the bay, passing some of the small historical settlements such as Perast (stay tuned!), which I hope you make the time to visit! For GPS purposes, it’s useful to know the name of Kotor in Serbian Cyrillic: Котор

Should you decide to fly, consider flying into Dubrovnik, Croatia which has been said is much cheaper than flying directly into Montenegro. However, the drive is still around 2 hours, and waiting times at the border could be longer. Another option is possibly flying into the capital, Podgorica, which is still an hour and half drive away, through some pretty terrible roads.

Should you consider to drive, driving in the Old Town of Kotor is not permitted. However, there are several places to park on the outside. The cheapest and safest is on the Kotor Bay Connect, a little stretch of island just on the outside of the town. Here, parking is .80 /hour and is monitored 24/7.

History of Kotor

Surprisingly, Montenegro has had quite a turbulent history, that over the centuries has been under the control of Ancient Rome, the Republic of Venice, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria, Serbia, France, Britain and most recently, Yugoslavia. My goodness that was A LOT!

After all of that, the town has more of a Venetian feel about it, quite similar to Dubrovnik, Croatia. After all, the Venetians had quite the influence on the region after four centuries of domination. Thus, ultimately, giving it that quintessential charm which later earned Kotor a spot on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fast forward to 1918, Montenegro became part of Yugoslavia, only to win their independence in 2006, finally making a name for themselves, with the hopes of joining the EU soon.

Montenegro, however, is a melting pot of nationalities, depending on how people choose to identify themselves. Many are Montenegrin, Albanian, Serbian or even Croatian and speak several languages. The official language is a dialect of Serbo-Croatian, which can be written in Latin or Cyrillic, as well as Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian or surprising, some Italian!

Where To Stay

As this is a quaint fortified town centuries old, you’re not going to find any high rise, modern hotels in the Old Town. Plus, why would you want to stay somewhere new and modern when you could stay somewhere with a historic charm to add to the ambience of your visit!?

We stayed in the adorable Palazzo Drusko Deluxe Rooms which were right in the heart of the historic town, near the North Gate (River Gate). Decorated in a traditional style with 150-year-old furniture, stone walls and wooden elements, this hotel gave us the perfect vibe for life in Kotor. To add romance to our stay on a warm summer night, the hotel owner plays traditional Montenegrin music over a vintage radio. I wouldn’t have wanted to stay anywhere else!

What To Do In Kotor

The town is easy enough to see the main sights within a day, however, to make the most of your visit, plan to spend a minimum of 2-3 days. You don’t want to wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am your way through the town and miss out on truly experiencing the town and surrounding villages! I say this, as we spent 2 days there and were able to visit several of the surrounding towns along the Montenegrin coastline, yet, I could have easily spent a week there!

  • Meander Around the Old Town

Before you do anything, you NEED to stroll the charming alleys. You can take a map, but it’s not necessary. You can’t possibly get lost, and if you do, so the better! You’ll only stumble upon one more alluring alley after the other. As you’re walking around, you’ll likely hear or notice people mentioning how much Kotor resembles Dubrovnik or even Venice. Don’t forget that Kotor was under the control of the Venetians for a long time, so there are similarities. Yet, I found the town to be a bit more compact than Dubrovnik and filled with just as many cats.

Since the town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the town is prohibited from making big changes, therefore, preserving it’s irresistible historic charm. You’ll find several churches, two orthodox churches, an old town clock and a promenade to meander down. For 2,50 per person, you can take a gander inside the St. Triphon’s Cathedral and walk upstairs for a view over the square. Don’t forget to walk out the Main Gate, which was once higher but has sunk a bit because of earthquakes in 1667 and 1979.

  • Walk the City Walls & Fortress

Unlike Dubrovnik, the city walls here are much larger. The town walls not only surround the Old Town, but extend high above the town, stretching 4.5 miles up the mountain, making for the top attraction in Kotor. You haven’t truly experienced Kotor until you have hiked the walls to the Castle of San Giovanni (Castle/Fortress of St. John). 

Most of the the Great Wall and the bastions date from the 13-17th centuries when the Venetians controlled the area. Kotor was a vital strategic port located inside the Bay of Kotor which provided shelter for the fleet of around 300 ships and a secured port. Because of this, you’ll be able to find several naval museums in Kotor and Perast.

Zigzagging back and forth up the mountain, you’ll be climbing 1,355 steps with an elevation increase of 700 feet to the fortress of Saint John. Half way up, you’ll come to the white Church of Our Lady of Remedy, where you can sit down and take a breather for a bit before finishing the second half.

  • You’ll need to pay a small entrance fee of 3 to hike the walls. People will be selling water and other refreshments at the bottom, in the middle and at the top of the fortress, increasing in price the higher you go. But I tell you now, bring a bottle of water per person.
  • If you’re visiting in the warmer months, you’ll definitely want to wear sunscreen and there is practically no shade while hiking up this mountain.
  • The hike to the Castle of San Giovanni should take you around 3 hours up and down.
  • WEAR GOOD SHOES! The hiking path is half full of rocks and half with uneven stairs wide enough for one person, with people going up and down on the same staircase, overtaking in the rocky section.
  • It is definitely NOT stroller friendly!

Sadly, there isn’t a cable car to take you to the top, so this way you can tell your future children, “I hiked that S.O.B. before they built a cable car” with pride. But trust me when I say, the view is worth it. However, I felt the best view was actually only half way up the mountain. 

  • Go Shopping

I am NOT one to shop while on my travels, but Kotor has plenty of cute shops I kept popping into. Sadly, I suffer from buyer’s remorse even before the shopping, so I didn’t buy ANYTHING! However, I did want to go back to the ceramic/pottery shop we stumbled upon somewhere near the main square. Sadly, by the time we got back, the store must have been closed and then I couldn’t find it again.

  • Taste Montenegrin Food

The owner of our hotel was so incredibly friendly, he highly recommended us a few places to eat while we were visiting his cherished home town.

For the freshest fish and delicious meals, topped off with beautiful decor, we took his advice and headed to Scala Santa. Our first meal in Kotor did not disappoint. For barely 15 , my husband enjoyed a Seafood Risotto, while I settled for a delicious Chicken Caesar salad, as I found it too hot to eat anything else.

After our big hike, we headed to Astoria, not far from the main square for the BEST dessert in town, also highly recommended by our hotel owner. With a very lively atmosphere and awesome decor, I was glad we took his advice! And it lived up to every expectation possible! I enjoyed waffles with ice cream while my husband enjoyed a delicious strawberry creation. It was well-deserved!

What you can generally expect to find is mostly seafood in Kotor, along with a plethora of Italian options. There were a few places I saw which served hamburgers and fries, clearly catering to the needs of tourists too afraid to try the local cuisine!

  • When To Go

Having been to Croatia right as the summer season was kicking off at the end of July, I wanted to avoid hordes of tourists as much as possible. We felt our experience there was really dampened by the long lines and obnoxious tourists. Therefore, when we booked our honeymoon road trip through the Balkans (stay tuned for an itinerary post), we opted to go the last week of May/beginning of June. The weather was hot, but not unbearable yet. There were still tons of tourists, but not an intolerable amount, especially as there were clearly two major cruise liners docked in the bay.

Also, while visiting, to alleviate as much interaction with a swarm of tourists, we always opt for beginning our sightseeing early in the morning around 8am. This way you can truly enjoy the town and take in every crevice without having to fight to get your picture without someone in it. By 10, the town gets full as ships dock and everyone floods into the town.

There are many other amazing places to consider staying along the Montenegrin coastline besides just Kotor and if you’re looking for more inspiration, head over to Travelsewhere! 

  • Overall Experience

Amazing!!! I absolutely ADORED every.single.minute we were there, and wish we could have spent more time there! It would have been nice to explore a bit more outside of the historic part of town, perhaps meander over to the other side of the ria to get a view of Kotor from a distance. However, we had enough time in our 2 1/2 days there to explore the entire Old Town, managed the hike, and visit some of the picturesque towns along the Montenegrin coastline!

Do I recommend going? 100% This is definitely one charming town everyone should put on their bucket list! I still dream about this place and sometimes can’t even believe we were there! I keep scrolling through my pictures as if to make sure we really went and it wasn’t some dream!

Looking for more practical information on Montenegro? Grab a copy of this Lonely Planet Travel Guide which we found incredibly useful on our trip and has something for everyone from outdoor activities to historical sites along the Montenegrin coastline!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own and these products/services have been found useful during our travels and come highly recommended to you from yours truly!

  • Road & Driving Conditions in Montenegro:

  1. You will be driving on mostly one lane back roads (if coming from Bosnia-Herzegovina).
  2. As you’ll be driving on a single lane road, overtaking can be quite difficult in such dangerous conditions. DO NOT try to overtake unless you have a clear view!
  3. The average driving speed on the one lane roads is around 50kmp as you’ll be mostly driving through small villages, therefore, PLAN FOR EXTRA DRIVING TIME.
  4. DO NOT SPEED! The Montenegrin Police Force were visible every few miles, actively pulling people over for speeding and for whatever other reasons.
  5. Street lights flash green before turning red, therefore, flashing green lights does not mean you have plenty of time to go through the light!
  6. Tunnels have no internal structure with no lights or ventilation. Turn your lights on!
  7. Prepare yourself for potholed roads quite often during your drive, and drive slowly! Last thing you want it to pop a tire in the middle of no where with no sign of help anywhere!
  8. Always have a full take! When you’re near the coastal towns, there are plenty of gas stations, but up in the mountains and smaller villages, you’ll have a harder time.
  9.  Use a GPS Navigation system to get you anywhere in Montenegro, but set your preferances to stick to main roads! But just in case, as many roads have no yet been mapped out yet, we bought a map book of Europe.
  10. Crossing the border from Bosnia into Montenegro can take 30 minutes – 1hr (in low season). I can imagine after May, lines may take longer.
  11. You must show your car insurance papers, car registration and passports!! If you’re renting a car, check with your car rental company.
  12. It’s also recommended to have an international driving license (for this entire road trip) although not necessary (except for Albania and Kosovo).
  13. If you are going to drive from Montenegro to Macedonia (post coming soon), avoid  driving via Podgorica as the roads are terrible (confirmed by our hotel). Instead, you’ll need to drive through Albania via Lac. You will definitely need to show your international driving license here.

Dangers on the Road

  1. It is a common occurrence to see cows and other livestock walking along the road. Try not to speed around corners because they may be just around the bend.
  2. Stay on all main roads!!! Do not wander off on to dirt paths or off the side of the road.
  3. Keep an eye out for local farmers driving on the road with a horse/donkey buggies. For obvious reasons, they don’t go very fast, so do not overtake unless you have a clear path!
  4. Montenegrins like to tailgate and overtake at the first (unsafe) chance they get, putting both themselves and yourselves at risk of practically causes an accident. Slow down and let them pass.

Posts Beyond Kotor:

Discover Budva, Montenegro

The most LUXURIOUS Honeymoon Day Trip: Sveti Stefan 

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Replies to An Introduction to Kotor, Montenegro

  1. We visited Kotor last summer (2016) and thought it was lovely – it was incredibly hot so we didn’t even think about attempting THAT hike!! Amazing views though! I think I will wait for a cable car to be built! #citytripping

  2. Kotor looks amazing. I hope the government manages the rise in tourism carefully. I’ll be looking out for your next post about the road trip, sounds exciting! #citytripping

  3. This looks incredible! I love that old wall. We will be in the area later this summer on a driving drip in Croatia and may need to make plans to pop into Montenegro as well. Thanks for sharing all your tips and tricks! #CityTripping

  4. All of your posts give me want to book a trip to Europe right away. I can’t wait until we can explore that part of the world. #wanderfulwednesday

  5. Absolutely loved Kotor when I visited Montenegro. Staying in that maze of an old town was so much fun and you can’t beat the views of the bay from the castle above. Glad I visited here before Dubrovnik as I think I would have been more inclined to compare the two then. Definitely an underrated gem and so nice to relive the experience through your blog.

  6. Kotor looks like such a beautiful place! I don’t know why, but when I was younger I always wanted to go to Montenegro even though I knew nothing about it. Looks like little me was onto something though!

  7. I’ve enjoyed all your Instagram photos from this trip, so it’s nice to read more about Kotor! I have yet to explore the Balkans despite living so close! #wanderfulwednesday

  8. Oooooh my gosh, your hotel looks amazing!! I could totally crawl into that bed right now. I’m really bummed our Montenegro plans fell through for this summer but I’m really enjoying living vicariously through your posts!

  9. Kotor has been popping up on a lot of things that I read and watch, and it looks incredible. I definitely think we’re going to have to do a Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro road trip at some point, so I appreciate all your tips on driving!! That hotel sounds fantastic, too!

  10. Kotor looks so fabulous! I really wanted to visit when I was in Croatia recently, but didn’t have the time. One day though, I’ll definitely visit!

  11. I want to go to Kotor so bad! Overall, how was the weather during the entire trip? We went to Germany on May and had great weather (except on the day I planned to cruise the Rhine, of course). May seems like a great month to tackle Europe. I understand what you say about climbing to that fortress. I love castles and forts but I do not enjoy walking to them. One of my knees cannot take that anymore (after a bad fall). I telling my kids about those moments!

    1. Normally the weather in May in Germany is pretty crappy. June is always much nicer. Going to Kotor in May/June is perfect. It was in the 80s but not humid and unbearably hot yet. It was hit climbing up to the fortress bc you’re in the sun the whole time and there’s not much shade.

  12. I spent 5 days in Kotor 4 years ago and was gobsmacked by its beauty. Back then there weren’t really any cruise ships, I think I saw one little one in the 5 days. Things change so fast. I can’t say I like the idea of hordes of cruise passengers descending on the little town…. #farawayfiles

  13. We visited Kotor around the same time as you-the last week of May. It was absolutely gorgeous, my only complaint is that the tiny old town was absolutely clogged with cruise boat crowds, which was disappointing. Still, wandering around and climbing the walls was a lot of fun!

  14. I so wish we’d driven south when we were in Dubrovnik last fall – it looks so stunning. I love that hotel – looks amazing. Great guide and wonderful pictures like always Lori! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

  15. What a beautiful place. There is so much history here and you can see it everywhere you turn. Montenegro is my new favourite wishlist destination! I will be ticking off some of my bucket list countries in October so I think the next one will have to be Montenegro. Great advice about driving and road conditions.

  16. Kotor looks absolutely charming. I love visiting places that are small enough to wander around in and enjoy getting lost in the winding streets. Kotor appear to have everything I’m looking for in a destination – beauty, bags of charm, an interesting history and great food. Thanks for inspiring me on #FarawayFiles

  17. It does look AMAZING! I have been starting to hear a lot about Kotor. I didn’t realize it was so far from an airport though. I would probably go with the Dubrovnik option. #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  18. Ah, Montenegro is so beautiful! We stayed at Hotel Cataro which was also extremely luxurious. I found the hike to the Fortress pretty strenuous, didn’t you?

    1. Yes and no – we had been working out for a few months before our honeymoon and I surprisingly found it easy, but we didn’t have to stop a lot – but actually for the rest of the honeymoon I suffered from a pulled butt muscle which was quite painful and sometimes felt more like a pinched nerve.

  19. Every summer, there are sooo many articles about Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia popping up and I always say that I want to go soon – which hasn’t happened so far though. Kotor looks absolutely gorgeous indeed and I really really want to visit one day!! Thanks for all the tips!

  20. What an absolutely beautiful town full of great attractions, food and charm. We were in Croatia last week on a cruise. It was unbearably hot and so crowded. We decided we were done with these popular hot spots during the summer. I have heard great things about Kotor and would love to visit. It does remind me a lot of Dubrovnik. Love all the photos!

  21. I love the red roofs all clustered together along the water – very scenic! Sorry to hear the cruise ships stop here, guess I’ll have to go in the fall or winter!
    #TheWeeklyPostcard

  22. Your photos are amazing! Am definitely adding Kotor to my list to visit when in Montenegro. Thanks for the tips on places to see, accommodation, driving tips, etc. Sounds like such an amazing place 🙂 #TheWeeklyPostcard

  23. Kotor is SO HIGH on my wishlist, that next year when I’ll probably go to Dubrovnik, there’s no way in hell I’ll miss visiting Kotor. Can’t wait 😀

  24. I had never heard of Kotor but it seems the views are worth a visit here. Your pictures definitely show it. The items to shop for are so pretty! I would want to take it all too but would have to control myself too haha. #theweeklypostcard

  25. Since I’ve already commented on your post for #theweeklypostcard, I’m hopping over here and honestly, I can’t get enough of your Montenegro posts! Kotor looks so incredibly dreamy I can understand why you pinch yourself. On my list!

  26. We love this! Kotor has been on our radar for quite a while. Your introduction just makes us want to go meet Montenegro even more! We’ll certainly take your advice to shop and eat while there, too! Thanks for sharing, Lolo. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  27. A thorough and wonderfully informative post, Lorelei! I especially appreciate the amazing images. As I am heading that way soon and consider myself an amateur foodie, I have made a note of your restaurant recommendations! Thanks for sharing!

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