I ADORE KOTOR! It’s true, the secret is out and I’m not ashamed of it! I have fallen in love with this magnificent little place on the coast of Montenegro and I want you all to share in this torrid affair with me! I hope that after reading this blog that you will be just as enticed as I was and in a hurry to pack a bag and fling yourselves into this gem of place!
Kotor, a fortified town from the venetian period located in the Gulf of Kotor on the coast of Montenegro, is a little sliver of heaven, as you can see from the main photo above! It is said to be the ‘most Southern fjord in Europe’ when it is, in fact, a Ria, which is a submerged river canyon. Bursting with history and beauty, Kotor could very easily become the next ‘it’ place, like her similar cousin, Hvar. Stone beaches, old towns, ancient romanesque relics and churches, giant limestone cliffs, a natural park and waterway creates a haven of fascination for everyone and being only a 30 minute drive from the glitzy main town of Budva and about one and a half hours from Croatia, it is a must -do visit when you are in this part of the world!
Driving into Kotor and arriving just outside the Old Town, first thing you notice is the enormous stone walls rising from the street below and snaking themselves up the mountainside. This is the famous St John’s Fortress and is a popular hike for the energetic and brave and the 1350 step steep climb is a challenge for even the fittest amongst us (just think of toning those thighs girls!) Also very noticeable is the fact that there are no high-rises here to spoil the skyline, as it is purely traditional ‘maritime village’ style housing.
There are two sides to Kotor. The modern/Old Town side of Dobrota with many restaurants and cafés and a long walking path around the water to the marina and Prčanj which is across the water on the quieter/romantic side. This area has streets so narrow that two way traffic becomes quite terrifying if you don’t squeeze yourself into the side walls to let the other cars skim past!
Holding your breath, shutting your eyes and praying for the best becomes common place after a while! Both areas are awash with lovely little apartments to rent, complete with views and beaches and of course, gorgeous little boutique hotels.
We went in April, which was still considered low season, but the weather was 27 degrees everyday and perfect! Swimming was achieved through a great deal of deep breathing and statements such as ‘it’s ok once you are in’ were bandied around quite often as we braved the chilly, turquoise water! The ‘beaches’ were only little pockets of pebbles, quite often with a pontoon to one side which can be used for diving and are dotted along both sides of Kotor and are accessible to the public at all times. We never found them crowded and loved the tranquility of swimming whilst taking in the breathtaking view of the imposing cliffs.
Ditching the car ( too much squeezing around corners and trying to park proved annoying), we opted to hire a scooter, as usual, from the only bike hire place, which is located at the Marina. It was a million times better as then we could whiz around without a care in the world and explore this majestic place to our hearts content! Do yourself a favour and take an approximately 20-30 minute drive/ride to (yet another) picturesque old town, Perast.
Here you can indulge in a sumptuous seafood lunch by the water at one of the many seaside restaurants, meander around the Old Town or take a day trip out to visit the very pretty Our Lady of the Rocks. Built in 1632, it is an achingly cute church on its own man made island which sits in the middle of the Bay! If you are feeling really physical, you can even hire kayaks to paddle out to the island or any other areas of interest around the Ria. [FYI: We didn’t do this but we acknowledged others sweating it out whilst we toasted their achievements with a glass of the local brew!]
The Old Town of Kotor offers history buffs insight into its Roman, Venetian and Byzantine periods with ancient churches and cathedrals and slender cobblestone alleyways and for those feline fanatics amongst us, there is even a museum dedicated entirely to cats! Adorable! There are also many enticing restaurants and boutiques to frequent and time is needed to really absorb the true impression that this area has to offer. [FYI: The town can get extremely crowded when one of the many cruise ships are in port, sometimes even two at once, so I suggest going late afternoon or evening, so as to not be hit in the face with a long lens camera or trampled to death by frantic tourists in their rush to buy gelato!]
My favourite parts of Kotor are the beautiful old fisherman villages like Prčanj, Donji Stoliv and Morinj to name a few, with perfectly restored stone houses and Konoba’s (bistros), quirky shops and a peaceful vibe. We chose to stay on the Dobrota side, only because it was closer to all the ‘action’. Finding a top floor, local little apartment quite quickly, as it was low season, we had a view of the water and our own private little beach area! And the cherry on the cake was that it just happened to be right next to a fabulous restaurant called Portun Konoba, where the staff were terrific, the food was ‘to die for’ and inexpensive and the atmosphere was perfect! A great setting for a sunset drink or dinner. The waiter was so lovely, that he even offered to lend us his scooter if we couldn’t book one and also gave us bags of ice for the apartment (as you cannot buy/find ice in Montenegro or Croatia)… Winning!
Before you leave, please make sure you take a trip up the mountain to Lovcén National Park. A huge natural green space, it is also infamous for one of the most treacherous, curving, corkscrew roads you will ever come across and we did it both on the scooter and the car! The hairpin turns are ridiculously narrow and we even saw double decker tour buses attempting to contort themselves yoga style in an attempt to manoeuvre around these bends! It was hair raising enough for us watching let alone the troop of tourists inside the bus! That’s surely a story to tell the grandkids! [FYI:This road also takes you back to Podgorica in Montenegro but you have to pass through the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina and it takes around 4 hours.]
So that’s my quick whip around Kotor! It is a wonderful place filled with beauty and history and there is so much to do, eat, drink and see! Also being next to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, it would be an absolute shame not to fill in at least three days here if you ever get the chance! Even look at some real estate options just to make it interesting, as it is very cheap and cheerful and one day you will come back and it will be as expensive as Portofino! So when you go
and explore Kotor, send her a kiss from me and also lots of cuddles for all the cats! ?
…“I wonder why the sun wants to set, when this much beauty it has nowhere met”… Ljubomir Nenadovic