When I was planning my trip through Europe, I wanted to include some places less frequented than the famous cities of Western and Central Europe. Kotor caught my eye when it was listed as Lonely Planet’s number one city in ‘Best in Travel’ for 2016. So, I went. And it was one of the best places I’ve travelled to in my life. Here’s why you should go to Kotor, Montenegro, right now.
1. To experience the beautiful scenery
The etymology of the name ‘Montenegro’ comes from its most striking natural feature: mountains. Perhaps its second most striking feature is the blue seas. In the bay of Kotor, these two features create a fjord-like effect. A dramatic Scandinavian-esque landscape with the Mediterranean sunshine.
2. To explore the charming old town
The old town is a maze of cobblestoned streets filled with charming stone abodes and pretty churches. It’s a unique old town because locals still live there and go about their daily lives. It’s not as completely commercialised and tourist-ridden as it’s bigger Croatian sister, Dubrovnik (for now). There are heaps of alleyways with cute details of daily life around every corner, as well as churches, cafes and sweet little shops to be enjoyed.
3. To climb St John’s Fortress
It’s a steep climb, with 1350 (!!!) steps, but worth it for the views of the city, and the fascinating fortress itself. Unlike Dubrovnik, the walls are not well restored or clearly marked. You can roam around and see what nooks and crannies you can find and let your imagination run wild on how life used to be like here. Halfway through the climb you’ll see the sweet little hillside church that has become a symbol of the city. The journey up and back, with stops for photos and resting, takes about two hours. The entry is a very reasonable 3 euro.
4. To take a boat tour of the bay
You’ll board the boat and see some insanely beautiful views of the bay, mountains and towns as you cruise along. The first stop is the Lady of The Rock, a small, photogenic church-island where you can look at the beautiful art inside the church and admire the simple, traditional architecture. After about 30 minutes here, we got back on the boat and arrived at the small town of Perast after five or ten minutes.
Perast is an absolutely charming tiny town with some charming houses and lovely waterfront cafes. We stopped here for only 30 minutes, which was not really enough time to fully enjoy it. I would definitely recommend taking a bus or car here to visit aside from the boat tour. After Perast, we enjoyed the have an hour boat road back to Kotor. The tour cost 15 euros and went for two hours.The tourist boats leave from the port just outside the main city gate. You’ll see plenty of promoters outside the gate who will try to sell you there tour. I just went with them out of convenience.
5. To explore more of Montenegro
If there’s only one place you visit in Montenegro, Kotor should be it. But Kotor also makes a good base for exploring further inland and day tripping around the country. As it’s so tiny, it doesn’t take long to get from one place to another in Montenegro. I did a ‘Grand Montenegro Tour’ organised by my hostel, which gave me the highlights of the country in a single day! (Post coming soon).
6. To eat
If you enjoy seafood, Italian cuisine, Turkish food, Balkan delicacies or anything in between, you will not be disappointed with the food in Kotor. It’s geographical location has provided a huge range of culinary influences for your tastebuds to explore. Also be sure to visit the small, local produce shops with a selection of cheese, meats and wines to enjoy.
7. To Drink
Throughout the Balkans, every hostel I stayed in would insist on my consuming a shot of their beloved homemade rakija. It’s actually fruit brandy, which sounds quite pleasant but the 40-50% alcohol content overpowers whatever hint of fruit was once involved in the manufacturing process. Try it once just for the experience, but don’t feel pressured to accept every time it’s offered (you probably won’t want to after the first one haha).
If you feel like you’re not a party girl, and would rather give the rakija a miss, opt for the strong, black Turkish-style coffee that’s drank by the locals here.
8. To take amazing photos
Lonely Planet described the bay of Kotor as ‘one of the most photogenic spots in all of Europe.’
Is it any coincidence my Instagram following spiked massively the week I was here? I think not. Lonely Planet have it spot on. This place is a photographer’s dream.
9. It’s cheap
Although Montenegro’s currency is the euro (with especially painful exchange rates for Australians right now), prices in Montenegro were much less then Dubrovnik, and a tiny fraction of what they were in Italy. I paid just over 10 euros a night for a bed at the fantastic Old Town Hostel.
10. It won’t be like this for long
The secret it out. The cruise ships companies have their eye on Kotor, and have started bringing their monstrous ships into Kotor’s beautiful bay. Every morning I would wake up and hope that it was not a cruise-ship day, where an extra couple thousand or so people would pour into the town and undermine it’s quiet and peaceful charm. The clock is ticking, so you’d better get in quick. Just don’t come via a hideous cruise ship please 🙂