While travelling in Montenegro I was told by a local that Kotor is referred to as the Gateway to Montenegro. I didn’t even need an explanation, I immediately saw why people would say this. Kotor is the “jewel” of Montenegro, the one place you have to have seen when visiting the country. For many people, myself included, it’s the reason to visit the country in the first place.
When I first decided to visit Montenegro in 2015 I based my decision on one single picture of the view over the Bay of Kotor. I was sold instantly. The country has a lot more to offer (which is one the reason why I came back in 2019 for another visit and I’d happily come back for many more visits!), but you definitely shouldn’t skip Kotor. Generally, I’m not a huge fan of touristy places, but there’s a good reason why Kotor is so crowded and overrun. It is indeed a wonderful city which will take your breath away. And fortunately, there are ways to avoid the sheepish crowds of tourists if you veer just a little bit off the beaten path.
Kotor Old Town
Kotor’s biggest plus is not only being surrounded by azure blue water and beautiful mountains, but also for having a gem of an old town. The Old Town is not very big, but it’s worth a visit if you can appreciate some old style architecture.
The Old Town is, just like the rest of Kotor, generally packed with tourists. In order to avoid the crowds it’s best to go into the city in the evenings. Most of the cruise ships will have left the bay and with it thousands of tourists.
San Giovianni Castle + Hiking trail to viewpoint
So, this is probably thé most well known tourist attraction of Kotor. From the Old Town there is a long stairway leading up to the old castle which gives you a truly superb view over the city and the bay of Kotor. In order to get up those stairs you’ll have to pay a whopping €8 entrance fee, but there is a way to get around it.
A far better way, in fact. If you walk out of the North Gate of the Old Town and you pass over the two bridges, turn right and you’ll find an alternative path which is a lot more enjoyable in two ways. First of all, there is a lot less people on this road as fortunately not everyone is aware of it. Secondly, it pleasantly zigzags its way up compared to the steep stairs.
On the way up, there’s a small café where you can have a drink and some homemade cheese with bread. I went there with a girl I met in the hostel and we ended up paying a horrendous price, so make sure to ask the price before you order anything.
If you’re in to some more hiking, don’t go to the castle straight away. On maps.me you will find the trail which leads towards Lovćen National Park. On the way you will see several marked viewpoints. I went up towards the first viewpoint, just before you start walking into a forest.
I can recommend hiking up as it’s not a very long hike (approximately 2-2.5 hours hike) and the view is wonderful. Furthermore, it’s just such a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of the lower parts of Kotor. I sporadically met some other hikers, but compared to the crowds in the rest of the city it was really tranquil and peaceful.
Perast is, in fact, another city not far from Kotor. It’s about 30 minutes by bus and can be easily done in half a day. So, if you have only one day you could easily visit Perast and the castle in one day.
The main highlight in Perast are the two islands Our Lady of the Rocks and Saint George Island. Saint George is not opened to tourists, but can be admired when visiting Our Lady of the Rocks Island by boat.
Apart from the islands it’s worth strolling around Perast, but you’ll be done very quickly. Perast is tiny and all the architecture of interest seems to be along the coast.
Strolling along the coast
From Kotor it’s possible to walk along the coast all the way down to the very end of the neighbouring “city” Dobrota. It’s possible to continue walking, but some parts will lead you over the highway.
In both visits combined I walked all the way from Kotor to the small village Donja Orahovac and all I can say is: the further away you get from Kotor the more beautiful the coastline gets. Obviously, it’s less crowded, more idyllic and the water seems to become clearer as well. Below you’ll find the pictures in (more or less) sequential order, starting in Kotor.