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Apr 21

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How to Spend One Day in Kotor, Montenegro

Partially hidden from the wide, blue Adriatic by towering limestone cliffs, Kotor is a treat for the eyes. Actually, it’s one of the most beautiful places on the Mediterranean, and the best way to approach its shores is through the ancient Bay of Kotor. It feels almost as though you are cruising through a Mediterranean fjord.

small town on Bay of Kotor

Morning mist had settled over everything as we sailed into the Bay of Kotor

Tip: If you are lucky enough to arrive by cruise ship consider setting your alarm to wake up early so you can enjoy the very impressive views on the way in. If you like to shoot landscapes be sure to keep your camera handy as well.

Don’t expect a repeat of your previous destination: Kotor is no “little Dubrovnik” by any stretch of the imagination. This town feels more lived-in and authentic and lacks Dubrovnik’s prettified-for-tourists vibe. And thanks to the picturesque mountains and mirrorlike waters of Boka Kotorska—what the locals call the Bay of Kotor—this destination has a special appeal Dubrovnik will never have: raw, natural beauty.

church perched precariously on side of mountain, Bay of Kotor

It will take at least an hour for the ship to get from open sea to port. Once you do you will understand why Kotor’s medieval city and picturesque landscape were awarded World Heritage Site status. Both are stunning.

Gorgeous.

Amazing, even.

Actually, I can’t find the words to adequately describe a place with this much beauty. I don’t know who said it, but if it’s true that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” perhaps these will describe it better:

Hop-on/hop-off tour of Kotor

Kotor has an open top hop-on/hop-off tour bus. It doesn’t drive through the walled city but it does drive all the way down the road to the next-largest town of Perast. The mist and early morning light made us jump on right away to ride to the far end. We wanted to see the landscape and hear the guide’s narration about the area and its history.

Tip: We also sat on the left so we’d get unobstructed views for our photos.

Mist over the water in the bay of Kotor.

The early morning mist that had welcomed us into the bay still hovered over the water. We passed a lot of fish farms along the way.

Aquaculture is a major industry, which is why so many of our photos have floats in them.

Mountains reflected in the smooth water of the bay. More fish farm floats in the foreground.

The water was as smooth as glass as we drove along.

Risan: Blink, and you’ll miss it

On the way our bus stopped in the hamlet of Risan and our driver got out to chat with some of his friends. He told us he would be on break for a few minutes and we could either wait or visit a small excavation site nearby. Ha—we love things like that. There was no way we would wait on the bus! Like most of our fellow passengers, we went in.

Inside we were met by a young, knowledgeable guide who explained that our meager admission fee went to pay for upkeep and further work. (As a new country Montenegro doesn’t have the budget to support excavations like this.) She took us through the site to show us the remains of a Roman house dating from the 2nd century A.D. and explained about how they had lived and what we were looking at.

Not much remains of the home’s walls but there are some intricate and fairly well-preserved mosaic floors. Unlike the way things are done in many places we had no problem getting close enough to really see the details and take pictures.

Perast

When the bus stopped in Perast we hopped off to look around. We were curious to see more of this coastal Montenegrin town.

Steeple in PerastWe soon decided that—aside from a few guest houses and restaurants—there isn’t a whole lot to the sleepy town’s waterfront. Perast is pedestrian-only and it only takes about ten minutes to walk from one end to the other.

After we got home, however, we learned that we’d missed a ton of stuff: sixteen Baroque palaces, seventeen Catholic churches, several important Orthodox structures and a series of nine defensive towers. We probably could have found enough to do to fill up the entire day. Oops.

Well, no matter. As we walked through the town we found a small museum, set up in an old palazzo that dates from the Venetian empire. The previous owner had been a Montenegrin sea captain, so inside was wonderful old furniture as well as detailed ship models, exceptional paintings and old weapons that gave an idea of how the well-to-do lived its heyday.

Finally our guide pointed to the second floor balcony where we got a phenomenal view of the Bay.

How to Spend One Day in Kotor, Montenegro

As we approached the window our view got better when we saw the two islands that are in the Bay.

This remarkable statue is of the Lion of St Mark, typical of Venetian architecture because it is the symbol of Venice.

Islands on the Bay of Kotor

The first of these islands is called Sveti Dorde, Island of Saint George. On it stands the Benedictine monastery of Saint George, which dates from the 12th century, a 9th century abbey, and an old graveyard for the old nobility from Perast.

Although Sveti Dorde is natural, the second island, Our Lady of The Rocks, is man made, and a church stands there to commemorate the reason.

Legend has it that it began from the local sailors taking an oath in the 15th century.

As the story goes, sailors from Perast found a picture of the Virgin Mary and the Christ-child here in 1452, so after every successful voyage they would lay a rock in this very spot so that a church could be built on top of these rocks. This tradition continued down the centuries and eventually this is how the islet was formed.

The custom of throwing rocks into the sea is alive even today. Every year on the sunset of July 22, local residents celebrate an event called fašinada by taking their boats out to the island and throwing rocks in.

Cruising on the Bay of Kotor

As we left the museum we realized that we had been mistaken. Perast does have something tourist-worthy: Tour boats.

We were sad when they told us that Sveti Dorde is closed to visitors; we really love medieval architecture and wanted to explore it. Only Our Lady of the Rocks can be visited. Still, we didn’t let that dissuade us and we paid to ride out to the island. The views were beyond incredible, even before we entered the church.

The view from the upstairs ruin was stunning.

Window on the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Inside the small Roman Catholic church are many historic paintings that were donated by the area’s devout, including a 17th century baroque masterpiece from Perast.

The rest of the church is beautiful as well.

But we didn’t want to sit on the island all day … we still hadn’t seen Kotor!

Waiting for the boat … time to see Kotor.

The town of Kotor

Back in Kotor we walk through its gate and found plenty of natural beauty, Venetian architecture, and ancient history.

Kotor’s main gate

Kotor was settled during ancient Roman times (168 BC) and as you saw above historical sites abound. Two outstanding ones are Cathedral of Saint Tryphon in the old town (built in 1166)

This is the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, Kotor's most impressive building. This Catholic cathedral dates from the 12th century.

and Kotor’s ancient walls. The walls, which stretch for 4.5 km (3 mi) directly above the city, were built for protection by the Republic of Venice. (Those Venetians went everywhere along the Adriatic!)

Kotor’s main square

Kotor’s main square, Piazza of the Arms, has a beautiful old stone clock tower and offers a variety of excellent restaurants, cafés and shops that will keep you busy for quite a while.

Piazza of the Arms, Kotor

Kotor's old clock tower in Piazza of the Arms

In Kotor’s less touristed side streets you can often find even better prices, more attentive service and more authentic local dishes.

We also discovered a tasting room for a local winery that produced absolutely amazing local wines at unbelievably low prices. Montenegrin wine is a treasure and the world is missing out. (Sorry, no photos. We were too busy, lol.)

Venetian architecture

Many of Kotor’s buildings have its typical arches and balconies, which stands to reason considering how well preserved it is—and how long Venice was there.

Kotor’s churches

Here are a few photos from churches we visited in Kotor.

Kotor church

Getting to Kotor by land

Kotor doesn’t have an airport but it is easy to drive there. If you’re in Dubrovnik, plenty of companies offer day trips to Kotor. It’s not far from Dubrovnik (94 km/58 mi) at all. On the other hand, so you can drive yourself … or you can take a bus.

The roads are well maintained and hug the coast at times. Relax and enjoy some beautiful views.

Tip: Don’t forget to bring your passport .

Inspired?

Save our photos to Pinterest. We have more photos of Kotor here.

Kotor pin for Pinterest

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.aswesawit.com/one-day-in-kotor-montenegro/

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  1. Lisa Wood

    Every single photo of your day in Kotor was incredible – every time I saw another Picture I was like “Oh thats my favorite pic” and then another pic would replace my favorite!
    The view from the window – the one under the words “Finally our guide pointed to the second floor balcony where we got a phenomenal view of the Bay” – OH my gosh, what a view!
    Gee you sure did see a lot in one day, love your trip! Thanks for sharing it 🙂
    And yep pictures are “worth a thousand words”
    Lisa Wood recently posted…Caravan Built On A DreamMy Profile

    1. Linda

      I’m glad you enjoyed Dan’s photos. As you can tell by the length of the post I had a hard time selecting which ones to use. I’m encouraged; maybe I should do more photo posts like this one.

  2. Anda

    I heard Montenegro was beautiful, but after reading your post and seeing this glorious pictures I would say is to die for! It was so close to me when I lived in Romania and couldn’t go visit it. Now I’ll have to cross the Atlantic to go there, but it’s totally worth it.
    Anda recently posted…The Weekly Postcard: La Tigre, ArgentinaMy Profile

    1. Linda

      You bring up a good point: So many great things are in our own neighborhoods that we don’t think to visit … until we can’t.

  3. Frank

    Fantastic post. We’re in Split now and will be doing a trip down south in a couple of weeks which will include 3 days in Kotor. Looks absolutely gorgeous. One of the things I guess you didn’t do was the hike up to Kotor Fortress? Its high on my list. But I didn’t know about the hop on, hop off and that sounds like a good recommendation as well.
    Really helpful post.
    Frank (bbqboy)
    Frank recently posted…A Day Trip to Trogir, CroatiaMy Profile

    1. Linda

      I’m glad it helped you. We did want to hike up to the fortress but decided not to do it. It’s a pretty hefty hike. Our legs weren’t used to that sort of exercise and we feared they would hurt for the rest of our cruise. However, that is high on our list for our next visit. Let us know how it goes, okay?

  4. Crystal

    HI! What type of camera and lenses were used for these beautiful photos?

    1. Dan

      Hi Crystal, I shoot with a Sony a77 and the Sony DT 16-50mm f2.8 lens. Great package for walking around, but still a but heavy. Looking to move to the Sony a7r II very shortly.

  5. Bunny Lieberman

    Can we bring a folding wheelchair on a hop on hop off bus?

    1. Linda

      Hi Bunny, thanks for your question. As far as I know you can, but I’d recommend you email them ahead of time to be sure. If you’re planning to visit Kotor, you can find the list of excursion providers at Montenegro Pulse. We took the Kotor Open Tour bus; they seemed pretty accommodating.

  6. Vlad

    Your photos are gorgeous, Dan! I saved your post for later, Kotor is HIGH on my wish list right now and I’m hoping to visit it next year 🙂
    Vlad recently posted…GoEuro: Your New Favorite Travel Planning AppMy Profile

    1. Linda

      Thanks for the compliment, Vlad. The camera got a workout, that’s for sure!

      It’s great to hear you are hoping to get to Kotor next year. If you do go, come back and share your opinion…though we can probably guess what it will be. 😉

  7. Yeo Ek Seng

    Great photos. My family will be on tour in Croatia later this month, and we will go on this optional tour to Kotor to enjoy the beautiful sights and enjoy the local cuisine

    Come by Singapore to enjoy our unique sights, sounds and a wide variety of great intrnational food. Mind you, Singapore can be pretty warm and humid, so dress in Ts and shorts for comfort. Also take a side trip up to Malacca in Malaysia. Its a very lovely old historical town. And if you still have time, visit other lovely states in Malaysia, and even take a trip further north to Thailand. Enjoy

    1. Linda

      We’re glad you like Dan’s Kotor photos. It’s such a pretty place. Had we had more stamina we would have liked to climb up to see it from above…perhaps you’ll come back with photos that will show what we missed.

      Singapore is one of our favorite destinations. We’ve been there three times so far and never feel we’ve stayed long enough. As it happens, we have just relocated to Kuala Lumpur with the goal of exploring Asia more. Your suggestion of visiting Malacca is an excellent idea. Thanks for the tip. You probably would be able to give us a long list of things to see in Singapore too. For such a small country there’s a lot to do. It’s hard to know where to begin.

  8. Agness of Fit Travelling

    Although Montenegro is quite small, it abounds in beautiful towns and spots. Kotor is amazing, especially the old town, Linda! When in Kotor, I suggest you visit Budva, too.

    1. Linda

      Thanks for the tip, Agness. We intend to see Budva when next we visit Montenegro.

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