Best Things to Do in One Day in Kotor, Montenegro

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Partially hidden from the wide, blue Adriatic by towering limestone cliffs, Kotor, Montenegro 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 its ancient bay. Try to spend a day there. Or more; it’s worth it.

If you’re approaching from the Adriatic Sea, sailing into the Bay of Kotor feels almost as though you are cruising through a Mediterranean fjord.

ⓘ TIP: If you’re lucky enough to arrive by cruise ship, wake up early so you can enjoy the remarkable scenery on the way in. If you like to shoot landscapes, be sure to keep your camera handy as well. It will take at least an hour for the ship to navigate there from the open Adriatic.

fog on the Bay of Kotor

One day in Kotor, Montenegro

This article is based on our own one day itinerary, and includes all the best things to do in Kotor.

We feel that Kotor is one of the most beautiful places in Europe. In some ways, we enjoyed it more than our previous cruise stop in Dubrovnik. It doesn’t take long to see that Kotor is no “little Dubrovnik.” Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Maybe that’s why so many Dubrovnik visitors include a day trip to Kotor as part of their holiday. Kotor feels more lived-in and authentic than Dubrovnik and it lacks its prettified-for-tourists vibe.

Too, thanks to the picturesque Balkan mountains reflected in the 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.

Mountains reflected in the Bay of Kotor. Mist over the water.

Whether you’re visiting Kotor as part of a cruise or arriving by land, it won’t take long to see why UNESCO designated Kotor’s medieval city and picturesque landscape a World Heritage Site. The town and its surroundings are stunning.


Amazing, even.

I can’t find the words to adequately describe a place with this much beauty. I don’t know who said it, but if “a picture is worth a thousand words,” this article is our essay.

ⓘ TIP: If you hate those crowded cruise ship excursions as much as we do, book private guided tour of Perast and Kotor instead.

Best things to do in Kotor, Montenegro

If you’re in Kotor for a day, you won’t have any problem finding things to do and see. Honestly, we fell in love with the place, though we’ve heard that renting a car to explore Montenegro is also a great option.

1. St. John’s Fortress

St John's Fortress in the hills above Kotor

The most stunning view of Kotor is from St John’s Fortress, up on the hillside. Or at least, that’s what we heard from fellow passengers who did the hike. To be honest, we didn’t have the stamina or desire to endure the steep, 1350-step climb to the top, so we chose to see the fortress from Old Town Kotor, down at water level.

If you’re fit, the hike takes around 45 minutes. If you’re unfit, there are plenty of places to stop and rest as you go up, but it will take a lot longer. You’ll have to determine if that’s how you want to spend a large chunk of your one day in Kotor.

It costs €3 to enter. (The entrance is manned at 8 am; if you arrive before then, you can enter free.)

2. Bus tour around the Bay of Kotor

Hop on Hop off Kotor open tour bus

Kotor has an open-top tour bus that leaves every 30 minutes from in front of the city gate. It doesn’t drive through the walled city, but it does drive all the way down the coastal road, with stops at Risan, Perast, Bajova Kula and Kotor.

It was worth the price of the bus ticket (€25 for adults / €15 for ages 14 and under).

Get your cameras ready for some amazing views!

If you get to Kotor early enough, the mist and early morning light will be perfect for photography. Don’t waste any time; jump on the first bus you can and ride to the far end. Not only will you get some fabulous shots, you’ll also hear some interesting information about the area and its history.

ⓘ TIP: For the best views of Kotor Bay, sit on the left side of the bus when departing Kotor and on the right side when departing Risan.

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 as our ride began. We passed a lot of fish farms along the way. As you can see, aquaculture is a major industry here.

3. Risan, Montenegro

Roman ruins in Risan Montenegro

The tiny hamlet of Risan is a scheduled 20-25 minute stop, not a hop-off spot. Risan has a small excavation site that displays some nice Roman mosaics. As fans of ancient history and unknown sites, there was no way we would miss this! We followed the rest of the passengers inside and bought a ticket.

Inside, we were greeted by a young, knowledgeable guide who explained that our meager admission fees cover 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.

Mosaic floor in Risan

Although not much remains of the building’s walls, there are some intricate and fairly well-preserved mosaic floors to see. Unlike the way things are done elsewhere, it was easy to get close enough to really see the details and take pictures.

4. Perast

shoreline of the Montenegrin town of Perast

The bus stops at the town of Perast, so we hopped off to look around. We were curious to see what a coastal Montenegrin town might be like.

Aside from a few guest houses and restaurants, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to the sleepy waterfront. Perast is pedestrian-only and it only takes about ten minutes to walk from one end to the other.

Only later did we discover that there are dozens of things to do in Perast. It has 16 Baroque palaces, 17 Catholic churches, several important Orthodox structures, and a series of nine defensive towers. We probably could have found enough to do to fill a second day.

music room in Kotor museum

Walking through the town, we came across the small Perast Museum, housed in an old palazzo that dates from the Venetian empire. The previous owner had been a Montenegrin sea captain, obviously, because the inside was full of wonderful old furniture as well as detailed ship models.

It also contained exceptional paintings and old weapons that gave an idea of how the well-to-do lived its heyday. I thought the highlight was the second floor balcony. It offers a remarkable view of Kotor Bay and its two islands.

5. Kotor Bay cruise

Lion of St. Mark statue holds a coat of arms in one paw, Perast, near Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor Bay is so beautiful that you can lose track of time just enjoying the views. No wonder so many people spend a whole day on the water.

We caught a cheap local boat from Perast during our bus tour, but he basically just took us there and back. I later found out that there are better options for scenic boat rides on Kotor Bay.

The beauty of a Kotor Bay cruise is that you’ll get a completely different view of the coast. You’ll see fishing villages tucked into pockets along the coastline and see stone houses hiding among mountain greenery.

It’s a breathtaking experience.

While most boat tours include Our Lady of the Rocks, where else you go will depend on your preferences. Kotor cruises visit places like:

  • Blue Cave
  • Lustica Peninsula
  • Mamula Island
  • boat-access only beaches

Some tours will even take you to caves where the army once hid submarines!

If you want to book a Kotor cruise at the last minute, the tourist office near the city gate has a list of providers.

But we think it’s better to book the tour you want before you arrive, because you can take your time comparing your options and ensure you’ll have a spot on the tour. It also helps with budgeting.

Tour boat leaves island on Bay of Kotor

6. Our Lady of the Rocks

If you do hop off in Perast, it’s worth catching a boat out to the islands. The first of these islands is called Sveti Dorde (Island of Saint George), and it is the only natural island on the Bay of Kotor. Its most striking features are the Benedictine monastery of Saint George, which dates from the 12th century, a 9th century abbey, and an old graveyard for the old nobility of Perast.

Sadly, Sveti Dorde is closed to visitors and you can only see the buildings from the water.

There is a second island nearby, and this one can be visited. The island is called Our Lady of the Rocks and even though it was man-made ages ago, the scenery made us glad we had decided to pay for the boat ride. The views from the island were beyond incredible.

Selfie on Our Lady of the Rocks. Bay of Kotor in the background.

Legend has it that the island began on July 22, 1452, when two sailors passed the Monastery of St. George as they returned from a difficult voyage. As the story goes, they discovered an icon of the Madonna and Child resting on a rock in a shallow area near the island. They considered this a sign that the Almighty had guided them home, and so they pledged an oath to build a church on the spot.

After every successful voyage, local sailors and fishermen would lay a rock in this very spot in gratitude for a safe return. This tradition continued down the centuries and eventually the many rocks grew into this islet. As is typical in Catholicism, they built a church on the spot.

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 dropping rocks overboard.

The view from the upstairs ruin is 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.

Detail of ceiling at Our Lady of the Rocks church
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7. Kotor Old Town

Back in Kotor, we went in search of the 45-minute walking tour of Kotor. It was supposed to be included with our bus ticket, but we never found the guide. So, off we went to explore on our own.

As soon as we entered the city gate, we found ourselves in a world filled with natural beauty, Venetian architecture, and ancient history.

Gate in the walls of old town Kotor

Kotor was settled during ancient Roman times (168 BC) and historical sites abound. Two outstanding ones are Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, which was built in 1166, 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!

ⓘ TIP: A guided city walking tour like this one is short, so you’ll have most of the day for activities like shopping or cruising on the bay. There’s also a tour that includes a Wine and Food Tasting, if that’s more your speed.

Piazza of the Arms, Kotor

8. Old Town Kotor main square

Piazza of theh Arms, Kotor 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.

ⓘ TIP: The less touristed side streets offer better prices, more attentive service and more authentic local dishes.

9. Venetian architecture

window boxes and windows with green shutters in Kotor

Many of Kotor’s buildings have its typical arches and balconies. This stands to reason, considering how well preserved the city is—and how long the Venetians were there.

If you’d like to see more of the city, we’ll link to our photo gallery below.

10. Kotor’s churches

Kotor church

Here are a few photos from churches we visited in Kotor. They are full of beautiful icons. Orthodox Christianity is the dominant form of religion in Montenegro and the artwork is beautiful. 

We found it interesting that Orthodox churches do not have pews. As we understand it, the congregants stand during services.

11. Wine tastings

side alley in Kotor

We also discovered a tasting room for a local winery. Most of the world doesn’t know that Montenegro produces absolutely amazing local wines at unbelievably low prices. Montenegrin wine is a treasure and we think it’s a shame that the world is missing out.

Sorry, no photos. We were preoccupied. 🙂

How to get to Kotor

By air.
Yes, you can fly into Kotor. Thanks to a thoughtful reader, I now know that Kotor’s airport code is ZKQ. However, it seems impractical to fly if you are nearby. The roads are well maintained and often hug the coast. It would be worth a drive, just for the views!

By land.
It’s easy to drive to Kotor from Dubrovnik, as they are only 94 km/58 mi apart. Just don’t forget to bring your passport!

  • You can easily rent a car and drive to Kotor from Dubrovnik.
  • You can also take a bus, which would allow you to relax and enjoy some beautiful views.
  • Another option is to take a day trip to Kotor from Dubrovnik. Plenty of options are available, like this one.

Planning resources

Here are some resources to help you plan your trip.

  • Montenegro has many useful trip planning resources on their website.
  • Transportation Rome2Rio shows how to get anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry and car.
  • Guided day trips and tours – If you’d prefer to relax and let someone else worry about the details, our affiliate Get Your Guide offers some excellent day trips and tours all over Montenegro.

We’ve linked to some Kotor tours throughout this article. Here is a sampling of other opportunities:

Montenegro in one day

We can’t remember the last time we’ve seen a one-day tour of an entire COUNTRY. Okay, you can’t see everything in one day, but this Great Montenegro Full-Day Tour sure comes close. If you’ve seen Kotor before, this is a wonderful opportunity to visit Montenegro’s most popular and beautiful sites.

Keep in mind that this tour requires a full 12 hours. If you are in town on a cruise, be sure to ckeck your itinerary carefully. You don’t want the ship to sail without you!

See more

Want more sightseeing? See our Montenegro photo album..

Read more


On Amazon

Amazon offers a number of travel guides. Here are three to consider:

Hidden from the wide, blue Adriatic by towering limestone cliffs, Kotor Montenegro is a treat for the eyes, and the best way to approach it is through the beautiful Bay of Kotor. Discover the best things to do in and around Kotor, including old town, the bay and nearby towns. #Montenegro #Kotor #travel #EasternEurope #Europe #UNESCO #itineraries

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It, where she documents her trips, shares practical itineraries, and offers insider tips. She’s passionate about helping fellow travelers save time, money, and hassle, and loves to discover new places to explore.

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44 thoughts on “Best Things to Do in One Day in Kotor, Montenegro”

  1. Bay of Kotor is really a mesmerizing place. The water ripples and mirror-like reflections of this lake has a unique beauty and well worth a visit. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Loved this article. Would love to copy your entire itinerary (from Fortress of St. John onwards). Is it doable if our ship arrives at 7am and leaves at 5pm? How reliable is the open tour bus schedule? Did you see any cabs/taxis we can take if we’re running behind? How far is the Fortress’ gate from the port? Would appreciate any help please.

    • Sure, it’s doable, Edelle. However, keep in mind that you can only climb up to the fortress, and it might take a while, depending on your stamina and how many times you stop to take photos. 😉 We understqand it can take a couples of hours, but we didn’t climb up ourselves. We wanted to save our energies for exploring the coastline. Sadly, you can’t take a car up there – if it were possible, we’d have done it too!

      One thing nobody tells you is that you may not get off the ship right away. If there’s a tinder, they always let people who have booked ship excursions go first. But not to worry, as we had to take a tinder and had plenty of time to explore!

      As we recall, the open tour bus is pretty reliable. There’s no Uber in Kotor, but taxis are easy to find. Plus, you can negotiate an all-day rate and pay the driver at the end of your day. We did that in Dubrovnik. They are good for transportation but it’s hit-or-miss as to whether your driver can tell you much about the area.

      We’ve just added a new segment with suggested tours for people who would prefer to relax and let a local show them around. We have had good experiences with Get Your Guide ourselves, which is why we feel comfortable recommending them. Perhaps that option will work for you.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Hi Linda and Dan
    I loved your article. So comprehensive and the photos are incredible. We 3 women are doing a driving holiday in Croatia departing from Sydney 21 Sept. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I look forward to reading more of your travel experiences

  4. We are doing a longish Med cruise shortly (plus a few months of extra travel around Italy) and this has been by far the most helpful post on ‘what to do and see’ that I have found-the photos are magic and the open air bus plus island cruise will be great-w ego into Kotor twice on our itinerary and we now can’t wait-had no idea how beautiful the island and Bay is…thanks so much Linda and Dan

    • Barb, thank you for your kind comment. It means a lot to us to get feedback. So glad we were able to help you. Kotor is beautiful. We hope you are able to watch as the ship enters the bay; it’s stunning!

      Italy is our favorite country. It sounds like you are going to have a wonderful trip. Will you visit Ravenna? Few people think to, and that’s a shame. The UNESCO quality mosaics are exquisite! Here’s a link if you’d like to read our story about it. Bonus: It’s not far from San Marino, which is actually a separate country.

  5. Is Montenegro worth a week? If not what would you suggest to add? We have been to Croatia twice and Mostar, but have never been to Albania.

    • You’re asking someone who was there for a week, as part of an ocean cruise. But we were considering a one-week stay in Montenegro a few years ago and I believe Montenegro has enough for a week, especially if you enjoy hiking and historical sites. Durmitor National Park is a UNESCO site, and the Tara River Canyon there is the second-largest canyon in the world, after the Grand Canyon. It’s a popular whitewater rafting spot. There’s also the Monastery of Ostrog, impossibly carved into a cliff.

      Other popular options include swimming in the Blue Cave and the towns of Budva, St. Stefan, and Cetinje. If I were planning an itinerary, I’d begin with a search for “one week tour of Montenegro” and also see what tours are popular on Get Your Guide. Both will give you a good idea of how much you can fit into a day.

    • It’s not far, just a few blocks along the waterfront. You buy your tickets in front of Kotor’s main gate and the bus is nearby. You can find more information about Kotor Open Tour here.

  6. The Bay of Kotor is one of the loveliest places I have ever visited. We went on a road trip through the Balkans last spring and Montenegro was part of our itinerary. We spent 3 days there and also visited Budva and Sveti Stefan. We also hiked up the the Fortress of St.John in Kotor, which was pretty tiring but very rewarding. We were pretty lucky with the weather. Although it was early spring, when it usually rains a lot in Europe, we only had a few drops in Kotor. Lovely pictures!

  7. 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

    • 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. 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 🙂

    • 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. 😉

    • 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.

  9. 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)

    • 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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”

    • 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.

      • We are currently on the Queen Victoria – In Monte Carlo…and your BLOG is amazing!!!! THANK YOU! My husbands birthday is the day we will be in KOTOR and you just helped my itinerary!!!! fantastic JOB

        • Omigosh, Britt, THANK YOU for your kind words, they really gave me a needed boost. Did you two have a good trip? What was your favorite part?

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