If you caught my post last week on Dubrovnik, Croatia, you will have seen that I mentioned that we also visited Kotor in Montenegro, as part of the same trip. True to my word, and only about six months late, I am finally getting around to posting about the second part of our holiday today.
Located just south of Croatia, is the wonderful country of Montenegro. Beautifully untouched, Montenegro offers scenery a lot like Croatia, but without the hundreds of thousands of tourists. It is one of those countries that still holds on to what makes it fantastic – it’s traditional cuisine, it’s raw natural landscape, and it’s quaint, quiet towns. This however is more than likely to change over the next couple of years, as the tourism here begins to ramp up. Thanks to many cruise liners travelling down from Dubrovnik and landing in Kotor each day, it is getting busier and more popular as more tourists find out about this secret gem! So this is the time to go!
Although in the Euro, Montenegro is much cheaper than Croatia (Croatia have their own currency). We found a great deal on Airbnb with the apartment pictured below. Offering views across the bay of Kotor and up into the mountains, we really landed on our feet with this holiday let. It was extremely spacious inside and offered a beautiful little balcony that we could sit out on and enjoy breakfast each morning. Compared to the Airbnb’s in Dubrovnik that were all very small, this was fantastic.
Kotor itself is a stunning old town. Much like Dubrovnik it’s home to hundreds of cobbled laneways, perfect for wandering around, getting lost in the beauty, and sheltering in the shade from the sweltering sun. That being said, Montenegro is a fantastic country to rent a car, so that you can get right up into the mountains that are dotted all over the area. Rental cars are reasonably priced, the roads are fairly quiet and easy to navigate, and a car really allows you to go off the beaten track a little and immerse yourself in true Montenegro.
I have to say, Montenegro is quite possibly the most beautiful, idyllic country I have every visited. It’s a must for anyone who wants to discover new areas of Europe and who enjoys a relaxing yet adventurous break.
Top 5 Things To Do in Kotor:
- Get lost in the cobbled lanes of Kotor Old Town
- Take a break with the cats of Kotor
- Climb up to the top of Kotor Fortress for incredible views
- Rent a car and visit Lovćen National Park and Porto Montenegro
- Dine at Galion restaurant for an extra special evening
Kotor Old Town
I’m hoping my photos speak volumes, but incase you’re in need of further persuading, Kotor Old Town is a wonderfully historic small town. The narrow cobbled streets allow you to get lost in between the towering buildings, escaping from the hot sun above. Here you can grab a drink in a cute pub, pick up some souvenirs from the many gift shops, or grab an ice-cream from one of the gelaterias. Although relatively small in size, Kotor is very peaceful and so we came back to the old town each day that we stayed here. Restaurants and cafes are open from all day, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and a night cap. We dined here both in the day and evening, but I have to say Kotor becomes even more magical and night time. The streets are dimly lit and often restaurants will have a band playing, creating a beautifully romantic atmosphere.
Cats of Kotor
Yes, this is an actual thing. If you’re a cat lover, you must visit Kotor, where it’s home to hundreds of cats. They’re not stray as such, I don’t believe. Although they live on the streets of Kotor they are cared for lovingly by locals. You will spot cardboard boxes with bedding inside, located in corners of the parks where the cats go to escape the tourists and sleep at night. They do however, LOVE tourists. They are so tame that if you can find a spot on a bench, they will jump right up onto your lap. Nuzzling into us, this little guy didn’t want to leave. He soon fell asleep on Stew. Adorable! There are many cats and kittens here, all ridiculously cute and after a little cuddle. I’m not a huge cat fan, but this guy swayed me. I could’ve stayed here all day!
Located at the north side of Kotor Old Town is a couple of entrances to Kotor Fortress. Towering high above the Old Town, this fortress was once used to keep Kotor safe. Now it offers stunning views of over the town and bay. It’s not for the faint hearted though. Involving what seemed like thousands of steps, the path is rocky and uneven in places. It’s one of those classic things to do abroad where you think to yourself ‘this would never be legal at home, for health and safety reasons’. That being said, you can easily stop and take a break as you make your way up and there are many view points dotted along the path. But you have to make it to the top, it’s here that you will be truly blown away by not only the view, but also by what lies behind the fortress.
We spotted a number of people ahead of us climbing up what looked like a wall, and quite literally disappearing through a hole! Not being one to miss out, we followed and as we neared the hole in the wall we realised what all the fuss was about. Behind the fortress lies ruins from a town or village, long destroyed and left behind. One building still standing is a small church that you can go inside. But there are a few families still living up here, in very old, stone buildings. From the outside they look no more than a hut, but each one offers snack and drinks for tourists and it made me wonder how on earth they get anything up here. It’s so remote with no roads, or none that we could find at least. But I wasn’t complaining, the overpriced bottle of water was much needed after that climb!
Rent a car
As I said, Kotor is beautiful but it’s worth renting a car and exploring more of Montenegro. Our first stop was Lovćen National Park, which is situated just up from the bay of Kotor. After a long and winding drive, we eventually reached the top where you have incredible views across the country. It’s really quite spectacular and breath taking. A tip though – pack some warm clothes! The temperature at these dizzying heights drops quite a bit, compared to that on the ground of Kotor.
From here we made our way to Budva, another town in Montenegro that is becoming very popular with tourists. However, if you’re looking to holiday in Montenegro, I would not suggest staying here! The main strip, along the beach, reminded me of what I expect Magaluf to look like. Lining the shore are many tacky bars and nightclubs, and the beaches are cluttered with sun beds that you have to pay ridiculously high prices for. The beach itself is really not worth it, it’s small and a little dirty. There is a little old town here too though, which was very beautiful. But it’s nothing in comparison to Kotor. I really can’t think of anything good to say about Budva! Avoid it at all costs.
Further along the coast, and heading back towards Kotor, is a spot called Porto Montenegro. In contrast to tacky Budva, this place is clearly catered for the rich and famous. Porto Montenegro is home to super yachts, five star luxury hotels and designer boutiques. It’s clearly been built purely to attract a more expensive clientele. However, it does offer beautiful views out to sea and at the far end of the resort is a members club, home to one of Europe’s largest, public infinity pools. Although it’s situated in a members club, you can go inside and enjoy a cocktail at the bar around the pool. However, to swim in the pool I believe you have to book in advance. Worth looking into though as the pool was really very impressive. We spent an hour or so here, enjoying the free wifi, and the gorgeous view.
To drive back to Kotor from Porto Montenegro, stay on the coastal road. Although it’s very narrow in places, and can get quite scary with the volume of traffic using it, it’s a stunning road. With lots of old stone buildings to one side, and the bay to the other, it is an idyllic road with many spots to pull off to the side and take photos. It’s a shame that is so busy with traffic, but we decided to head back the next day on foot to explore in more detail, popping into a stunning church, enjoying a beer at a local bar, and finding a spot on a pebbled beach to take a dip – bliss!
My final tip for a stay in Kotor, is to enjoy a meal at restaurant Galion. Located on the edge of the bay, Galion have built a glass extension over the water, allowing you dine right on the very edge of the bay, with incredible views. Although it is more pricey than many other restaurants in Kotor, the food is exceptional. The high quality ingredients and incredible attention to detail and flavour, is unrivalled! You won’t find anything else like this in Kotor, or not that we could see anyway. It was the perfect way to end our trip. So remember to keep some money back for your final night and book in advance, especially in peak season. We booked a table the day before and requested one near the window. Even though we were there in late September the terrace was full with both tourists and locals.
The dish pictured above is their tuna steak, encrusted with black sesame, on a bed of garlicky greens.
And one more tip – if you (like us) you are staying around the opposite side of the bay to the Old Town, you will be spoilt with the view above. However, if you’re staying on the same side as the Old Town, I would recommend taking a stroll at night around to the other side for this wonderful view of the fortress lit up at night. The reflection creates a heart shape in the water and it’s really quite beautiful.
If any of you are planning a visit to Montenegro, in particular Kotor, I would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.