What?! Why haven’t I heard more about Kotor? I think of myself as fairly informed about jaw-dropping destinations. Travel is something I’ve been obsessed with for more than 20 years, and not only do we travel about four months per year, but I spend hours every day reading about amazing destinations. So why has Montenegro escaped me? About the size of Connecticut and with a population of 620,000, Montenegro is an absolute gem! If you’re even possibly considering Montenegro, drop everything and do it! It is absolutely stunning!
Unbelievable Natural Beauty
WOW! Being surrounded by nearly sheer mountains on all sides is awe inspiring. The mountains make enormous cruise ships look like toy boats in a bathtub. The grandeur must be experienced. Driving up (or rather, being driven up – we definitely do not recommend driving up yourself, but more on that later) and gazing down at it all is beyond words. It makes you feel like a tiny speck on this incredible planet.
Kotor Old Town
Kotor’s charming, compact Old Town is a labyrinth of cobblestone and interesting architectural elements that make you feel like you’re truly discovering something special.
We thought we liked Dubrovnik, but Kotor’s Old Town is even better! We loved wandering, getting lost, and finding our way out again… a few times! (Don’t worry, we didn’t really get lost in the literal sense! You can learn the layout of Kotor’s compact Old Town pretty quickly.)
Similar to Dubrovnik, docile cats roam the ancient streets freely, and even though I’m terrified of the claw-carrying monsters, they were admittedly calm and maybe, just possibly, even a little cute.
There are lots of little shops and outdoor dining options, though we can’t attest to the quality of the food as we self-catered at an Airbnb.
Check out the Saturday Market
Quite by accident we came across the Saturday market just outside the gates of Kotor Old Town. We loved the size of it: not too big, not too small. We also loved that it was primarily locals, which is always refreshing to see (this is one reason we love Kotor so much – local life goes on even with the tourists coming through, unlike Dobrovnik Old Town). The Saturday market is a great place to stock up on fruits, vegetables, olives, and cheese if you have a kitchen during your stay.
Kotor is Affordable
Things in Montenegro are substantially less expensive than in neighboring Croatia. Since we stayed at an Airbnb with a kitchen, we opted for groceries instead of eating out, but even restaurant prices in Kotor Old Town seemed reasonable.
Go to Mamma Mia Bakery!
One place we popped into on our last morning was Mamma Mia, a small bakery in Kotor Old Town. Umm… why didn’t we discover this sooner? Oh, right, because our Airbnb was a sweaty 40 minute walk away in Dobrota. (The views from the balcony were worth it!)
We really wanted one of everything at Mama Mia but opted for a meat and cheese mini burek and a chocolate croissant. They were both delicious!
Kotor’s City Walls
Unlike Dubrovnik’s city walls, which you can find easily, the fortress walls of Kotor can be a bit trickier to access. The entrance isn’t difficult to find if you know where to look, but we ran into quite a few people who were searching for it, so we’ll give you a little help finding it.
T painstakingly took pictures guiding you all the way from the front gate to this point, but sadly, they were all deleted when our Android phone factory reset after too many incorrect password attempts, so this interactive Google map will have to do.
We didn’t hike up past the entrance as it was H.O.T. and sunny, but you can follow the signs, pay 8 Euro, and go up, up, up, for what must be breath-taking views…quite literally! You can still get a decent picture from just below the entrance if you’re not up to paying the 8 Euro or climbing 1300 stairs! Sadly, the pictures of those views are also trapped on the Android.
Kotor: Something for Everyone
For those of you who are go-go-go and want to fill every moment with activities and adventure, that’s easy to do here. You can take a boat to other villages, do all kinds of water activities (swim, kayak, SUP, windsurf, sail, etc.), and hike. We even passed a terrifyingly high and long zip line (only 10 Euro!) if that’s your thing.
If you only have time for Kotor, you’ll love it. But if you have an extra day, we highly recommend getting a driver* to see more of this stunning country. The switchbacks and narrow roadways (What?? Two cars are supposed to fit on this sheer cliff??) were enough for me to know that I didn’t want to personally drive, but for 130 USD we found a great driver for a 7+ hour private tour of beautiful areas outside of Kotor we never would have seen otherwise. We’ll be writing a separate post to show you the highlights of our driving tour.
Getting to Kotor
Because E is such a big planner, we got bus tickets from Dubrovnik to Kotor online a few months in advance at GetByBus for 135 kuna each (approximately $20 USD). The bus, which had an 11am departure time, didn’t show up until almost 1pm (with no warning or communication with any of the waiting passengers at any point aside from taxi drivers trying to get fares).
Border Crossing from Croatia to Montenegro
At the Croatia/Montenegro border, there were 3 buses in front of ours, so that took quite a bit of additional time as well. Our completely full bus got to Kotor about 3 hours later than was scheduled. (Total time from leaving our hotel to arrival at Kotor bus station: 5 hours.) As for the crossing itself, our entire bus disembarked and walked up to the little window one by one to have our passport stamped exiting Croatia. Then we got back on and did the same to enter Montenegro. It was very easy but hot and time consuming due to the sheer number of passengers.
If you have it in your budget or you’re short on time, we’d recommend taking a taxi. Drivers were offering rides to Kotor for 120 Euro per car (and I’m guessing you could negotiate that a bit). The ride should take just 2 hours.
We hope our experiences help you find yours.
– E and T