Exploring New Horizons in Kotor, Montenegro

<img src="img_2254_web.jpg" alt="Kotor Montenegro" />

The stunning view of Kotor’s Walled City from the cruise ship terminal


A shipboard colleague once confided in me how much pressure she felt as the onboard Destination Specialist, referring to herself as the “Dancing Bear,” paraded about, and touted as the expert and oracle of all things port related. It is an occupational hazard, I suppose. Often after delivering a port presentation, I find myself inundated with a most colorful array of destination-related questions, ranging from the mundane to outlandishly entertaining!

The only time I find the exchange stressful is when we are traveling to destinations that are new to me as well. If this is the case I do as much research and advance as possible, but there is just no way to anticipate the breadth and scope of the questions put forward by a the inquisitive, zealous, sometimes quixotic cruise ship passenger:

“How do I get from Dubrovnik to Medjugorje with public transportation?” “I need driving directions from Civitavecchia to the Roman Catacombs” “How do I hike Mount Etna on my own?” “Do you have the ferry schedule from Corfu to Albania?” “Where can I find snake charmers in Casablanca?”

Special questions require special research—but hey, once you know the answer, you know it, and your workload lessens. The following season I can tell everyone, “It can’t be done in one day,” “Take the Autostrada Azzurra and merge onto A-12 Roma-Fiumicino” “Not recommended.” “No ferry service from here to there” “Rent ‘Road to Morocco’, starring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.”

One of the most memorable ‘firsts’ was my maiden visit to Kotor, Montenegro. Kotor is a coastal town located in the inner reaches of the winding Bay of Kotor, which feeds into the Adriatic Sea. Similar to Croatia topographically, Montenegro boasts azure waters, translucent rivers and freshwater lakes. The country is bordered in the southeast by Albania. Its western neighbors are the former Yugoslav republics of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

<img src="montenegro-coastal-map-mediumthumb.jpg" alt="Coastal Map Montenegro" />

Image credit: Mappery.com

Perhaps the most unique and spellbinding part of visiting this medieval city is entering the Bay of Kotor and meandering for an hour through the mountains on a 17-mile waterway sometimes referred to as Europe’s southernmost fjord. Although technically not actually a fjord, the views are fjord-like, with mountains rising on both sides of a long, thin bay that leads to the old walled town of Kotor.

<img src="img_2762_web.jpg" alt="Bay of Kotor" />

<img src="img_2253_web.jpg" alt="Bay of Kotor" />

As always, I practiced due diligence and procured as much historical, cultural and practical and information as possible prior to our arrival. Reading about Kotor’s beautiful and unique topography did not curtail my delight and sense of awe as we glided into the Boka Kotorska in the wee hours of the morning – encountering these luscious vistas first hand is like stepping into a Tolkien fantasy.

<img src="img_3930_web.jpg" alt="Kotor Montenegro" />

Let’s hit the ground running!

Kotor is a car-free walled city, and one of the best-preserved medieval towns in this part of the Mediterranean. The city is also an ancient trade center, due to its fortified entrance to the sea. It is a UNESCO World Natural and Historical Heritage Site and Montenegro’s most famous town. The city walls of Kotor actually follow the incline of the surrounding mountain (at 853 ft.), and, like Dubrovnik, it is possible to “walk the walls.”

<img src="img_2286_web.jpg" alt="Kotor Montengro" />

Western border of Kotor’s Walled City

I was prepared to hit the ground running but didn’t have to – Kotor’s Tour Operator offered us a private guided tour of Kotor and the Budva Riviera.

<img src="img_2292_web.jpg" alt="Kotor Montenegro" />

The waterfront area, just outside the walled city

<img src="img_2315_web.jpg" alt="Kotor Old Town" />

The Walled City is waking up!

<img src="img_2775_web.jpg" alt="Old Town Kotor" />

<img src="img_2306_web.jpg" alt="St. Ivan's Fortress Kotor" />

At the summit of the city walls is St. Ivan’s Fortress. About midway, is a small chapel

<img src="img_2890_web.jpg" alt="Old Town Kotor Montenegro" />

<img src="img_2264_web.jpg" alt="Kotor Montenegro" />

Montenegro is prone to brush fires in the hot summer months, casting a haze for miles

Here is a compilation of the areas attractions and general information:

Kotor at a Glance

Attractions and Activities:

  1. Bay of Kotor17-mile waterway that is sometimes referred to as Europe’s southernmost fjord. The Bay of Kotor is the result of an old river running from the interior to the Adriatic Sea. Still, the views are fjord-like, with mountains rising on both sides of a long, thin bay that leads to the Old Walled Town of Kotor. The deepest part of the Boka Kotorska consists of several small towns, fishermen settlements, and many coastal villages that alternate along the coastline. One reason to get up early, when your cruise ship is entering the Bay from the west is to see two tiny islands at the mouth of the bay. The light is magnificent in the early morning hour. The green island is Our Lady of the Reef, a diving site. The other is St. George, home to a Benedictine monastery that dates from the 12th century.
  2. Kotor’s Old Town , or Stari Grad, is an ancient trade center, due to its fortified entrance to the sea. It’s also a UNESCO World Natural and Historical Heritage Site and Montenegro’s most famous town. The Old Town is a well-preserved collection of buildings, churches, squares, and stone streets that date back to the Middle Ages. The car-free, walled town is just across the street from the city’s cruise-ship
  3. Walking the City Walls – For 2 Euros, you can walk the city wall. Begin at one of several points on the street levels. Beware of loose stones and uneven steps. Climbers are rewarded with views at a resting — and perhaps turnaround — spot about half way up at the Chapel of Our Lady, built in 1572 by the survivors of a plague. If you hike to the top you will be rewarding by stellar views of the town and bay from St. Ivan’s Fortress. Total time: about 90 minutes (853 ft.).
  4. Churches: In the Old Town, houses of worship adorn the landscape of Kotor’s many squares. Among the 12th- and 13th-century churches are Tryphon Cathedral (Sveti Tripun), with its Romanesque-Gothic architecture, and the Basilica of St. Luke (Luka), with original frescoes inside. St. Luke is also noted for having two altars – one Catholic, one Orthodox – which, according to locals, demonstrates Kotor’s religious diversity. St Nicolas Church is the largest Orthodox church in the Old Town.
  5. Maritime Museum: located inside Grgurina Palace, provides an excellent overview of the region’s expansive nautical legacy.
  6. Cafe Scene: For people watching, sip a coffee or beer in any of the squares that get smaller as you walk deeper into the Old Town.
  7. Explore the Roads leading out of Kotor are a series of 21 switchbacks or Serpentines that take a driver up to an elevation of 2953 feet above sea level.
  8. Budva – s coastal resort town, approximately ½ hour drive.
  9. Cetinje – The Old Royal Capital is a one-hour drive.
  10. Beaches: There are no sandy beaches in Kotor, and water is not optimal for swimming. The better option would be to drive to the Jaz or Trsteno beaches on the Budva Riviera, approximately 12 miles from Kotor. These are exquisite beaches, well worth the distance traveled.

Port Information:

  1. The cruise terminal is across the street from the Old City’s Sea Gate, built in 1555. It’s a short walk from the pier to the Old Town.
  2. Internet: Internet cafes and wi-fi can be found near the Old Town entrance and in many cafeS.
  3. Currency – Not part of EU but uses Euro as official currency. There are ATM’s and currency exchanges in town.
  4. Language: The official language is Montenegrin, and shares the same origin as languages of the nearby Croats, Serbs and Bosnians. English is widely spoken
  5. Shopping: Locally made woolen goods, wood-carvings, lace, embroidery and hand-painted pottery, all of which make fine gifts and souvenirs.
  6. Transportation: Walking is the only way to move around the Old Town, which is relatively small. The more you meander those backstreets, the more interesting the shops and pubs! Local drivers can be found at the port exit, offering tours of the countryside, at a cost of about 60 – 80 Euros an hour for up to 4 people. Taxis are also plentiful. Car rental in Kotor is cheap and easily available as there are several small car rental agencies in the city.

For more information, visit: http://www.visit-montenegro.com/cities-kotor-t.htm<img src="img_2857_web.jpg" alt="Montenegro Pub" />

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3 responses to “Exploring New Horizons in Kotor, Montenegro

  1. Pingback: 10 Best Itineraries for Scenic Cruising | Ship to Shore·

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