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.
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.
Kotor’s beautiful and unique topography is best appreciated from the vantage point of the Bay. For the traveler arriving by cruise ship or small craft, gliding through the Boka Kotorska in the wee hours of the morning is like stepping into a Tolkien fantasy.
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.”
Kotor’s attractions and general information:
This 17-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.
Kotor’s Old Town
Also known as the 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 terminal.
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.).
Attractions and Activities in the Old Town and Beyond
- 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.
- Maritime Museum: located inside Grgurina Palace, provides an excellent overview of the region’s expansive nautical legacy.
- 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.
- 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.
- Budva – s coastal resort town, approximately ½ hour drive.
- Cetinje – The Old Royal Capital is a one-hour drive.
- 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.
- 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.
- Internet: Internet cafes and wi-fi can be found near the Old Town entrance and in many cafeS.
- Currency – Not part of EU but uses Euro as official currency. There are ATM’s and currency exchanges in town.
- Language: The official language is Montenegrin, and shares the same origin as languages of the nearby Croats, Serbs and Bosnians. English is widely spoken
- Shopping: Locally made woolen goods, wood-carvings, lace, embroidery and hand-painted pottery, all of which make fine gifts and souvenirs.
- 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.