Photo Essay. Why Kotor, Montenegro, totally blew us away

Why Kotor, Montenegro, totally blew us away

Kotor has been on my list of places to see ever since spotting a photo similar to the above on another blog. So when we left Split last week for a little trip down south, Kotor was the place I wanted to see. Not Dubrovnik, but Kotor. I didn’t tell Spanky that because she hates it when I choose a destination because of a hike  or a “photo opportunity” (as she calls it). I told her we were going to Dubrovnik with a little side trip to a place called Kotor. Like most people she had never heard of it.

We’ve been to a lot of nice places over the last year, but no place has blown us away to the extent Kotor did. I came for the geography. Doing the hike up to Kotor’s fortress surpassed expectations. I think it might be one of the most spectacularly beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I had read that the Old Town was pretty but small. It ended up being one of the most charming and untouched old towns I’ve seen anywhere in Europe. We extended our stay from 3 days to 5 days and have vowed to come back one day for more.

I’m not going to bore you in this post with things that you have to see in Kotor. The only thing (besides that hike up to the fortress) that you have to do is wander around town, sit at one of its squares, and enjoy your surroundings. Watch the kids ride their bikes through the streets, look up at the steep cliffs and fort walls that loom over the town. Unlike a place like Dubrovnik, Kotor is a real town and with a little imagination you might think yourself 500 years back in time. Especially in the evening when the tourists vacate the town for the comfort of their cruise ships (most of the tourists that make it to Kotor do so on cruise ships).

Except for a few captions, I’ll let the photos do the talking in this post. There’s a lot of them.

Main Gate, Kotor, Montenegro

Above: Views of town when you enter through the main gate.

Bell Tower, Kotor, Montenegro

Above: Inside the main gate, a clear look at the small bell tower. The square here is called Square of Arms and is the main square in town.

views of walls in Kotor, Montenegro

Above: Look straight up, you’ll see the town walls zigzagging up the mountain to the Fortress of St. John.

Square of Arms, Kotor, Montenegro

Above: The town can be busy with tourists at different times of the day as cruise ships dock. But they clear out pretty fast and you’ll often find the town quite empty.

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The Hike up to the Fortress of St. John (also known as Castle of San Giovanni)

Bring good shoes and expect a slightly strenuous 45 minute hike up to the fortress.

view of Triangular shape of Kotor, Montenegro

Above: It won’t be long until you have views like this over town. Note that the town is built in a triangular pattern with a maze of streets to confuse would-be attackers.

views of walls and church, Kotor, Montenegro

Above (and below): about 20 minutes up you’ll come across the small Catholic church of Our Lady of Health (also known as Church of Our Lady of Remedy). It dates back to 1518.

Church of our lady of health, Kotor, Montenegro

Below: Continuing on, with views of the church and the Bay of Kotor.

views of Bay of Kotor and Church of Our Lady of Health

views of Kotor, Montenegro

Below: the fortress walls extend down the mountain on both sides, making the entire city surrounded by walls. The wall’s thickness varies from 6 to 50 feet and the tallest parts of the wall are 65 feet high.

views of Kotor Bay

Below: At the top. The fortress lies in ruins. A rare selfie to prove I was there :).

views of Kotor town and the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Views of the Bay of Kotor, selfie

While you’re up there, look down on the opposite side – there’s a huge drop off (maybe 400 feet?), a sheer impenetrable cliff that makes attack from the backside of town impossible. Most of the Wall structure was built while Kotor was under Venetian rule in the 17th and 18th century and because of it the town survived numerous attacks, including a 2 month siege by the Ottomans in 1657.

 

Kotor’s Old Town

Kotor is full of squares connected by small streets, none straight.

square in Kotor, Montenegro

Above: One of many squares.

Kotor, in front of Maritime Museum

Above: in front of the Maritime Museum.

Most of the town’s museums are Orthodox, but St. Tryphon, a Catholic church, is the most significant in town. In AD 809, Venetian merchants were sailing up the coast from Turkey with the relics of St. Tryphon (a 3rd century martyr) when a storm hit. They took refuge in the Bay of Kotor. Whenever they tried to leave the weather worsened. They decided to that his remains were destined to stay here and built a church (the version you’ll see is the latest version, 4 earthquakes have destroyed previous churches built here).

Below: St. Tryphon, inside and out.

Tryphon Cathedral, Kotor

St. Tryphon Cathedral on inside, Kotor

St. Tryphon Cathedral, Kotor, Montenegro

St. Tryphon Cathedral icons, Kotor

views of square from St. Tryphon

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St. Luke’s Square is another pretty square and has a couple of interesting Orthodox churches built in the time of Serbian rule.

Below: St. Luke’s Square, view from St. Nicolas’ Church. On the left side is small St. Luke’s church, built in the 12th century.

Square in front of St. Nicolas, Kotor, Montenegro

Below: St. Nicolas’ Church. If you’ve never stepped in an Orthodox church it is really worth a visit.

St. Nicolas church, Kotor, Montenegro

St. Nicolas Church inside, Kotor, Montenegro

St. Nicolas church on inside, Kotor, Montenegro

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Below: Having a beer on St Luke’s Square and watching (mostly) locals going about their lives.

beer in plaza, Kotor, Montenegro

Below: yet another view of the square. There’s a school on the square and kids riding around on bikes. We loved Kotor because it just feels like a real town.

St. Luke's square, Kotor, Montenegro

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People love old doors and fountains and there are lots in Kotor:

door in Kotor, Montenegro

fountain in Kotor, Montenegro

another door in Kotor, Montenegro

fountain in Plaza, Kotor

Door in Kotor

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Below: another church. This is the Church of Blazena Ozana.

church of Blazena Ozana. Kotor, Montenegro

church of Blazena Ozana, door, Kotor, Montenegro

 

Below: More incredible architecture. On every street somethings catches your eye.

street views, Kotor, Montenegro

Gate to hike the walls of Kotor, Montenegro

history in Kotor, Montenegro

stairs and arches in Kotor, Montenegro

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Below: More views of the fort walls winding their way up to the Fortress of St. John:

views of walls, Kotor, Montenegro

 

Below: The south gate of the old town and the harbor.

South Gate of Kotor, Old Town

Harbor in Kotor, Montenegro

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One of the oddities about Kotor is that most of the tourists you’ll see are from cruise ships. You’ll often see 1 or 2 in the harbor. It means sudden influxes of tourists during various parts of the day, then sudden emptiness at other times. A waiter told us that lunch times can be crazy. But then you can walk around in the evening and have the town all to yourself, as evidenced below.

Kotor, Montenegro at night (3)

Above: the castle walls and fortress are lit up at night.

Kotor, Montenegro at night (2)

Above: Square in front of St. Tryphon Church.

Kotor, Montenegro at night (4)

Above: Another square. Lots of bars and restaurants and we had excellent food and good value everywhere we went.

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I previously wrote about Dubrovnik. It is a beautiful city but there is one thing that was nagging at me. I realized what it was when doing this post: Dubrovnik is a glamour girl, a super model. She’s been glammed up, has had a few nip and tucks, and has been reconstructed in parts. She’s too perfect. Kotor feels like the real thing. Look at the grass growing between bricks and tiles, see the warped and faded doors and windows, the rusted iron, and the weathered walls. She’s authentic. We more than loved Kotor, we were blown away by its charm.

I had also mentioned on that Dubrovnik post that we’ve come to have an appreciation for places where we could see ourselves living for an extended period of time. Kotor, like Split, is one of those places.

A few last photos:

city views, Kotor, Montenegro

Pima palace, Kotor, Montenegro

Above: the cruise ship tourists are back, walking around like sheep and following their pack leaders. No wonder they look so bored. I just can’t understand why there aren’t more people travelling around independently like us, it’s so much more fun (and cheaper).

Old sign in Kotor, Montenegro

restaurants in Kotor

signs in Kotor, Montenegro

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Below: Stepping out of the Old Town and towards the bus station you’ll see some ruined buildings. Montenegro doesn’t feel as rich as Croatia. But we always felt safe and everyone we met was very friendly.

Views and Ruined buildings, Kotor

Views and ruined buildings, Kotor, Montenegro

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Practical information.

- We stayed at N&N Franovic Apartments and it was absolute perfection. The apartment is large and modern, with a balcony. It felt like home and we extended our stay from 3 days to 5. Right behind the bus station, about 5 minutes walk to the Old Town. Tripo and his wife Rada were incredibly friendly and I can’t recommend them enough. You can book them through Airbnb or contact them directly by email: nnfranovic@gmail.com.
- There is a very nice supermarket a few minutes from the apartment, right next to the south gate of the Old Town.
- Getting to Kotor: 2.5 to 3 hours by bus from Dubrovnik. It’s actually about 2 hours driving time but passport control can be slow. There are only 2 to 3 buses a day Dubrovnik – Kotor (schedule here) and about the same back (Kotor – Dubrovnik schedule here).  That’s not a lot of people travelling independently to Kotor. But buses to get filled up quick so I would suggest you buy tickets in advance as we did. As mentioned, the bus station is a 5 minute walk from the south gate of the Old town.
- If you’re spending a few days in Kotor, take a few hours to visit Perast. It’s another beautiful town on the Bay of Kotor.

 

Have you been to Kotor? Did you love it as much as we did?

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Comments

  1. Wow, what a beautiful place. Thanks for the pictures and for the impressions. They make us want to go to Kotor now.
    Natscha recently posted…Why we went to Stralsund instead of IranMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      It’s great, we wish we could have stayed longer! Thanks for the comment, glad we could share our enthusiasm for the place with you :)

  2. It seems like I already want to meet with this authentic girl. :-)
    A good post, Frank.
    Victor recently posted…Gala Dali’s Pubol: the Castle, the Home, the GraveMy Profile

  3. Wow what amazing pictures! Some of the best places to travel are off the beaten path. I also love places you can stay and really interact with the locals and get a feel for what their lives are like. I’ll have to keep Kotor in mind when we eventually head back to Europe! –Elizabeth
    Elizabeth Hampton recently posted…Joinville Food Truck FestivalMy Profile

  4. Kotor was such a wonderful find! Love the photo’s.. makes me want to pack and go today. How many days would you recommend to visit? It seems like somewhere I could stay for a decent amount of time, but I don’t want to over-stay.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Paula! Really depends how you travel. We work at the same time we travel so some of our day spent in the apartment. Afternoon and evenings we’re about as well as weekends. We’ve been in Split 6 weeks now and its a perfect base. Kotor is smaller and there are less things of interest in the area…still, I think we could stay a month and enjoy it.
      But the usual traveller who just wants to explore the sights in Kotor and around I would give it a week. You can do quite a lot in that kind of time and we’ve been told good things about places like Budva and Sveti Stefan which are not far away.
      Hope that helps :)

  5. Love the photos and Kotor looks incredibly charming. Yeah, I don’t get people who take cruises. Maybe when I’m old and can’t get around. Then I’ll take a cruise with the Thai nurses who’ll be taking care of me :) But until then I don’t need to be hanging out with middle aged people and eating out of the cruise ship buffet trough. Just the idea is depressing.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks John. We’ve never been on a cruise. But every time we’ve taken a boat tour (ie. a couple of hours) we’ve regreted it. Once in Colombia, another in Brazil. And you’re stuck with people you don’t want to be with and can’t go anywhere.
      Cruises have their convenience and I can see some of the benefits. And I’m not ruling out that we won’t do it one day. In some places its the best way of getting around. But honestly not something that really appeals to me at this point, the idea of being stuck on a boat kind of restrictive…
      Good luck with the Thai nurses.

  6. Great photos! We visited Kotor Bay last summer to go kayaking. The scenery is great and the water is calm and beautiful! But during high season the country really bears the brunt of the tourist overflow from Croatia; there are just so many holidaymakers acting like arseholes on the road, the prices are really jacked up, and everywhere is so ridiculously crowded. I’d definitely recommend only going during the quiet seasons. It makes a nice stop on the way to beautiful Albania, though!
    Semi recently posted…The cheapest place to drink in Hong Kong: Club 7 (Eleven)My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Good to know. We arrived in Europe in early April and I think it’s really the best time to come…since a couple of weeks ago we’re seeing more and more tourists around the Split area and honestly, I don’t know how the locals take it. But good to know Montenegro gets busier as well. I think when we come back it will be in the shoulder seasons.

  7. Nice post ;) I am fortunate to live in Montenegro since 2008 and I love it. Kotor has a beautiful year-round fresh market and is still very authentic indeed.
    Best times to visit are spring and fall. Avoid July and August! Enjoy!

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Lucky you Carine! It’s not a place many people know about and especially not a place people go to to live. We will definitely go back one day, we were very struck by the place.

  8. I adore Kotor! But I’m guessing you weren’t there in July as you say the evenings were very quiet….despite having lived in India, Vietnam and visited 65 countries I think it was the noisiest place I’ve ever been in!!! We were there during carnival and the noise levels were on a level that I’ve never come across before (way louder than Trinidad carnival for example). Obviously carnival night was exceptional but all the other evenings were incredibly loud too. We stayed right inside the city walls on one of those lovely squares which was fun, but next time I’d stay outside the city walls, maybe in Perast. But despite the noise I agree with you that it’s one of the loveliest places ever!
    Phoebe recently posted…All About France #8My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Really!! We were there mid-May and it was really quiet. Evenings we would walk around the old town and restaurants were lucky if they were filled to 10% capacity.
      Good to know it gets as crowded as every other place in Europe during prime summer months. That’s not fun :(
      Thanks for letting us know, we’ll make sure to never be there in July or August.

  9. So nice, it reminds me the summer and hiking around Montenegro’s Kotor Bay. It was beautiful!

  10. Dubrovnik has had its nips and tucks because the Montenegrins bombed it for a consecutive months during the War in the 90′s. Dubrovniks nips and tucks however were primarily its old roof tiles which were replaced and the place has had its Stone buildings cleaned like much of Southern Croatia. Kotor in the early parts of the 20th century had a majority Croatian catholic population . Over time Croatians vacated the place and more Serbs moved into the area. Like Dubrovnik, it was a strong trading Port in competition to Venice.

  11. Hey there! Where did you go to book your bus tickets from Dubrovnik in advance? I’m not seeing it on that website you posted but there is a good chance I’m missing it :)

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Katelyn – we actually bought our tickets in advance but at the bus station itself (in Dubrovnik). They have buses to Kotor quite regularly.

  12. Hi guys again, it’s me,
    I will definitely make it there next year when I get to Croatia, never heard of Kotor. I just wanted to answer your question: “the cruise ship tourists are back, walking around like sheep and following their pack leaders. No wonder they look so bored. I just can’t understand why there aren’t more people travelling around independently like us, it’s so much more fun (and cheaper).”
    People are lazy and scared to try on their own. As I told you, I travel solo and that is not as easy as with another person, but I hate those vanilla canned groups. On my upcoming trip to Prague and more, I begged others to join me….but they couldn’t believe I am doing it all myself, some truly think I am “nuts”. Well, we live once and let it be the best.
    SY.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Sara,
      I’m lucky – my parents always enjoyed travel and as a kid we’d go to lots of different places. We even lived in Zambia where we would travel to places like Malawi or Kenya by car. My mom especially has always travelled so when she retired in her mid-50s she spent much of her time travelling around South East Asia and I would often meet up with her in different places. So those were my influences growing up. And I’m still in one piece, her too despite having travelled independently as an older woman – she’s now 69, living in Central Mexico, but just came back from a road trip through Chiapas and Guatamala. People, especially Americans, worry about travelling solo – but most of the world is very safe (and much safer than America, sorry to say).
      Prague is incredibly safe, as is Croatia and Kotor (unless you’re out late, drunk and buying drugs from unsavory types. But I think you really have to look for trouble to find it). If you ever have any questions let me know Sara. But it sounds like you’re experienced and comfortable with it. I always tell people that once you’ve travelled a few times independently you’ll never travel the same way again. My first solo travel was the Dominican Republic. The next was Colombia. Never, ever had a problem even in these supposedly “dodgy” countries.

  13. Great wrap up! Kotor is on my list to visit. Unfortunately, was on a bus last year that drove through, but we didn’t stop. Hopefully, next time!
    Ric recently posted…Sak Yant Tattoo Festival – Day OneMy Profile

  14. you seemed to have seen a lot more of it than I did. But it was a long time ago and i dont remember it clearly. I remember being on a building rooftop for some great views.
    Andrew recently posted…Little Places – Uch ShariffMy Profile

  15. i have visit many travel site and it was very knowledgeable travel site and photo increasing the site value too.
    Bangladesh Expeditions request to add a travel destination in Asia at Bangladesh
    Abdullah recently posted…Summer travel in BangladeshMy Profile

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