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Europe: Montenegro

Montenegro Part I: Climbing Kotor

by Matt Thomas

Having visited Dubrovnik, which is a short hop up the Adriatic Coast in 2021, and marvelled at the beauty of the coastline, a stay in Montenegro, in the interests of seeing more of the same while knocking off another country and getting some seasonal hot weather, was a fairly straightforward choice. I was not disappointed.

Set in the Bay of Kotor, the small town of Kotor is beautiful spot. Flanked by mountains on either side, it’s truly picture postcard stuff. A walk or bike ride round the bay for a glimpse of life for locals is recommended.

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Weather wise, it was an inauspicious start. The first day, as forecast, brought pretty serious showers, but these cleared from about 5pm and after that it was blue skies and temperatures in the low 30s or high 20s for the rest of my stay.

The main hub of traveller activity is the Old Town. The earthquake of 1979 destroyed or seriously damaged much of it, but it has been splendidly restored without losing its authenticity. It’s not an Old Town on the scale of Dubrovnik and by just wandering around you will eventually find where you are looking for. Orientation round its narrow cobbled streets is fairly straightforward.

Of the main sights, the Maritime Museum is probably the pick, telling of the region’s proud naval history. The model wooden ships are particularly impressive.

That said, my personal favourite was the Gallery of Solidarity. The attendant told me it was so named as following the earthquake of 1979, a plea was sent to the nation’s (Yugoslavia at this time) artists who donated 3-400 works. They don’t have the space to showcase all of them, but the 3 rooms offer excellent and varied works by the best of the region’s modern artists. There is also a video telling the poignant story of the reconstruction of a local man’s house and of the Old Town itself, in the aftermath of the earthquake.

There are also several churches worth visiting. The Serbian Orthodox Church of St Nicholas (be sure to take your cap off) and more humble Church of St Luke are handily across from one another. The Church of St Tryphon is the most impressive and also offers a very acceptable small museum.

Onto Day 3 and the best thing I did in Kotor was certainly climbing the Ladder of Cattaro. The entire trail goes from Kotor to Krstac and takes about 6 hours. Most prefer to take the 3-4 hours option that takes hikers to the top of the 72 switchbacks, and still gives superb views of the bay.

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The start of the path is easy to find – either before or afterwards hikers may enjoy a quick dip under the nearby waterfall via a short detour at the bottom. The start is located outside of the Northern Gate of the Old Town (Trg od Drva), and turning right down Tabacina. Essentially follow Lonely Planet’s instructions and you can’t go wrong.

The path is easy to follow but occasionally challenging in places so concentration, a decent pair of shoes and plenty of water is advisable. The views down the bay as you ascend are spectacular and from the top one can see out across the Adriatic.

kotor photo, bay of kotor photo, travel writing matt thomas, travel and talk, montenegro photo

In terms of other activities, there is a small beach that is actually very pleasant and not too crowded. A sunbed will cost you 10 Euros. The waters are fresh and crystal clear and a welcome way to round off the day after a 3 hour hike, or indeed a walk around the City Walls.

kotor photo, bay of kotor photo, travel writing matt thomas, travel and talk, montenegro photo

Where to stay

I’ll just give a bit of general advice here. I stayed in Prcanj which is 4km around the bay via 40 minute walk or short bus ride. The walk is actually very pleasant so I didn’t mind this at all, however if you prefer to be in the heart of the action as it were, the Old Town is a better, although perhaps less quiet option. For balance I would suggest staying in Dobrota, a much shorter walk to the Old Town’s sights and eating and drinking options, but far enough away to give a little separation.

Where to eat

The Old Town and surrounding area cater to all tastes, from takeaways to fine dining – it’s really a case of walk around and see what you fancy. Prices are generally very reasonable but there is likely a premium for dining in the Old Town itself. I stayed at The Hotel Bokeljski Dvori which doubles as a restaurant, and provides excellent value for money meals in a peaceful setting overlooking the bay.

Where to drink

The Old Town Pub is a charming little sanctuary from the tourist crowds and pumps out some cracking 80s power ballads. My personal favourite was Niente Cafe Bar at the southern end of the Old Town which is a great place for a beer or cocktail and to watch the crowds go by.

This was just the first part of the trip. I took the bus the short trip down the coast to sunny Budva – article to follow shortly!

Quick mention here for this page: which I found very helpful for planning the hike.