Kotor bay is pretty much the reason I’ve wanted to explore Montenegro for so long. It looks like a Norwegian fjord has been transported to the Balkan’s with dramatic peaks rising around the bay. We booked an apartment a couple of kilometres from the old town and arrived to find no one home. We were sweltering hot, it must’ve been about 25° and my back was dripping with sweat. Eventually our jolly host arrived and was quick to grab us a shot of rakija. This one was much nicer than the last, it was 40%, made from grapes and it didn’t make me feel like flames were going to shoot out my mouth. The apartment was perfect and we even had a balcony with a view of the bay and mountains.
It was already late in the afternoon so we just had a beer on the terrace before taking a stroll to the old town. We’d actually walked to the apartment via the main road but we discovered a promenade that followed the bay all the way down to Kotor. It had such a nice vibe to it with bars lining the waterfront and the calm water twinkling in the sun as locals fished from the coast.
The mountains rising behind Kotor were incredible, huge grey rocky mounds shooting 1000m up from the bay. We headed towards the old town which was surrounded by a crystal clear moat and tall stone walls. As soon as we entered through the gates we were transported into another era with cute cobblestone alleys. It was quite touristy though with souvenir shops, eateries and gelato shops but at this time of year it was very pleasant – come back in peak season and I imagine it’s another story.
The food prices weren’t too bad, I could find a pizza for as cheap as €6 but they stung you on the drinks so in the end we decided to grab a slice of pizza for €2.50 and buy a beer from the shop so we could enjoy it on a bench by the sea. That evening we noticed flashes outside our window and it was a lightning storm, there was a little bit of thunder but it was mostly huge sparks of lightning that illuminated the sky in a purple hue.
The next day we decided to go for a hike and we chose a route from Kotor to Tivat over the mountainous peninsular. It was a steep route that began up concrete steps and offered fabulous views of the bay and old town. We spotted a tortoise on the steps which seemed like a strange location so we were about to pick him up and pop him in the foliage when Craig spotted a snake. It was in the shrubs and staring right at the tortoise so we didn’t want to intervene with nature and left them be. The steps turned into a thin trail which vanished into overgrown bushes. After seeing the snake there was no chance we were walking through that so we searched for another route and thankfully found one. It led us up 46 switchbacks through the forest until we reached a dirt track that headed along the ridge line.
As we walked along the wide track Craig suddenly slammed his brakes on as a meter long snake darted across the path! My goodness this place is alive with snakes. We stopped for a picnic with a view of the bay and then continued the scorching hike up to Sveti Ilija summit at 766m. From the top we had an incredible vantage point of the bay on both sides. The jagged Black Mountains rose straight out the sea and a huge cruise ship chugged through the fjord.
After taking some photos and soaking in the view we made our way back to forwards Tivat where we met yet another snake. The walk really dragged on and it ended up taking 7 hours for the 21km route. We were so relieved to arrive in Tivat and treat ourselves to an ice lolly. The town was more like a fancy super yacht area with swanky bars along the waterfront. We were hoping to have a swim in the sea but it was quite murky and unappealing so we just caught a bus back to Kotor.
Our next little outing from Kotor was a 20 minute bus ride along the bay to the little village of Perast. But we must’ve just missed a bus (story of our life) so we had to wait almost an hour for the next one. My guidebook described Perast as ‘looking like a chunk of Venice that has floated down the Adriatic and anchored itself in the Bay of Kotor’. The village lived up to it’s hype and was picture-perfect with a lovely church spire, pristine buildings set along the waterfront and a mountain backdrop.
Towards the end of the village was a gorgeous little stretch of beach which would normally be owned by a bar in the peak season but it’s still closed now so the beach is free to visit. Sadly people have been using the bar courtyard area as a toilet…so albeit the beach looked delightful there was human shit just a few meters behind us. In fact someone had the audacity to go right next to the changing room and we watched in horror as a women went inside to get changed and put her clothes on the floor, totally oblivious that they were 15cm away from a turd. Ew. So that was a shame but we didn’t let it spoil our day…excuse the pun! The water was crystal clear so we had a lovely time basking in the warm sunshine and swimming.
Across the water from us were two islands, one was artificially created in 1452 and is home to a picturesque church with a turquoise domed roof, a little similar to the buildings we witnessed in Uzbekistan. We were considering a boat ride over there but to be honest the view was good enough from the shore with my zoom lens so we saved €5 each. As late afternoon approached storm clouds began building up above the mountains. We just managed to enjoy a scoop of ice cream and another stroll around the village before the ran caught up with us.
Day four in Kotor involved another hike, this time we were heading up the Ladder of Cattaro, an ancient caravan route which zigzags up the mountainside. The path had around 70 switch backs and amazing views of the rocky peaks ahead of us. It was unbearably hot so when we reached a concrete platform with vast views of the bay we decided to call it a day. We also had a great view of the old towns defensive walls that climbed up the hillside. It costs €8 to access the fort walls which we weren’t interested in doing but our host had mentioned a window you can crawl through for free. We’d heard mixed reviews online about a guard standing by the window but we decided to give it a go. It was strange as a ladder led up the wall so you could access the window but a sign said access was forbidden…talk about tempting us in. So up we went, no guard in sight and we got a great view down to the old town. We didn’t want to risk walking all the way back down the wall to find they check tickets and charge us so we went back through the window and returned the same way. We met a local lady who lived in a beautiful stone house only accessible by foot. She pointed to the hillside where a group of goats were roaming and said “my goats!” while pointing to the goats and back to herself, it was very sweet to see how proud she was.
Later in the afternoon we took an unknown trail through an area where we could hear running water. It led us into a canyon and low and behold there were numerous crystal clear pools filled with ice-cold water and beautiful purple flowers covering the walls. We had a lovely dip in them and it felt like a very secret spot as we had the place to ourselves.
When we got back we had to change apartments as ours was full for the night. So we moved about a kilometre up the road to a beautiful place. We had a wonderful private balcony with one of the best views of Kotor Bay! I sent my friend a photo and asked him how much he thought it cost, he guessed €95. It was in fact just €26! The apartment itself was much smaller than the last one and the bed was a strange 70s looking thing made of red velvet. Austin powers would of felt right at home in this room but we didn’t mind, it was clean and comfortable and the views from the balcony were well worth it. This time instead of being welcomed with a shot of Rakija our host brought us a beer each and a savoury slice of something. How delightful!!
We realised we hadn’t really stopped to relax yet so we dedicated day 5 to a full day at the local beach. There was a layer of algae by the shoreline which was a little off-putting but once we were past it the water was delightful. It was such a stunning spot to swim with big green hills ahead of us, jagged grey peaks behind and a cruise ship parked up in the bay which gave the scene a bit of scale. Apparently the cruise-ships hold upwards of 3000 passengers and each persons carbon footprint is 3 times more than from someone who travels on land. The ships have also been known to dump waste and sewage in the sea and hit whales due to careless navigating…needless to say I’m not a fan of these floating cities.
After a full day of sun baking we headed back to the apartment where Craig made us a Greek salad to enjoy on our dreamy balcony. Our sweet host brought us homemade pancakes for breakfast the following morning and then it was time to say goodbye to Kotor which is safely on our list of favourite destinations.