We continued our journey through former Yugoslavia and travelled south, crossing the Croatian border into Montenegro!
Upon arrival in Kotor, our base for exploring southern Montenegro, we were pleasantly surprised that our Airbnb accommodation overlooked one of the many town squares, with multiple food and drink options within metres of our apartment!
The town is built at the edge of the bay, with an Old Town similar to Dubrovnik but on a much smaller scale. The fact that it is not overly crowded and still has local residents living in the old town adds to the charm and atmosphere. Unlike any other bays in the Adriatic Sea, the Bay of Kotor is considered a fjord or ria, characterised by a steep cliff face that rises out of deep waters. These are more commonly seen in the Nordic countires so it is strange to see such a fjord so far south!
Kotor has been an important port town throughout history, and has changed rule numerous times over the last two thousand years – notably being occupied by the Illyrians, and both the Venetian and Austro-Hungarian empires. Nowadays, the city is also known at the city of cats, which were brought into the town to deal with a rodent problem – they have now been adopted as the citys mascot and there is even a cat museum! Unfortunately for Anne there were cats everywhere!
High above the town stands the remains of the Castle of San Giovanni, and the old city walls. These were constructed over many centuries, mainly by the Venetians and Austro Hungarians, and were never breached, keeping the city safe against the Ottoman armies. We decided to climb the steep city walls to appreciate the view of Kotor from above, which is definitely postcard worthy! Tourist tip: if visiting in the warmer months, set out early to tackle the 1500-plus steps and wear appropriate footwear as there are many loose rocks! It took us around 2.5 hours up and down with plenty of time to admire the view and take photographs!
Despite a couple of rain days during our stay, we thought it would be a waste not to explore southern Montenegro further. After considering the options we booked the Great Montenegro Tour with 360 Monte to visit some more of this wonderful and intriguing country. Our tour guide Yelena was informative and personable, providing a detailed account of both life and history of Montenegro over the course of the tour.
The day began with a drive up the famous serpentine road – 25 hairpin turns taking us up to a lookout over the entire Boka Bay. From this point of view it is possible to see the Adriatic Sea as well as Croatia!
After taking some amazing photographs we were back driving up Mount Lovćen to reach the most famous village in Montenegro, Njeguši, where the best prosciutto in the region is produced! We also enjoyed a pre-breakfast rakija shot – according to the locals, rakija is the primary source of ‘heat’ during the winter! Our journey then continued into the Lovćen National Park, one of the five national parks in Montenegro, which is astonishing given the country’s population of only 600,000! Within the national park sits the highest Mausoleum in the world (at 1660 metres), where the greatest Montenegrin ruler and poet Petar II Petrović Njegoš remains are held. The mausoleum contains a massive 29 ton statue and a tremendous viewpoint. We were extremely lucky that the fog parted, allowing us an unobstructed view of the surrounding landscape!
Our next destination was Cetinje, the former capital of Montenegro, where we embarked on a walking tour around the many historic sites. Nearing lunchtime, which is 3:00 PM for most Montenegrins, we arrived at Lake Skadar to enjoy a delicious meal of freshly caught trout! After eating more than our share, we set out for a relaxing river cruise in the afternoon sun which had finally displaced the rain! Our final stop was the nearby coastal town of Budva where we spent around an hour exploring the Budva old town, viewing the many churches and old fortifications!
After an exhausting few days making the most of our time in Montenegro, we booked a transfer with Montenegro Hostel to our next destination, Bosnia & Herzegovina! Tourist tip: there are no public buses between Kotor and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Best to book a direct transfer to avoid the lengthy detour back to Dubrovnik if you want to travel this way.
Our three nights in Kotor was definitely not enough and we will definitely be back to explore more of Montenegro!
Until next time,
DT & AP