Exploring Montenegro – Things to Do in Kotor

Things to do in Kotor Montenegro

If you like sweeping vista views and enjoy a healthy dose of history you will find plenty of things to do in Kotor.

The ancient town of Kotor lies tucked away in a corner of a spectacularly blue Adriatic bay, squeezed between massive limestone cliffs and dark azure waters. The jagged limestone stands sentinel over Kotor, severing it from civilization just enough to ensure it remains locked in a time capsule of sorts, preserved for ages as the rest of the world whizzes by.

That is not to say that Kotor receives few visitors. The town has long been an important hub of trade and commerce. These days the port plays host to a new cruise ship daily, ensuring a steady flow of day trippers. And yet, even with the steady tourism the town manages to fly under the radar, remaining relatively unknown.

things to do in kotor

We were lucky enough to spend two highly enjoyable weeks living in an apartment situated right on the Bay of Kotor. We found Kotor, and Montenegro as a whole, to be extremely affordable on our backpacking budget especially after a month in Croatia.

The sweeping vista views of Kotor Bay never ever failed to amaze, the locals were welcoming and generous, and a warm August sun tanned us a nice shade of bronze. We had plenty of time to explore the bay so we put together this handy list of things to do in Kotor, just for you!

So grab your explorer’s hat and start planing your Kotor travel adventure ASAP!

Things to do in Kotor

Explore the Old Town

Cathedral of Saint Tryphon in Kotor Montenegro

Kotor’s old town is a delight, day and night.

A fascinating mix of spacious squares and cramped alleyways, Kotor begs exploration. Each winding alley can lead you towards the next surprisingly cozy plaza, the next ivy adorned courtyard. History is writ large into the stones of Kotor, and the town conceals more historical Easter eggs than any but the most observant of explorers will find.

The first mention of Kotor dates all the way back to a Roman outpost built in 200 B.C. Centuries passed since then and various armies and empires occupied Kotor, coveting its position as an important port.

The occupiers brought along different architectural styles from across Europe, as occupying armies tend to do. Predominant were the Ottomans and Venetians, and the impact of their time in Kotor shows in various buildings and structures around the bay.

Kotors Old Town from above

Much has changed in two thousand years, but we’re pretty certain that the views from Kotor’s walls and fortifications are just as magnificent now as they were back when Julius Caesar was plotting domination of the known world.

These days Kotor’s primary source income is from tourism. Kotor’s port plays host to a new cruise ship each day. While the small town tends to get crowded during high season, early mornings are generally relaxed and far less populated. You can wander the crooked cobblestones unobstructed by cruise ship day-trippers, tour groups, tourists and touts.

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For an deeper understanding of all things Kotor you can arrange an informative walking tour with Sandra Vuckovic of M Tours. Sandra was our guide around Kotor Bay for a day and we can vouch that she’s awesome, and eager to provide all sorts of historical information and trivia. If you are looking for things to do in Kotor her tours are a very good item to add to your list.

Or you can explore Kotor all on your own. If you opt for solo exploration make sure to visit –

exploring Old Town Kotor

Eating, Drinking, and Partying in Kotor

Kotor is filled with numerous restaurants and cafes. Most of them serve the average tourist cuisine of pizza, pasta, and fried/grilled meat dishes. There are a few bright spots amid this bland fare, if you care to look around or check TripAdvisor. Make sure to visit out Tanjga Restaurant, a local family run grill that whips up delicious sandwiches for a few Euros.

Bars are plentiful within the walls of Kotor’s old town, serving a full range of local and craft beers, wines, and other adult beverages.

At night Kotor is a mix of mystery and cliche. Wander an alley or two away from the main gate and you are bound to find a dimly lit garden bar to pass the evening in. You will also come across a fair amount of obnoxiously loud electronic music, catering to locals and backpackers alike. We suggest the quite courtyards, but your mileage may vary.

Hike the Fortifications Above Kotor

things to do in Kotor Montenegro

On a partially sunny day, when walking up over the town of Kotor to the crest of the walled fortifications standing sentinel above it, when the sun is at the right angle over the wide bay, when there is just enough of a breeze to chase the forming beads of sweat off of your forehead, you can turn around with arms widely spread and picture yourself an adventuring explorer.

Does that sound overly romantic run on sentence? Maybe, until you experience the view for yourself.

hiking in kotor

Few sights in the world have awed us as our much as our first glimpse upon the Bay of Kotor from the cliffs above the town. It’s a truly special view, and one of the more unique vistas we have ever laid eyes on.

Seriously guys, this isn’t us being hyperbolic. The view is just THAT good.

Unlike us, however, you might not want to attempt the ascent all the way to the top in the middle of a blistering hot August day. Instead set off early in the morning, or later in the afternoon for a slightly less sweaty experience.

The hike is worth it for the views alone, but there is also plenty of history found along the way.

hiking the walls above Kotor

The fortified walls around and above Kotor have been in place in one shape or form since the 6th century. They ring the town in all directions, and climb high above the face of the limestone cliff which towers over Kotor.

 

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The castles, citadels, cisterns, towers, and gates that make up the fortified walls have survived wars, occupations, shelling, assaults, bombings, earthquakes. They have stood the test of time and against human aggression, and are still standing.

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The hike up the walls above Kotor is not very strenuous. In our estimation it is suitable for people of almost all ages and fitness levels. The ground can be quite uneven, so you might want to bring footwear with more support than flip flops.

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It should take you no more than a hour to crest to the top of the fortress of Saint John. From there you have a couple of different options on how to get back down. There is a goat trail that winds down the other side of the walls, but the hike in that direction is not as picturesque.

Pick up a map at the entrance for some more information on the various trails leading down.  Whatever you decide to do make sure not to miss out on climbing the fortifications. If you do you will be missing on one of the the very best things to do in Kotor.

The walls of Kotor at night

At night the walls and fortifications above Kotor are brightly illuminated.

To get an good idea of the awesome scale of Kotor’s fortifications take a walk around the bend of the bay for about 20 minutes. You’ll find a few quite spots along the way with great views for your troubles.

 

Check Out the Gorgeous, and Tiny Town of Perast

Visiting Perast on Kotor Bay Montenegro

Visiting Perast needs to be on everyone’s Things to do in Kotor list. Located just a few kilometers from Kotor, the town of Perast is an absolute GEM.

Perast might appear like a one promenade town at first, but this Venetian beauty contains 16 churches and 15 Italian style mansions. Venice ruled over Perast for 350 years, and its impact on architecture and culture is still keenly on display. This is partly why Perast is sometimes referred to as “Montenegro’s Venice”.

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The town’s promenade is lined with cafes and small courtyards, and is ideal for an easy day of slow and enjoyable meandering. Sitting upon the edge of the bay while sipping a cold beverage on a hot Adriatic day is an absolute pleasure in this gorgeous little town.

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If you want to visit Perast on your own, there are buses leaving Kotor’s main bus station every 30 minutes and costs about €1.50. It’s a 20 minute ride, although car traffic can get a little messy on the one road that runs through Kotor’s center.

Alternatively you can hire boat transfer. Various prices and packages are offered by the many operators promoting their wares in the harbor and within the Old Town.

 

Hop Aboard a Boat Bound for Our Lady of the Rocks

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The Church of Our Lady of the Rocks sits atop a small man made island just a hop, skip, and a jump from Perast’s docks. The diminutive islet plays host to the church, a fascinating museum, a small gift shop, and a tiny lighthouse.

Our Lady of the Rocks is the only man island on the Adriatic Sea, making it doubly unique. Constructed in the 15th century there is much myth surrounding the island, and a few local folk traditions that live on to this day.

Gorgeous views on the bay are available in all directions, making the island an interesting place to stop and take photographs on. However, the church and its attached museum are both certainly worth the small price of admission.

The museum is packed with art, displaying works by painters from Perast’s storied past, including a hand crafted tapestry that took 25 YEARS to craft. We found it a quick, yet enriching, glimpse into the region’s past.

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Most group tours that visit Perast will also include a trip out to Our Lady of the Rocks. If you are exploring on your own make sure to include the island, and its church, in any trip from Kotor to Perast.

Explore Kotor Bay

Kotor Bay offers a wealth of water-based activities. Kayaking, swimming, cruising, and water skiing are all available at the right price.

While some activities are obviously seasonal, the Bay can be explored with ease eight months out of the year.

Visit Dobrec Beach and the Blue Cave

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Situated the the mouth of Kotor Bay, these two destinations are well worth the hour long boat ride it takes to reach them.

We highly recommend hiring Blue Cave Tours for a private tour of Kotor Bay. Their four to five hour boat tour includes stops at the afore mentioned Our Lady of the Rock church and island, a scenic boat ride to the Blue Cave and other surround caves (with time to swim at each), and a stop at Dobrec Beach.

The first stop on our tour was the Blue Cave, which is absolutely stunning. While its beauty is somewhat detracted by the sheer number of tourists and boats crammed into the small space, it’s not to be missed.

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After the Blue Cave our captain transported us to one of the many other incredible nearby caves, where our only company was the fish and bats who reside in them. It was a refreshing contrast to the Blue Cave’s chaotic atmosphere.

 

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Once we had our fill of swimming in the turquoise enveloped caves, we headed to Dobrec Beach, a private little sea-side harbor that can only be reached by boat. The beach’s only business, a quaint little restaurant, serves up fine seafood dishes, drinks, and a heavy dose of summer sun from its deck chairs.

Climb Mount Lovcen

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Photo by SarahTz / CC 2.0

If you thought the views from Kotor’s fortifications were amazing, you really need to hike all the way up to the top of Mount Lovcen. On a clear day you can get views not only of Kotor, of the entire Bay spreading out before you.

Sadly, we don’t have any pictures of our own to share with you. Somehow, stupidly, we never got around to undertaking the hike ourselves. We can’t even blame it on the heat of August, we just straight up forgot to do this. We feel like utter failures about it, so why don’t YOU go to Kotor, hike up Lovcen, and share YOUR photos with us?

The Best Hostel and Hotels in Kotor 

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  • Old Town Hostel – East Wing, West Wing: Hands down, the best hostel in Kotor. Even the Telegraph, Lonely Planet, and TripAdvisor agree. You can’t beat the location of the Old Town Hostel, the activities offered by the hostel, and lively social setting. Visit the following links for reviews or to book your stay at Old Town Hostel East Wing or Old Town Hostel West Wing. If you are a backpaker traveling in Kotor make sure to put a stay in the Old Town Hostel on you “Things to do in Kotor” list.
  • Hotel Vardar: If you’re looking for a beautiful boutique hotel, in a historic Old Town building, Hotel Vardar is for you. Even if you don’t stay there, we recommend stopping by for a coffee or drink in their beautiful bar and restaurant. Visit the following links for reviews or to book your stay.
  • Apartment Ivan: If you’re looking for a budget hotel or apartment in Kotor, you should consider Apartment Ivan. It’s located just a few minutes walk from the Old Town center, has an incredibly nice staff, and some of the rooms have stunning views of the bay. Visit the following links for reviews or to book your stay.

the bay of kotor in montenegro

Kotor on a Backpacking Budget

Kotor offers backpackers and budget travelers a wide variety of potential activities to partake in, incredible views to catch sight of, and centuries of history to absorb. It’s pretty safe to say that there is something for everyone to do in Kotor.

We had a great time exploring Kotor Bay for two weeks, and Montenegro was pleasantly inexpensive after a month of traveling around Croatia. Backpackers and budget travelers visiting Kotor during the high summer season can easily manage to take in the town and the Bay for under $40 per day per person. Thrift travelers with a slightly larger budget can partake in all sorts of water activities, rent a private apartment upon the bay, and eat out for most meals all for under $80 a day.

If you add up all that Kotor has to offer, and factor in its relative affordability, it becomes a no-brainer destination for anyone exploring the Adriatic coast.

That does it for us folks.

As always safe travels to you all. We’ll see you on the road!

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What to do in Kotor, Montenegro


 

Big thank you to the Tourism Organisation of Kotor for the information they provided and for sponsoring parts of our visit to Kotor. As always, opinions expressed are 100% our own.

Disclaimer – We have included a few handy little affiliate links in case any of our readers want to book accommodations. We receive a small commission for any sales made, without any additional cost to you, our dear reader.


3 thoughts on “Exploring Montenegro – Things to Do in Kotor

    1. Anne, I agree. Even though there are a lot of tourists during summer, it does feel a bit untouched! Glad you got to visit. It’s a fantastic destination. 🙂

  1. I went in mid September – there were still cruise ships, but not the inevitable (and undesirable) summer crush.
    I stayed a few nights, using it as a base to visit Perast, Herceg Novi, and Budva for a day each.
    I adored Kotor, a compact city oozing charm, history and great value for money. I’m a sucker for UNESCO heritage sites,
    which Kotor is – I’ve visited 5 of the 7 in Croatia, too.
    The walk up to the fortress, though a shade arduous, was one of the absolute highlights ever!
    The views over the town, bay and neighbouring villages literally took my breath away.
    Great article and pics, I strongly recommend a visit – before the rest of the world catches on to how spectacular this town, bay and country is! <3

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