Montenegro has a never ending list of things to do. The people of Montenegro definitely know how to get out and enjoy their beautiful country. So during our two week stay there was never a problem finding things to do in Kotor.
Here is my list of Things To Do In Kotor, based on what we did in the two weeks we were there:
Blue Cave Tour
Not being one for tours J. had to talk me into the speed boat tour of the blue cave and the submarine tunnel. Man am I glad he did. We started out in the Bay of Kotor and then took a beautiful trip on a speed boat through the Bay and out into the open water of the sea. At first I was a little bummed the boat was full but it ended up being a fantastic trip where we talked to everyone, laughed and met some great people.
Okay, the point of the tour…We were going to see and swim in the Blue Cave. We were lucky to be going during April so the cave wouldn’t be full of boats, people and fumes. However this meant cold water. The locals thought we were crazy for even contemplating jumping in but when you are on vacay it is hard not to do things you may never get to do again regardless of the weather.
The thing that is special about the Blue Cave is the reflection of the sunlight through the cave which makes the water an iridescent blue when anything touches it. So of course we had to jump in just to see how we looked as iridescent blue people in the water. Unfortunately the water temp was in the low to mid 60’s! Most people declined jumping in but then three guys jumped in all screaming and getting out of the water as quickly as possible. I had to make up my mind whether or not to jump. Even though they tried to talk me out of it I was already in my bathing suit so I had to go, I might never get this chance again, right? So I jumped into the water, the icy cold water, and without screaming managed to pose for several pictures before swimming back to the boat to try to warm up. It was a cool experience definitely worth doing, although maybe wait until the water is a bit warmer.
The tour also included a stop at the submarine tunnel. I honestly thought this was going to be a waste of time but it ended up being a fabulous part of the tour. I mean how many times in your life can you take a boat into a World War II tunnel where submarines used to hide? Inside the mountain is a cemented tunnel where submarines would pull in during the war to hide from enemies. The hole of the tunnel was creatively crafted to open and close on levers. The gates themselves are a mesh (think chain link fence) which is covered in substances made to look exactly like rocks and foliage on the surrounding mountain. When subs would pull in and the gates would close no one could find them.
The tunnels are such a rare and special sight they were included in the movie Casino Royale.
Our Lady Of The Rocks
In Kotor Bay there are two islets serving as bases for two small churches. The first islet, Sveti Dorde is not open to tourists. The second islet is Our Lady of the Rocks. The legend of the islet is that for centuries seamen, keeping a vow after finding a statue of Madonna and a child on a rock in this location in 1452, would bring rocks back after successful sea voyages. They would pile these rocks in the location where the statue was found. Eventually these rocks built the islet and a church was erected here. The church completely surprised me. It is very elegant and ornate, not what I expected from such a small church on a tiny islet. It is worth the trip over to see the church and take in the astonishing view from the island.
If you are lucky enough to be in Kotor Bay on July 22nd you can witness the locals bringing their boats to the islet and throwing rocks in the water every year, thus continuing the tradition and the expansion of the islet.
We took the tour with Golden Waves and enjoyed the speed boat trip over from Kotor.
Located on the mainland about thirty minutes from Kotor (or just across the water from Our Lady Of The Rocks) is the town of Perast. The shoreline of Perast is filled with ancient palaces (there are 17 in this tiny little town) and churches (16 to be exact). The white stone buildings reflect the gorgeous sunshine year round, welcoming you to sit and enjoy a leisurely lunch along the sea. We spent about an hour here just walking through the streets. There are some newer buildings mixed in with the old but Perast still maintains a feeling of being untouched by tourists and time.
You can get there by boat on a tour, or by local bus.
St. John’s Fortress
In the past St. John’s hill (actually quite a large mountain, 3,043 feet tall) has served as a natural protection from invaders. It is home to St. John’s fortress which stands 1355 steps up from the town. A hike up to the fortress, along its 72 switchbacks, is not for the faint of heart. However, it is definitely worth the climb. The views are astonishing along the entire route. You can read more about our journey up to the fortress here.
I would definitely recommend going early in the morning before the heat and the crowds. Bring water! Once you reach the top take some time to enjoy the view of the valley between the mountains, it is quite special with ruins and farmers homes. It took us several hours to make it up and back down the mountain. We took our time and enjoyed the journey which I definitely recommend.
The Serpentine Road
Climbing 1400 feet (423 meters) the Serpentine Road is one of the most famous roads in the world. It is both beautiful and slightly terrifying to people afraid of heights, or one and a half lane roads with thousand foot drops and no side rails. J. and I decided not to do the drive ourselves, not just because we felt unqualified to maneuver the 16 hairpin turns over the 5 mile journey but also because we wanted to enjoy the scenery along the way. Anja was our guide for the day (who turned out to be a great friend). She has been driving the road her entire life so for her it is second nature.
Finished in 1884 the road is well maintained and quite treacherous at many points (at least for American drivers). The views of Tivat, Kotor, Kotor Bay and the Adriatic are absolutely breathtaking. Even though J. was terrified most of the drive, he is afraid of heights and roads without guardrails, even he admits it can’t be missed when you are in Kotor, Tivat or Budva. The roads are lined with beautiful trees, flowers and a few locals brave enough to sell their local honey, cheese and grappa.
If you decide to travel the road during the busy months of July and August get an early start to beat the traffic jam of the tour buses and visitors making their way up the mountain. You can travel this road to get to Njegusi and Lovcen National Park.
If you are looking for picturesque, picture perfect, serene, lush, and private then Njegusi is the place for you. Set in a valley of the Lovcen mountains of Kotor this small little village is about as perfect as you can get. Mostly undiscovered it is still home to locals to who brave the winter cold to make cheese, meats, grappa and honey. They farm the land there and host visitors in Eco-houses, offering them a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle, breathe clean air and sleep like they have never slept before.
Njegusi is a great place to find authentic Montenegrin architecture. There are a few restaurants in Njegusi, along with a store and some locals selling their dried meats, cheeses and liquors. In a 2011 census there were 35 declared inhabitants in Njegusi, 33 Montenegrins, 1 Russian and 1 person who didn’t want to declare their ethnicity. Montenegrins spend a good bit of time vacationing in Njegusi to relax and unwind. It is a great half day trip from Kotor, especially if you drive up the Serpentine road or are on your way to Lovcen.
Lovcen National Park & Masoleum of Petar II
Lovcen National Park is a breathtaking area full of mountainous peaks, lush valleys, villages, a lake and the Mausoleum of Petar II. While we were there in April there was still snow on the gorgeous mountains, hidden in crevices untouched by the beautiful Montenegrin sun. Driving from Kotor to Lovcen we slowly slipped away from humanity into a peaceful surrounding of nature. As far as your eye can see at any point there is never a point where we weren’t in awe.
Our destination was the Mausoleum, perched about 5,300 feet up from sea level. The Mausoleum was built in 1974 at the top of one of the two Lovcen mountain peaks. It is the home of the remains of Petar II who was a beloved Prince, Bishop, Philospher and Poet. After winding our way along the road to the Mausoleum, and playing in snow, we began our trek up the 461 steps to the Mausoleum. At this point in our travels 461 steps isn’t that big of a deal but at 5,300 the thin air added a challenge we weren’t expecting.
The locals come to the Mausoleum not only to pay tribute to the beloved leader but also to enjoy the incredible 360 degree views of Montenegro. It is breathtaking to stand at the viewpoint and take in the sea, the mountains, the lakes and cities of Montenegro from this beautiful vantage point.
Lake Skadar National Park
We took a day trip from Kotor to Lake Skadar which was not only a beautiful destination but a breathtaking drive. Our driver, Jovana, took us on the route around the ocean where we saw all the coastal towns and then through gorgeous mountains full of lush evergreens and valleys.
Once we arrived at Lake Skadar we went on a boat ride around the lake, taking in the beautiful natural surroundings, the ancient buildings and hiking up to a monastery. The lake sits partly in Montenegro and partly in Albania. It is the largest lake in Southern Europe. I really enjoyed this but J. was a little disappointed (mostly because it was pretty hot that day I think).
The boat driver did warn that during the summer months it can get really hot on the boats, and the lake so if you go during July or August plan ahead and take water.
Drink coffee at Verige 65
The beautiful restaurant Verige 65 is a destination on its own. We had coffee here with our friend Anja one day which was absolutely divine. The views are incredible as Verige 65 sits right at the neck of the Bay. We sat outside enjoying the view, watching the boats go by and sipping great coffee.
The food at Verige 65 is supposed to be delicious and the atmosphere inside the restaurant is beautiful, perfectly suited for their spot on a cliff in Kotor Bay. Painted on the side of the patio is this saying which I think sums it all up perfectly, ” At the birth of the planet the most beautiful encounter between land and sea must have been on the Montenegro coast.”-Lord Byron
Buy handmade jewelry at Alberto Jewelry store
While we were walking around the old town in Kotor we stumbled upon a family owned jewelry store called Alberto’s. He makes and designs his own jewelry which is really unique and beautiful. The business has been in his family since 1960. J. even had a custom ring made at Alberto’s while we were there. He and his wife are lovely people who help feed the stray cats and dogs in Kotor. (Kotor, Stari Grad 388)
If you have been to Kotor and have other recommendations of things to do leave a comment, I would love to hear about your journey!