The Bay of Kotor is one of the top things to do in Kotor and Montengro travel guide

12 Best Things To Do In Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro, is one of Europe’s well-kept secrets. Located just 2 hours south of hot-spot Dubrovnic, this UNESCO listed fairytale-esque city, situated between rugged mountains and the tranquil, clear blue waters of the Adriatic Sea, is an historic gem. With its well-preserved medieval walls and epic views from the ruined fortress on its craggily hilltop, Kotor is definitely worth a visit, with plenty of charm and things to do. This post covers the best things to do in Kotor.

Mountain top views of the Bay of Kotor is one of the best things to do in Kotor
Kotor

Kotor sits on the southern side of the Bay of Kotor, also known as the Boka. This bay is sometimes referred to as the southernmost fjord in the world. But, rather than being cut by glaciers, this area is actually a submerged river canyon. It’s no less stunning though, providing epic views from Montenegro’s ”black mountains”. In fact, it’s in UNESCO’S Most Beautiful Bays In The World Club.

Kotor | Ggia

Best Things To Do In Kotor

While many visit Kotor as a day trip, it really deserves at least one night. Even better, stay several days, like I did, using Kotor as a base to explore some of Montenegro’s other enchanting villages and sites, as well as the city itself.

Explore Kotor’s Old Town

Explore Kotor’s narrow cobbled, pedestrian streets, to see its charming, ancient stone-buildings, lovely squares, churches, shops and cafes. Under Venetian rule for almost 400 years, Kotor feels a bit like an old Italian village. And although this city gets its share of tourists, it’s still full of locals and their families, making it feel less touristic and more authentic. Especially on important football nights, when the whole town seems to be out watching the game in open-air venues.

Explore The City’s Medieval Fortress Walls

Exploring the medieval walls is one of the top things to do in Kotor.

Kotor’s old medieval fortress walls, surrounding the village, go all the way up San Giovanni, or Saint John, Hill to the fortress.

San Giovanni Hill is so imposing, you can barely see the massive walls, but if you look closely, you see them all along the mountainside.

Some sections were built in the 9th century, but most date to the 17th and 18th century, when the Venetians ruled here.

Lined with bastions, watch towers, shelters, barracks, ramparts, and more, these walls along with the city gates kept the townspeople well-protected from invaders.

Kampana Tower, a bastion in northern Kotor, near Scurda River, is the perfect area to explore the walls, with lovely views along their tops.

The walls below are from the south side of the city. And if you look closely, you can see the flag from the fortress ruins at Saint Giovanni’s peak (left).

Exploring the medieval walls are one of the best things to do in Kotor.
Kotor’s Medieval Walls

Hike To Saint John Fortress

Saint John Fortress, also known as San Giovanni Fortress, the Castle of Saint John, and Sveti Ivan, sits at the top of San Giovanni Hill, offering stunning views of Kotor Old Town and Boka Bay. Fortifications have been here from Illyrian times, long before Byzantine Emperor Justinian I built a fortress here in the 6th century.

Since then, it’s been destroyed and rebuilt many times. All that remains today are ruins, but they’re still well worth the hike up.

The fee to hike up the 3,500 steps up is about 8€. There is a secret, free, zig-zag path up the side of the mountain, called the Ladder of Kotor, but the back door to the fortress at the top is reportedly now closed, so you need to go up the proper way.

As you hike, you’ll pass the 16th century Church of Our Lady of Remedy at the halfway point. This church makes a great rest, and photo stop.

Make sure to bring water, especially if it’s a hot day. Sun protection is also a good idea. The ground can also be a bit uneven and a bit slippery, so wear good shoes.

The view from the top makes all the effort worth it. I think it’s particularly nice in late afternoon to see the sun setting.

Hiking to St. John’s fortress is one of the best things to do in Kotor.
View From San Giovanni Fortress

If you want to hike higher (which I can never resist), continue along the zig-zag path up beyond the fortress, all the way to the top for truly breathtaking views. Making it even more spectacular, you’ll likely be the only person there (along with some curly-horned mountain sheep).

Mountain top views of the Bay of Kotor is one of the best things to do in Kotor
Beautiful Bay of Kotor

Saint Tryphon Cathedral

Named after Saint Tryphon, the protector of Kotor, this Roman Catholic cathedral contains his relics. It’s also the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of the Bay of Kotor.

Saint Tryphon Cathedral is one of the best things to do in Kotor
Saint Tryphon

You can visit this church for a few Euro to see the small museum with religious and cultural artifacts. While there, head up to the balcony for the view.

Saint Nicholas’s Cathedral

Known for its twin domes and Serbian flag, Saint Nicholas Church is Kotor’s Serbian Orthodox Church. Visit for the marvelous mosaic on the ceiling near the entrance. Located in St. Luke’s square, this church is free.

Saint Luke’s Cathedral

This charming, one-nave church, built in the 12th century, is also in St. Luke’s square. It’s important historically for its role in Croat-Serb relations, as it once held two alters side by side, Catholic and Orthodox.

Maritime Museum

The Maritime museum is Kotor’s most visited museum. It’s located in a former palace, near St. Luke’s Church, and showcases the rich and battle-filled history of the Bay area, along with its many nautical treasures.

Kotor Cats Museum

Once a main port city, cats from its many ships historically roamed the streets of Kotor, and their descendants do the same today. Kotor is filled with cats and irresistible kitties living on the streets and they’re taken well care of by locals.

The Kotor Cats Museum is devoted to honoring all furry felines with vintage items from the 16th century to 1970.

Kotor Kitties

A portion of the small entrance fee and revenues from the gift shop help support the kitty community. Cats get free admittance 🙂

Explore Kotor’s Bay Area

During the day, you can swim in the bay (although the beaches of Kotor are pebbled), hire a taxi boat to explore the Bay of Kotor, or take one of the many speedboat cruises offered.

Exploring the Bay is one of the top things to do in Kotor
Kotor’s Bay

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Take a Day Trip To Perast

A day trip to Perast is one of the top things to do in Kotor. Charming Perast, just a short 30-minute boat ride away, has jaw dropping, panoramic views. It’s best to take a tour, which also covers the main sites along the way. I recommend this one: Our Lady of the Rocks, Mamula Island, and the Blue Cave, as it adds in the Blue Cave and rides past Mamula Island, which has an interesting history. If you don’t want a tour, you can hire a boat taxi or drive.

Our Lady of the Rocks, one of the top attractions in Perast, is an old church built on an islet created by sinking invader boats and rocks! This church was originally built in the 15th century when sailors found a painting of the Madonna and baby Jesus on this very spot. They decided it was a divine sign to build a church here. Old boats were filled with rocks and sunk there, and more rocks were added until an island, then the church, was created.

Our Lady of the Rocks Church is one of the top things to do in Perast.
Our Lady Of The Rocks Church

Since then, seafarers have stopped here for centuries to pray for safe passage.

Stunning Perast
Our Lady of the Rocks and Saint George

Swim In The Blue Cave

The Blue Cave is a fun stop on the way to Perast, where you can swim in what looks like fluorescent blue water. It’s located below the cliffs along the edge of the Luštica Peninsula. You can only get here by boat.

Tip: If you visit the Blue Cave, ask your tour guide in advance about timing. Reviews often mention too many boats and people, as well as fumes in the cave. My tour visited late afternoon and we were the only ones there, so were able to swim freely with no issues.

If you take a tour to see the Lady of the Rocks and the Blue Cave, your boat will also go past Mamula Island and Mamula Fortress, which is named after the Austria-Hungarian general, Lazar Mamula, who built the fortress in 1853. Later, during WWII, fascists used this as a concentration camp. Today, this fortress has been converted into a luxury hotel complex, the Mamula Island Hotel. I don’t know about you, but I definitely could not stay here knowing it was once a concentration camp.

Take a Day Trip To Budva

Budva is a coastal town, about a 40-minute drive southeast of Kotor. It’s known for its lively nightlife and beachfront location, but Budva also has an Old Town, with remnants of medieval walls and a citadel.

There’s also an island, Sveti Nikola Island, locally referred to as “Hawaii”. This uninhabited island, one nautical mile from Budva, is a popular excursion for its beaches.

A day trip to Budva is one of the top things to do in Kotor.
Sveti Nikola Island

Where To Stay In Kotor

Except for the beachfront locations (the splurges), these rooms are all centrally located, just a few steps, or a short walk, to the clock tower of Kotor.

Budget

  • I stayed in Centrum Hostel, which offers dorms for a budget price and is a great place to meet other travelers.
  • Guesthouse Nikoleta gets great reviews for location, but some complaints on the budget decor of this inexpensive option.

Affordable 

  • La Rocca Apartment Old Town Kotor is a 1 bedroom apartment with a kitchen. It has a queen bed and sofa bed so can sleep up to 4.
  • Old Town Heart offers 2 bedroom apartments with a kitchen in an old stone building. It has mountain and city views and sleeps up to 4.
  • Apartment Palata Bizanti is an apartment with a kitchenette in the heart of old town that gets high reviews. It has a queen bed and sofa bed, so can sleep up to 4.

Moderate

  • Fig Apartments are 2-bedroom apartments with a kitchen that offers city and mountain views.

Splurge

  • Hyatt Regency Kotor Bay Resort is a beachfront resort with a spa and wellness center, and a private beach with views of Kotor Bay. There is also a restaurant and a lounge.
  • Located a 10-minute walk from Virtu Beach, Corso Levante Luxury Suites Dobrota offers a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a private beach area and air-conditioned accommodations with a patio. Corso is in a renovated palace, making it pretty cool.

How To Get To Kotor

Fly

There are two international airports in Montenegro, Podgorica (TGD) and Tivat (TIV), but the airport in Dubrovnik, Čilipi airport (DBV), actually has the most flight options. Make sure to check visa requirements of both countries before booking a flight to Croatia though. It has different requirements as it’s now part of the Schengen.

Kotor is about 2 to 2 1/2 hours from Dubrovnik by bus or car. Note that some rentals cars will not let you cross the border though. It’s best to ask in advance if this is in your plan.

Kotor is only about 7 miles (11 km) from Tivat, so if you arrive here, you can take a taxi from the airport.

Podgorica, the capital of Montengro, is inland of Kotor by about an hour and a half. The best way to tracel from here is by bus or car.

Bus

Bus is a very convenient and inexpensive way to get around in Montenegro. In peak season, buy your tickets in advance and arrive at the station early. Buses have been known to oversell.

There are multiple buses daily from the Dubrovnik bus station to the Kotor bus station via Bus Croatia. Busticket4me provides other options. The ride takes about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The Dubrovnik airport is about a 25 minute taxi ride away from the Dubrovnik bus station. The Kotor bus station is close to the old town, so you can easily take a taxi.

Make sure to check visa requirements for both Croatia and Montenegro and have any paperwork as well as your visa and passport on the bus as you will cross country lines.

You can also use Bus Croatia to get from the Podgorica bus Station to the Kotor bus station. Busticket4me also provides options for this route as well.

Taxi

If arriving from Perast, or Budva, a taxi is an option as they are both about a 30-minute drive away. Taxi is more convenient as you’re not dependent on set schedules, but will cost more than the bus. You may also need to use a taxi to get to the bus stations, as they are a little away from the airports.

There are no Uber, Lyft, or other ride hailing apps in Montenegro, so you’ll need to use a standard taxi. Always make sure to use an official taxi that has a meter. Unofficial or “wild taxis” resort to well, wild practices. Use them at your own risk. Your hotel or Airbnb can help advise on the best taxi companies to call.

Self Drive

You can self drive in Montenegro, but the old city of Kotor is a pedestrian city, so you will need to find a place to park you car. There are paid parking lots, although you may be able to find a free spot on the street. Make sure to heed all warnings when parking on the street to avoid being towed. Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Drinking and driving is not tolerated here, so do not do this and you cannot use your phone while driving.

Best Time To Visit Kotor

The best time to visit Kotor is from May to October, although it can get very hot in the months of July and August. This is also peak tourist season, so it will be crowded in touristy areas. The shoulder seasons of late spring and early autumn are the most ideal times to visit.

If you want to visit during a festival, consider visiting in one of Kotor’s largest events, Boka Night, which is takes place in the second half of August. This beauty pageant for boats ends with fireworks and live music performances.

Want More Of Montenegro?

Montenegro has so much to offer and sits just south of travel-famous Croatia, making it easy to add on. In addition to Kotor, Perast, and Budva, noted above, there’s also Herceg Novi, which is northeast of Kotor. It’s on the northern end of the Bay of Kotor.

This small, medieval town sits at the foot of Mount Orjen, overlooking the bay. It’s full of lovely views, charming public squares, interesting churches, pebble beaches, and two 15th-16th century fortresses, Tvrđava Španjola and Kanli Kula, high above the town.

There’s also Lovćen National Park, which lies about an hour inland of Kotor. Topped with the Mausoleum of Njegoš, a famous Prince-Bishop of Montenegro, and laced with hiking trails, it offers stunning views.

Two other National Parks worth visiting include UNESCO listed Dormitor, noted for its variety of majestic terrain, and Lake Skadar, the biggest lake in the Balkans.

For more details on all the places to explore in this amazing country, as well as information on safety, scams, logistics, and more, read my Montenegro Travel Guide.

Safe Travels!

Julie

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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