Montenegro, meaning black mountain, is a country rich in nature. For its small size, it packs a lot of lush forests, lakes, and mountain ranges, and the unique city of Kotor, Montenegro is no exception. Situated in the Bay of Kotor, decorated with coastal cliffs and Venetian architecture, Kotor is a gorgeous sight. The city is a mixture of Dubrovnik’s medieval feel and the natural beauty of a Norwegian fjord amidst mountain ranges. Your eye and camera lens will be delighted with the many shades of blue, emerald green, terracotta, and affectionate street cats that will photobomb your frame. For any feline fanatics, there is even a Cat Museum in Kotor!
Usually, tourists zip through Kotor on day tours, road trips, or from cruise liners that dock in the bay. However, we had the pleasure of calling Kotor home for a week as we thoroughly explored the town and its surroundings. So, in this post, not only will you find the top things to do in Kotor, Montenegro, but also some local insider tips. Our first tip is to stay in Kotor for more than a night. Then, make it your base for the Montenegro journey because there is much to see in and around Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our second tip is to come in the spring or fall months to avoid the crowds at their peak during the summer.
Explore the Old Town of Kotor
Start your Kotor, Montenegro sightseeing by exploring the Old Town. It is undeniably the most popular part of Kotor, the part most frequented by tourists, especially the cruisers. So, we recommend visiting in the early morning or the evening when the tours clear.
The Old Town, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, is an abundance of Venetian architecture, narrow passages, and fortifications. Visit the Saint Tryphon Cathedral, erected in the 12th century, and climb up to the balcony for lovely views of the square, which used to be the main assembly point in town. The Old Town is also where you will find some of Kotor’s best restaurants, but more on that a bit later.
Climb Up to the Castle of San Giovanni
Climb 1350 steps along a path of about 1.2km to the Castle of San Giovanni, situated above the Old Town. There are plenty of resting spots along the way, and the vista gets better with each one. Aside from being a fantastic hike, the breathtaking views you will get from the top over the entire Kotor, Montenegro bay are jaw-dropping. Because of Kotor’s position nestled in a mountain range, the city doesn’t get a proper sunrise or sunset. If you are trying to decide what time to climb, we recommend the evening because the city illuminates with lights when the sun goes down, and it is a beautiful sight.
You could take an alternative route to the castle, called the Ladder of Kotor. It is more scenic and peaceful and with small churches along the way.
Visit Our Lady of the Rocks
Now that you’ve gotten to know Kotor by land, time to rent a boat and explore the bay. Kotor’s perfect location makes the Bay of Kotor very accessible, which you can see on a boat tour. Alternatively, you can rent a standup paddleboard or a kayak if you are up for a challenge. The best part is exploring the caves inside the Adriatic Sea’s cliffs.
The Lady of the Rocks (Island Gospa od Skrpjela) is located in the sea across from the town of Perast. So, another way to get to the island is by combining your visit with a road trip to Perast or getting a tour boat from Kotor.
The Lady of the Rocks is an artificial island with a church. The legend has it the church was erected because the fishermen found an icon of the Holy Mother of God with Christ on a rock after a shipwreck. The tradition of bringing rocks to the island for maintenance is still alive today and can be observed during a festival in July.
If you are curious about what Kotor would have looked like in the past and without the crowds, then you should add Perast to your day trip. Although there is not much to see in Perast apart from historical architecture, churches, and a few restaurants, this is the place to be if you are craving peace and quiet at the beach. A slice of paradise only 20 minutes away from Kotor.
Visit the Blue Cave
We took a day trip to see the Blue Cave. It was an hour’s boat ride from the harbor in Kotor. The ride was a bit long, but worth the effort. We loved the salty swim in the cave and the water was as blue as the pictures show.
Indulge at Local Restaurants
The obvious specialty in Kotor to indulge in is seafood, but Turkish and Italian cuisine are the other popular options. You will also find cevlapi as the common dish across most menus – grilled meat. And while you are visiting Montenegro, you want to make sure to try the local wine. Like Albania and Bulgaria, Montenegro has a very underrated wine scene.
Here are the restaurants we enjoyed the most in Kotor.
La Catedral Pasta Bar was our favorite place to eat while in Kotor. We frequented it so often that the waiters knew what we wanted. The tables are outside and mostly in the shade, so if you’re there during the summer, you’ll love sitting and eating here. Bev loved the Boscaola and John loved the Chicken and Pesto.
Galion restaurant offers a modern take on traditional dishes in a fine dining setting with stunning views from the terrace over the Bay of Kotor and the Old Town.
Old Winery Wine Bar has a great collection of Montenegrin wines and is the best place to come to sample them. Montenegro specializes in red wines, but you will be safe in the hands of the knowledgeable staff at the Old Winery. They are ready to explain the grape varieties, make recommendations, and pairing suggestions. You can be seated outside, and people watch or enjoy the cellar-like interior of the restaurant.
Cesarica is one of the best restaurants in the city. A cozy family-run restaurant serving traditional food is a local favorite, and you should order seafood at this restaurant.
Take a Day Trip to Lovcen National Park
You can arrive at one of the five nature reserves in Montenegro, Lovcen National Park in just under an hour. For hiking aficionados, this is an ideal day trip. The park is full of moderate trails, reaching up to 1749 meters in elevation, dotted with lookout points over stunning Montenegro.
Spend the Night at Durmitor National Park and Tara Canyon
The second national park that should be on your Montenegro itinerary is Durmitor National Park. It’s located 3 hours away from Kotor, and it’s best to spend the night and enjoy the park without feeling rushed because there is so much to do in the area.
Durmitor National Park has many hiking trails of varying difficulty and length and stunning lakes to marvel at. The best time to trek the national park is in the summer months. Make sure to bring food with you because aside from restaurants in the lodges, there is nothing else except pristine nature.
If you are not a fan of white water rafting, which is the thing to do in Tara Canyon, you can simply enjoy the hikes in the area and the breathtaking views from the top.
Marvel at the Ostrog Monastery
The Ostrog monastery is only two and a half hours away from Kotor. You can either drive to the monastery independently or take an organized tour. Once you arrive, you will go on a scenic hike for an hour before reaching the unique monastery built into the side of a cliff. It’s an incredible sight that offers panoramic views and undeniably one of the most unusual monasteries in Europe.
Adding Kotor to your Balkan itinerary will be your best decision, and we guarantee you will fall in love with the city’s sheer beauty and unique scenery. For such a small country, Montenegro is brimming with nature, history, and culture waiting for you to come and explore.