Kotor is a town nestled in a bay of the same name, towards the north of the Montenegro coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Used as a strategic fort for centuries; Kotor eventually prospered under Venetian rule, a fact reflected in the now familiar architecture of the old town walls, buildings and squares of its beautifully preserved medieval old town.
The incredible beauty of the Bay of Kotor has become common knowledge and tourists flock there by the thousands each year, with giant cruise ships now docking directly opposite the old town itself. We were there for three nights to climb the ancient fortifications, take a boat ride to a shipwreck island and check out a museum dedicated to cats.
We arrived to Tivat airport indirectly from Athens. In fact, trying to get from Greece to Montenegro in any reasonable amount of time proved to be impossible, with either limited or no train services through Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo; our options were extreme bus travel (18 hours & multiple changes), or expensive flights. To save time and energy, we reluctantly chose the flights.
To get from Athens to Tivat in ‘low season’ (May), you have to fly via Belgrade. Our flight with Olympic Air (Agean Air) cost €183.60 for both of us, and took around an hour twenty minutes. We had a four hour stop-over in Belgrade airport, then a 50 minute flight with Air Serbia to Tivat which cost us another €118. That’s €150.80 each for roughly two hours in the air and a lot of joyful airport waiting time. Not to mention getting up at 4am to catch the first flight, still boozy from Raki…
Unless you can find a flight to either Tivat or Podgorica, you will arrive in Montenegro via bus, most likely from nearby Croatia. It’s worth checking flight prices to Dubrovnik and considering bus or transfer from there, depending on where you fly from. It might be a whole lot cheaper.
Once in Tivat we were collected from the airport by our kind host and enjoyed the short journey to our accommodation. It’s about a 20 minute journey from Tivat to Kotor and buses depart from the airport regularly, costing something like €2.40. A taxi might cost €15 – €20, but that’s pure speculation as we never used one.
Kotor is small enough to walk everywhere, so you don’t need to worry about local transport too much. We used the buses to explore some other areas of the bay and found them cheap and easy to use.
Hint – Direct flights to Tivat in low season are only available from Moscow or Belgrade. Consider flying to Podgorica, or weigh up prices of connecting flights and consider landing in Tiran or Dubrovnik, and getting a bus or shuttle from there. In high season there should be direct flights from most European countries.
Using Airbnb we found a nice apartment about 20 minutes walk to the old town centre in an area called Dobrota, for €34.50 per night. It had a full kitchen so we were able to buy groceries and significantly reduce food costs, and our host provided us with beautiful wine from his family vineyard. You can check out the Airbnb listing HERE.
Hostels in Kotor have dorm beds starting from €11 per night, and averaging around €17 per night. The two most highly rated hostels are Montenegro Hostel 4U in Dobrota, and Old Town Hostel, which is…in the old town.
Bnb’s and rental apartments vary in cost depending on how close to the old town you want to be and the season you visit. In high season, for somewhere around 20 mins walk away like we were, you can expect to pay between €25 and €40 for a good double room, and between €35 and €75 for a whole apartment. In the old town centre you can get a good double room for between €30 and €60, and an apartment from €55.
Hotels have expanded all along the bay so take note of the location before you book, although most larger hotels will offer a shuttle service. Double rooms start from around €50 per night for something good, and from €120 for something fancy.
Hint – There’s no need to stay within the old town walls, in fact it would mean it’s harder to escape the crowds. There is plenty of fantastic accommodation within easy walking distance and often at a better price.
While Kotor itself is quite small, there’s a fair bit to do in the surrounding area. I would say at least two full days is enough time to spend there, but if you have three days you could explore the area at a relaxed pace, with lazy evening walks along the water.
The old town itself is a nice place to spend a few hours wandering, I would recommend either going first thing in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the cruise ship crowds, although even stepping a few streets back from the main squares is more than most manage. The area is almost entirely dedicated to tourism but there are a few local gems if you have the desire to find them; such as the cat museum, for the feline fascinated. It costs €1 to visit and is worth it for the novelty alone.
If you fancy a good hike you can explore the ruins of the Fortifications of Kotor that loom high above the old town, and the walls and paths that extend either side of the mountain. Entrance to the walls is €3 and we found it to be the best experience we had in Kotor. From the old town to the very top of the fortress takes about 1.5 hours with a lot of breaks, and is moderately difficult, although we did see a lady climbing in heels! The views all the way are spectacular and offer the best panoramas of the bay that you will see. If you are feeling adventurous, take the ‘very dangerous’ path back down (not really very dangerous), the path less travelled is a slower, more peaceful route with stunning arrays of wild flowers.
We dedicated half a day to visit Perast; a town about 20 minutes bus ride along the bay. The town itself is an impressive collection of former Baroque palaces; now gigantic holiday homes and lavish gardens all but empty until high season. The main attraction however is the Our Lady Of The Rocks church; built on an island made of shipwrecks in the middle of the bay. It’s a €5 (€4 if you haggle) return per person, 10 minute boat ride out to the island and you really want at least 45 minutes out there. If you want to check out the museum, which I recommend, then entry there is €1. To get a ride just walk along where the boats are docked and choose the guy with the best t-shirt to take you, you’ll know when you see him. Getting to and from Perast is easy, use the blue line bus that departs just outside the old town main entrance. A one way journey is €1 to €1.50 per person.
For an amazing and stupidly cheap meal, check out grill house ‘Tanjga‘, a tiny place opposite the casino (you’ll know). You can order whatever meat you like and they charge you by weight, then you can add chips, grilled veges and salad. That’s it. It’s bang-up real food by locals, for a great price. Our meal for two including wine and takeaway leftovers was €16.
Hint – Try some mussels in Perast at ‘Konoba Skolji‘; we were basking in the garlic glory for hours and one €7 serving was enough for both of us.
Kotor for three nights;
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