Montenegro, and its scenic Bay of Kotor, is one of the Dalmatian Coast’s hidden treasures. Nestled in the mountainous terrain between Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, Montenegro is incredibly scenic and shockingly affordable. Although I would have jumped at the chance to spend our entire 10-day vacation here, we only allotted a half-day to spend in Kotor. Keep scrolling to find out how to best plan your day-trip to Kotor!
Getting There from Dubrovnik
The drive from Dubrovnik to the Bay of Kotor is relatively easy. Although the buses run back and forth all day, we decided to rent a car and drive it ourselves. There are many rental car options in Dubrovnik, but we decided to go through M.A.C.K. rentals. I would not suggest waiting until the morning of to arrange a car rental, as sometimes it can be a lengthy process and will definitely cut into the time you’ll have in Kotor. Instead, stop by the night before to arrange everything and pay ahead-of-time!
The route from Dubrovnik to Kotor is simple and pretty much a straight-shot. If you’re visiting in the off-season like we did, border control should be a breeze. It only took us 5-10 minutes to get through each way. If you plan to go during the summer be prepared for wait times to be anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. Don’t forget to bring your passport!
In total, the drive from Dubrovnik to Kotor took us about an hour and a half. On our way back we were able to cut off a good 40 minutes by taking the Lepetani-Kamenari Ferry across the bay. The ferry costs €4.50 per vehicle and takes only four minutes! Although the ferry is convenient, I would definitely suggest taking the long route at least one-way, the scenery is fantastic.
The Dalmatian Coast is a bit confusing when it comes to currency. Croatia, although it is part of the EU, takes the Croatian kuna, while Montenegro, which isn’t part of the EU, takes the euro. Although the euro is a lot stronger than the dollar, Montenegro is still one of the most affordable countries in Europe.
Make sure to avoid currency conversion shops and Euronet ATMs when withdrawing currency! I would suggest using a bank ATM to get cash whenever possible.
Where to Eat
No day-trip to Kotor is complete without trying some of Montenegro’s delicious seafood! City Restaurant in the middle of Pjaca Sv. Tripuna square, serves fresh seafood and refreshing beverages under a nice, shady awning. We stopped here for lunch and feasted on yummy seafood risotto and stuffed squid washed down with a frosty Točeno Nik beer and local wine.
Hike the City Walls
Our hike up the city walls was easily my favorite activity during our day-trip to Kotor! Nicknamed “The Great Wall of Kotor,” the walls circle the old city and then head straight up the cliff. Entry costs €3 from May-October, but the walls are free the rest of the year. Although walking the walls around the city is a great way to see some views, the real excitement lies in hiking up the 1350 steps to the Fortress of St. John. If you plan to walk all the way to the Fortress, expect the hike to take roughly 1.5 hours round-trip. Comfortable walking shoes are a must and don’t forget to pack plenty of water in the summer!
About halfway to the Fortress you’ll reach the Church of Our Lady of Remedy, which some people believe has special healing powers. A short walk up the hill from the church, you’ll find the best views of the Bay of Kotor. Pictures below!
Explore the Fortress of St. John
The views from the Fortress of St. John are the best reward after a strenuous hike! Completed in the 15th century, the Fortress was built to protect Kotor from possible invaders. Nowadays, the ruins remain as a reminder of Kotor’s rich history and spectacular scenery.
Fair warning, I wouldn’t recommend this hike if you’re afraid of heights. The walls were constructed in the 9th century and can be a bit run-down in spots. There are a few stretches where you are quite literally walking the side of a cliff.
Example A: below is the bridge you have to cross to enter the Fortress. It’s not sturdy and it’s not for the faint of heart!
Cathedral of St. Tryphon
Probably the most recognizable monument in Old Town Kotor, the Cathedral is the resting place of St. Tryphon, a 3rd century martyr and the patron saint of gardeners. Entrance will only set you back €2.50 and the inside is beautiful, although randomly enough I remember it also being freezing. The Cathedral has withstood four major earthquakes, including the quake that almost leveled Dubrovnik in 1667.
Wander through Kotor’s Old Town
Kotor is full of twisted alleyways, ancient architecture and hidden gems. Spend some time strolling around and exploring the old city. Don’t say no to grabbing an ice cold Točeno Nik or a gelato along the way!
Kotor’s Bell Tower, pictured below, is located directly through the Main Town Gate. Like the Cathedral of St. Tryphon, the Bell Tower is among the most recognized symbols in the city. The triangle in front of the Bell Tower was once the site where the city’s criminals and wrongdoers would be tied up for public harassment.
There’s loads more to do and see in Kotor, but keep in mind we only had six hours. If you plan to spend more than a half-day there, I would strongly suggest checking out Rick Steves’ guide “Croatia & Slovenia.” He dedicates a chapter to the Bay of Kotor and includes detailed driving directions, plenty of attractions and restaurant suggestions and a list of picturesque coastal towns to check out along the drive.
If you enjoyed my tips on how to best plan a day-trip to Kotor, make sure to follow my adventures on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps 🙂
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