The Croatian coast can be a bit daunting during the summer months. Europeans (namely, the Brits) flood in droves to the port towns of Dubrovnik and Split, and massive cruise ships regularly release up to 6,500 of their guests into the narrow, winding stone streets and onto hot, pebbly beaches. But go a bit south to Montenegro and the crazy town crowds can be avoided. Well, for the most part anyway.
While smaller cruise lines can still navigate from the Adriatic Sea into and around the fingers of the Kotor Bay, and a number of local tourists take advantage of the gorgeous and scenic back roads leading down the Montenegrin mountains into the bay, Kotor manages to keep the floods of people at arms’ length. At least, for the time being. Ten years ago, this UNESCO World Heritage site was almost completely under the radar. Then Loney Planet named it the top city to visit in 2016. Now the secret’s out and the bear-ability clock is ticking.
So when a free weekend popped up in the middle of August, Brendan and I did what we do best – downloaded new Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me episodes, packed the cooler and jumped in the car.
The road to Kotor heads directly south from Sarajevo, up through Sutjeska National Park and has so many gorgeous river-lined mountain gorges and sheer, dramatic peaks it’s almost silly. And while you’ll wait forever at the border crossing between Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro (thanks to dozens of rafting companies darting back and forth between the countries, and the fact that the actual crossing happens over a one-lane bridge), it was completely worth it for the experience and to get an up-close look at the raging, turquoise Tara River.
And a few hours later, the winding road dropped us down to sea level in Morinji and onto the two-lane road that skirts the bay. We headed southeast, through Perast and Dobrota to Kotor, nestled at the tip of the eastern finger.
This little town is stunning – from the mountain sunsets to the brilliantly blue bay to the meticulously maintained old town.
Kotor’s origins date back centuries, with one of the earlier mentions being during the time of Emperor Justinian (of Constantinople fame), around 535 A.D.. Like the rest of the Balkans, it has changed hands routinely over the years, from Roman to Venetian to Austro-Hungarian rule, retaining each’s contribution to architecture and culture.
Today it is filled with restaurants, boutiques, antique stores, cat museums, and dozens of gelato stands.
During our stay, almost every little square had live music, and the alleys were lined with artwork and souvenirs.
Since we were only there for a couple days, we decided to split our time between the city of Kotor and the surrounding area on the Adriatic.
We spent one day on the peninsula, lounging on beach after beach until we were sun-soaked and starving.
These people know how to vacation.
And we splurged for a waterfront dinner at sunset (Konoba Portun did not disappoint!).
We spent our last full day wandering around Old Town and climbing the gravity-defying walls to the famous St. John Fortress, perched atop the cliffs bordering the eastern edge of the city.
Check out those views! We were gross, sweaty messes and it was 100% worth it.
Like all our trips, it was too short. Someone needs to come visit and give us an excuse to return!