Roaming around Kotor Bay
Montenegro is just stunning. Taking the bus in, I was prepared to take naps and wake up in another old town. But the scenic journey into this tranquil bay is worth staying awake for. Think calm waters, surrounded by mountains, and how this same winding road weaving in and out the wavy curves along the bay would eventually take youÂ to the beautiful old town of Kotor.
The Stari Grad of Kotor is one of the best preserved medieval urban entity in the Mediterranean. Old weathered walls surround a quaint old town that is enclosed with a wide spacious square. It’s hard to imagine all the history that comes with the cobbled stoned paths twisting within the labyrinth-like alleys. With patience and time, this submerged river canyon is naturally alluring seen from quiet spots, away from the cruise ships that come and drop off tourists in bulk.
It’s also an amazing place to meet other travellers who are going to/coming from Albania and Croatia. Many nights here were spent sharing backpacker adventures ! Staying at Kotor’s Old Town Hostel was also one of the best experiences I had in East Europe.
The best view of the bay is from the upper town walls. To climb up 1350 steps can be strenuous, especially after a big hearty meal. Most of the stones and steps are not in the best condition, so for the less physically abled folks, I’ll suggest stopping at the church at midpoint and enjoy the view from there.
Although, reaching St John’s fortress brings you to the peak at 1200ft and it is pretty fun exploring around the fort running in and out, jumping up and down. But then again I’m mostly a child at heart. The view is also extra rewarding all the way from the top ! Most people start heading down at sunset as there aren’t any lamps to light the way. With uneven steps, holes and steep stairs, it could get relatively dangerous once there’s no more daylight. Although for the adventurous folks who’d like to stay a little longer after sundown, bring a headlamp or a torch. The view can be quite captivating at twilight.
The towns along the gulf of Kotor bay are also worth visiting. I ventured around from Perast to Tivat, which weren’t too far away and easy to reach via frequent bus services.
Missing the stop for Perast, I somehow landed in a town closer to the Croatian side called Risan. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing being lost because this unexpected find was a real gem. There isn’t anything much to do in the town but I really liked how peaceful it was ! The long hike to Perast was also a taher scenic one, although I’d rather have hitchhiked my way just because I’m lazy.
Finally arriving at Perast, I was really excited to see two of the local islands here that not only hasÂ a long history, but interesting stories behind it. There’s St. George island and Gospa od krpjela (Our Lady of the Rock). In fact, the story of the latter caught my attention and made me set out to see it for myself.
Gospa od krpjela houses a church built on a man made islet of rocks and boulders, which have been brought by seamen. Legend has it that fishermen from Perast found a holy icon on the sea rock after an unfortunate shipwreck. That’s when they vowed to build a church. The annual tradition of bringing rocks, also known as ‘Fasinada’ is still very much alive since the 1600s, and it falls on July the 22nd.
My last stop around the bay was a half day trip to this coastal town, which is basically a luxury yacht marina filled with fancy boats, hotels and apartments. I didn’t enjoy my time here much because it wasn’t as humble as the other towns around Kotor Bay.
Back in Kotor’s old town, there’s also plenty to look at. A whole day can be spent exploring the surroundings of the wall, taking walks along the bay to watch locals as they fish daily at sunset, pigging out at the butcher’s with freshly grilled burgers. Apart from all of these, Kotor is actually a perfect destination for hiking! It was a real shame that I visited in Autumn, which explains why the weather was slightly foggy and cold. Some say that the beauty of Montenegro can be compared to that of Switzerland’s in Summer. This is definitely one destination that I’d like to return to again some day.