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Montenegro’s beautiful Bay of Kotor: Things to see and do

The Bay of Kotor Montenegro

Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska) is often called Europe’s most southernmost fjord. And it certainly looks like one, with towering peaks and a rocky coastline dotted with pretty waterside towns. But both the water and the climate are more Mediterranean than Scandinavian. The bay’s not actually a fjord either, but rather a ria – a submerged river valley made up of four connected bays making up a butterfly shape which stretches inland from the coast. But the scenery is as stunning as any ‘proper’ fjord, and when you add in bags of history and culture then you can see why Kotor has been made a UNESCO World Heritage site. So if you’re visiting Montenegro, here are some of the best things to do in the beautiful Bay of Kotor.

Read more: Climbing Kotor city walls, Montenegro

Views of Kotor old town from the walk up the city walls

Views from Kotor’s city walls

Where is the Bay of Kotor?

The Bay of Kotor is located in the northern part of Montenegro, close to the border with Croatia and open to the Adriatic Sea. The quarter-of-a-mile-wide Verige Strait is the gateway to the bay. It was narrow enough to act as protection against invaders during the bay’s history, with a string of fortified cities built inside the bay by the Venetians. But it’s also wide enough to let cruise ships through, which has opened up the Bay of Kotor to a new stream of visitors.

Things to do in the Bay of Kotor

Map of the Bay of Kotor

Bay of Kotor map

Kotor Old Town

The Bay of Kotor’s best-known town is its namesake Kotor, at the far end of the bay. Backed by dramatic peaks, the UNESCO World Heritage listed old town is surrounded by five kilometres of city walls built into the steep hillside by the Venetians to protect it from invaders. And inside the walls is a medieval town with narrow cobbled alleyways lined with honey-stone buildings.

The jumble of streets mean you’ll probably get lost but that’s part of the attraction as you never know what you might come across – a Venetian-style church, a piazza full of restaurants, a flight of stairs leading into the hills, a doorway surrounded by colourful pots of flowers. Kotor isn’t exactly undiscovered and on days when cruise ships dock you might have to share the old town with a few thousand people, but you can usually find a quiet corner or a tucked-away café.

Don’t miss: Climb the 1350 steps of the city walls for a panoramic view across the bay from San Giovanni Fortress; see the frescoes at St Tryphan’s Cathedral; learn about the bay’s history at the Maritime Museum; visit the quirky Cats Museum of Kotor, a must for feline fans.

Old buildings and pots of flowers in Kotor Montenegro

Kotor’s old town

Perast

Further around the bay is the town of Perast, a mini Venice with its Italian-style churches and palaces. In its heyday it was a prosperous shipbuilding town full of rich merchants living in grand palazzos overlooking the water and with no less than 19 churches. It’s car free so park up outside and explore by foot. Some of Perast’s buildings are crumbing around the edges, but it still has a grand air and a beautiful setting with a strip of sandy beach along the edge of the bay.

Don’t miss: Climb the 55-metre-high bell tower of St Nicholas Church for views across the bay; learn about Perast’s seafaring history at the town’s museum; take a walk along the waterfront promenade and watch the world go by with a glass of local Vranac red wine.

Boats in the harbour in Perast, Bay of Kotor

Pretty Perast

Our Lady of the Rocks

Out in the bay from Perast are the twin islands of St George and Our Lady of the Rocks. Both are religious pilgrimage sites but Our Lady of the Rocks is a man-made island founded over 500 years ago. The legend goes that sailors spotted an image of the Virgin Mary on a rock here. So each time they had a successful voyage they added another rock as an offering as they passed. Eventually so many were added that an island emerged and the church was built on top of it. The villagers here still add rocks once a year as part of a festival called fašinada.

Don’t miss: Take a boat trip to Our Lady of the Rocks (normally around €5 per person return with 45 mins on the island) for a guided tour of the church and museum.

The island of Our Lady of the Rocks, Bay of Kotor

Our Lady of the Rocks

Herceg Novi

At the entrance to the bay, Herceg Novi is the Bay of Kotor’s largest town. It was the area’s top beach destinations before the Yugoslav wars but is now one of the Bay of Kotor’s least touristy spots. The outskirts are all modern high-rises but towards the water the old town or Stari Grad has a lot more charm with its ornate churches and historic city walls. Herceg Novi is a good spot for a day on the beach, and it’s also the best place to try out more adventurous activities like kayaking across the bay, walking and mountain biking up in the hills behind the town.

Don’t miss: See the views from the Kanli fortress; visit the Savina Monastery; take a boat trip to the Blue Cave and Mamula Island; explore the beaches of the Luštica Peninsula.

Old buildings in Herceg Novi in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Herceg Novi

Drive the Bay coast road

As you follow the winding road along the bay shoreline you pass lots of little towns and villages. Even in the smallest you’ll find something interesting to stop and see. There’s the fisherman’s village of Morinj with its sandy bay and green waters, and Risan where you can see five original Roman mosaics in a villa dating back to the second century. Or Dobrota, with its long waterfront boardwalk where you can watch the sun set behind the mountains. And Prčanj, with a rusty ship moored up which looks like it’s been there since the end of the Balkan War.

The Bay of Kotor

The Bay of Kotor

The details

How to get to the Bay of Kotor

The nearest airport is in Tivat, only about 8km from the Bay of Kotor, or there are more flights into Dubrovnik in Croatia, 73km away. If you’re driving from Dubrovnik, the narrow windy road around the bay is beautiful but can be slow, especially in summer. To make things quicker you can take a car ferry between Lepetane and Kamenari across the narrow Verige Straits (it only takes around five minutes and runs every 15–30 minutes – or whenever it’s full).

Kotor city walls lit up at night

Kotor city walls at night

Getting around the Bay of Kotor

The easiest way to explore the bay is by hiring a car and driving around the coast road. There are car hire offices in Kotor and Herceg Novi as well as at the region’s airports. If you don’t want to drive then you can still explore using the local buses or by taking tour by bus or boat. There’s a hop-on hop-off bus stopping off in Kotor, Perast, Risan and Bajova Kula beach. Or you can visit Our Lady of the Rocks, Mamula and the Blue Cave by boat or explore the bay by kayak.

Sunset over Kotor

Sunset in the bay

Where to stay in the Bay of Kotor

There are a few Bay of Kotor hotels in the main towns, as well as rental apartments in a mix of traditional buildings, converted palazzos and new apartment blocks. In Kotor, the Hippocampus boutique hotel is a smartly renovated 17th-century building with roof terrace and original artworks. Or the one- and two-bedroom Muo apartments are a 15-minute walk into Kotor’s old town, with view of the city walls lit up at night from the balconies and a shared pool. In Perast, the four-star Iberostar has a waterfront location and a spa with sauna and hammam.

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With towering peaks, a rocky coastline and pretty waterside towns, explore the best things to do in the Bay of Kotor – or Boka Kotorska – in Montenego. #Kotor #BayofKotor #MontenegroThings to do in the Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska), Montenegro, with towering peaks, a rocky coastline and pretty historic Venetian style waterside towns #Kotor #BayofKotor #Montenegro

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28 Comments

  • Reply
    vannillarock
    June 21, 2013 at 9:08 am

    looks stunning! has been on a very long’to do’ list of mine for a few years now, glad to have your take on things.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 21, 2013 at 10:33 am

      It’s a gorgeous spot – I spent hours on the balcony watching the boats come and go.

  • Reply
    restlessjo
    June 21, 2013 at 10:02 am

    It sounds like my idea of heaven! I’m going to have to think long and hard about this. Thanks for sharing, Luce. 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 21, 2013 at 10:32 am

      I’m trying to tempt you Jo! Seriously though I though Kotor was a great place to be based – easy reach the the beaches and mountains, and the view over the fjords was fabulous.

  • Reply
    Anita Mac
    June 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    That is gorgeous Lucy. Love that you took the rented apartment route too – so worth it if you are staying for a week. I am a huge fan.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 21, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      I’m a big fan of the rental apartments too and it was really good value between four of us. Lots of places being built near Kotor at the moment so there’s lots of options.

  • Reply
    nuresma
    June 21, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Stunning! Looks like a great destination 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 21, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      It was a really lovely relaxing place to spend the week watching the boats from the balcony.

  • Reply
    aBitofCulture
    June 21, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Was it a bit quieter at night when the cruiseships had left? Dubrovnik gets too busy between 10am – 6pm and only really calms down when it’s dark.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 21, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      I don’t think Kotor gets any where as much cruise traffic as Dubrovnik – there was only one day when there was more than one ship and a couple of days there weren’t any. It’s such a small place though that you do feel it when they are in port, but after 6pm it’s way quieter again.

  • Reply
    Savi of Bruised Passports
    June 22, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Kotor looks amazing Lucy. You’re right- getting lost in labyrinthine alleys is often the best part about places like Kotor 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 24, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Yes you never know what you might come across – I’ve got a terrible sense of direction so getting lost is one of my specialties!

  • Reply
    The Travelbunny
    June 24, 2013 at 11:53 am

    We visited The Bay of Kotor whilst staying in the more lively Budva a couple of years ago – we took the bus which was just a 20 minute journey and enjoyed a day there with a fantastic fish lunch at Stari Mlini right by the water. Lovely to re-live it through your gorgeous photos.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      One of the best things about Montenegro is how compact it is – it’s easy to stay in one place and go out and visit lots of others. Glad to bring back some good memories.

  • Reply
    Arianwen
    July 2, 2013 at 3:02 am

    Looks lovely! And kayaking is always fun for a bit of exercise and a different perspective! I’m going kayaking in 2 days in Abel Tasman national park!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      July 2, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Loved kayaking Abel Tasman – stunning scenery, though the water was a bit icy! Have a great trip.

  • Reply
    Jeff | Planet Bell
    July 4, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    I enjoyed your posts on Montenegro. I”m going to be in Eastern Europe/Greece/Turkey this fall and I can’t decide whether to add Montenegro or not. There are just so many places to see in the world!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      July 9, 2013 at 12:05 pm

      It’s so hard to narrow the travel wish list down isn’t it! I have to reign myself in sometimes and try not to see too much in one trip as have had times when I can hardly remember any of it and need another holiday to recover!

  • Reply
    Tricia A. Mitchell
    July 14, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Oh, how I miss Kotor’s market – the flowers, the mammoth strawberries, and organic cheese. Did you make it there?

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      July 14, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      We did, and bought some of those cheeses and some huge tomatoes. I love visiting markets whenever I travel, you can always find something interesting.

  • Reply
    Vlad
    April 4, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    WOW! I admit, I hadn’t heard of this place until now, but it looks so beautiful and peaceful, I’ve now added it on my list.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      April 4, 2014 at 10:51 pm

      Great – it’s a lovely place, hope you get to visit sometime soon!

  • Reply
    Katie Featherstone
    February 7, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Oh wow, I think I need to go now- I’ve just been researching Montenegro and came across your posts. Kotor sounds incredible and your photos really make it look like something from a fantasy film.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      February 13, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      Kotor is so beautiful, it could definitely be straight out of a film set! It’s a good time to get out to Montenegro now as it’s still comparatively untouristy and great value.

  • Reply
    Travelsito
    September 4, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Wonderful post on Bay of Kotor. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      September 4, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      You’re very welcome, great to hear you enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    Greg
    July 22, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    I am glad that you wrote about Herceg Novi. In my opinion, this is the best place to relax on the Bay of Kotor.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 22, 2019 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks!

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