Protected by mountains, blessed by sunshine, and fed by the clear, blue waters of the Adriatic, the Bay of Kotor is without question the heart & soul of Montenegro. The surrounding coastline includes a diverse combination of dense forests, man-made islands, walled cities, humble villages, and one of the world’s most luxurious marinas — all contributing to the character & charm of the aquatic landscape. The beautiful bay itself — known locally as Boka — offers much to be explored and absorbed, by day and by night.
Come discover the Bay of Kotor.
The map below highlights the major points of interest along this tour. Although its possible to visit all of these locales in one day, we recommend taking your time and spreading the tour out over at least a couple of days. Our own self-guided exploration lasted 2 days and 2 nights.
Only 7 miles (12 km) south of the Croatian border, coastal Herceg Novi is a major vacation destination for both tourists and locals. With just under 20,000 inhabitants, it’s also the 3rd largest city in Montenegro, by population.
The town features a diverse architectural style (Ottoman, Italian & Slavic influence), a prominent hillside fortress, and charming cobblestone streets.
Herceg Novi also offers travelers to Montenegro the first glimpse of the majestic Bay of Kotor. Even if you’re not staying overnight, stop here for a waterfront stroll, an afternoon drink, and your first taste of Montenegro.
Continue navigating the coastline and watch as the Bay of Kotor widens dramatically, then narrows, and then widens again. This meandering drive through small villages & forests is as mysterious as it is beautiful, with the view of the bay quickly changing from water → trees → water → trees → water…until you arrive in the waterfront village of Perast, about 40 minutes outside of Herceg Novi.
As we drove through Perast, we noticed an overwhelmingly familial feel, highlighted by the presence of children everywhere we looked: biking through the streets, playing on the concrete sidewalks that double as beaches, and splashing around in the clear blue waters of the bay.
Perast is probably most famous for the 2 islets that lay just off the coast: Sveti Juraj (“St. George”) and Gospa od Škrpjela (“Our Lady of the Rocks”), each with a picturesque chapel. Our Lady of the Rocks is unique in that it is the only man-made island in the Adriatic. The island is accessible via ferry, and a round-trip — including a visit to the church and the adjoining museum — takes between 2-3 hours.
Whether you’ve got 2 hours or 2 days, wandering the ancient, walled Stari Grad (“old town”) of Kotor is an absolute must.
As you walk through the Sea Gate into the main square, you may feel as though you’ve traveled through time and landed in an ancient Venetian piazza. The Italian influence is impossible to ignore, yet the overall atmosphere is distinctly Montenegrin: a mysterious mix of modern & medieval.
feline fact: dozens upon dozens of cats — belonging to nobody, yet cared for by everyone — litter the narrow, cobblestone alleyways of Kotor. These historical heroes now play the role of living legends! Read more about the curious cats of Kotor here. We visited the store of the same name, and recommend you do the same…
St. John’s Fortress
Hike up to St. John’s Fortress and enjoy a breathtaking view of Kotor and the surrounding bay. The hike involves 1,350 steps and may take anywhere from 30-60 minutes each way, depending on your pace and how often you stop for pictures. Go in the early morning or the late afternoon, to avoid the crowds and beat the summer heat.
reflections from D: hike in cute clothes at your own risk! There is such a picturesque view of the city waiting at the top, so naturally we saw lots of people dressed up for pictures. But if you’re anything like me: when it’s 85℉ (29℃) and sunny and you’re climbing hundreds of stairs…let’s just say that good athletic shoes and workout clothes were my best friends that day!
Tivat & Porto Montenegro
Our tour concludes in an area of striking contrast: Tivat is another modest coastal town, smaller in size but similar in character to Herceg Novi. Porto Montenegro on the other hand, is anything but modest.
Within a matter of minutes, the environment changes from “medieval” to “Monte Carlo of the Mediterranean.” Stroll all the way through the marina and down the neighboring boardwalk to feel the true pulse of Porto Montenegro.
If you didn’t hike St. John’s Fortress, Mount Vrmac offers another great hiking option. We didn’t have a chance to tackle this one, but it’s supposedly awesome and offers another incredible view of the surrounding bay.
Where We Ate & Slept
Although Kotor and Porto Montenegro are only 15 minutes away from one another, they offer very different experiences. We chose to cash in some credit card points and stay both nights at Hotel Cattaro in Kotor. The location could not have been more ideal, the room itself was spacious and comfortable, and our balcony overlooked the main square. Overall: a perfect experience.
As far as dining, we mixed things up a bit: our first night was spent on the waterfront terrace of Restauran Galion in Kotor, where we enjoyed fresh seafood and a bottle of local Plantaže white wine. On our second night, we ventured over to Porto Montenegro and had a fantastic Lebanese meal at Byblos. We highly recommend both restaurants.
The Bay of Kotor is a tiny corner of Montenegro that offers an enormous blend of rich culture and natural beauty. Life here unfolds at a naturally slow pace that has a way of accelerating quickly, after sunset.
Tour for a day, or explore for a week… maybe we’ll see you there…