7 Cost Effective Things To Do in Kotor, Montenegro
“Monte-what?” I hear you say. Montenegro – roughly meaning “black mountain”, named so by the first explorers and sailors coming to the region – is situated on the Eastern coast of the stunning Adriatic coastline. This beautiful country shares borders with the equally interesting countries Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania. Together with Croatia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Greece they make up the Balkan Peninsula.
One of the most charming towns in Montenegro is the 5th-century coastal town of Kotor, perhaps the most visited during the summer months along with the little town of Budva, a bit further South. It’s better to visit Kotor when it isn’t peak holiday season as you will have almost free range of the town, fortress and beyond. Cruise ships frequent the town between May and September, making the old-town population of 5,000 double, so you are literally bombarded with passengers. Kotor is a UNESCO listed town and it makes up one of the most beautiful bays in the world, and there are a lot of fun things to do there for young and old and to suit every pocket. I will name a few money saving experiences in and around this exquisite town.
“Thwarted with a very sad history the locals have very strong personalities and live a pretty tough life, understandably. But that doesn’t stop them from being some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met, and boy can they throw a party.”
Get lost in a burekA burek is a meat or cheese filled pie, made from phyllo pastry and originates from the ancient Ottoman Empire and you can eat it for breakfast, lunch and supper if you want. There are many pastry shops in Kotor but if you want to “go where the locals go” ask your guesthouse owner or a local where you can find the best of the best. You had me at “pie”. Cost: €2 You can get pastries for 12 cents if you want, but they are the little ones and where’s the fun in that?
Explore the old medieval town of KotorThe population of 5, 000 people can give you an idea how quaint and quiet this old town is. The old part of Kotor is actually a small fortified complex, with buildings and churches that are hundreds of years old and have stood the test of time. Souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes, bakeries and dessert delis abound here in harmony but can get a little tourist-trappy. My advice is to befriend a local (the younger know more English than the older) and ask them to suggest where you should go for a proper Balkan meal. The people can seem a little stand-offish at first but are very proud of their heritage, so they will appreciate it if you are keen to try their local dishes, which are superb. Be sure to top your meal off with a shot of “rakija” and a healthy cry of “živjeli” and you are good to go. Cost of lunch: €3 – €13.90 Cost of a coke: €3 Rakija: €2.50
Stroll up the ancient fort of KotorOkay, so ”stroll” may be an understatement here. As you look directly at the old town of Kotor the massive San Giovanni (or Sveti Ivan) fortress stretches up 250 meters behind it, with the mountain of St. John sprawling on even further. Take a bottle of water, as it gets super hot climbing up the 1,350 steps to the top, where the Montenegrian flag flies and seems to laugh at you, sweat dripping down your face and almost ready to drop. Wear comfortable shoes that grip very well as the steps are ancient and there has been absolutely thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of feet that have caused the stone steps to become very smooth, making it very difficult to ascend and descend the fortress. All in all you get a fantastic workout and fabulous photographs along the way – don’t forget to stop for breaks (this is going to happen a lot) and take in the awesome views. Cost: €3 for adults, kids younger than 13 go free. The walk is not manned 24/7, so you can enter for free before approx 7.30 am, and after the sun goes down. There is no fee in low season. Duration: 1 hour Length: 4.5 km
Tour the bay by boatThere are many boat trips that you can take to explore the beautiful bay of Kotor. There is a tour that takes you to the Adriatic’s only man-made island called “Our Lady of the Rocks” that houses an ancient church and a museum. This tiny islet was gradually created after 1452 by sailors who carried on a tradition that after every fruitful voyage they would pile rocks onto sunken and seized ships in the bay, a custom that is kept up to this day by the locals, on every July 22nd at sundown. Thereafter the tour stops off at the pleasant town of Perast to check out the old town and its maritime museum. The town is less crowded than Kotor, especially if you are there in tourist and cruise season as no cruise ships dock here. Be sure to listen out for the church bells that ring every time a large ship sails past the town, a tradition kept up for centuries. After exploring this beautiful sleepy town the boat drops you back in Kotor. Cost: €15.60 per person Duration: approx 2.5 hours
Go on some awesome hikesThe country of Montenegro is absolutely overflowing with stunning views, so a perfect way to immerse yourself in this beauty is to go hiking some of Kotor’s most popular paths. These trails are namely,
- The Ladder of Kotor – for centuries this was the only way from Kotor to the royal capital of Cetinje, it runs past the Fortress of Kotor and includes a forgotten ghost town called Špiljari.
- Vrmac – explore a scary and forgotten fortress, along with an abandoned military camp from the Soviet era.
- Kosmač – a fortress built in 1840 that was manned by Italian soldiers in WW2 after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this trail ends up in stunning Budva.