Introducing Kotor Bay
Montenegro is a tiny sliver of land sandwiched between Croatia and Albania, and is home to Kotor Bay, a great gaping hole that dissects the country resembling a butterfly. It is a stunning magnet for cruise ships and those willing to make the journey overland.
Most are drawn by the allure of the old town of Kotor, hidden away in the deepest recesses of the bay. Terracotta roofs shimmer above the azure waters of the bay and haze shrouds the mountains in an angelic halo. If heaven was a place on Earth, this would surely be it.
If you do venture this far, be sure not to fall prey to Kotor’s charms and ignore the other attractions around the bay. There is way more to this bay than just its namesake.
This itinerary assumes clockwise travel, showcasing the highlights of the Bay, and can be completed comfortably in as little as two days. Our itinerary assumes you have a car, but you could just as easily do this route by bus. Blue Line buses run regularly in both directions from Kotor.
Kotor Bay itinerary
Anyone entering Montenegro by land from neighbouring Croatia passes Herceg, a charming town with sun dowsed, honey stoned villas, a quaint orthodox church and views over the entrance of the bay. Prices are cheap and it’s a lovely place to linger over lunch or a cold beer.
Continue around the bay to Djenovici. Admittedly this village is not the classiest destination by day, with pumping bars, bodies sprawled on every available stone, pebble and slab, and pot bellied Russians wandering the streets half naked. However there’s ample choice of restaurants (we highly recommend Papagaj) worthy of a detour and the sunsets are spellbinding.
Grab a cocktail or beer and watch the sky turn from pale pink to orange to deep red before the sun slips into inky darkness. The promenade stretches around 2-3 miles from here to Baosici, a delight to run or walk, although you will have to avoid endless oblivious tourists in your quest to burn some calories.
Thirty minutes along the coast past the Tivat ferry is another charming village with a promenade. Restaurants and cafes line the water side and fresh fish can be cooked on the roadside once you agree a price with the local fishermen. You might not quite escape the crowds here, but you will at least be able to admire uninterrupted views of the bay without a huge cruise ship blighting your view.
Kotor undoubtedly is stunning with its compact old town nestled within the sturdy city walls at the foot of the Lovcen peak.
The adventurous can stumble, climb and walk up the fortress walls for spectacular views over the town. Opinions vary on how long this takes, with locals suggesting an hour. Jason and I estimate it to be nearer to 30-40 minutes for anyone of reasonable fitness. If you plan to make the hike, please wear sensible shoes. I saw one girl in three inch heels and even with trainers on, I was slipping and stumbling all over. This is not a climb for the faint-hearted or those accustomed to neat paths studded with health and safety rails.
Once you make it safely back down, quench your thirst in one of the inviting establishments lining the squares and alleyways of the town before jumping back into the car for more architectural eye candy.
Continue around the bay to Muo, a tiny hamlet on the opposite bank from Kotor that marks the beginning of a perfect road trip. Honey coloured villas line the water front, dilapidated and crumbling reminders of the 1979 earthquake, and the occasional cafe or restaurant invites you to stop.
Stop off at Adventure Montenegro and hire a kayak for the afternoon, or join one of their organised tours from €28 per person. The tours are a leisurely paddle along the coastline to a pebbly beach where you can snorkel and swim before returning.
During the tour you will be able to play kayak polo (not very easy let me tell you) and listen to Toni regale you with stories of local folklore. The splash of your oars and the occasional speedboat are the only sounds to disturb the peace as you admire the dramatic vistas rising regally above the waters.
After drying off, continue around the headland passing the ferry terminal and take a leisurely wander through Tivat. This old naval base has had a makeover and has been transformed into a glitzy marina housing mega-yachts for the rich and famous. Multi-coloured peach and yellow hued apartments, with floor to ceiling windows, gaze imperiously over the marina and golf carts ferry visitors to their accommodation. Valentino, Heidi Klein and other designer names occupy the ground floor units, jostling with agents attempting to woo you with your own lavish penthouse or super yacht.
Prices are a little more expensive but at around €2.50 for a large beer, it is far from bank-breaking.
Ferry across the bay
No visit to Kotor would be complete without taking the short ferry ride across the bay passing yachts, cruise ships and dinghies. The fun lies partly in the opportunity to indulge in yet more sublime mountain views, but also in the chaos of filling the ferry. Cars nuzzle nose to bumper, attempting to be the first vehicle on or off.
It’s well worth the €4.50 price for the views, and it will save you at least an hour on the circuitous route back to Herceg Novi.
Getting to Kotor Bay
You have several options from regional airports around the UK. You can fly from Manchester to Tivat with EasyJet which is the quickest option. Alternatively, fly from a variety of regional airports to Dubrovnik in Croatia then hire a car or take a bus to the border.
Be warned, the border on the coastal road took an hour to traverse coming from Croatia, but was much busier in the opposite direction. If you are travelling in the height of summer, you will need to allow plenty of time to make the return journey. You can also follow our alternative route back to Dubrovnik with a small detour into Bosnia.
You can also fly into Macedonia or Albania with a variety of airlines and then drive north. British Airways fly from Gatwick to both Tirana and Dubrovnik so if you have enough airmiles, you may even be lucky enough to bag yourself a reward flight.
This part of the world is relatively compact and the scenery is stunning making driving a real delight, even if local drivers take rallying to the extremes at times.
Want to know more?
Here’s some top tips for saving money in this part of the world. Now, all you need are your flights and accommodation.
What do you think?
Maybe you have visited Montenegro and have your own top tips for the Bay of Kotor, or indeed for other parts of the country. I would love for you to share them with us.