This year our summer holiday took us slightly off the beaten track once again. I had wanted to visit Montenegro since I had been in the Balkans a few years ago, because I was so intrigued by its beauty. It is that unique beauty which gives the country its name “Crna Gora” meaning Black mountains, because of the dense forests which cover its mountains and national park. The country made its name in popular culture when it featured in the James Bond movie Casino Royale, however the movie itself was not actually filmed there.
Montenegro crops up time and time again on Lonely Planet and National Geographic lists of the best places to travel in the World, yet it is largely undiscovered by many World Travellers. While Kotor Bay is a popular spot for cruise ships and day trips from Dubrovnik, we found it was much more difficult to get to by air. From Dublin, we flew to Manchester then onwards to Tivat.
To begin with, Kotor was the most picturesque place I have ever been – and I have been to a lot of places. The evergreen forests dotted along the vast mountains, which seem to hug the bay. Kotor feels like a tourist location, but it is far more laid back than any other tourist spot I have been to. For example, the streets are dotted with souvenir shops, but no one is selling aggressively.
The old town of Kotor is contained within the city walls and has been preserved and maintained as a World Heritage site. A maze of winding narrow streets and a high concentration of christian and orthodox churches, we found it easy to get lost in Kotor town. There is a notable Venetian influence, that is most obviously seen through the food as every restaurant serves pizza and pasta!
One of the “must do” activities is to take a boat trip around the bay. We took a speed boat trip, and the only advice that I would is to sit at the back of the boat. This wouldn’t be something I would recommend for anyone who gets seasick because the water can get very very choppy.
The trip did however take us to some really beautiful and interesting places. The full boat trip visits some submarine tunnels (where the Yugoslav army hid submarines during the war) , Mamula fortress (the filming location of the remake of the classic Papillon), the blue caves and finally Our Lady of the Rocks. This artificial islet is home to a large church and faces into the peaceful coast of Perast.
In order to take in the true beauty of Kotor bay, you have to view it from a height. A popular hike with tourists, is the climb along the city walls to the Fortress of St John, also known as the castle of San Giovanni.
The 1350 plus steps makes for a challenging walk, but the views provide ample reward. At every turn the sights become more breathe-taking (or perhaps it was the exertion!)
After two arduous days, we decided to have a more relaxed third and final day in Kotor. We took the local bus to the nearby town of Perast.
Perast is a small quiet town which is a little more upmarket and a lot more expensive to eat in. We simply rambled along the seafront taking in the views before getting the bus back to Kotor that evening. We had an early night and packed our bags to move on to the capital city, Podgorica.