Let’s be clear here peeps, you need to get to Kotor in Montenegro and you need to do it soon!
For while this gem of Adriatic beauty has been discovered by travellers, it’s not yet overrun with them.
However, if nearby Dubrovnik is anything to go by, it soon will be!
For Kotor is every bit as ideal as Dubrovnik in my opinion – think: a UNESCO-listed fairytale-like Old Walled City that sits above the dazzling, aquamarine ocean and is surrounded by a wall of picturesque mountains.
But the secret is that it’s still half the price of its Croatian counterpart and, while Montenegro’s € currency does make a trip here a little more pricey than nearby Serbia or Bosnia, it’s still an absolute steal given the quality on offer!
Yup, there’s no question that Montenegro is one of the highlights of my eastern Europe adventures and here’s my complete travel guide to Kotor to help you plan your trip there ASAP!
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How to Travel to Kotor?
One of the great reasons Kotor makes a great budget travel destination is because it’s easy to get to from lots of different directions and in lots of cheap ways!
International airports can be found in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica or just outside nearby Dubrovnik in Croatia.
Both boast budget airline arrivals from destinations around Europe – including plenty of Ryanair and WizzAir routes – and I highly suggest checking Skyscanner as it includes these airlines in its searches.
Skyscanner will also allow you to see which airport boasts the best deals which is helpful because, as both airports are roughly a 2-3 hour drive away from Kotor, it doesn’t make a huge difference which one you fly to (the only slight thing to consider is the border crossing if flying into Dubrovnik).
From either Podgorica or Dubrovnik airport you can then easily find a cheap bus to Montenegro.
For those already travelling in the Balkan / eastern Europe area, buses to Kotor can also be easily found from nearby cities including Mostar in Bosnia, Skopje in Macedonia and Tirana in Albania.
The website Busbud is a great resource for those travelling to and from Kotor as you can book online bus tickets from a range of local companies – a godsend in an area where neither Eurolines nor Flixbus operates.
How to Get Around Kotor?
Once in Kotor, you’ll be delighted to know getting around this city is super cheap and easy.
That’s mainly because it’s undertaken using your own 2 feet!
Yes, Kotor really is a small place, and with the bus station situated just outside the walls of the Old Town, many accommodation providers located close by, and waterfront swimming possibilities – as well as shops, restaurants, bars, cafes etc scattered in and around the Old Town – there really isn’t any need to navigate Kotor any other way than walking.
The exception is if you want to head out to explore other parts of the Bay of Kotor, such as the village of Perast, which sits further along the inlet’s coastline.
I’ve written more about Perast in the day trip section of this article – but it’s worth knowing that both bus and bike transport, to a range of other towns in the Kotor area, is totally possible and very cheap.
When to Visit Kotor?
I was in Kotor during early September and it was perfect – the weather was still delightful and the ferocious crowds of the peak summer season had dropped away.
Cruise boats also seemed to be less visible and I only witnessed 1 during my 4 days in Kotor.
As such, I’d say June and September would be the best months to visit Kotor to ensure the weather and views, but minimal crowds.
July and August will be hot and busy, but fun.
April / May and October may be a little cool for swimming if you’re a softie like me, but good for sightseeing otherwise.
Winter will be wet and cold!
Top 6 Things to Do in Kotor
One of my favourite things about Kotor in Montenegro is that it’s the sort of place where there’s both a huge amount to do and simultaneously nothing much at all.
The perfect travel combination if you ask me!
If you are keen to be active and see the best of this city however, here’s my list of the top 7 things to do in Kotor.
#1 Explore the Old Town
Definitely one of the best things to do in Kotor is simply to wander around, soaking up the beautiful streets and ambience of the Old Town, framed by the dazzling waters of the Adriatic sea and gawping at the mountains which rise steeply from the crystal blue at every angle.
If I were you, I’d first visit the Old Town during the day to snap the thin, cobbled streets, religious buildings and quaint squares.
Don’t miss the 3 gates, the clock tower or the rather bizarre array of giant objects either – including a washing line, bench and lampshade!
I’d then visit the Old Town again during the evening, when the place comes to life under the subtle hues of twinkling street lights and gentle live music emanating from the many restaurants.
It’s blooming lovely and if you’d like a guide to ensure you learn more about the history here, this great walking tour with food and wine comes highly recommended.
#2 Hike to the Fortress
The next must-do thing in this destinationa is the Kotor Fortress hike.
A 2hr round trip, walking up to this imposing set of ruins, which dates back to 532AD, involves choosing 1 of 2 routes – either The Walls of Kotor, which is the most popular route, or The Ladder of Cattero, which is the more challenging route.
Situated above the city, whichever route you take up to this fortress, the view from the top should not be missed!
What it is even harder to miss however, is the 8€ entrance fee – which is a complete rip-off for somewhere that has amazing views, yes and is old, yes, but doesn’t have any signage, museum, exhibition or whiff of curatorship!
But don’t fear budget travellers there is a way to get into this fortress for free!
Walk the clear trail to the left of the fortress walls (as you gaze up at it) and when you get to the second rest house (which doubles as a cheese shop FYI), you then want to take the trail towards the fortress walls.
Here you’ll find a window that has not been blocked up like the others (rumour has it, they forgot to fill this one in and then, after UNESCO listed the fortress, they weren’t allowed to make any further modifications!)
Climb through this window and you’re into the fortress for free!
Spend a while ogling at the amazing views and snapping some serious selfies, before descending through the paying entrance gate (try not to grin too smuggly!) and heading down back into the heart of the Old Town.
#3 Check out the Market
Every morning until around 1pm, a farmers market is held just outside the gate of the Old Town in Kotor.
Head here to buy some yummy local, fresh produce including figs, grapes, tomatoes, nectarines, olives, cheese and more.
The perfect excuse for a picnic!
#4 Wander the Walls
For just a few euros you can also wander the Old City walls of Kotor – definitely one of the best things to do in this city.
As with the fortress, I’d tackle the climb either during the early morning or at sunset.
Not only are the crowds less at this time, but so are the temperatures!
#5 Kayak the Bay
What could be more delightful than soaking in the beauty of Kotor from afar?
While if you rent a kayak and head out into the Bay of Kotor, you can do just that.
Plus, cruising these peaceful waters has to be one of the biggest treats ever!
Kayak Tours Kotor or Adventure Montenegro are both hire outlets near to the city that can hook you up with a rental.
#6 Hit the Beach
Ok so there’s not a huge sandy beach in the Bay of Kotor, but there are some pebbly patches where you can spread out your towel with the locals and soak in some of those rays, as well as soak in the sea too!
In fact, just a short walk from Kotor’s Old Town, there’s a great public beach and swimming area.
Otherwise, if you feel like exploring a little further afield, the “suburb” of Dobrota, which has some quiet places to recline by the water amidst slightly upmarket cafes, and is a lovely spot away from the main hustle of bustle of Kotor.
Top 6 Day Trips from Kotor
There are a selection of both independent and organised day trips you can make from Kotor that I highly recommend.
Here’s my list of the top 6 Kotor day trips…
#1 Cycle the Bay
First up is cycling the Bay of Kotor.
Yes the whole way round!
It actually is much shorter than it looks and easily doable in a day – including swimming, sunbathing, coffee, lunch and ice cream stops!
Heading out of Kotor in a clockwise direction is the easiest way round to make the loop when it comes to ascents, and don’t forget you can hop across the small channel on the ferry with your bike too.
Bikes can easily be rented just outside the East Gate of the Old Town – 15€ for 24hrs.
And then you’re off cycling to your heart’s content.
If you only have time for one stop you must make it Perast – read on to learn more!
#2 Head to Perast
But if cycling isn’t your thing, then you can also use the local Blue Lines bus service to get to the star attraction of the bay (aside from Kotor) and that is the pretty town of Perast.
The Blue Lines bus leaves hourly (roughly) from Kotor and takes around 20 minutes to reach Perast at a grand old price of 1€.
When in Perast, it’s all just about wandering the tiny foreshore of this cute town, enjoying the views, having a coffee / burek and taking a dip then drying out via one of the coastal platforms.
There’s also an island you can visit just out from Perast.
A boat ride there and back will cost you 5€ and entrance to the island is free.
The captains normally give you half an hour to wander round the island with its Orthodox Church and a small museum (museum entrance 1.50€).
But, to be honest, the real reason to take this boat trip to enjoy the, albeit short, experience of sailing on the Adriatic and also to take in, and snap the views of Perast from a watery distance.
Another option is just to cycle to Perast and back rather than peddle the whole bay – this will be quicker, as the ride to Perast from Kotor is less than 1 hour.
#3 Bus to Cetinje & Budva
And my third day trip recommendation when it comes to the best things to do in Kotor is to make a DIY day trip south to the central coastal area of Montenegro.
Start by hopping on one of the hourly buses from Kotor to Cetinje and spend an hour or 2 strolling around this historic capital and its interesting streets, which offer monasteries, museums and heritage charm by the bucket load.
Then board a regular bus to Budva and spend the afternoon soaking up the rays with the crowds on Montenegro’s most popular beach resort, before hitting the bars for a sundowner or 2.
Buses to Cetinje from Kotor run hourly during the summer and from there to Budva, it’s just 40 minutes.
Buses from Budva back to Kotor run half hourly during the summer months and all rides cost just a few euros.
This day trip is a great way to see a little more of Montenegro without having to fork out tons of euros unnecessarily!
#4 Adventure to Durmitor National Park
Fancy getting some nature time?
Then do check out this top-rated tour to the beautiful Durmitor National Park.
With some epic hiking, stunning scenery and top mountain vibes, check out this great guide if you’re planning on heading there.
#5 Enjoy Lovecen National Park
A day trip that includes spectacular viewpoints, beautiful natural locations, a decent smattering of historic monuments, a boat ride on the Crnojević river, breakfast in Njegusi village and a visit to Lovcen National Park – this 12 hour day trip from Kotor is a winner if you want to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time!
#6 Experience Dubrovnik
And finally, if you really want to give a Kotor day trip a good run for its money, then you can even get to Dubrovnik from this city using local buses.
Just be aware that you’ll need to set off super early and have a lot of energy for this mega excursion!
Here’s how to visit this famous Croatian city cheaply!
How Long to Spend in Kotor?
I’d honestly advise staying at least 3-4 nights in Kotor – there’s a lot to see and do in and around the town and it also makes for a nice Montenegro base if you want to venture further afield.
See my itinerary below for more details…
Top 3 Day Kotor Itinerary
Hike up to the Fortress early in the morning via the free track and then wander back down through the Old Town.
Spend the rest of the morning exploring the historical centre of Kotor, as well as the local cafes, shops and markets.
In the afternoon, stroll along the foreshore to sunbathe and swim at Kotor’s public beach, before heading back into the Old Town during the evening for dinner and some picturesque moonlight snaps.
Hike a bike or kayak and set out to explore the Bay of Kotor – the name given to the whole inlet in this part of Montenegro.
Cycling is possibly the whole way round – care of a handy ferry crossing and makes for a wonderful excursion. See more in the day trip section above
Otherwise, why not hire a kayak and explore the beautiful Adriatic waters and views with the help of a paddle/oar?
Boat rides to the Blue Cave, along with evening booze cruises (if that’s your thing), are also a great way to get out on the water and see more of the surrounding area.
Why not venture out of Kotor and check out more of Montenegro such as nearby Lovćen National Park or the former capital of Cetinje?
My recommended day trip section above provides some great ideas, otherwise, I heard that the towns of Bar and Ulcinj on the southern coastline of Montenegro are also amazing and I’d love to head to these places on my next trip to this country.
In particular, The Grove Hostel near Bar gets rave reviews from lots of travellers I meet!
Eating and Drinking in Kotor
With a big Italian influence (it’s just across the water!), eating in Kotor tends to be dominated (at least during the summer) by alfresco pasta and pizza options.
However, the funky spot, Hoste, in the Old Town provides some welcome relief with funky vegetarian dishes, yummy snacks and a relaxed café vibe.
They also do good coffee, have free wifi and an outside seating area!
The next best coffee in town can be found almost next door to Hoste at O Clock Café.
If you are looking to eat out in the Old Town, Pasteleria comes highly recommended and, for drinks, the Pub “Old Town” Kotor and Letrika are both traveller favourites.
Otherwise, do as I did and make sure you stay at a hostel in Kotor with a kitchen.
Both the daily farmer’s market – held just outside the walls of the Old Town every morning – and the nearby Idea Supermarket are well stocked and cooking your own meals is therefore cheap and easy.
Best Places to Stay in Kotor
#1 Pupa Hostel
With a great location very nearby to the Kotor bus station and boasting marina views, Pupa Hostel has large, clean dorms and each bed has a curtain, reading light and charging station.
There’s a kitchen too, super-fast wifi and some very friendly, helpful staff.
#2 Old Town Hostel
A party hostel full of young, energetic things, Old Town Hostel is a firm Kotor favourite, situated in the heart of the Old Town.
There’s a kitchen and a pool here (both big drawcards) and the backpacker tour agency Monte360 is connected with them too.
Organising daily activities make this is a great place to stay if you want to meet others and enjoy the Kotor nightlife.
#3 Stranger Tides
With more of a boutique feel, Stranger Tides is a renovated property that has diversified into the backpacker market, offering something of a quieter retreat from the crowds in the nearby suburb of Dobrota.
While this does mean a bit of a walk into the Old Town and the bus station, as well as shops, there’s plenty of delightful coastline to occupy you here, as well as a few upper-market style cafes and restaurants.
This would be the perfect place to stay if you want to relax in peace and quiet.
#4 Hostel Montenegro 4U
Right on the beach and close to the old town, Montenegro Hostel 4U seems to combine the best of both worlds.
It tends to attract a younger crowd, which put boring old me off, but the location is really hard to beat and they continually get top reviews.
As such, this place fills up quickly, so do book ahead of time if you want to stay here. Party is definitely the name of the game!
#5 De Luxe Apartments Sirena
With sea views and covered parking, plus great decor and a top location, De Luxe Apartments Sirena is an awesome place to stay for the price.
#6 Apartments Castello
Choose from a range of apartments that sleep 2 adults and include kids under 4 for free and boast amazing views at this top-rated self-catering spot.
The owner of Apartments Castello is lovely and you’re right by the beach and the Old Town here.
#7 Guesthouse STEP
Beautifully furnished with lovely views and good air-conditioning. The shared bathrooms at Guesthouse STEP help keep the price down.
4 Packing Essentials for Kotor
#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Kotor and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous destination justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and which I love not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Montenegro, it’s as simple as that! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for city strolling, cycling or hiking, I love mine!
#3 Good Water Bottle – Montenegro gets seriously hot in the summer, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because the tap water here is drinkable… and free!
#4 Good Backpack – And to carry your water bottle, camera and guidebook, you’re going to need a decent backpack that will help you balance the weight as you travel. In my opinion, you can’t go past the Bobby Anti Theft Backpack, which is also perfect for helping you avoid pickpockets too.
Travel Insurance for Kotor
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
SAVE THIS TO PINTEREST!
So there you have it, my complete guide to travelling Kotor in Montenegro.
Have you decided on the things to do in Kotor you’re going to be enjoying soon?
Heck, why not enjoy them all?!
Let me know in the comments box when you’re heading there…