Hiking the Ladder of Kotor + More Montenegro Trail Ideas

Hiking the Ladder of Kotor

If you love hiking, then it’s good to know Montenegro is a hiker’s paradise!

I’ve been to this country twice now and whilst I can’t get enough of the coast here (we’re talking crystal clear Adriatic dreams!), enjoying at least a couple of day hikes during my visits has made some of my favourite Montenegro memories!

With so many fantastic hiking routes, both in and around coastal Kotor, as well as across the 5 national parks of Montenegro, this Balkan country makes for a fantastic, off the beaten track spot to explore on 2 feet.

And when it comes to top picks in my mind, hiking the Ladder of Kotor, a 14.1 km route with breathtaking views and the opportunity to explore abandoned villages, has to be up there.

Kotor itself is one of the most picturesque towns in Europe; UNESCO-listed and situated on the Adriatic coast, it’s also surrounded by the dramatic limestone peaks of the Dinaric Alps.

The Ladder of Kotor, also known as the Ladder of Cattaro, is a historic hiking trail that now connects the town of Kotor with the Krstac Pass and allows you to discover the area’s history and take in its magnificent coastal views.

Built by the Austro-Hungarian empire in the 19th century, this trail was originally constructed to connect Kotor with Njeguši and Cetinje – Montenegro’s former royal capital and now another UNESCO gem in this country.

If you’re planning a Kotor Fortress hike, you can choose between the famous Walls of Kotor route or the Ladder of Kotor trail to get there.

The Walls of Kotor hike starts in the Old Town and is a shorter, more touristy option; whereas the Ladder of Kotor hike starts just outside Kotor’s Old Town and climbs through 70 switchbacks, offering stunning views of the Bay of Kotor and the surrounding mountains.

This guide covers everything you need to know about the Ladder of Kotor hike, other fantastic hikes in Kotor, some of the top places for hiking in Montenegro and what to pack for your walking adventure in this Balkan gem.

Let’s get stuck in…

Montenegro, Kotor Old Town, Me in Street


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Best Time to Hike the Ladder of Kotor

Montenegro, Kotor Old Town, Ladder of Kotor

Before covering the Ladder of Kotor and my other top hiking recommendations in Montenegro, I thought it wise to cover WHEN to plan a hiking trip here.

Although it is possible to hike the Ladder of Kotor all year round, the best time to do it in my opinion is April through June, or September and October, when the weather is mild and you won’t overheat!

The climate of Montenegro sees very warm summers and harsh winters (in the mountains at least) when temperatures can drop to -5 °C and snow falls.

Keep in mind that coastal areas stay warmer for longer of course and won’t see snow, but still do definitely experience a colder, wetter winter season from December through February that’s not ideal to hike in.

Alternatively, if you choose to hike during the summer months (July and August), it’s best to get an early start to avoid the midday sun (I advise around 7:30am), as temperatures can rise to 40°C at this time.

It’s also best to start walking early so that you can experience the views and enjoy the trails before the crowds arrive… especially if cruise ships are scheduled to stop in Kotor that day!

Lots of these large ships run private shore excursions to climb the Ladder of Kotor, so getting up early to start the hike before the majority, will definitely make for a more enjoyable experience!


The Ladder of Kotor Hike

Montenegro, Kotor, Me and the View

Here’s a detailed guide to the ins and outs of the Ladder of Kotor hike to help you make the most of your hiking experience…

The entire Ladder of Kotor trail is a 14.1 km loop and takes approximately 6 hours to complete.

It’s a steep climb up, so a good level of fitness, some hiking experience and appropriate footwear is required.

However, if you turn around at the top of the Kotor Ladder Viewpoint, the hike can be reduced to only 4 hours.

This viewpoint provides panoramic vistas of the bay and the Adriatic Sea, so don’t miss it.

From here, you can continue to Krstac Pass before making your way back down.

This is a FREE hike compared to the famous Walls of Kotor Hike, for which there is a Fortress entrance cost.


Starting the Ladder of Kotor Hike

The hike begins on Tabačina Road (the main road near the Pekara AS Bakery), which is just outside Kotor’s Old Town’s North Gate (River Gate).

The trail starts on a well-preserved cobblestone path dating back to the 19th century and begins with a walk along the Scurda River.

The trail will be clear to see when you get there, so you’ll know you’re in the right place because it zigzags up the mountain.


Starting to Climb Up

Now that you’ve completed the most gentle part of the hike, you should be warmed up and ready to start the elevation gain!

The trail begins to climb up the mountainside more steeply and, after just 10 minutes, you’ll start seeing lovely views of the Bay of Kotor.

During the hike, you’ll come across two stone huts, which you can use as rest stops.

The huts are remnants of old settlements and a great place to explore the area’s history.

The huts also sell drinks and snacks.


The Village of Špiljari

The village of Špiljari is the midway point on the Ladder of Kotor hike.

This village is now abandoned, but you can explore the ruins of the old stone houses and the small chapel of Sveti Đorđe (St. George).

The views from here are already impressive and it’s a great place to also pause for a snack and hydrate before beginning the most challenging part of the hike.


The Start of the ‘Ladder of Kotor’

From Špiljari, the climb becomes steeper still and the switchbacks become tighter.

Be careful of the rocky path, which is uneven in places, so I advise keeping a steady pace and watching your footing.

When you near the top, the terrain gets more rugged again and you’ll start to feel the altitude and corresponding drop in temperature.


The Top – The Krstac Pass

You’ll soon reach the top of the Ladder of Kotor at Krstac Pass.

This is the highest point of the hike and the views from here are breathtaking, with panoramic outlooks over the entire Bay of Kotor, the surrounding mountains and the Adriatic Sea in the distance.

No question in my mind, that this view should be on your bucket list of things to see in Kotor.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the most popular spot from which to take in the scenery, so there are some stone benches are here to relax and another small hut selling snacks and drinks.

If you’ve brought lunch with you, this is the place to eat it before retracing your steps and heading back down.

If you’re looking for a longer hike, you can continue from the Krstac Pass along Trail 759 to Njegusi village.

This route adds around 1 hour to the hike but gives some alternative views and an opportunity to explore another historic village.


Returning to Kotor

To return to Kotor, follow the same path back down the mountain.

The switchbacks will guide you down the mountainside, but remember to walk at your own pace and take in the views from a different perspective.

If you go back to town the touristy way, you will have to show your tour ticket for the city walls when you leave.

Since the Ladder of Kotor walk is free, and you do not yet have a ticket, you will be charged!

If you don’t want to pay, unfortunately you will have to go back down the same way you hiked and avoid the Walls.


@bigworldsmallpockets Don’t miss any of these amazing spots when you visit Montenegro. Easy to cover in a week, if you fly into Podgorica and fly out of Tivat, you can definitely visit them all! #montenegro #gomontenegro #montenegrowildbeauty #visitmontenegro #exploremontenegro #europetravel #balkantravel #balkantrip #montenegro🇲🇪 #montenegrotravel #montenegrotrip #kotor #kotorbay #kotormontenego ♬ You Don’t Ignore (Too Late) – Petit Biscuit


Other Amazing Kotor Hikes

Montenegro, Kotor, Old Town

While the Ladder of Kotor is my top Kotor hike recommendation, there are some equally stunning hikes in the area that include the famous and easier Kotor City Walls Hike, hiking to Pestingrad Peak and walking the Vrmac Ridge Trail…


Kotor Fortress and City Walls Hike

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 2 Hours

Distance: 2.5 km

Maximum Elevation: 260m

This is the most famous hike in Kotor and is not to be missed during your trip.

It’s a short but rewarding hike that takes you along the Old Town Walls of Kotor to Kotor Fortress (also known as San Giovanni Fortress and St. John Fortress), where you’ll have panoramic views of the fortified city of Kotor and the Bay beyond.

Along the way, you can view the historic gates, towers, bastions and defence walls that once protected the town.

The most popular access point for this hike is North Gate.

Around the “city,” there are signs that say “Walls of Kotor” trail, so I suggesting following these if you get confused about which is the North Gate!

There is an 8€ fee at the gate, which is payable in cash only.

TOP TIP: If you start before 7am, there is no security guard selling tickets and you can enter for free!

Arrive in the early morning to hike to the top of the Kotor Fortress trail before the cruise ships dock and the crowds descend!


Vrmac Ridge Trail – Vrmac to Sveti Ilija

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 3-4 Hours

Distance: 8.5 km round trip

Maximum Elevation: 765m

This trail offers some of the most incredible views of the Bay of Kotor.

It begins near the traditional village of Gornja Lastva and goes along the ridge of Vrmac, a limestone mountain that divides Kotor Bay from Tivat.

To begin the hike, you’ll need to travel to Fort Vrmac (Austro-Hungarian fortress ruins).

The fort is only accessible by car, but you can walk the 1.45 hours from Kotor (4.4km) to the fort, or hike there from Tivat.

Throughout the trail, you’ll see Montenegro’s thick forest canopies and abandoned farm buildings.

The top of the mountain is marked with a disused advertising billboard and a viewpoint overlooking the Bay of Kotor.

To return to Fort Vrmac, you will need to hike back down the same trail.

The best time of day for this hike is in the late afternoon – it will give the best light.


Pestingrad Peak

Difficulty: Difficult

Length: 2.5 hours

Distance: 5.7 km there and back

Maximum Elevation: 1009m

Pestingrad is a peak overlooking Kotor Old Town and the Bay of Kotor.

The challenging hike to the summit rewards you with breathtaking views of the bay and the surrounding mountains.

The rocky terrain and steep climb make this a hike for the more experienced and although no special equipment is needed, the terrain is uneven and steep, so do be careful.

There are tricky parts here, like the saddle between Derinski Brj and Pestingrad, which is secured with a rope.

The hike begins near the Krstac Mountain Pass (along the P1 road) near Njeguši. You can park across from the trailhead for free.

Once at the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of Boka Bay, the Old Town of Kotor and Dobbrota, which makes the climb all worthwhile!

If you want to walk from Kotor to the start of the trail, you can go to the Ladder of Kotor Trail to the P1 road; then it’s a 5-minute walk to Njeguši to meet the trail entrance.


Other Fab Montenegro Hikes

Montenegro, Cetinje, Me by Monastery

Beyond Kotor, Montenegro has some fantastic hikes, mainly in its national parks and mountain ranges.

Indeed this country has some of the Balkan’s most rugged terrain, with peaks reaching over 2500m that allow you to take in special views of hidden lakes, forests and mountain rivers.

Hiring a car is best if you’re planning multiple walks in Montenegro, as most of these hikes have remote starting locations and no public transport connections.


Hiking in Prokletije National Park

This park has dramatic vertical peaks and includes most of the Prokletije Mountains, which separate Montenegro and Albania.

The best time to hike here is June to September.

The park is suited to more experienced hikers, especially as the challenging terrain and remote location make it a less crowded destination.

Some of the best hikes in the area include Volušnica, where you’ll see stunning views of the Karanfili peaks and the Krosnja – Šuplja trail.

To hike here, you should base yourself in either the Grebaje Valley (the best place) or Ropojana Valley.

Keep in mind that Prokletije National Park has an entrance fee of 3€ per day.

Prokletije National Park is also home to the Peaks of the Balkans trail, a multi-day 192km trail that takes in Montenegro, Albania and the Kosovan mountains.

The trail reaches 2300m and passes through green valleys, stunning mountain lakes and remote villages – not to be missed!


Wolf Trail, Near Cetinje, in Lovcen National Park

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 3-4 hours

Distance: 7 km

Maximum Elevation: 1474m

Lovcen National Park offers amazing elevated views all the way to the Bay of Kotor and the surrounding mountain range.

This trail takes in the village of Dolovi and the peak of Babina Glava.

It’s reachable by car from Kotor, so a hike in the Lovcen can easily be done as part of a day trip from the coast.

The best hike in this national park in my opinion is the Wold Trail, which starts near the Ivanov Konak Hotel, where you can also park your car.

It offers fabulous views of Tivat and Kotor Bay in the distance along with stunning mountain vistas.

If you visit Montenegro in winter, this trail turns into a winter wonderland, so be prepared!

Other popular hikes in Lovcen National Park include the ascent of Jezerski Vrh, the park’s highest peak, and the trek to the Njegoš Mausoleum, which offers panoramic views of the entire region.


Hiking in Durmitor National Park

Durmitor National Park is a hiker’s paradise in northwest Montenegro with over 200km of trails that take in some of this country’s most spectacular scenery.

The national park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980.

Top hikes there include:

  • Bobotov Kuk (2523m)
  • Prutaš peak
  • Durmitor Ice Cave
  • Crvena Greda (2164m)
  • The Black Lake


Packing for Hikes in Montenegro

Montenegro, Kotor, Old Fort Views

There are many things to consider when planning for a hike in Montenegro, but after deciding which month you want to visit, packing the right gear should be at the top of your list…

Here are my go-to essentials:

  • Filter Water Bottle: To make sure you stay fully hydrated during your hike. Forgetting to bring water can ruin the experience, so I love my Water-to-Go bottle, which makes any fresh water potable and helps massively reduce plastic waste.
  • Hiking Shoes: Good hiking shoes are essential for Montenegro’s rocky and often uneven terrain. Make sure they are well broken in to avoid blisters. Personally, my North Face Hedgehogs have never let me down!
  • Cap: A cap is essential for protecting against the sun. A wide-brimmed hat is a good alternative, as it also provides some shade for your neck and face.
  • UV Sunglasses: A must-have to protect your eyes from the sun and enable you to see the views properly. If you need help deciding what kind of sunglasses to bring, make sure you read my guide on the best sunglasses for hiking.
  • Backpack: A comfortable, durable backpack to carry your essentials is key to a good hike. I love this Osprey Ultralight option, which is super lightweight and packs down to almost nothing!
  • Snacks: Energy bars or protein bars are great snacks to keep your energy levels up during the hike. Nuts, dried fruits and trail mix are also great options for quick energy boosts.
  • Rain Gear: A waterproof jacket to protect against unexpected rain. Pack a lightweight, packable jacket, like this one, that can be easily stowed away when not needed.
  • Suncream: Apply suncream before you start the hike and bring some to top up along the way. Choose a high SPF, broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Fully Charged Phone: Essential for navigation and emergencies. Ensure it’s fully charged before you set out and bring a portable charger as well.
  • Layered Clothing: The weather can change quickly, especially as you gain elevation. Layering allows you to adjust to the changing temperatures. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add an insulating layer and top with a waterproof and windproof outer layer.
  • Hiking Trousers: Opt for breathable, quick-drying hiking trousers. Convertible trousers that can be turned into shorts, like these, are a good choice.
  • Good Camera: Hiking in Montenegro means you will get the chance to see some of the best views! A good camera is essential and I love my Sony A6000.


Hiking The Ladder of Kotor: Final Words

Montenegro, Kotor Old Town, Clock Tower and Ladder of Kotor

The Kotor Ladder hike is challenging yet rewarding and offers some of Montenegro’s best views.

If you’re looking for a memorable experience in Kotor, then I highly recommend adding it to your bucket list.

But don’t stop there!

Make sure you also leave time to explore Kotor, maybe even try some of my other recommended hikes both at the coast and further inland.

For more tips and detailed guides on travelling in Montenegro, be sure to check out my complete Montenegro Travel Guide or read my top tips for travelling this country below…


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Mini Travel Guide to Kotor, Montenegro

Hyatt Regency, Kotor Bay, Villa Bedroom

When to Visit Kotor?

I think the best time to visit Kotor is either in the months of May or September.

July and August will be fun in Kotor, but hot and very busy!


How to Travel There?

International airports can be found in Kotor’s closest hub Tivat, Montenegro’s capital Podgorica, or just outside the country in nearby Dubrovnik or Tirana in Albania.

All these airports boast budget airline arrivals from destinations around Europe – including Wizz Air, who I flew to Montenegro with and highly recommend.

Check out Skyscanner to compare prices, as they include Wizz Air and other budget carriers in their searches.

From Tivat airport it’s then just a 15 minute drive to Kotor, otherwise if you’re coming Podgorica, Dubrovnik or Tirana airports, you can then easily find a cheap bus or private transfer to Kotor.

For those already travelling in the Balkan / Eastern European area, buses to Kotor can also be easily found from nearby cities including Mostar in Bosnia and Skopje in Macedonia.

Busbud is a great resource for those travelling to and from Kotor, as you can book online bus tickets from a range of companies in advance and choose the best option for you based on price, duration and comfort.


How to Get Around Kotor?

Kotor Old Town really is a small place and, with the bus station situated just outside the city walls, there really isn’t any need to navigate Kotor Old Town any other way than your own 2 feet… especially given the traffic can be really bad here in the summer months!

The exception is if you want to head out to explore other parts of the Bay of Kotor, such as the village of Perast, or some of the other Kotor walks on this list.

For this, it’s best to either cycle, hop on the public Blue Line bus or take a boat trip.


How Much Time Do You Need in Kotor?

I’d honestly advise staying at least 4-5 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.


Where to Stay in Kotor?

I highly recommend those looking treat themselves for less to check out the Hyatt Regency Kotor Bay Resort, which is amazingly situated right on the water’s edge.


Is Kotor Safe?

I travelled Kotor as a solo female and felt very safe.


Travel Insurance

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.


How to Pay for Things in Kotor?

The currency in Montenegro is the Euro and I advise bringing some cash with you, as well as a good card you can use to pay for things abroad.

With real exchange rates, no transaction fees and no ATM withdrawal charges, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card when travelling… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay.

Grab yours here.


Best eSIM for Kotor

I highly recommend Holafly, which I used throughout my time in Montenegro and had great connection in Kotor, as well as across the country.

Get 5% off with the discount code: BIGWORLDSMALLPOCKETS


Can I Take a Tour to Kotor?

If you want to visit Montenegro with a group and an experienced guide, then check out these top tours that include a stop in Kotor.




My 2nd trip to Kotor was sponsored by the Hyatt Regency Kotor Bay Resort as well as the Montenegro Tourism Board but, as always, all views are my own.

This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.


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