I’ve always wanted to go to Montenegro—long before it was its own entity and when it was still adjoined with Serbia, maybe even when it was still deemed Yugoslavia, I really can’t remember. I’m not sure why, but it probably has to do with the fact that the name alone summons images of a fantasy land that existed only in fiction, as if it were plucked right from the pages of Game of Thrones or from the screen of a Disney movie. And I finally got one day in Montenegro to visit Kotor while on a recent Mediterranean cruise with my family.
Sailing into the port through the fjords, you can’t help but fall in love with the Balkan nation. The landscapes, quite simply put, are stunning. I forgot I was cruising the waters of the Adriatic Sea; rather, I felt like I was back in Norway, jutting in and out of its striking fjords.
Why did no one tell me Montenegro was this gorgeous and had such magnificent fjords at that? The entry was like the best IMAX featuref ever—only real life, I’m pretty sure.
Everywhere we looked, the views seemed to go on and on and on. For the couple hours it took to reach Kotor, we were a rapt audience, eyes glued to the horizon.
Once we arrived, the Royal Clipper pulled right up to the central square of Kotor, where we docked.
On a cruise, there’s nothing better than a central port and one in which you don’t have to tender.
Kotor itself was nothing to sneeze at. Funny enough, when we arrived in Croatia the next day, I pulled out my phone to post a photo from the old town and what popped up as the location but Winterfell; I’d also argue that Kotor would have been a good setting for such a mythical, stonewalled kingdom.
And while I would fall in love with Dubrovnik, too, if given the choice between the two, Montenegro would be where I’d return.
We had no real plan in mind—but then again, when do we ever?—so we set out to do what all visitors to Kotor do: hike “the walls.” But first we deposited my dad, who has a bum knee, at one of the many cafes that pepper the town square.
It was a bit of a challenge to find the walls’ entryway, as it wasn’t well marked, but eventually we navigated our way through the tight, maze-like city center and found the starting point to one of the two paths that wind all the way up to the fortress perched above the city.
We paid our three euros apiece to enter and set off on the climb. Now call me crazy or ignorant or perhaps simply uninformed, but I assumed these “walls” encased the city; maybe there’s be 100 steps we had to climb to peer into the downtown square from above. What I was not expecting was 1,350 steps, one way. (That’s 2,700 round trip for those of you who failed math.)
We took a break at the Church of Our Lady of Remedy, about a third of the way up, where we left my mom who didn’t want to make the rest of the sweaty trek. And then there were four.
But I’m glad us “kids” braved it: The views kept getting more remarkable the higher we climbed.
The now dilapidated fortress walls of the Castle of San Giovanni were built gradually over a period of 1,000 years, between the 9th and 19th centuries, and tower some 4,000 feet over the city.
We were told it would take 45 minutes to reach the top, and that was pretty spot on—if you’d been walking the whole time and not taken extended breaks, mind you. We, on the other hand, paused for photos every 20 feet, so it took us closer to an hour.
The hike is not for the faint of heart, and I’m glad I’d taken the advice of one of our shipmates, who suggested I change into my tennis shoes and leave the flip-flops at home.
The path is mainly cobblestone, and even in sneakers, I stumbled more than a few times.
Once we reached the top, the views of the Bay of Kotor and the surrounding mountains were worth the energy expended, even as the clouds began to creep in.
I saw a yogi out doing handstands on the roof, and I contemplated joining him.
That is, until my protective husband put a halt to that plan. I begged SVV to let me go out there—I’ve been working on my pincha practice for months now, and what good is a respectable pincha if not for an excellent photograph against a dramatic landscape?—but he wouldn’t let me for fear the centuries-old structure would crumble beneath me. (Are you calling me fat, SVV?)
Then, it opened up and starting pouring, a brief but powerful half-hour shower, the only rain we’d get in our three weeks in Europe (#blessed), signaling it was time to head back down.
When we got to the bottom, drenched in a mix of sweat and precipitation, we felt we had earned our beers (which were much more liberal pours than the water).
Gelato, too, because duh, it’s a day of the week.
For the rest of the day, we shopped and wandered around the old town, grabbing dinner before heading back to the ship just before midnight and promising Montenegro we’d do it justice upon our return.
I’m SO jealous! Montenegro has been on my list for years and years now. I think 2015 will be the year I finally make it there. At least, after reading this post it better be!
I sure hope so. And…can I meet you there? =)
Wow I love love love the photos! Norway has been on my mind for some time now… Montenegro is going to have to be added as well!
Yes! You need to go to BOTH of them!
I LOVE THESE PHOTOS! I’ve never been to Montenegro but it’s definitely on the list. Maybe I’ll get my pincha on when I’m there…
Definitely on my list too!
What a stunningly beautiful place! I can’t say that Montenegro has ever been on my radar, but it definitely is now.
I LOVED Kotor. It is so gorgeous. I didn’t do the hike (something about it being August and hotter than hell) but would do it on return, for sure. Montenegro is a great budget option for travelers. Cheaper than Croatia and beautiful!
Such a fantastic place for visit. -Thanks for posting nice views.
I think I’m both amazingly blessed and amazingly cursed that climbing that thing a few times a year is now my profession 🙂 It is quite a beast with all of those steps but truthfully I’ve never noticed the amount of time because I just get lost in the views. Glad you made it to the top!
Some people call Kotor the “poor man’s Dubrovnik” … I hope they keep doing it so she can resist the mass tourism as long as possible.
I like your post very much i had nice time while reading your post
I have to say that when it comes to that part of the world, Montenegro hasn’t been the highest on my radar – but it definitely looks like it should be! Your photos are gorgeous; the landscape looks so stunning.
Cannot believe that I was ‘researching’ stuff about Kotor and Bar – just as this trip report arrived in my twitter feed! What a coincidence!!
I shall be there in three weeks and fantastic photos like yours are making me realise what an inspired choice of destination it is.
I love history / architecture and also being outdoors, so to have a UNESCO city to explore and also lake Skadar down the road, one of Europe’s most important birding and wildlife areas, will be me in utopia for a week 😉
That guy doing yoga was impressive. I would be too scared to do it up there myself 🙂
“Gelato, too, because duh, it’s a day of the week.”
Girl after my own heart. I’ve been using this line a lot lately for massages… mango sticky rice… time at the beach when I should be working…. 🙂
Love these pics! Totally getting GoT Qarth vibes : )
Before this post, I don’t think I had ever seen photos of Montenegro. It looks absolutely spectacular! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Great photos! You’re making me want to go to Montenegro even more than I already did! I think I started wanting to go there when I found out that one of the beautiful scenes by the water in Casino Royale was shot there. Someday!
Stunning photos a always! If we didn’t do the two week road trip, our other idea was Croatia (I know talk about night and day!). However, after seeing your photos, I’m thinking Montenegro is the way to go! Can’t wait to read about the rest of the cruise!
High above the town of Kotor are some of the best vantage points across the bay – the city walls.
This is gorgeous! I hope to visit someday.
Stunning pictures that make me say wow!
I’ve never been to Montenegro, but it’s beauty seems obvious. Such a great place to visit!
Wow! Those views are wonderful! It definitely is worth the climb. I wouldn’t mind going myself just to see that!
And where is your sweaty mom?
Did you find Montenegro budget friendly or is it at the same level as it is Croatia these days?
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Wow! I’m reading this 2 years later after finding your blog via Southern Living. My husband & I are heading to Croatia next week & have 2 days in Montenegro. This post has me giddy, thanks!
Just reading this post 2 years later; found your blog via Southern Living (well deserved recognition, btw). My husband & I head to Croatia next week week with 2 days in Montenegro. After reading/seeing this, I’m giddy with excitement, thank you!
Ah I’m SO envious. What a great trip you’re about to embark upon! Croatia and Montenegro are definitely two places I’d like to spend more time in in the future.