Channeling Game of Thrones in Montenegro

One Day in Montenegro: Climbing the Walls of Kotor

[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”20872686″]

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 the Fjords of Montenegro

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.

Sailing the Fjords of Montenegro

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.

Sailing the Fjords of Montenegro

Sailing the Fjords of Montenegro

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.

Sailing the Fjords of Montenegro  Sailing the Fjords of Montenegro

Once we arrived, the Royal Clipper pulled right up to the central square of Kotor, where we docked.

Sailing the Fjords of Montenegro

On a cruise, there’s nothing better than a central port and one in which you don’t have to tender.

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro

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.

Kotor, Montenegro

And while I would fall in love with Dubrovnik, too, if given the choice between the two, Montenegro would be where I’d return.

Kotor, Montenegro

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.

Hiking the walls of Kotor, Montenegro

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.

Hiking the walls of Kotor, Montenegro

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.)

Hiking the Kotor Walls

Hiking the walls of Kotor, Montenegro

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.

Hiking the Kotor Walls

But I’m glad us “kids” braved it: The views kept getting more remarkable the higher we climbed.

Hiking the Kotor Walls

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.

Hiking the Kotor Walls

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.

Hiking the walls of Kotor, Montenegro

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.

Hiking the walls of Kotor, Montenegro

The path is mainly cobblestone, and even in sneakers, I stumbled more than a few times. The Walls of Kotor

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.

Hiking the walls of Kotor, Montenegro

I saw a yogi out doing handstands on the roof, and I contemplated joining him.

Hiking the walls of Kotor in Montenegro

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?)

Hiking the walls of Kotor in Montenegro

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.

Hiking the walls of Kotor, Montenegro

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).

Beer in Kotor, Montenegro

Gelato, too, because duh, it’s a day of the week.

Gelato in Kotor, Montenegro

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.

Hiking the walls of Kotor in Montenegro

COMMENTS
  • September 2, 2014

    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!

    • September 2, 2014

      I sure hope so. And…can I meet you there? =)

  • September 2, 2014

    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!

    • September 2, 2014

      Yes! You need to go to BOTH of them!

  • September 2, 2014

    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…

  • September 2, 2014
    Abi

    Definitely on my list too!

  • September 2, 2014

    What a stunningly beautiful place! I can’t say that Montenegro has ever been on my radar, but it definitely is now.

  • September 2, 2014

    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!

  • September 3, 2014

    Such a fantastic place for visit. -Thanks for posting nice views.

  • September 3, 2014

    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.

  • September 3, 2014

    I like your post very much i had nice time while reading your post

  • September 3, 2014

    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.

  • September 3, 2014
    Jon Dunn

    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 😉

  • September 3, 2014

    That guy doing yoga was impressive. I would be too scared to do it up there myself 🙂

  • September 4, 2014

    “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…. 🙂

  • September 5, 2014
    Haidang

    Love these pics! Totally getting GoT Qarth vibes : )

  • September 5, 2014

    Before this post, I don’t think I had ever seen photos of Montenegro. It looks absolutely spectacular! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • September 5, 2014
    Brandy

    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!

  • September 5, 2014

    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!

  • September 8, 2014

    High above the town of Kotor are some of the best vantage points across the bay – the city walls.

  • September 8, 2014

    This is gorgeous! I hope to visit someday.

    http://www.charactersandcarryons.com

  • September 12, 2014

    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!

    Nice post.

  • September 21, 2014

    Wow! Those views are wonderful! It definitely is worth the climb. I wouldn’t mind going myself just to see that!

  • September 21, 2014
    Duh

    And where is your sweaty mom?

  • September 23, 2014

    Did you find Montenegro budget friendly or is it at the same level as it is Croatia these days?
    Thanks!

  • November 27, 2014

    Pretty excellent post. I located your current website and want to declare that We have really appreciated searching your blog articles. Regardless My business is checking with your supply exactly what wishing you are submitting all over again as soon as possible!

  • June 15, 2016

    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!

  • June 15, 2016

    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!

    • June 15, 2016

      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.

Leave a Comment

GET MY POSTS DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX
+ Sign up and receive your free copy of my eBook