As our cruise ship slowly glided through the narrow passageway of calm waters on the Adriatic Sea, we were welcomed to the area with steep mountainous ridges protruding out behind tiny villages. The white buildings with salmon-colored tile roofs looked miniscule in size against the towering mountainous backdrop. As we drift passed the imposing slopes, I spot a lone structure nestled among the trees. It looks like an ancient abbey hidden away in the forest for spiritual seclusion overlooking the mesmerizing waters. It is obvious why the area has been seducing visitors since antiquity.
And so was the beginning of our fabulous day in Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor.
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The town of Kotor is cradled between coastal waters and abrupt mountains with 15th century stone walls laced along the hill of St. John. The UNESCO World Heritage Site describes:
“The Outstanding Universal Value of the Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor is embodied in the quality of the architecture in its fortified and open cities, settlements, palaces and monastic ensembles, and their harmonious integration to the cultivated terraced landscape on the slopes of high rocky hills.”
Hiking to the Castle of St. John
If you are arriving by cruise ship make sure to wake up early and get outside to see the magnificent views as you float in. It also allows you to get an early start which is important if you would like to see all the wonderful things Kotor has to offer.
As soon as we were able to hop off the boat, we did in order to get an early start climbing up to the Castle of St. John for the best views of the bay. We had four hours before our boat ride at 11:45 a.m. to Our Lady of Rocks Island and the town of Perast. It was plenty of time to hike up and back with time to eat lunch before our boat ride. The memory of the spectacular views at the top of the city walls will last a lifetime. Read here for more details and gorgeous pictures of the hike.
Our Lady of the Rocks
The first stop on our afternoon boat ride was the tiny Lady of the Rocks Island. It is one of two islands smack dab in the middle of the bay. It is a man-made island built by fishermen from the town of Perast. According to legend, a picture of the Holy Mother of God was found on a sea rock after a shipwreck and they vowed to build a church in that very spot. As fishermen would return from sea after a successful voyage, they would lay a rock in the bay. These rocks eventually emerged from the sea forming an island. The tradition of throwing rocks in the water near the island still continues today.
The church, a museum, bathrooms and a gift shop are the only things on the small island. After touring inside the church we sat and ate a snack while watching sailboats whiz by.
Coastal Town of Perast
After our island stop we were dropped off at the sleepy town of Perast. Its main street is a pedestrian only pathway with gorgeous views. It is a quiet and charming town with a few churches, ice cream carts, a museum and a tower that can be climbed – there was no way I was walking up any more steps after the hike in the morning though. There’s not much else to do here except have a drink or a meal at one of the restaurants that have primo seating overlooking the water.
The Old Town of Kotor
We ended our day roaming around the well-preserved medieval town of Kotor. Narrow walkways lined with shops, restaurants and churches open up into large squares. For strategic purposes the town was built like a maze and noticeably so. It’s real easy to get lost in the small area even with a map.
Green shutters, beautiful archways, decorative doors and surprisingly tall stone buildings are all part of the fascinating architecture throughout the town. Wandering through the cobblestone streets, imagining what it was like to live in this enchanting village hundreds of years ago is a fantastic way to end the day.
Have you been to Montenegro? What did you think?
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