Just an hour from the Croatian border lies a spectacular paradise that’ll leave you swooning in awe. The jaw-dropping destination of Kotor in Montenegro is ringed by lush, jagged peaks and sits on the calm, turquoise waters of the Bay of Kotor. Going from sea to summit is more than just a catchphrase here, it’s all in a day’s hike. With its medieval old town, fjord and myriad outdoor pursuits, you’re never short of exhilarating things to do in Kotor, Montenegro.
Top Adventurous Things to Do in Kotor, Montenegro
Montenegro sits on the crystal clear Adriatic Sea and neighbours Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Albania. Kotor itself lies on an inlet bay, which you’d be forgiven for thinking is a tranquil lake dotted with adorable villages along its shoreline. In normal times, Kotor is a tourist hotspot with cruise ships dropping into the fjord, ensuring there are a plethora of things to do. Kotor, Montenegro, right now though, is a tranquil haven with super-friendly locals giving you a smiling welcome.
Sea to Summit
Hiking Kotor’s Mountains and Paths
Among things to do in Kotor, Montenegro, are several day hikes. The lush mountains that cascade down to the Bay of Kotor are a hiker’s paradise. Paths are marked with red and white dots/markers painted onto stones but you’ll want a map to be on the safe side. If you’re going digital, try the Outdooractive app that will (hopefully), after a bit of persuasion, give your GPS location on a downloaded map.
Hiking Kotor to Tivat
A heart-pounding ascent, a plateaued walk (for a while at least) and 360-degree sweeping views make this a great day hiking Kotor’s surroundings. After a steep zigzag up, you can peer down at the striking Bay of Kotor, Montenegro on one side, and the coast, airport, and the town of Tivat on the other. You’ll see the superyachts lined up in Porto Montenegro, vying to be the Monte Carlo of Eastern Europe (and the empty luxury apartments allegedly used as a money laundering front by oligarchs, according to locals).
Hiking from Kotor to Tivat, you might stumble upon some wild cows, or at least their al fresco toilets, so be on the lookout. You can wander up past the remains of ancient buildings to a panoramic viewpoint before winding down paths and hardly-used roads to Tivat. Here you can enjoy a coffee in a beachside cafe or devour lunch at a konaba. There’s a designated swimming area and beach at Tivat where you can cool off before getting the bus back after hiking Kotor to Tivat.
Hiking Kotor’s Ladder to near Velji Bostur
Another hike around Kotor is this altitude-stomping walk. If you really want to test your fitness with breathtaking views and ascents this won’t disappoint. With an uphill climb of 1,400m and 70 hairpin bends at the beginning, it’s one of the best fitness things to do in Kotor, Montenegro. The views above the Bay of Kotor are mesmerising as you dip in and out of forests, past meadows, and into Loven National Park. You can arrange for a taxi to pick you up at the national park entrance, before Velji Bostur, otherwise it’s the same route down.
Start the trail (number 751) at the back of the shopping mall and head up, up, up! After
about 600m altitude, you’ll come to a sign post and here take the left path. Then hike up some more, along the road, turn right past the restaurant and then keep your eyes out for red and white markers. Take the forest trail and a few kilometres later, you’ll cross another road, meet some timid, stray, wild dogs and finally be between the two highest points of Mt Stirovnik and Mt Jezerski. This is where you can get a pre-arranged lift back to the Bay of Kotor (it took me 5.5 hours to walk here including stops) or you can walk back the way you came. Add 2.5 to 3 hours for the return leg. (You might get hit by a zooming car if you try walking back along the road.)
For top comical value, stop at the little stone house that sells fresh fruit juices about 150 metres above Kotor with views of the town below. It goes something like this:
“Hi! What fruit juices do you sell, please?”
“You can have freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice. I grow the oranges and lemons myself,” smiles the little old man.
“Take a seat and I’ll bring everything over.” Out he walks with an orange. A lemon. A lemon juicer. Sugar. Water. A knife.
You sit back waiting for him to make the juice. Then he hands you the knife and says, “OK, cut the orange. No, not like that. Now use the juicer. Press harder. Now pour it in the glasses. OK, how much water do you want?”
All the while, you’re thinking, “What a f***ing genius businessman!” as you laugh at his incredulous drinks’ sales tactics.
“I have a donkey over there. You can feed him the orange and lemon peels if you like. Just put a bit of sugar on them.” And suddenly you’ve made your own juice, cleared the table and fed his donkey. Only then do you ask how much it is. “You should always ask the price first. In the town you pay €3.50 for a tiny bit of coffee. Up here I have to carry everything up.”
You don’t dare mention that he grows the fruit in his garden and gets the water from the tap. That would just ruin the moment. You’re fascinated by his audacious behaviour as you wait for the price. “It’s €3. Per glass.” And just like that you give him the money and walk back to Kotor town giggling all the way.
Now if that isn’t one of the funniest things to do in Kotor, Montenegro, you have the sense of humour of John Major. (Unfortunately, that was exactly the personality of the Bosnian-Brit I’d just bumped into who didn’t get my Scouse humour or the Montenegrin man’s Scouse business sense. Cue a fast exit!)
Hiking Kotor Old Town to the Castle of San Giovani
This is one of the most popular things to do in Kotor, Montenegro and for good reason. The medieval old town is set in a walled labyrinth of quaint lanes brimming with photogenic stone buildings, pavement cafes and luxury boutiques. As you step over sleeping stray kitties you’ll eventually reach one of two entrances on the back lane that lead up to St John’s fortress. Built over several centuries as a defence to keep the town safe from attacks, you can see the hill-clinging walls from the town below. They stretch some 220 metres up from sea level.
If you have a good fitness level, you can reach the top in 30 mins. Factoring in photos, rest stops and oh-my-gawd-these-views-are-unbelievable moments, give yourself two hours to get up and down. Going early in the morning is great for the coolest temperatures and virtually no people (it was already 25 degrees at 8am) but not the best light for photos as the town is in the shade until about 10am.
For the longer hikes mentioned here, take at least 2.5 litres of water with you, a packed lunch, cap, suncream and good hiking boots/walking shoes. Best months for hiking are March, April, May, September, October. In June, daytime temperatures are already 28-32 C so an early start is imperative.
Going hiking in Croatia? Check out my Hvar hiking guide.
Other Things to do in Kotor, Montenegro
Kayaking to Lady on the Rock
This was one of my favourite things to do in Kotor, Montenegro. I rented a kayak in Plagente (about 1.5 miles from Kotor centre) and kayaked to Perast, a photogenic village with cute seafront restaurants and a sleepy church.
Getting there was a leisurely paddle of 5.5 miles on calm waters and relatively few speed boats. From here you can easily head over to the two islands, Lady of the Rock (manmade with a church so sailors could pray for a safe trip and say thanks upon their return) and St George (a natural island). You can kayak around both or get out and have a look, but as I didn’t know where to put my kayak so it wouldn’t float away, I stayed in!
Be sure to go past the little villages on the southwest of the Bay of Kotor, they’re adorable. My total kayaking trip with a couple of beach stops was nearly 12 miles. The only huffing and puffing section was going past the gap that leads to the open sea. I paddled like a mad woman and got nowhere fast!
Kayaks are available for €20-€25 a day. Take plenty of water, a dry bag that can hook onto the kayak, SPF and a long-sleeved top to keep the sun from burning your saltwater arms.
Boat Trips to the Islands
If kayaking isn’t your thing, don’t worry (it never used to my thing, either). There are plenty of touts who will try and get you on their speedboats. These range from €15/pp for a quick zoom up the bay to €60 to go on a private tour.
Chilling on the Beach
If all the outdoor pursuits leave you exhausted, you can join the locals sunbathing along Kotor’s bay. There’s a pretty white stony beach just round the corner from Kamala shopping mall with a designated swimming area or you can find your own little bay or concrete jetty to chill out on.
Day Trip to Budva
A 40-minute bus journey from Kotor is the coastal town of Budva. It’s a busy town with buildings jutting out everywhere and has a commercialised beach lined with sun loungers (if you like tacky Costa del Sol et al, you’ll like Budva). The old town is cute but will take all of 5-10 mins to walk around. It wasn’t one of my favourite things to do in Kotor, Montenegro, but Budva is, for some reason, a tourist hotspot. If you need to go clothes shopping, there’s a large shopping centre here.
How do you get from Dubrovnik to Montenegro 2021?
There used to be a bus between Dubrovnik, Croatia, and several towns in Montenegro. However, international bus lines have been suspended due to covid. Currently, your only option is limited to private transfers. I went with a Dubrovnik-based tour guide called Natalia for €40 for the vehicle (this is the best price out there from Dubrovnik City to Herceg Novi, the first town you come to in Montenegro). From Herceg Novi you can jump on a domestic bus to wherever you’re going, or get Natalia to drive you to your destination. She’s super friendly and she’ll take you from Montenegro to Croatia, too. Contact her on Whatsapp +385922670877.
What’s the visa situation to enter Montenegro?
You get 90 days on arrival but be sure they stamp you in and out to avoid issues later. I had to insist on getting my exit stamp which the man grumbled about, presumably because it was rather strenuous to reach for the stamp.
Do I need to register with authorities when I travel in Montenegro?
For purposes of paying tourist tax, every visitor needs to register in each municipality they stay in. Your accommodation will do this for you if it’s a hotel etc. but if it’s via Airbnb you need to check if you should do this yourself. It’s €1 per day and you do it at the local tourism office or police station within 24 hours of your arrival.
What are the covid restrictions for Montenegro?
To enter, you need any of the following: a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours; or a negative rapid antigen test within 48 hours; or two vaccinations; or a positive antibody test within 30 days. You are exempt from all of these if you’ve been in one of its neighbouring countries eg. Croatia for 15 days prior to your arrival (so you enter on day 16). Check the government’s official tourism website for current information. Everything is open (outdoor dining and drinking) with places having a curfew of 11pm.
What’s the currency in Montenegro?
Surprisingly, it’s the euro! Montenegro isn’t in the EU but when it became a sovereign nation in 2007 it was cheaper to use a currency in circulation than to print its own.
What’s the language in Montenegro?
It’s called Montenegrin but it’s the same as all the ex-Yugoslav countries such as Croatian and Bosnian. (A bit like English with slight variations spoken in different countries.) They also use the Cyrillic alphabet in the north. (If you want to find out any other things to do in Kotor, Montenegro, and need Google Translate, just choose ‘Croatian’ as the language because Montenegrin isn’t listed.)
What are the prices like in Montenegro?
Accommodation is generally cheaper than Croatia as too are seafront restaurants. In Kotor, the supermarkets are more expensive, and if you go to the town’s market for fresh produce, expect to pay over the odds for it.
Where can I stay in Kotor?
There’s an abundance of accommodation options in and around Kotor including plush hotels, private apartments, Airbnbs and a hostel.
Where can I get a PCR test in Kotor Montenegro?
In Kotor, Budva, Tivat and other places, you can find Moj Lab, a private clinic that does PCR tests (€49) rapid antigen tests (€15) and antibody tests (€18) all approved by the EU and UK. If you need a PCR test to return to your home country (rather than for onward travel to say, Croatia), you can get a free test done at Kotor Medical Centre but you may need proof of your return journey.
If travelling abroad sounds too risky at the moment, check out:
- Britain’s best holiday destinations
- Quirky glamping breaks in the UK
- Camping Coast to Coast from the Lake District to Yorkshire
- The Fife Coastal Path, Scotland
- The Cape Wrath Trail – Britain’s toughest hiking trail
Jane Batchelor is a solo travel fiend who loves nothing more than exploring new places on a budget. She also hates selfies!