Kotor is known as one of the top stops on the Balkans tour. I knew absolutely nothing about the country of Montenegro before; I don’t think I even knew it was a European country until I looked through my Lonely Planet guidebook in August. How is that for planning a visit to a country that you had never even really heard of?
I changed buses twice from Shkoder, Albania, once in Ulcinj and once in Budva. Virtually the entire trip took us along windy roads along the coast with great views of the Adriatic Sea. Coming into Kotor, it was immediately clear that this is a special place. The bus descended with the Bay of Kotor in the background, mountains surrounding the water inlet. Often called a fjord, it’s technically a ria, since it was not created from a glacier. Either way, it is stunning with its tall mountains jutting out on both sides of the inlet.
Walking in the main entrance of Kotor’s entrance was an experience in itself. The city’s walls shield it from the outside world, creating its own unique atmosphere inside. The medieval walled city has kept its grandeur, and this is immediately felt upon entrance. It was so unexpected that I got the chills as I stepped back into time. The marble streets and stone buildings create the perfect ambience for getting lost in the city’s small alleyways. The alleys are seemingly unplanned, as they make their way around buildings in a random fashion. Smalls cafes, restaurants, and shops can be found in small corners where it seems you might be the first person to discover this hidden gem. Church bells ring every hour, letting you know that, in fact, time is still moving forward and not backward as one may have thought. Just behind the city rises a steep mountain where the city walls extend to its peak, creating an impossible shield against all enemies. At the top is a fortress, once used as lookout tower to spot any attackers. Combine the beautiful walled old town with marble streets, rias that can match some of Norway’s fjords, and a nice hike up to a fortress, and you have yourself a perfect place to spend a few days!
I spent two nights in Kotor but only about one and a half days. Because of its small size and relative lack of museums and things to do, it can be done comfortably in a day or two. It’s a great place for anyone who is interested in photography, so I had a good time just walking around and taking pictures. I took my time walking up to the fortress perched on the mountain, so that took the better part of an afternoon for me. I stayed at the Old Town Hostel Kotor, located inside the walled city, and it was one of the better places I’ve stayed in a while. It is in a newly renovated building and the workers were friendly. And it was just 9 euros ($12) per night.
Although I did not learn much about the history of the Kotor or Montenegro, I had a really good time just walking around, meeting people in my hostel, and working on my photography skills. I’ll definitely remember Kotor for years to come!