Exploring Kotor and the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro

Monday, November 25 to Friday, November 29
Vagabonding Days 56-60
Location: Kotor, Montenegro

After rambling around Croatia for 6 weeks, Daniel and I were ready to visit a new country. We heard great things about Kotor, another fortified city and UNESCO World Heritage site, so we boarded a bus heading southbound. It was a short bus ride from Dubrovnik and we soon crossed the border into neighboring Montenegro.

I knew that Kotor was located in a scenic bay, but nothing prepared me for the stunning beauty of the Bay of Kotor. Sometimes referred to as Europe’s southernmost “fjord”, the Bay of Kotor has an unusual butterfly shape which it gained when rising sea levels drowned an ancient river valley. The bay is framed with a backdrop of mountains that rise dramatically from the Adriatic Sea. I eyed the mountains as we approached the city, itching to do some hiking.

Kotor’s Old Town is surrounded by ancient walls that extend behind the city up to St. John’s Fortress, which is perched on a cliff overlooking the town. Climbing the 1355 steps to the fortress is a must-do when visiting Kotor – not only do you get great views of the Bay of Kotor, but you get to visit the crumbling remains of an ancient fort as well. I managed to combine a hike with a visit to the fort on the same day. More details are available in this blog post: Switchback Heaven: Climbing the Ladder of Kotor in Montenegro.

Even though we visited in the off season, Kotor was bustling with locals and tourists alike. Cruise ships occasionally docked in the Bay of Kotor during the daytime, flooding the city with gawking tourists who left the town to locals at night. City workers were in the process of setting up holiday decorations around town when we arrived, giving the whole city a festive air. The dominant religion in Montenegro practices Eastern Orthodox Christianity which celebrates Christmas in early January. According to our AirBnB host, most people celebrate Christmas on December 25 as well, which essentially means they have extended Christmas celebrations for weeks on end. Sounds good to me – I love Christmas!

We were a little early for Christmas, but we did happen to be in Kotor for American Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 28. We thought briefly about preparing some sort of traditional Thanksgiving meal in our apartment but ultimately decided that it sounded like too much work. So we went out for a lovely meal of traditional Montenegrin food instead (which turned out to be similar to the food we enjoyed in Croatia).

During our stay in Kotor, a massive 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the nearby country of Albania killing 51 people and injuring 2000 more. The shaking started around 4:00 am local time and could be felt as far away as Belgrade. Many Kotor residents were awoken by the quake, which apparently was pretty intense, but we slept right through it.

Map of the 2019 Albania Earthquake.

Daniel and I had planned to visit the city of Shkodër in Albania next and immediately began to have second thoughts. As we contemplated what to do, a series of aftershocks rocked the region and a 6.0 earthquake struck across the Adriatic Sea near
Crete. That settled it. With the country of Albania in a state of emergency, it seemed like a bad time to try and visit.

It was time for a new plan. Stay tuned to find out where we ended up next…

Pictures from our trip to Kotor

The view from the bus on along the Bay of Kotor.
I want to hike these mountains! Squee!
Church of our Lady of the Rocks. According to legend, this island was formed by fishermen who threw rocks on this spot over centuries.
Sea Gate, the main entrance to Kotor’s Old Town.
The view from our apartment in Old Town. The bar on the bottom floor was apparently a popular local hangout late at night.
St. Luke’s Church.
St. Luke’s Church with the Kotor Fortress in the background.
Cathedral of Saint Tryphon (Katedrala Svetog Tripuna).
Kotor’s Cat Museum is located in this square. Sadly, it’s closed in the off season.
Some of Kotor’s famous cats.
An art installation of hanging laundry made out of leather.
The clock tower in The Arms Square (Trg od Oružja).
The Arms Square (Trg od Oružja) at night.
Inside Kotor’s Old Town.
One of the entrances to Old Town, decorated for Christmas.
Daniel snapped this photo of me with Santa Claus.
Christmas decorations in Kotor’s Old Town.
These carved Santa figurines are neat.
Kotor’s open air farmer’s market.
Kotor’s fortifications next to the Scurda River.
Kotor’s south gate.
Kotor’s fortifications above south gate.
Kotor Fortress (St. John’s Fortress) on the hill above Kotor.
Thanksgiving dinner at Bastion 3 restaurant in Kotor.
Daniel’s Thanksgiving entree: boiled pork knuckle.
Daniel enjoys his Thanksgiving meal.
My Thanksgiving entree: veal pašticada with potato gnocchi.
Daniel got a haircut from a barbershop in Kotor. It looks pretty good!
Walking along the Bay of Kotor.
The Bay of Kotor.
We went for a walk along the Bay of Kotor and got caught in a rainstorm. Lucky for us, we also got to see this rainbow.
A cruise ship pulls out of the Bay of Kotor, heading to the next destination.

Where are we now?

We are in Kotor, Montenegro.

View the map here: Kotor, Montenegro

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