Our Costa cruise allowed us half a day to explore Kotor, Montenegro in early November. While we really wanted to visit nearby Perast’s Our Lady of the Rocks island, with limited time we decided to focus all our efforts on Kotor. The cruise into the Bay of Kotor in the early morning was quite pretty, and despite the morning chill, we huddled up on deck to take some photos of the beautiful scenery. We were allowed to disembark at a very reasonable 9 am, and were one of the first passengers off the ship. Lucky us! We had all of Kotor to enjoy by ourselves for the first hour on shore while the big tour groups were still trying to get organized. It was great being able to take photos of the Old Town without having to contend with our fellow passengers. We were able to take a ton of photos of the medieval town’s sights such as the Clock Tower, Sveti Tripun Cathedral, Sveti Luka Church, Church of Sveta Marija, Church of Lady of Health, Napoleon’s Theater, and palaces galore to include Bizanti, Buca, Pima, and Grgurin. We really enjoyed that first hour of bliss, because once the rest of the cruise ship passengers entered town at 10am, things started to get crowded!
To escape the Old Town for a bit, we decided to hike up to the Sveti Ivan (St John) Fortress. Even in November, ticket booths were set up around town to collect the 3 Euro fee to hike up to the fortress. Becky had heard about an alternate path up to the Fortress via the “ladder of Cattarno” or the old mule track. Apparently, the path started at the base of the water pumping station and in addition to being free, it was supposed to be an easier hike up the mountain (wider, zigzag path, less steep, better terrain, with the drawbacks of being somewhat longer, less scenic and far less people). Needless to say, we opted for the less traveled path, and it was great! The hike up was easy, we ran into several locals coming down the mountain, but met no one else hiking uphill. It was pretty obvious when we had to leave the mule path to join the main trail, because we could see other hikers lingering nearby an abandoned church. We cut across towards them, and viola, 6 Euros saved in Kotor! We joined the main path by hiking up and crawling through a rampart window. The view overlooking the bay was simply astounding. Well worth the effort of hiking up the hill and definitely Kotor’s #1 must do activity!!! Since we were so close to the top, we hiked the rest of the way up to the fortress to take in the phenomenal vista. We were truly lucky to have such spectacular weather in early November, and couldn’t help but take dozens of photos from this vantage point. The Bay of Kotor is such a beautiful sight…we sat on top of the fortress ruins mesmerized by the scenery (fjords, mountains, green vegetation and blue skies). Eventually, we tore ourselves away from the fortress and made our way back down the hill. Boy did we count our blessings to have chosen the donkey path up to the fortress! The pay trail was way steeper and the tourists climbing up it were huffing and puffing each step of the way. In addition to being much steeper, the main trail was also much narrower (room for 2 people side by side), so we would move aside to let those struggling up the hill have right of way…poor things!
Back in town, we decided to circle back to our favorite Kotor sights. Despite the afternoon crowds, we found the Old City to be quite charming and alluring. Apparently, Kotor is one of the best preserved medieval walled cities in the Mediterranean, with 1000 year old walls that stretch up 20 meters high. We certainly were impressed by the state of the walls! Since it was nearing lunch time, we decided to board the Costa Mediterranea for some food. We were so glad that we decided to spend our limited time in Montenegro in Kotor, rather than try to dash off to Perast because we definitely wouldn’t have had time to do both. Kotor is a gem and we would love to return to Montenegro to see more of this beautiful country.