We spent nine days in Kotor which gave us plenty of time to see the town and also to explore more of the surrounding area. Here are the places we visited, all within an a short drive from Kotor.
One of the first short road trips we took during our stay in Kotor was to Budva, which is only 30 minutes away by car. Like Kotor, Budva has a fortified old town and we enjoyed a quick walk around the walls.
Outside the old town, Budva is a sprawling city with high rises, high-end shopping, and loads of mega yachts docked in the harbor. Apparently the city is a favorite destination of wealthy Russians which has led to a booming real estate market in recent decades. After visiting Budva we were happy that we had chosen to stay in Kotor since it is smaller and feels more laid-back.
A bit further down the road from Budva is Sveti Stefan, which is famous for it’s small picturesque island (actually a peninsula, since it is connected to the mainland by a small strip of land). In the 70’s the island was a playground for international celebrities. We should note, the name refers to St. Stephen and not to a sweaty person as the younger people in our family suspected.
In 2007 the entire island was leased out to a company that now operates it as a luxury resort with rooms that rent for well over 500 Euros per night. Needless to say we were not too tempted to stay there.
We walked down to the beach which was mostly deserted. In the summer time, the resort charges people 50 Euros for the privilege of enjoying this beach (the beach on the other side can be visited for free, guess which one gets more crowded).
Kotor Serpentine Road
Driving the Kotor Serptentine Road from Kotor to Lovcen national park was one of the highlights of our trip. The road up from Kotor has 25 hairpin turns, which were white-knuckle inducing because the road is narrow with room for only a single car to pass in most places.
The drive was a bit nerve-racking but the views were worth it. Around each corner we get a spectacular view of the Kotor Bay and beyond.
Lovcen National Park
After navigating the Kotor Serpentine we continued onward into Lovcen National Park. Mt. Lovcen is the “black mountain” for which the country is named. After paying a small entrance fee we drove up Mt. Lovcen. Near the top we found a surprisingly reasonably-priced restaurant where we enjoyed cevapi and schnitzel.
The park is home to the mausoleum of Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, a 19th century poet, philosopher, and ruler of Montenegro.
The mausoleum itself has an interesting history. It was originally built in 1855, but after WWI the Austro-Hungarians decided to construct a monument to their emperor off the mountain and Njegoš’ remains were moved elsewhere, only to be returned after the war. Later, under communist rule the Byzantine chapel was demolished and replaced with a more secular building with a brutalist aesthetic.
Perast is a seaside town that reached its zenith as part of the Venetian Republic, when it was known as Perasto. Today the seaside town has a pleasant walking street and is the departure point for boats to two small islands in the bay, each with its own historic church. One island was naturally occurring while the other was man made by sailors who piled rocks on top of a shallow reef.
Boats with islands in the distance.
A few kilometers along the bay from Kotor, Risan is the oldest settlement on the bay and was an important city in Roman times. Today little remains from that era but some wonderful mosaics that once adorned the floor of a large villa. Cats have even found their way into the small museum, much to the delight of our children.
Fabrika Craft Brewery
After seeing the mosaics in Risan we decided to go see the nearby craft brewery, one of the few in the country. We discovered Fabrika Brewing when we ordered a couple of their beers at a restaurant in Kotor and really enjoyed them.
When we arrived at the brewery we were surprised to see the size of the facility since the quality of the beer was on par with larger operations. That said, the craft beer industry is just beginning in Montenegro and makes up a tiny percentage of the market that is dominated by a couple of large brewers.
At the brewery we met the owner and head brewer, who was happy to tell us about the origin of the brewery, the brewing process, and the different beers that they produce. He also shared some of the struggles that he faces brewing beer in Montenegro, including the difficulty in obtaining brewing equipment and ingredients (just getting the malt requires sending a driver to Slovenia). This is a labor of love as each and every bottle produced is filled and labeled by hand! We bought some bottles to take with us and they were labeled for us while we watched.
With all there is to do around Kotor it was the perfect place for an extended stay. This is one of the places that we’d definitely like to return to in the future.
Next time we finally depart from the coast and head inland to Montenegro’s high mountain country.