“God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day, he took his time and created this fjord under Lovćen.” – William Boyd. With jaw-dropping scenery, ancient history and plenty of ways to stretch the legs, Kotor Bay is a must-see on any Montenegro itinerary. Here are the top must-see attractions in Montenegro’s beloved Boka.
Kotor old town
The Bay of Kotor’s must-see attraction is Kotor old town; if you only have time to see one thing in the bay, make it the old town. The Venetian old town sits deep in the heart of the bay, right on the water, and it’s a stunner. The town is surrounded by walls and backed by sheer mountainside. Inside the impenetrable walls, the town is made of cobblestone alleyways, worn smooth by the footsteps of hundreds of years of Kotor residents. Aside from the gelato and lively restaurants, the town’s attractions include the maritime museum, Saint Tryphon’s Cathedral, Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church and the Cats Museum of Kotor.
San Giovanni Fortress
Behind Kotor old town, San Giovanni Fortress beckons those who want the ultimate selfie. A 1355-step hike up Mount Saint John (also known as San Giovanni or Sveti Ivan) is a rite of passage with incredible rewards. Those who make the trek to the top are rewarded with breathtaking views of the Bay of Kotor all the way to Perast, Kotor old town and Mount Vrmac, which separates Kotor from Tivat.
Perast is one of the prettiest towns in Kotor Bay. The idyllic stone hamlet shows the glory of the bay’s seafaring heyday. The Bay of Kotor was once home to many powerful seafaring families. They built palaces along the bay’s shore, with the most expensive and ornate located in Perast and along the seafront in Ljuta and Dobrota. Today, these palaces have been preserved and restored as museums, homes and hotels. Visitors can stay in a restored palace hotel and enjoy the bay’s Mediterranean ambiance and ever-changing views.
Our Lady of the Rocks
Floating off Perast’s shore, Our Lady of the Rocks is one of the Bay of Kotor’s top attractions. The island church is built on a man-made island that was founded over 500 years ago. Legend has it two brothers found an icon of the Madonna on a rock here and decided to build a church. The island was built with local rocks and scuttled ships and eventually a church was built on top. A small fee gets visitors a guided tour of the church and attached museum, which houses fascinating local artifacts from the area.
Risan’s Roman mosaics are the remains of a Roman villa that was built in the 2nd century. The villa’s remains and exquisitely detailed mosaic floors were uncovered in 1930 and depict cultural themes of the day — namely wine grape vines, the sea and weapons. The reason these mosaics are so special is the mosaic on the bedroom floor. The beautifully-wrought artwork is a tribute to Hypnos, or Somnus as he was called in Roman mythology, the Greek God of Dreams. This is the only mosaic rendition of Hypnos ever found.
Roman Mosaics, Risan, Montenegro, +382 32 322 886
A decade ago, Tivat was a fairly unremarkable town in the Bay of Kotor. And then came Porto Montenegro.
Porto Montenegro was a retired army shipyard that had languished in disrepair. Along came Canadian gold magnate Peter Munk with his vision of turning the shipyard into the world’s greatest superyacht marina. Now, Porto Montenegro is the only Platinum-rated marina in the world and is home to some of the world’s biggest and best luxury yachts.
Far from being an exclusive destination, Porto Montenegro invites visitors to walk along Jetty One and admire these magnificent boats. The village has stores with luxury brands, and the outdoor pool is an indulgent daytime destination. The village’s restaurants offer everything from pizza and pasta to sushi and Lebanese cuisine, and there’s five-star dining at Hotel Regent Porto Montenegro, which has incredible views of the marina beside Venetian Square.
Porto Montenegro, Obala bb, Tivat, Montenegro, +382 32 660 700
Herceg Novi is one of the least-touristy areas in this increasingly-popular destination. The picturesque town sits at the entrance of the bay and overlooks Mamula Island. Known for having the best beaches in the bay, the township has an old town that’s the heart and soul of local Herceg Novi life. Visit the zelena pijaca (green market) Monday to Saturday mornings to pick up fresh, local produce from local farmers. Grab a coffee overlooking the sea at Gradska Kafana, and spend evenings sipping Vranac wine in Belavista Square.
Ćatovica Mlini Restaurant
Not just a restaurant, Ćatovica Mlini is a destination in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hamlet of Morinj. Tucked away just off the seaside road, visiting Ćatovica Mlini is a magical experience. The entrance is a pretty, but not overly impressive, bamboo tunnel. Then you hear the running water, and finally the bamboo walls give way to a lush vista that’s like something from a fairy tale. Ducks and geese swim in the streams, peacocks roam across the manicured lawns and paths and bridges lead visitors around the grounds.
The restaurant serves excellent Kotor Bay-style seafood, and visitors are also welcome to stop for coffee. Don’t miss the photo wall inside featuring photos of celebrities who have been here.
Ćatovica Mlini, E65, Morinj, Montenegro, +382 32 373 030
Vrmac Ridge is a great place to get outdoors in the Bay of Kotor. The ridge is just 10 minutes from either Kotor or Tivat by car and it’s criss-crossed with walking and mountain biking trails for every level. Attractions on the ridge include Fort Vrmac, an abandoned Austro-Hungarian fortress, the village of Gornja Lastva, Sveti Vid lookout and Sveta Neđelja Church.
Lipci prehistoric drawings
Lipci’s prehistoric drawings are evidence of the long history of human settlement in the Bay of Kotor. A 10-minute walk into the bush brings visitors to a small cave and rocky cliff. Although not easy to spot, sharp eyes will see the faded ancient drawings on the cliff face, which date back to the 8th century BC.