Walking around the small, seaside city of Kotor feels like a journey back in time. With its meandering cobblestone streets, well-preserved architecture, Medieval fortifications, and long history that includes time spent under Venetian, Ottoman, Hapsburg, and Napoleonic rule, Kotor is like no other place in Europe. In this article, we’ll cover our favorite things to do in Kotor, Montenegro.
What To Do in Kotor
The Bay of Kotor, an inlet off the Adriatic Sea, is striking in its own right with turquoise-blue water, stunning green mountains, and a number of quaint seaside towns begging to be explored. No journey through the Adriatic or Balkans is complete without a stop in Kotor.
The city itself is compact and surrounded by impressive Venetian-era fortifications, but despite the relative small size, there is plenty to in Kotor and the surrounding area. In this article, we highlight our favorite things to do in Kotor. We hope you will love this city as much as we did!
- Explore the Bay of Kotor by boat
- Go swimming in the blue caves
- Visit the small town of Perast
- Hike the ladder of Kotor
- Visit Our Lady of the Rocks
- Explore Old town
- Find Kotor’s Medieval churches
- Check out the outdoor market
The exact date that Kotor was first settled is unknown, but it is estimated that the area has been inhabited since around the fifth century BC. Kotor has had a long and storied history as a place of strategic importance on the Adriatic Sea.
Much of the architecture and the famous walls surrounding the city were built while the city was under the rule of the Venetian empire throughout the Middle Ages. Many churches and buildings in Old Town still date back to this era, and the city is considered to have some of the best preserved architecture.
In more recent times, Kotor has seen an influx of tourism, much of which is driven by an increase in cruise ship traffic. Nonetheless, few places can rival Kotor’s combination of natural beauty and impressive history.
How to Get to Kotor
The easiest way to get to Kotor (and around Montenegro) is to rent a car. You can drive to Kotor from:
- Dubrovnik, Croatia in just under 2 hours
- Budva, Montenegro in 2.5 hours
- Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 3 hours
- Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 4.5 hours
- Tivat, Montenegro in 10 minutes
You can fly into Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, or Tivat. It is also possible to get a bus between these cities, but the travel time is significantly longer than driving yourself, so its best to rent a car. To avoid high fees, plan to return the rental car in the same country where you start your road trip.
When to Visit
Peak season is June through August. While the weather may be best during these months, its also likely to be most crowded. During the summer, cruise ships visit Kotor frequently, unloading hoards of people that can make the small town feel very crowded. We’d recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons, during May, September or October when you can still expect high temperatures in the mid 70’s but significantly fewer crowds.
1. Explore the Bay of Kotor by boat
Cost: $35 – $50 — Time: 3 – 4 hours
With its orange-roofed buildings reflecting into blue waters and mountains rising up sharply on all sides, the Bay of Kotor is breathtaking and one of the main attractions in the area. The best way to fully experience the bay is by boat. Taking a boat tour will allow you to experience a few of the must-see items on this list, including Our Lady of the Rocks, the Blue Caves and the tiny village of Perast. Note that you can also visit each of these sights, excluding the Blue Caves, as individual excursions.
We booked our tour through Kotor Bay Tours, and were generally pleased with our experience. Our only complaint was that our visit to Perast felt very rushed. If we could do it again, we would’ve opted to go to Perast on our own so that we could spend as much time as we pleased.
Blue Cave Private Tour
$300 total, up to 6 people (you have the boat to yourself)
Stops at Our Lady of the Rocks, the Blue Caves, and Perast (or spend 1 hour at the beach)
Note that the Kotor Bay Tours website advertises stop 3 as an hour as a beach. We opted to visit Perast instead, but you should confirm that is still an option.
If you don’t have a large enough group to make the Blue Cave Private Tour cost effective, you can also opt for a group tour. Note that this tour does not include a stop at Perast.
Blue Cave Group Tour
$35 per person
Stops at Our Lady of the Rocks and the Blue Caves
2. Go swimming in the Blue Caves
Cost: $20 – $50 — Time: 2 – 4 hours
Kotor is known for its many blue caves, named after the color of the cave walls reflecting off the ocean. Swimming in the caves is a magical experience, and a great way to cool off on a hot day in Kotor! You will need to book a tour to access the caves.
3. Explore the small town of Perast
Cost: $15 – $25 — Time: 1 – 3 hours
Perast is a tiny town situated on the Bay of Kotor, with a total population of just 247 people. The town has one main street, and you can walk from end to end in only 20 minutes or so. That said, there is still plenty to do. Stop in for lunch at one of Perast’s waterfront cafes, climb the bell tower of the Church of St. Nicholas for an awesome view of the bay, and spend some time relaxing on Perast’s beach.
How to get to Perast from Kotor
To get to Perast from Kotor, you have two options:
- Book a boat tour: Kotor Bay Tours offers a private tour of Perast and Our Lady of the Rocks for $80 per person or a group trip (no tour) for $25 per person.
- Take a bus: If you would prefer to explore Perast on your own time (we recommend!), you can get there by bus from Kotor in about 15 minutes. The bus leaves after 30-60 minutes and costs $1 per trip. In Kotor, you can pick the bus up from just outside the city walls near where the outdoor market is held.
4. Visit Our Lady of the Rocks
Cost: $7 – $25 — Time: 1 hour
€1 for entrance
(if you take a boat tour, admission is typically included)
Every day, 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Bathing suits are not acceptable (shorts and t-shirt are fine)
Our Lady of the Rocks is a Catholic Church located on a man-made island in the Bay of Kotor, near Perast. Legend has it that a pair of shipwrecked seaman washed ashore on a pile of rocks in the very location that Our Lady of the Rocks stands today. On the rocks, they found an icon of the Virgin Mary, so they vowed to build a church there. At the time, there wasn’t enough rock to build a church on, so they started dropping shipload after shipload of rock into the bay and even sank old ships on the rocks to build up the island. It became a gesture of good luck for departing seamen to throw a rock onto the pile as they sailed out of the bay.
The original church was attacked and destroyed by pirates in the early 1600s. The church that stands today was rebuilt by Venetians in the 1630’s. To this day, seamen still throw rocks at the island as part of an annual tradition called Fasinada, held on July 22nd.
While the church may be located in the middle of the bay, please respect the church by covering up your bathing suits while on the island and inside the church.
How to Get There
From Perast, you can take a boat to the island for 5 euro. If you are staying in Kotor, the easiest way to get to Our Lady of the Rocks is to take a boat tour, as described above.
5. Hike the Ladder of Kotor
Hiking distance | 8 miles roundtrip
Elevation gain | 3000 feet
Total time | 3 – 6 hours (depending how far you hike)
Epic-ness rating | 8
Difficulty | difficult
For an incredible view of Kotor, its city walls and the Bay of Kotor, the Ladder of Kotor cannot be missed! The Ladder of Kotor is actually an old military road, built to connect Kotor to Montenegro’s capital, Cetinje, to allow people to bring produce and other goods to sell at the Kotor Market.
The entire hike is strenuous, snaking up 70 switchbacks and covering a distance of 8 miles roundtrip with a total elevation gain of 3000 feet. However, there are views the entire way, so you can turn around at any point if you don’t want to hike the entire distance.
You also have the option the hike back down Kotor’s City Wals for an 8 euro entrance fee. To hike up to the path where the city walls begin and down the walls makes the hike about 4 miles roundtrip.
6. Buy fresh produce at Kotor’s farmer’s market
Cost: Free — Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour
Every morning in Kotor, there is farmer’s market located just outside the city walls, offering a variety of fresh produce, fish, meat, wine, and cheese. Be sure to try the local speciality kajmak, a creamy, tangy cheese. The market runs from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM and is open every day, but expect the biggest selection on Saturday mornings. The market is located on the southern city of the city walls.
7. Explore Kotor’s Old Town
Cost: Free — Time: 1 hour
Hidden behind the city walls, spend some time meandering through the cobblestone streets of Kotor’s Old Town. With well-preserved architecture dating back centuries, you will feel like you have stepped back in time.
The best time to explore Old Town is early in the morning. The town is dead quiet, there are no crowds to dodge, and you can appreciate how the town may have felt before becoming a popular tourist destination. Getting lost in the quiet streets, coffee in hand, was one of our favorite moments in Kotor.
8. Find Kotor’s Medieval churches
Cost: Free — Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour
Kotor is home to several Medieval churches that are worth seeing. The St. Tryphon Cathedral was built in 1166 to honor Kotor’s patron saint Tryphon. It was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1667, and the reconstruction efforts happened gradually over time, resulting in its two tower’s being built in different styles. St. Nicholas is an Orthodox church that was built much more recently in 1909, under the rule of Serbian Nemanjic. The Church of Saint Luke dates back to 1195 and features a mixture of Roman and Byzantine architecture. The church contains both a Catholic and Orthodox alter, and its still used today as a place of worship for both.
Planning Your Trip
When to Go
June through August is peak season in Kotor. While the temperatures are warm and most reliable, the small city can get packed with tourists during the summer, particularly on days when cruise ships are in port. April, May, September and October are great alternatives to the summer months, with milder, but still warm, temperatures and significantly fewer crowds.
Winters in Kotor are also relatively mild, and while you won’t want to swim or lay on the beach, average temperatures in the mid-50’s make it comfortable for sightseeing and outdoor activities.
How to Get There
Kotor is easiest to get to by car, making it a great stop on a Mediterranean road trip. Renting a car and driving is the easiest way to get around Montenegro and surrounding countries, such as Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. You can get to Kotor from:
- Budva, Montenegro in 30 minutes
- Podgorica, Montenegro in 1 hour
- Dubrovnik, Croatia in 2 hours
- Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 3 hours
- Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 4 hours 30 minutes
- Split, Croatia in 5 hours
Other ways to get to Kotor:
- Bus: You can take a bus between Kotor and Dubrovnik, but the bus ride will take longer than driving.
- Train: While there is not a train that goes all the way to Kotor, you can get a train into Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica, and then catch a bus or drive to Kotor.
- Fly: You can fly directly into the Tivat airport, located just 15 minutes from Kotor. However, Tivat is a small airport so it may be more cost effective to fly into Mostar or Podgorica.
- Cruise: If that’s your thing, many Mediterranean cruises stop in Kotor.
No matter what you do in Kotor, you are sure to fall in love with the teal blue Bay of Kotor and charming city walls of Old Town.
Planning a trip through the Mediterranean? You don’t want to miss Dubrovnik, located only a couple hours from Kotor:
Have you been to Kotor? Planning a trip to Montenegro? We want to hear from you – Drop a comment or question below!