Reasons to add Kotor, Montenegro to your travel list.
Montenegro would be an easy sell to prospective tourists — if they knew it existed. The reality is that this nation on the Adriatic Sea is still a relative stranger to most travellers outside of Europe. Part of the former Yugoslav Republic before its brutal and bloody dissolution in the 90s, Montenegro has only been fully independent since 2006, making the country less than a decade old.
We had a taste of what Montenegro has to offer on our recent jaunt in the Balkans, spending four days in the cities of Kotor and Budva. In particular, Kotor made an impression on us — not least because the city had a Cuban music festival(!) on while we were there. I’ve found myself extolling the virtues of the city to people in real life on a few occasions now — it’s probably time that I share them here. Here’s why you should go:
On first look, the gleaming bay of Kotor reminded me of the fjords I saw last year when I went to Norway. The turquoise waters are placid and bookended by craggy cliffs sparsely covered in shrubbery. Gorgeous views are possible from many parts of town — a sweaty hike along the city walls, lazy coffee on a rooftop bar, or a simple stroll to the ferry docks will yield something similar to the pictures below. If nothing else, the city is extremely photogenic.
CUTE OLD TOWN WITH A BURGEONING MUSIC SCENE
With its tidy, narrow pathways and buildings made of white stone, Kotor’s old town is one of the prettier ones I’ve seen. Liebling and I spent our evenings meandering within its walls, sometimes sitting at one of the many cafes to grab an ice coffee. I would have been perfectly content with just that, but once darkness fell, a nice surprise awaited us: a number of the restaurants had live music! Jazz pianists, classical guitarists, and other instrumentalists zealously pumped melodies into the night air. Even more unexpected: the Cuban music festival taking place while we were in town. Salsa in Montenegro? Incongruent, yes, but still very much appreciated!
ONLY AN HOUR AWAY FROM DUBROVNIK, CROATIA (AND WAY LESS CROWDED)
Croatia’s growing popularity as a tourist destination means that more and more travellers are vacationing in Dubrovnik, one of its premier cities. Should you find yourself there at some point, I highly suggest a hop across the border to Montenegro: Kotor is only an hour’s drive away. While the culture, food, views, and language in Dubrovnik and Kotor are similar, a stay in Kotor is decidedly a more pleasant experience. Liebling and I found Dubrovnik too busy, crowded, and expensive for our liking. However, Kotor, in contrast, had a more relaxed vibe and fewer tourists (Dubrovnik seemed overrun). As for getting between the two cities, to-ing and fro-ing is relatively easy. We flew into Dubrovnik and paid $105 USD for a transfer via private car to Kotor, but if you’re on a budget you can also take a bus.
IT’S CHEAP FOR EUROPE
I consider Kotor to be a high value destination. Food and accommodation are cheap by European standards. We rented a large two bedroom apartment right in the old town for only $100 USD a night, a near-impossible feat when travelling in Europe in the middle of summer. Our meals? We ate ridiculously well for not very much money — a set lunch including a starter, main, and drink could be had for as little as $13 USD. Cheap and tasty seafood was also abundant so we made sure to stock up during our stay. We found a favourite restaurant, Bastion, and ate there all three nights we were in town!
Have I sold you on Kotor yet? If so, it’s best to get over there sooner than later: Montenegro is an official candidate for membership into the European Union, and as soon as it enters prices will surely skyrocket.
Have you ever been to Kotor or Montenegro? Are they on your radar?