Kotor is a compact seaport city whose beauty packs a mighty punch. ❤️
The name Montenegro actually means “black mountain.” I believe it’s this country’s rugged, mountainous landscape dotted with olive and cypress trees, surrounding a network of waterways, which leaves you with an impression to last a lifetime. ⛰️
The allure of Kotor only increases when you begin to explore its interior. This well-preserved walled city is filled with striking 12th to 14th century medieval Venetian architecture making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.⛪
And while Kotor only has a local population around 20,000 in comparison to the estimated TWO MILLION tourists that visit annually, it’s still a living and breathing city.
I found lots of locals hanging out in the cafes or perched out on their balconies sitting alongside their laundry hanging out to dry.💮
And while Kotor is a major hub for cruise ship tourists, the streets are relatively uncrowded during the mornings and in the evenings when all the travelers have gone back to their ships to set sail. 🚢
Conquer the Beijing of the Balkans: Hike the Great Wall in Kotor
It’s no surprise then that because of its secluded seaport location, Kotor needed to build grand fortification walls to protect itself from invaders throughout the years.
Now, immediately as I set my eyes on the great fortification walls of Kotor, I noticed they bore a striking resemblance to those that I saw in China. Beijing and Kotor are both well-preserved walled cities surrounded by fortifications, which extend far into the hillside. 🇨🇳 vs. 🇲🇪
Obviously, considering the fortifications needed to protect China were massive in comparison to those in Montenegro, Kotor is almost like a mini Beijing of the Balkans. If you conquer this great wall, you’ll get heavenly views for half the hike! 😍
Now, the great wall of Kotor is SORT OF a regulated tourist site in that there is a guy in a wife beater sitting on a folding chair with a fan propped right in front of him selling tickets for 8 Euros a pop! 😂
That being said, the place is far from well-kept and still feels like a crumbling ruin, so be careful when you walk and bring the appropriate footwear. 👟
In regards to budget, compared to other war-torn Balkan countries, the prices in Montenegro tend to be a lot higher than neighboring Serbia or Bosnia. 💰
This former hidden gem is now becoming a hot spot of the well-to-do elite. For example, there’s an exclusive 5-star resort here along the coast called Sveti Stefan where hotel prices start at around 900 USD per night!
Now, while in Kotor, I enjoyed two drastically different travel styles proving that whether you want to pinch pennies or pamper yourself, you can still have a great time. 😊
Pinching Pennies in Kotor
For the first part of my stay, I was at Stranger Tides Hostel. This has been by far my favorite hostel in the Balkans! They have lovely renovated dorm rooms with a pirate theme, including your own treasure chest to lock up your goods. 🏴☠️
The pirate decor extends throughout the whole hostel as well with lots of antiques and trinkets throughout.🐚
Cost: 13 USD/night
As for budget eats, the city has a few supermarkets and the hostel has a kitchen making it easy to cook your own meals at a low price. They also have this wonderful local market located right outside the city walls where they sell fresh produce for only a few Euros, along with local cheese, cured meats, honey, and dried fruits.🍓
Pampered in Kotor
If you’re hoping to splurge in Kotor, I would highly recommend the Boutique Astoria.
Talk about luxury! This hotel is built inside a 13th century palace, and all the rooms are individually designed. 🛎️
The main selling point; however, was the incredible food at this hotel! They had fresh seafood options for dinner, including sea bass filleted table-side. 🐟
They also have live musicians playing in the evening to add to the atmosphere of elegance. 🎵
Breakfast is also included in the price with lots of American/Mediterranean options.
Now, since there aren’t many public beaches in Kotor, I’d also suggest taking a short 20-minute ride to the Adriatic Sea to become sea-duced by its crystal clear waters.👙
My recommendation would be the Almara Beach Club, which is an absolutely spectacular place to spend the day!
Only in the Balkans! Can’t let kayaking get in the way of smoking your two packs a day! Hah! 🚬
What I liked about the club was that it was also a local hangout. I think everyone around me was speaking some sort of Slavic dialect, and there were families, friends, and even fur babies at the club going for a swim.🐶
Side note: To get from Kotor to the beach club, you’ll have to take a taxi. Balkan drivers are notoriously crazy speed demons and ours even got pulled over on the way. His nickname was Slow-bo, which obviously has nothing to do with his driving style.😂
To get to Kotor, I took a bus from Belgrade. To be honest, I am still trying to block out this experience as it was slightly traumatic for me. 😂
My bus got delayed four hours at the border making the total trip time about 16 hours. The bus was at full capacity with a broken bathroom and only two rest stops. People would also go up to the front and smoke cigarettes while we were driving, and the guy next to me smelled like he had been chain smoking his entire life.🤢 The only good part of the ride was the epic mountain view in the morning and our pit stop at this rustic cabin for coffee.
What advice can you take from this? Do as I say, not as I do. If you are coming from Belgrade, I would recommend NOT taking a bus, but taking the train instead. In speaking with fellow travelers, they said that the views were spectacular! There is also a lot more leg room and bathrooms as well.
Anyway, after spending a rainy day mall hopping in the capital of Montenegro, I’ll be heading to Albania. Stay tuned to hear all about it! Until then! 😊