When I first saw a picture of the view of Kotor Bay in Montenegro, I knew I wanted to go there. The clear blue waters and stunning mountain backdrop highlights the beautiful rooftops of this town which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Often referred to as Europe’s southernmost fjord, Boka Katorska is a faux-fjord (it is actually a butterfly-shaped bay), but was listed as one the world’s most beautiful bays.
We started the day in Perast, where we met up with guide Gojko from Tourist Board of Kotor. We got a little lost looking for our meeting point because cars other than ones owned by locals are not allowed to get into the small streets of this lovely town. We started right at the town center, in front of Saint Nicolas church, as we learned it’s history, that Perast was under the Byzantine Empire, then the Venetian rule, then many other foreign rulers. The influences can clearly be seen in the architecture, more prominent once you take in the views from the water.
From the shores of Perast, we took a boat to one of the two islets. Saint George Island is prohibited to visitors as on it lies the 12th century Saint George Benedictine monastery and an old graveyard for noble families of Perast.
The other island, called Our Lady of the Rocks, is in contrast, a man-made island. The story began in the 15th century, when there were two brothers who were fishing in this bay and found a picture of Madonna and child stuck on a rock. The next day, one of the brothers who had been ill for a long time, was miraculously healed. They thought it was a sign, and promised to build a church on this spot. Old sailing boats and rocks were sunked into the bottom of the sea until it formed into an island.
Although there are many versions, this legend formed a tradition called Fascinada, where every 22nd day of July, locals decorate their boats with flowers and sail as they throw rocks at the sea. This has practiced for over 600 years.
After our trip to the island, we went back to ‘mainland’ and walked around the beautiful cozy town. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I’m a sucker for small towns. It’s so small, you can walk from one side of town to another in under 10 minutes.
We went on to drive to Kotor, the next town we were going to visit. As we were reaching the town center, we can already see how big the difference is between the two nearby towns. First of we saw a gigantic cruise ship already docked nearby. I haven’t been on a cruise yet so I thought this one was already humongous, but our guide Gojko called it a baby ship.
After we parked we headed on to the entrance of the main town Sea Gate. From the gate, you will see the leaning Clock Tower right away which was built in 1602 and still works up to now. At the beginning of the tour, our guide gave us each a copy of the map of this medieval walled city but we after our tour was done, we didn’t need to use it because the beautiful cobblestone alleyways will make you feel you know your way around instead of getting lost. Oh, and have I mentioned there are friendly local cute cats all over the town? There are so many of them, they’ve become a Kotor icon.
The walls of Kotor were gradually built between the 9th and 19th centuries, with a total length of 4.5 kilometers, looping around the old town. Beyond this walled city are the walls that zigzags up the mountain reaching Saint John’s Fortress which was fortified dating back to 3rd century BC. It’s about 2.5 miles long,1350 steps, or 45-minute hike. It took way longer for me to reach the top (and I kept asking why, given I’ve hiked the 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in the past). The early morning start and the hard rainy hike up the mountain was definitely worth it when I finally was able to see that view of Kotor Bay in person.
Disclaimer: Part of our trip to Montenegro was hosted by Tourism Board of Kotor. As always, all photographs and opinions are my own.
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