When an email from Lonely Planet arrived in my inbox announcing its “Best in Travel” destination lists for 2016, I eagerly started clicking.
Countries. Cities. Regions. A few I’ve been to. Several which encouraged me to immediately check flight prices on Skyscanner.
And there it was. The #1 city recommendation to visit: Kotor, Montenegro.
A little square of South-East Europe I had the privilege to visit only a few short weeks ago.
It seems as though Lonely Planet and me are both Kotor-o-philes. Here’s five reasons why you should visit Kotor.
Reason #1: The Old Town
A walled city, Kotor’s Old Town (Stari Grad) is closed to traffic. Narrow alleyways of cobbled streets are the norm; and you can get lost in hidden passageways that open out to churches, bars, squares, and even a Cat Museum. Yes, a Cat Museum.
Relax with a coffee, grab a fresh burek (pastry) from the nearest bakery, and people-watch to your heart’s content.
Reason #2 to visit Kotor: The views
Kotor sits in the aptly named Bay of Kotor, which in my preamble to arriving I’d described as: “ the love child of Italy and Norway”.
It looks something like a fjord. Without actually being one. And the best bit is you can get an eyeful of its full magnificence by parting with only 3 Euro and a bit of sweat to head up the hill on the ancient walls behind the city. There are steps (over 1000 of ‘em), but it’s worth it.
Reason #3: It’s not too tourist-tastic, so it won’t break the bank
Kotor has a port, so you will see the odd cruise ship. The good news is they don’t dock every day, and they don’t stick around past about 4pm. In short, Kotor’s not a place that feels over-run.
The not-too-touristy vibe means not-too-touristy prices. Hurrah!
Ice-cream was just a Euro, even inside the city walls.
Pasta dishes in restaurants were around 6-10 Euro. Wash ‘em down with a glass of the local red wine, Vranac.
Accommodation was good value at just over £30 (€42) per night for a fully equipped lovely Airbnb apartment in the heart of the Old Town. This was in October, so expect to pay more in the height of summer.
Reason #4 to visit Kotor: It’s easy to get there
You don’t need to be on a cruise to visit Kotor. There’s a bus direct from Dubrovnik a couple of times a day. The trip takes about two hours, depending on how busy the Croatia/Montenegro border is. Kotor’s bus station is only a ten-minute walk from the old town.
Taxis direct to Dubrovnik/Podgorica airports can be booked for around 60 Euro and – my boyfriend assures me – work well even with a hangover 😉 He used Red Taxi to Podgorica airport.
Podgorica airport is worth checking out as an alternative to Dubrovnik for cheap flight deals. Ryanair fly there from London Stansted, and you can also fly to Podgorica direct from destinations including Paris, Rome and Istanbul.
Reason #5: You can use Kotor as a base to visit other towns in Montenegro
The earlier mentioned Kotor bus station has timetables on display, and at least some staff who speak English.
Easy day trips to the south are Sveti Stefan (around an hour) and Budva (30 minutes to an hour, depending on the route). The pair can be combined with a lovely walk along the dramatic coast and lunch in the beautiful setting of Pržno, which is between the two. Budva is touristy, but has a pretty old town, albeit in my view it’s not a patch on Kotor’s.
Heading in the other direction about an hour away is Herceg Novi. With two forts and lovely old town square, Herceg Novi makes for a pleasant stop for a couple of hours.
Herceg Novi just over the border from Croatia, so could also be an easy last-night stop before departing on a Dubrovnik flight – at prices a hell of a lot cheaper than Dubrovnik.
Why to visit Kotor – summed up
Old buildings, city walls, stunning mountain/sea views, half-decent transport, and it doesn’t need you to take out a mortgage to visit – bonus! Visit Kotor before everyone else acts on Lonely Planet’s advice 🙂