After a recent trip to Montenegro, Becca Garland gives us five reasons why we should all take a trip to the breathtakingly beautiful Kotor bay.
Nestled between holiday hotspot Croatia and up and coming Serbia, this tiny, virtually untouched gold mine of natural beauty, breath-taking scenery and home grown and sourced produce should really be kept a secret.
Here are five reasons why Kotor bay in Montenegro has just become Becca Garland's favourite place on the planet.
1. Explore Kotor Stari Grad (old town)
This romantic old town, protected by sturdy walls built between the 9th and 18th century, is not to be missed. With its cobbled streets, hidden piazzas, narrow cobbled lanes and family-run restaurants this hidden gem is something any off-the-beaten-track traveller will love. Without a chain or trashy bar in sight, this is the ideal location for a chilled glass of wine, a delicious home-cooked meal or just an opportunity to allow yourself to get lost and found again in this labyrinth of a walled city.
2. Wine and Dine at Perast
In order to take in the true beauty of this gorgeous little town, it should be experienced during the day, to stare in awe at the spectacular scenery and at night, to enjoy a dinner at the water's edge while the buildings around you are bathed in lights. With views I am yet to experience anywhere else in Europe, this tiny little town, nestled in black mountains, is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Perast sits a 15 minute drive away from Kotor old town and is accessible by bike, car or cab (usually costs around 15 euros one way). Cars are best to park outside of the town’s outskirts as roads are narrow and parking can be tricky. I recommend dinner at Restaurant Conte and for cocktails and a cheap yet comfy sunbed, Piratebar is the place to hang out.
3. Cruise the Kotor-Lovćen road
Having stumbled across this road by sheer accident, this ended up being the highlight of our Montenegrin adventure. Often described as one of the world’s most dangerous drives, this white knuckle ride is not for the faint hearted or bad drivers for that matter. However if you can get past the idea of the 17 km stretch of narrow one lane roads with 25 hair pin turns then you're up for the drive and you'll not regret your decision as it's visually spectacular and should not be missed. With stunning views reaching all the way across Kotor bay and the Adriatic this was worth every second of nerves and fear (and I was just the passenger!)
4. Climb to Kotor’s San Giovanni Castle
If you fancy a bit of exercise and stunning views then the climb to the Castle of San Giovanni is an essential when visiting Kotor Old Town. Climbing 1350 stairs to a height of 1200 metres is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a leisurely stroll but is worth every step when you reach the top. With some ruins to explore (a.k.a. rest stops) along the way, depending on your fitness levels and how long you want to spend at the castle at the summit this two to three hour round climb is time well spent. The views change as you rise offering a different picture each time and will allow you to take in the true beauty of the surrounding landscape. My suggestions: bring water and some coins as it is three euros entry fee.
5. The Welcoming Montenegrins
I have done my fair share of travelling and there are few places where I have experienced friendliness and kindness from locals as I did in Montenegro. At every point of our trip we were given advice, tips, assistance and general banter from every Montenegrin we encountered. The service at all restaurants and bars was beyond impeccable (we were even rescued from a rain storm by a concerned waiter with a large umbrella) and when we burst our tyre two friendly men stopped without question and changed it for us in a matter of minutes. This made our experience even better and has encouraged me to not only return to Montenegro but to explore the Balkans further.