Montenegro: Kotor's fascinating Old Town
Travelling from Mostar to Kotor was was an uneventful journey, taking just over three hours with time allowed for photos at various points of interest along the way.
Crossing the border from Bosnia and Herzegovina into Montenegro was uneventful and a couple of passport stamps later, we were on the road to the country's famous Stari Grad (old town). The hotel was booked inside the old city walls and I had no idea what to expect but I was more than impressed when I arrived.
Arriving into Montenegro, the bay of Kotor lies at the bottom of several mountains. The road down to the water is long and winding but offers great views. There are certain designated spots for stopping so that you can get out and take some pictures. I recommend this if the opportunity prevails.
The journey from 'modern' Kotor to Stari Grad is a fair distance around the bay but you can admire the million dollar mansions and yachts that crop up along the way. Oh how the other half live! Apparently, Kotor is a top spot for the rich and famous.
There are no vehicles allowed inside the Old Town so once you arrive at the walls; you have to trek on foot to the hotels etc. Walking through the old stone entrances, it feels like you've been transported back in time due to the oldy-worldy cobbled alleyways, archways and architecture. Restaurants and bars neighbour churches, museums (including a cat museum) and cathedrals, there are hotels and shops - something for every budget and offering everything you could need. The Old Town was busy. The bay is frequented by cruise ships. Not the average sized ones with a couple of hundred people. You know those huge ones with 5000 passengers on board? If you are in Kotor the same day a ship docks, be prepared to share everything with the other visitors. As beautiful as Stari Grad is, it does get very cramped with so many people in such a confined space. Luckily we only had one day which clashed with a ship. However, the same with Mostar, I recommend getting up before sunrise to go around the Old Town for 'crowd-free' photographs. You can also climb up the mountain which forms the rear wall of the city to an old church and eventually a fort. The view from the top is spectacular and worth the sixty(ish) minute hike. It is definitely a challenge in parts so you will need proper footwear but take it slowly and you'll be fine. The view from the top shows how the design of the old town meant that it was protected from potential attacks. The orange brick stands out against the lake and at sunrise, the calm waters provide some lovely reflections. Kotor was my second favourite place in The Balkans, after Sarajevo. It was relaxed, friendly and so scenic.
When you have had your fill of Stari Grad, you can head out of the city walls and down to the bay. There are a range of activities on offer: kayaking, boat trips, jet-ski hire etc. The prices are reasonable and you can choose how long you would like to spend on the water. We hired kayaks and paddled a considerable distance to the opposite side of the bay. There are beaches, bars and sunbathing opportunities all along the shore so depending on your needs, the guide will take you to the best spot. We had a couple of hours lounging in the sun with some local Montenegro beers before paddling back to the starting point. This was a great day and I would say that no visit to Kotor would be complete without getting out on to the water.