Highlights from a quick little day trip to the breathtaking Bay of Kotor.
I love taking day trips while traveling.
Though I’d rather fully immerse myself in a new culture and really get to know a place through a longer stay, sometimes a quick stop in an unfamiliar land is refreshing and enlightening.
A travel motto of mine: A short visit somewhere is better than no visit at all. So when time or money restricts my list of possible destinations, I’d rather spend a few hours somewhere soaking in the sights, than skip a place completely.
While I was attending uni in London, I had some free time before exams started. I had been dying to explore more of southeastern Europe, so I allowed myself two weeks to travel through Croatia before I had to devote myself to studying.
I spent four days in Dubrovnik at the end of my trip, and had become infatuated with the culture and charm of Croatia after two weeks. I loved the laid-back lifestyle and the impressive natural scenery, so I was itching to see more of this part of Europe.
After spending a few days absorbing the gorgeous antiquity of Dubrovnik, I decided to take a day trip to the neighboring nation of Montenegro, just to catch a glimpse of another intriguing Balkan country. The round trip bus ticket from Dubrovnik to Kotor only cost about 30 euros, and the length of the drive was only about 3-4 hours total. I had seen many photos of the Bay of Kotor, and it just looked too beautiful to pass up.
Though this trip was over two years ago now, I still vividly remember driving down the Balkan Coast. Throughout the journey, the sapphire waters of the Adriatic Sea glistened underneath the bus as it carved along narrow cliffside roads. As we crossed the Croatian border into Montenegro and we neared our destination, the cliffs become larger and the twists and turns of the road became wider and more intense.
Entering the Bay of Kotor was like driving along the edges of a puzzle piece. The bus carefully followed the contours of the land as the turquoise bay rested peacefully in the center. Giant cliffs stood tall and powerful, surrounding the bay like watchful guardians.
After hopping off the bus, we immediately set off to hike up St. John Mountain to the famous viewpoint overlooking the entire Bay. The Old Town was a maze of narrow alleyways, but the starting point for the hike was easy enough to find since it’s the town’s biggest attraction. We paid a small entrance fee of about 3 euros, then began hiking up the Old City Walls.
Though the incline was steep and the mid-May sun beat down on the the trail, sturdy stone steps and a sense of determination made the hike pretty manageable. We stopped in the Church of Our Lady Of Remedy halfway up the mountain, which dates back to the 1500s. A small and modest place of worship, this little church was pretty bare except for a few religious relics left by devoted followers. There was a beautiful sense of mystery in the empty shadows and blatant minimalism of the church.
After an hour or so we reached the summit of the hike, and everyone’s cameras flipped into overdrive. The view was simply jaw-dropping. In the foreground of the scene, hundreds of little orange roofs were scattered across the base of the mountain, and dramatic rugged cliffs framed the vibrant water of the Bay in the background. The humble tower of the Church we visited jutted out of the mountain, watching over the magnificent landscape.
To this day, I still remember this as one of the most amazing views I’ve seen in all of my travels. Sadly I didn’t have a quality camera to properly capture the beauty, but at least I have my memory to store the actual view in my mind forever.
The full hike took about four hours, including all the time spent gawking at the view. By the time we reached the bottom, we spent the rest of the sunny afternoon wandering through the Old Town and walking along the pier.
The Old Town is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Sight, considering how integral this port town was to the cultural fusion of the Balkans with the Mediterranean throughout history. Many of the old religious buildings and architectural monuments are still in good shape despite an earthquake in 1979, and anything that suffered damage has been restored with integrity.
While meandering through the Old Town, I noticed there were cats everywhere. Roaming the streets, napping on tables, walking in and out of shops; even in every souvenir shop, half of the goods sold were decorated with cats. I remember asking one of the shopkeepers what the significance of the cats were, and she said there are some old Montenegrin stories and myths about cats and the good luck they bring. Her answer didn’t really give me any concrete answers or explain why there were actual cats all over the place, but now I’ll always associate Kotor with adorable little cats.